Derby children’s workers criticised over failure to spot abuse

Derby City Council’s social workers are among a number of children’s professionals criticised for missing opportunities to help two girls in care that fell victim to a gang of child abusers.

Nine men have been convicted for their involvement in the gang, which targeted teenage girls in the city with drugs and alcohol, before sexually abusing them.

Of the 27 girls who came forward and the 15 who the convictions relate to, two were in the care of Derby City Council. But a serious case review (SCR) by Derby Local Safeguarding Board found they were let down by social workers and other professionals across health and education.

The abuse was carried out before and during they were taken into care with one of the most damning criticisms in the review that social workers failed to link their “extreme” behaviour with abuse.

The SCR states: “Staff did not recognise the significance of their behaviour in terms of abuse, and they were dealt with as rebellious adolescents.”

The report also found opportunities to intervene and take them into care at an earlier stage of their lives were missed. If this had happen they would “have been more resilient” and “less vulnerable as adolescents to all kinds of exploitation and abuse, including the abuse they did experience”.

The report notes that after the children were taken into care social workers “worked hard within their sphere” to support the girls.

However, professionals across social care, health and in schools failed to work well together. This meant it was difficult to “create a comprehensive picture” of their lives and spot abuse at an earlier stage.

Recommendations made in the SCR include staff training across social care, education and health to spot the signs of abuse. Social workers also need to improve the way they assess risk in cases of suspected abuse.

Evonne Williams, Derby City Council’s cabinet member for children and young people, apologised, adding: “We have learned from this and acted swiftly to change the way we work. Our procedures and our communications with all the agencies involved have been improved.”

This includes a greater emphasis on “early identification of signs of child sexual exploitation” and developing a sexual exploitation strategy.