Sheffield Council praised for tackling child abuse

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News: Sheffield Telegraph online 24-hours a day.

The true scale of child sexual exploitation in Sheffield is not known by council bosses - despite a new report praising their response to dealing with abuse crimes in the wake of the Rotherham scandal.

A new report praising city agencies for their efforts in tackling the crime shows that 213 children in Sheffield were recorded as being at risk from sexual exploitation in the last 12 months – a 150 per cent increase on the previous year.

Referrals to the city’s specialist sexual exploitation service increased from 85 in 2012/13 to 213 in 2013/14.

Of those referred last year, 52 were classified as being at ‘medium’ or ‘high’ risk of being abused.

But council bosses have admitted they do not know precisely how many child sexual exploitation cases are happening in Sheffield.

Coun Jackie Drayton, cabinet member for children, young people and families, said: “We know there will be people out there that haven’t come forward.”

She said city leaders are ‘not complacent’ about the scale of the problem, despite the positive findings of the report.

“What the report shows is that in Sheffield we are doing all we can. We want to help and want to try and make sure we do everything we can to stop it happening,” she said.

The new report was commissioned by Sheffield Council in the wake of the Jay report, which exposed the abuse of 1,400 children – largely by men of Pakistani descent – in neighbouring Rotherham over a 16-year-period.

The report, carried out by Dr Kathryn Houghton of Safer Outlook Consulting, found the strategies of Sheffield agencies in tackling grooming problems are ‘breaking new ground’ in dealing with the issue.

Ordered in direct response to the shocking findings of the Jay report which uncovered the ‘blatant failures’ of police and council bosses in Rotherham to tackle grooming, it said neighbouring Sheffield was more ‘advanced’ in its attempts to deal with the crime.

While Professor Jay uncovered years of inaction by councillors and senior managers in Rotherham, as well as failures to confront the Pakistani backgrounds of many abusers, Dr Houghton reported an ‘ethos of questioning and professional challenge’ from city councillors.

She said: “Although geographical neighbours, there are a number of significant differences between Sheffield and Rotherham. Sheffield has a history and evidence of being willing to tackle and confront difficult issues, regardless of any gender or ethnicity implications.

“Sheffield councillors represent and advocate for all the community act as gateways to reach out to ethnic minority groups.”