A firm pledge to tackle Child Sexual Exploitation across North Wales has been made today (Thursday, May 14) at a high level summit in St Asaph.
The pledge, along with multi-agency recognition that partnership work is key to tackling CSE and the setting up of a specialist police team was just some of the key items that emerged from what was the first summit of its kind to be held in the area.
Opened by Police and Crime Commissioner Mr Winston Roddick and Chief Constable of North Wales Police Mark Polin, the summit at Optic brought together chief executives, directors of social services, safeguarding, health and criminal justice.
With CSE and CSA (Child Sexual Abuse) recognised nationally as an emerging threat, Chief Constable Mark Polin stressed the importance of information sharing between agencies and highlighted the additional resources and action being taken to tackle CSE, stop offenders and protect children and young people in North Wales. From late summer, the new NWP specialist team tackling CSE will be operational. The pro-active team consisting of a Sergeant and three officers will be based in Colwyn Bay and will work with multi-agencies to pro-actively investigate, gather and share intelligence. Further commitment was outlined with additional resources being allocated to the High Tech Crime Unit to deal with the threats posed by on-line CSE.
NWP Police and Crime Commissioner Winston Roddick CB QC said: “The setting up of this new team is of enormous importance because those who suffer the crime, and those who know of others who have suffered the crime, now know that there is someone whose business it is to look into it and to ascertain all the relevant facts about it and to look for the perpetrators and to bring them to justice.
“It was obvious from the reports that were coming from Rotherham, from Bristol, Cambridge and Oxford that this was an offence that was happening in our time, here and now.
“There is nothing more important than children and ensuring that they are safe. The problem with Rotherham was that the vote became more important than the virtue of the child.
He added: “Our positive response will create confidence amongst the public that the North Wales force – working in partnership with other agencies – has decided to get to grips with this big problem to make sure that children are safe in their own homes and in public places.”
Delegates also heard from a variety of speakers including Dr Helen Beckett, Deputy Director of the International Centre researching CSE, Violence and Trafficking at the University of Bedfordshire. Dr Beckett gave an insight into the national picture, best practice and earlier in the day re-affirmed the shared understanding of CSE and the challenges all agencies face in tackling the crime.
Indicating factors that can help identify victims of this form of child abuse were highlighted by Barnados Cymru as was the on-going partnership work with NWP which to date, has seen over 500 people benefit from a CSE awareness sessions that have been delivered to children, young people, professionals, parents and carers.
The summit was organised by the North Wales Safeguarding Children’s Board and is evidence of the priority that is being given to working together to address CSE and identifying and safeguarding children and young people who are victims.
“Child Sexual Exploitation is one of the Safeguarding Board’s priorities,” said Jenny Williams, Strategic Director of Social Services and Education, Conwy County Borough Council and Chair of the North Wales Safeguarding Children’s Board. “The board will continue to work closely with all agencies to strengthen the systems in place to protect children and young people from this terrible crime.”
Along with identifying the priorities of tackling CSE, the day also sought to provide an understanding of the issue, how agencies respond to the issue, an understanding of existing good work and awareness of national good practice.
Chief Constable Mark Polin said: “NWP will continue to be a key partner and work closely with all agencies to provide an effective sustainable approach to the issue of CSE. To do this we need to firstly understand the issue, support those involved, disrupt perpetrators, and raise awareness with children and young people, carers, parents, and professionals and those who work with children and young people.”
“We are delighted with the response we have had and the high level attendance today. It clearly displays the shared appetite that we all have for combating CSE.”