Rotherham Council is transforming the way it deals with child sexual exploitation through a ground-breaking service set up to tackle it.
Rotherham hit the headlines three years ago after failing to properly tackle child sexual exploitation (CSE). Since then it has worked tirelessly to change this narrative by the work of the whole council and children’s services in particular.
This recently culminated in the overall ‘good’ rating by Ofsted for the work being done to protect children from harm; a leap of two places from the ‘inadequate’ rating three years before.
Inspectors said: “The quality and impact of services for children are transformed.”
Ofsted added this included the creation of a dedicated multi-agency team to focus on complex abuse work and investment in identifying and supporting children who are at risk of sexual exploitation.
Wrap around support for children
This has included setting up Evolve – the multi-agency specialist team tackling CSE – which has its own dedicated premises in Rotherham.
The team, which is one of the first of its kind in the country, consists of social workers, a CSE specialist nurse, a Barnardo’s project worker, a children’s social care operational manager, business support staff and police officers – all working in one place together.
Operating out of the Eric Mann’s building opposite Rotherham Town Hall, it has come together in order to give the best response to and safeguard children who are suffering or are likely to suffer harm through CSE.
The aim is to provide ‘wrap around’ support and protection to children and their family, with a team of people from a variety of support agencies.
Team manager wanted
Now the council is looking to take on a CSE social work team manager to lead the operation at the Evolve centre.
The position is currently held by agency team manager Gulshin Rayaz.
Speaking about what the job involves she said: “Over the last year and a half we have made significant changes to improve our practice, we have utilised research and listened to the victims of CSE to inform our practice and put in place effective systems and ways of working.
“Rotherham is now leading the way in terms of the work we are doing as a town to tackle CSE and this is evident through not only feedback from partner agencies, young people and their families but also via the successful criminal prosecutions, which give us confidence that we are making a difference.
Disrupting abuse early
Gulshin added the current processes in place aid multi-agency working: “We are a co-located team with partner agencies including health, Barnardo’s and police colleagues.
“The partnership working allows for robust risk assessments, early identification and a two-pronged approach whereby we not only safeguard and support the victims but also work together to support the criminal processes by way of prosecutions via the criminal system to help eradicate further abuse of young people.”
She added: “Co-location also allows for efficient information sharing, intelligence is shared promoting effective case mapping to identify connections between victims and identification of perpetrators leading to timely intervention and disrupting any abuse at the earliest opportunity.
“The social work team have benefitted from various external training delivered by experts and academics from various backgrounds, using this learning we have tailored our work with young people and achieved tremendous results allowing us to keep young people safe and ensuring perpetrators are pursued accordingly.
A place to be proud of
“The team also benefit from being based in offices which young people can access promoting positive relationships and ease of access to services,” said Gulshin.
“Rotherham really is a place to be proud of now. The learning is on a daily basis and the culture is one of dedication and respect.
“All social workers come to work wanting to make a difference and here in Rotherham you can really feel you are doing this and see the evidence of the work you are doing.”
Ian Thomas, Rotherham Council’s strategic director of children and young people’s services, added: “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.
“I would urge anyone who has a background of frontline social work and wants to be part of the cut and thrust of new and innovative ways of working to get in touch with us and apply for this unique position,” Ian said.
“We are on a journey to change the narrative here in Rotherham to be the best it can be, which last month was given recognition by Ofsted.
“We now have a stable social worker workforce, with social workers having some of the lowest caseloads in the country and much better management oversight. We really want to be the difference. The question is, do you?”