Birmingham & Black Country

Birmingham City Council report finds abuse risk for 132 children

The report
Image caption The report said children in care or involved in gangs were most at risk of being exploited

At least 132 children in Birmingham are suffering or are vulnerable to sexual exploitation, a report has revealed.

The findings were published after a year-long investigation by the city council's scrutiny committee.

The report said children in care or involved in gangs were among those most at risk of being exploited.

It acknowledged there was "serious child sexual exploitation" in Birmingham but said the "totality of the problem" was unclear.

Councillor Brigid Jones, cabinet member for children and young people, said the council was requesting £123m over the next three years to improve its children's department, which has been rated inadequate since 2008.

She said the authority would work with police and schools to tackle child sex exploitation but said it was not solely the council's responsibility.

"It's all of society," she said.

"Particularly our approach to young women and how we treat them."

Image caption Birmingham City Council's children's services have been rated inadequate since 2008

The report - called We Need to Get it Right - identified 83 children most at risk, three boys and 80 girls.

It found "good practice" in general, but said there were "a few cases where appropriate action had not been taken".

Figures in the report - based on information collected in September - "do not provide a complete picture of the extent of CSE in the city of Birmingham for various reasons", it said.

The council said it hoped it would act as a "wake-up call" to professionals and children, who "may not consider themselves victims".

"This will help increase understanding", the report said, "although given the hidden nature of this crime it will still not show the whole picture."

The report said West Midlands Police had told the council "every ward in the city has got risks and potential and every area has a story around CSE: victim, offender or location."

Image caption Promoting online safety was among the recommendations made in the report

Committee members made 19 recommendations, which Ms Jones said had been wholly accepted by the council.

One of the recommendations included promoting online safety, particularly around smartphone tracking.

The council heard evidence "social apps" could be used to identify a potential victim's location and manufacture an "accidental" meeting with them.

There were also reports of perpetrators broadcasting messages over Bluetooth in busy public places in the hope of making contact with a potential target.

"By looking around and seeing who seems to be smiling about it and responding the groomer would tailor his responses and then maybe go and introduce themselves," it said.

In another case, the report said, a primary school boy was groomed via his Xbox by two would-be abusers who arranged to meet him in a hotel room.

His mother was able to alert police before the meeting took place, it said.

Last week, the city council became the first authority to use civil injunctions in a bid to block child sex exploitation.

Nine men were barred from approaching "any female under 18", with whom they were not personally associated.

The High Court injunctions came after social workers raised concerns about the welfare of a 17-year-old girl.

The council said it was working on a wider review of child sexual exploitation in Birmingham.

Bernie McNally, the former social services executive director at the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, had been due to take over as executive director for children's services in Birmingham but she has withdrawn her interest.

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