A girl who reported being raped in 2011 was left without support from a qualified social worker for almost a year after Bradford council took too long to escalate her case, a serious case review has found.
The girl, referred to as Autumn, was instead supported by a community resource worker until May 2012. She continued to suffer further abuse during this period. Partner agencies, including her school, were unaware the worker was not a qualified social worker for 10 months, the review found.
The complexity of her needs meant a qualified social worker should have been assigned immediately and the risks escalated, the review found.
“Regardless of the community resource worker’s undoubted commitment, the case should have been allocated to a more experienced worker with a social work qualification. Autumn was not allocated to a qualified social worker until a joint allocation was agreed in May 2012,” it found.
The review followed the sentencing of 12 men who abused the girl over 13 months. It found the perpetrators exercised “total control” over Autumn by subjecting her to a series of assaults and threats to her and her family.
The report found concerns around Autumn were picked up early and persistently by services but there was a lack of recognition of the degree of harm she was exposed to.
There was also confusion about processes, as well as roles, throughout work with Autumn. CSE strategy meetings and child in need meetings were described differently by different agencies. The education social work team at Autumn’s school also failed to support her properly despite her attendance dropping to 40%.
Autumn’s initial disclosure of rape was made in May 2011 and children’s services allocated a community resource worker to her case that month. The case was flagged as high risk at strategic level in November 2011 but there was conflict within and between agencies of the “significant differences” in professional judgments made about Autumn’s need for protection and safeguarding, the review found.
The school and police wanted to move her out of the local area in order to move away from the perpetrators. But this was “strongly resisted” by children’s services who believed Autumn’s case did not did not meet child protection thresholds as the family were actively involved in the child in need plan. Services wanted to support Autumn to live with her maternal grandmother.
“This over emphasis on family support continued in decision making through to the spring of 2012,” the report found.
Eventually, after the police gathered sufficient evidence to arrest the men, Autumn was placed in a residential unit in June 2012 with the agreement of her mother, where she assisted the police investigation into her perpetrators.
David Niven, chair of Bradford Safeguarding Children Board, said there had since been changes in awareness, learning and education in regards to the sexual exploitation of children.
“With all that we have learn since then, I am absolutely convinced that many other potential Autumns have been prevented in the last few years,” Niven said.
“I know that this doesn’t do anything to alleviate her distress, but we are very grateful she has been so co-operative over the investigation and this report.
“At the centre of this report is a very brave young woman who has endured the court process to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
The report recommended that all staff working with children at risk of CSE be given training on the risk assessment framework and what constitutes an effective referral to the CSE hub.
It also said the safeguarding board should carry out an audit to ensure assessments, thresholds and safeguarding meetings are meeting expectations.