Telford & Wrekin Council takes decisive action

The article below was written by the Council's director of Children's Services Clive Jones for the Municipal Journal following some recent media coverage about child sexual exploitation in the borough.

Telford & Wrekin Council takes decisive action

It is very easy to believe everything you read. Recent national coverage of child sexual exploitation has presented Telford in a horrific light and there is no doubt that there are questions to a number of different public bodies including police, health services and the council that victims rightly want answers to.

Virtually no-one in Telford and Wrekin has been untouched by the news coverage of this vile crime in our town, with cases allegedly going back four decades.

These stories, which are shocking and harrowing, have made us more determined than ever to get to the truth.

Yes, this is an issue in Telford but also one in every town and city across the UK. Anyone who says it isn’t simply isn’t looking hard enough.

As a council, we will never ignore it. We have always been determined to ensure that Telford is at the leading edge of tackling the subject - both in terms of best practice in prevention and support.

We will continue to deal with any new and current cases with absolute compassion and the highest of professional standards.

Over the coming months, a council commissioned independent inquiry will examine practices, both past and present. It is imperative that this inquiry is as independent from the council as it can be. In fact, in an ideal world, the government would have commissioned a statutory inquiry with the powers to compel partner agencies and former employees to give evidence. What we will have is the next best thing – a council-commissioned inquiry which we are ensuring will be as independent as it possibly can be.

This inquiry will be done thoroughly and with complete transparency. It will involve survivors to help shape the Inquiry.

It ultimately aims to ensure that survivors have been heard and give the public confidence in our systems. It will give survivors confidence that their influence today is helping prevent more victims tomorrow.

It will also provide them and us with the confidence to be able to ask questions of others who have responsibility for dealing with this problem at a national level. But our work on this issue doesn’t just begin and end with this inquiry.

Every day we work tirelessly on this issue. We’re investing heavily into our specialist Children Abused Through Exploitation Team and our wider safeguarding services.

We are continually engaging with areas who have also encountered this issue to learn from them too.

But, most importantly, we are committed to retaining the trust and confidence of survivors, their families and the wider community.

We are engaging on a daily basis with campaigners, survivors and other organisations on this issue. Most of this work will never be publicised – but it is happening and it will continue for as long as one person remains at risk from this terrible crime.

Let us be clear – this vile crime is an issue that crosses many public services in the borough – particularly the police and health services. Indeed many of the issues reported in the media rest with partner services, not the council.

We accept and regret that mistakes were made in the past and non-recent practices were not as effective as they should be and will never shy away from saying this. But it is important to remember that awareness and perceptions of child sexual exploitation just 10 years ago was very different to what it is now.

We and every council, police force and other partners across the country must continue to work even harder with all our communities to tackle what is a vile and evil crime.

We firmly believe that this council can lead the way nationally when it comes to dealing with child sexual exploitation – communities everywhere will be able to learn from Telford and Wrekin.