New ‘one-stop shop’ to tackle child grooming in Rotherham

The Evolve launch in Rotherham, with Lynn Mcintosh, Ian Thomas, Emma Jackson, Cllr Chris Read and John Fitzgibbons
The Evolve launch in Rotherham, with Lynn Mcintosh, Ian Thomas, Emma Jackson, Cllr Chris Read and John Fitzgibbons
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A ground-breaking ‘one-stop shop’ service to tackle child sexual exploitation has been launched in Rotherham.

The scandal-hit town has established a new multi-agency team called Evolve consisting of social workers, police officers and families of victims, working in premises opposite Rotherham Town Hall.

Council bosses say the team, which also involves a child sexual exploitation specialist nurse, a Barnardo’s project worker, a children’s social care operational manager and business support staff, is one of the first of its kind in the country.

The aim of the team is to give the best response to and safeguard children who are or likely to suffer harm through child sexual exploitation.

Emma Jackson, who was abused by a sex ring in Rotherham in the early 2000s, was among those who helped launch the team’s new facilities in the Eric Mann’s building.

She said: “This is such a great idea and how I wish it had existed for me when I was a teenager and a victim of CSE. I had to go from police station to social worker to health clinic, all in different places and it was a scary ordeal.

“I have no doubt that this new way of working and this one-stop shop, if you like, can only be a good thing as it will help people to be able to relax as much as they can when having to give the evidence to the people who will aim to help to put their attackers behind bars.”

The building includes a suite of police interview rooms and incident rooms where large scale operations will be led from, as well as offices filled with project workers from both Rotherham Council and Barnardo’s ReachOut service.

It is hoped by having all the child sexual exploitation specialists working hand in hand, day in day out together that no evidence gets missed and all avenues are explored.

Rotherham Council leader Chris Read said: “Today marks another important step forward in the way we deal with child sexual exploitation in Rotherham. New facilities that help our multi-agency staff give the best possible service to victims, survivors, those at risk and their families.

“We are now operating with a much deeper understanding of this form of abuse. We are working more closely across agencies to keep children and young people as safe as we can.”

Detective Superintendent Natalie Shaw from South Yorkshire Police added: “No single agency can tackle child sexual exploitation alone which is why we need to work across agencies, and with our communities. We are operating in new ways which put victims and survivors first, and ensure we listen and respond. We are clear there is much more to do, but we have made real change already.”

It comes after an Ofsted inspection found the council has improved its approach to dealing with child sexual exploitation issues in the past two years.

In October 2014, Ofsted inspectors failed the council, giving its children and young people’s services an inadequate rating. It followed the Jay report in August 2014, which estimated there had been at least 1,400 victims of child sexual exploitation in the town over 16 years.

But a new report by inspectors said: “What started as reactive approaches to children suffering from CSE has developed into proactive, sensitive and robust investigative practice between police and social care.”