Child sex abuse case badly handled
The handling of a suspected child sexual exploitation case involving a teenage girl with a sexually-transmitted disease has been attacked by probation inspectors.
Children's social care services, the police and a youth offending team (YOT) closed the file on a 14-year-old with gonorrhoea - named only as Rhianna - after less than a year, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP) said.
It was thought the truant teen, whose father had died and mother had alcohol problems, was being targeted by a known gang member for sexual exploitation.
"It was difficult to see what useful actions had been taken or that there had been any changes in her life as a result of the involvement of children's social care services, the police and the YOT," the HMIP inspection report said.
The 14-year-old was placed on a child protection plan in 2012 due to concerns about sexual exploitation but her case was closed in April 2013.
"When the case was closed, she was still not attending school and it seemed to be the absence of any negative factors rather than positive progress that prompted the closure," inspectors added.
They said they were "surprised" by repeat signs of child sexual exploitation during the inspection of work of probation trusts and youth offending teams to protect children and young people.
Sexual abuse was suspected in almost all cases looked at involving girls and young women, as well as a small number of boys and young men, the report said.
A spokeswoman for the inspectorate said that while this is not an area covered by it, the "prevalence" of suspected sexual exploitation in cases examined prompted the team to raise concerns.
The inspection, which covered six probation trusts and YOTs, focused on the work to identify those children and young people at risk of harm.
Elsewhere, HMIP flagged concerns about the misspelling of names at more than one probation trust, with the potential for information to be missed.
In one trust, the same child was referred to in probation records by three similar but different first names.
A spokeswoman for the inspectorate said this had implications further down the line for child safety, including the potential for home visits to be missed.
Overall, in just under half of all the cases inspected, there was no accurate assessment of the risk of harm posed to identified children and young people.
Youth Justice Board's chief executive Lin Hinnigan said: "We are grateful to the HMIP Inspections team for bringing this example of practice management to our attention.
"We take this matter very seriously and will be looking to support YOTs in their working with Child Services where there is evidence that they need to improve their practice in this area.
"In the main, YOTS are working effectively and collaboratively with several agencies to prevent the sexual exploitation of children and young people, and the report has also highlighted examples of good practice here."