The Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) welcomes the report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Northern Ireland and will now take time to consider its recommendations in full.
The HSCB has continued to work with partner agencies across the statutory and voluntary sectors to provide a co-ordinated response to identifying and tackling child sexual exploitation; protecting children and young people and ensuring that anyone affected has access to appropriate support.
The HSCB, in close consultation with the Health and Social Care Trusts and voluntary organisations, has put in place a range of measures to help address child sexual exploitation. These include a Helpline in relation to child sexual exploitation facilitated by the NSPCC; revised policies and protocols to improve consistency of approach across all Trusts; and funding to provide additional senior practitioner staff within Trusts and staff within Safe Choices (Barnardo’s) to work collaboratively with PSNI. There has also been additional guidance and training for staff.
The Board’s Director of Social Care and Children Fionnuala McAndrew said: “The Independent Inquiry Report reinforces the message that protecting our children and young people and keeping them safe is everyone’s business. Child sexual exploitation can involve all children within the community, within the looked after system and across all social strata.
“The level of engagement with and responses to the Inquiry highlights the need for interventions at different levels including prevention and awareness raising, investigation and pursuing prosecutions of potential exploitation wherever possible.
“Social care professionals have been working with the PSNI, the Safeguarding Board and the voluntary sector, including Barnardo’s and the NSPCC, to ensure that there are robust arrangements in place to protect children. The Board will continue to review its policies and procedures to ensure effective interagency working and information sharing.”
Mrs McAndrew continued: “Young people rarely disclose that this is happening to them, the onus therefore is on those working with them to be aware of the signs and know what to do when they have concerns. If a child or young person is in immediate danger call 999 or contact the PSNI on 101.
“If you have specific concerns about child sexual exploitation or want further information about this call 0800 389 1701. This is a helpline staffed by the NSPCC providing 24 hour confidential advice and support to allow us to take protective action to safeguard children.
“Information leaflets for children, parents and professionals have also been developed by the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland.”