Bradford agencies still missing ‘clear signs’ of child sexual abuse

·2-min read

Vulnerable children remain at risk of being failed by child protection agencies in Bradford despite multiple reviews of sexual exploitation cases, an independent report has found.

An analysis of cases stretching back nearly two decades found that agencies were still missing “clear signs” of child sexual abuse and that some vulnerable children were “deemed to be making choices” rather than being treated as potential victims.

The independent report by Clare Hyde was commissioned in 2019 after nine men were jailed over the sexual exploitation of girls who had been in council care.

A council review last year said that between 283 and 389 children were at risk of sexual exploitation in Bradford. More than 120 people have been arrested on suspicion of non-recent abuse in the city, with around 17 investigations under way or awaiting trial.

The report, published on Tuesday, found that though there had been some “significant improvements” in the city’s handling of child sexual exploitation, the promises to learn lessons did not always result in improved practice.

It said: “During the process of conducting this review it became clear at an early stage that agencies and individuals in Bradford do not always get it right and some children remain unprotected while some perpetrators remain unknown and unchallenged.”

The report analysed the handling of five cases, comparing more recent instances with those that happened in the early 2000s. They included victims of rape, physical assault, people forced to take drugs and alcohol and others made homeless.

It said there was evidence that the risk to vulnerable children “was not always recognised even when there were clear signs and indicators suggesting sexual exploitation” and that, in some cases, potential victims were “deemed to be making choices”.

The use of drugs and alcohol as tools of exploitation was present in all cases, it found, yet none of the children were referred to specialist services.

It added: “The stories of the children are difficult to hear. It is also clear that while there has been considerable work in the district in relation to CSE [child sexual exploitation] there are still lessons that need to be learned and the response to victims of this complex crime is not yet good enough in all cases.”

In response to the report, Bradford authorities issued a joint statement apologising to children “where the actions of agencies in Bradford has failed to protect them from child sexual exploitation”.

The Bradford Partnership, which comprises Bradford council, West Yorkshire police and the local clinical commissioning group, said the review made for “difficult reading” and there was “learning for all agencies”.

They added: “We believe that practice across all agencies is improving and that we have learned from the mistakes made in the past but there is much more to do. The partnership will work tirelessly to ensure the report’s recommendations are put into practice so that our district is a safer place for all children.”

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