Councils are urging the government to give social workers new legal powers to prevent child sexual exploitation in the upcoming policing and criminal justice bill.
The Local Government Association has demanded that disruption orders – which allows councils to intervene when social workers, parents or police fear a child is being groomed – be included in the bill.
Disruption orders for child sexual exploitation would be similar to domestic violence protection orders or anti-social behaviour orders, but tailored to the risks of exploitation.
Restrict suspected groomers
The association, which is meeting for its annual conference next week, said the orders would work in the same way as a breach of bail conditions. They would restrict anyone suspected of grooming children from taking part in certain types of activity, such as being unsupervised in the company of a vulnerable child.
Child protection workers have voiced concerns they are being hindered from acting in the best interests of vulnerable children, according to the association. It said this change would stop professionals being powerless to intervene in cases where there are signs of children being groomed.
David Simmonds, chairman of the association’s children and young people board, said current sanctions are “just too limited”.
Easier to intervene
“We need to see a change that makes it easier to intervene earlier, before harm is done,” Simmonds said.
He continued: “These banning orders would give local authorities the power to disrupt the ability of sexual predators to act. Having the ability to apply swiftly to the courts would allow a legal barrier to be thrown up to prevent grooming from escalating to more serious levels of sexual exploitation that can ruin the lives of children.
“We are not trying to pass a sentence before someone has been charged, nor do we intend to stop people from carrying out their normal daily activities. But we cannot simply stand by and allow grooming to go unchallenged.”