Services must do more to protect children and young people from possible sexual exploitation, a Care Quality Commission (CQC) report has found.
Joint inspections between CQC, Ofsted, HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary have found that public services need to better recognise and act on their safeguarding responsibilities when it comes to identifying and responding to possible child sexual exploitation.
Inspections, which included police, probation and youth offending teams as well as health care services, revealed inconsistencies in support services.
The report, Time to listen, said some children were involved with too many professionals in an uncoordinated ways that meant the support “was not meaningful to them or meeting all their needs”.
The report added that in “a small number of cases”, professionals had poor understanding of child sexual exploitation.
“This was evident through their inappropriate use of language and affected their ability to engage with children effectively,” the report said.
It added: “There were a small number of cases where inappropriate language and ill-informed comments about promiscuity and the giving of consent by professionals could have conveyed to the child they were held responsible for the abuse.”
The report said that “of particular concern” were the findings that frontline health professionals do not all have the skills needed to identify child sexual exploitation and in some instances, even when health professionals are provided with the tools to identify sexual exploitation, “they do not always use them”.
Professor Ursula Gallagher, deputy chief inspector of primary medical services and integrated care, said: “These inspections have revealed a clear need for healthcare providers to make sure their staff are able to not only identify the possible signs of sexual exploitation in children and young people but also, to have sufficient opportunity to do so. It is important that they are able to work together with relevant partners to prevent further harm and abuse.
“Together with the other inspectorates, we have looked at the range of services across social care, the police and health services, including general practice, A&E, school nursing, sexual health, and mental healthcare.
“The overwhelming concern from our joint review is that understanding of the signs of child sexual exploitation by key frontline healthcare professionals is inadequate. Professionals across the board need the time and capacity to build relationships with their young patients if they are to effectively identify those at risk and help to protect them. When frontline staff are well-trained to use risk assessment checklists and apply their professional knowledge and skill, this makes a real difference to children.
“The healthcare system must recognise and act on its safeguarding responsibilities in this area. If it does not, children and young people will continue to be let down by services that should have their best interests at heart.”
The five joint inspections of child sexual exploitation and missing children took place between February and August 2016. They covered Central Bedfordshire, Croydon, Liverpool, Oxfordshire, and South Tyneside.
From October 2016, the agencies will begin their next round of inspections, which will have a particular focus on how health, police and probation services respond to and care for children living with domestic abuse.