THE detailed work Thurrock Council has put in place to prevent a child sexual exploitation scandal like Rotherham was set out by Leader, Cllr John Kent on Wednesday (22 October).
He was speaking at that night’s meeting of the council and answering a question from Cllr Robert Ray, who asked: “Can the Leader assure the members and the residents of Thurrock that the truly scandalous incidents that have taken place in Rotherham and Rochdale are not happening here in Thurrock in any shape or form?”
Cllr Kent said: “I don’t think it would be possible for the leader of any council to give an absolute guarantee in this area, it would show amazing arrogance and complacency.”
He told members he had read the Rotherham Jay Report, and said: “There have been similar outrages in Rochdale, Derby and Oxfordshire which shows that this can happen anywhere.
“In every case something new is identified as the central issue and I can say with confidence that Thurrock Council and our partners take the issue of child abuse in all its horrific forms very seriously.
“If you do read the Jay Report and its recommendations you’ll see those recommendations that aren’t Rotherham specific are, in the main, things that Thurrock is already doing.”
He said: “One of the issues with child protection – identified again in the Jay report – is that it crosses so many boundaries, within the council and with other public agencies.
“Local authorities and their partners have a responsibility to make sure those boundaries are not barriers and we must work hard to ensure that is the case in Thurrock.
“For example we have rolled out awareness courses to staff in all the different agencies that make up the Local Safeguarding Children’s Board, making sure they are trained to recognise the signs and that they know what to do when they see them.
“We have also developed close links with our licensing team so they too are trained to see the danger signs – especially in the cases of taxis and budget hotels.”
He added: “Following the publication of the Jay Report, we and our partners are going back over previous cases where sexual exploitation was raised as a possible issue and checking again. Not just recent cases but historic ones too.
“And we have developed a flexible response approach to respond to and learn from our own cases and the experiences of other areas.”
Cllr Kent also told members about the recently launched Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub.
He said: “There is a specially designed room in this building where representatives from all the different agencies sit and work together; it is a room where reports of possible child abuse in Thurrock arrive; and it is a room where discussion between partners is encouraged.
“Among the organisations represented in the hub are: Thurrock Council’s children’s social care, adult social care, the youth offending service, the housing department, early help services; plus health agencies, Essex Police; the probation service; mental health services; domestic violence prevention providers; and substance misuse services.
“All working together, in the same place, to ensure a comprehensive and joined up approach to child protection.
“As I said earlier – there should be no barriers to providing a quick, efficient, effective, and appropriate response.”
He said next month’s children’s overview and scrutiny committee would be receiving a report detailing the findings from the Jay report and Thurrock’s response.