Task force set up to tackle sexual exploitation of children

The Council House, Doncaster.  (Picture: CHRIS BULL D3825CB)

The Council House, Doncaster. (Picture: CHRIS BULL D3825CB)

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A SPECIALIST task force has been set up in Doncaster to stop vulnerable children being groomed into prostitution by sexual predators.

Health, police and council bosses have joined forces to set up the dedicated team in a bid to tackle the increasing number of children being lured into a life a vice and sexual exploitation. It comes after figures obtained by the Free Press under the Freedom of Information Act revealed South Yorkshire Police’s Public Protection Unit - which deals with sex offences on children investigated approximately 2,600 reports of under 18s at risk of, or being abused in Doncaster over the last two years.

The force was unable to provide more in-depth information under the legislation because of the number of cases.

It also said that the number of reports of under 18s missing from home in the town rose from 372 in 2009 to 510 in 2010, and 613 last year. This accounted for three-quarters of the people reported missing to South Yorkshire Police in 2011.

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre fears the increased number of young runaways in Doncaster could lead to an increase in the number of children being sexually exploited. A spokesman said: “Sexually exploited children and young people may go missing from their place of residence as a consequence of being groomed.

“In this scenario, children are groomed by an offender, initially staying away from home for a short period of time, perhaps at the residence of the offender, where they will be sexually exploited and perhaps offered alcohol and drugs.”

Bosses from the team have already met with the UK Border Agency to discuss concerns about child trafficking and exploitation and how best to keep tabs on sex offenders.

A meeting of the Doncaster Sexual Exploitation Forum has also been told that closer links were being forged with the Sexual Abuse Referral Centre as to how best a tailored made service could be provided for children.

The borough’s Streetreach project set up to get prostitutes off the streets has also been reviewed.

It all comes following a series of high profile cases of young girls being groomed for sex, sometimes by older teenagers.

A spokesman for NHS Doncaster said: “We have been working with our Doncaster Council and South Yorkshire Police partners to review the local Streetreach project, which provides support services for adults and young people involved in, at risk of, or wishing to exit prostitution.

“Our joint aim is to develop the services Streetreach provides so it can provide an improved local provision in line with national government guidance.

“A key element of the proposed changes will be the development of an integrated team, with health, police and Doncaster Council input, that will have strong working links with Doncaster’s children and adult safeguarding services.”

In recent years Streetreach, based in Copley Road, says it has seen a decrease in the number of under 19s street prostitutes, through education programmes and asking older vice girls to help identify young girls who they think might be being exploited.

But this does not include those who are pressured into sex by a partner.

ChildLine carried out 772 counselling sessions between April 2010 and March 2011 of sexual abuse of children. Their attacker could be identified in 85 per cent of cases.

If you know anyone who could be helped by the Streetreach team call 01302 328 396.