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Rotherham Council has announced plans to enlist the help of victims of child sexual exploitation (CSE) to assist in improving the way the authority tackles abuse in the local area. 

With it being widely reported that an estimated 1,400 children were sexually exploited in the town over a 16 year period up to and including 2013, it’s a bold move from the council. 

Entitled ‘A Fresh Start’, the council’s improvement plan has reportedly been agreed by councillors and is likely to have a huge impact on those social workers working in children’s services. The plans involve enlisting the help of victims in the monitoring of any actions being taken to improve the support available to CSE victims as well as introducing new preventative measures. 

The targets are pretty tough too – the plan, which was developed by a team of government appointed commissioners, has set a rather ambitious goal of achieving an “outstanding” Ofsted rating for children’s services inside of three years. This will undoubtedly be a top priority for those working in children’s social work in the area. 

We’re not sure exactly what form victim involvement will take. Traditionally, where victims have been involved in improving services, domestic violence forums for example, this has taken the form of specialist focus groups and interviews. 

With the University of Salford and four CSE related charities involved, including Rotherham Women’s Refuge, concentrated groups that take into account the sensitive nature of CSE are likely to be formed. 

The work from these groups will also need to feed into the council’s multi-agency safeguarding hubs.

Children & Young People Now, has also hinted that a ‘children’s charter’ might surface, which would see the council officially promising to be a “child-centred borough”. What this means in practice will no doubt be revealed over the coming months, but it’s certainly very interesting.  

With the plan now sitting with central government for approval, it is expected that once released, all will be revealed on how widespread the changes will be. 

With a huge array of people from various walks of life being involved in covering up CSE over such a protracted period, the plan will no doubt involve a great deal of work in building essential community links. This is also reflected in the University of Salford’s consultation with Rotherham’s general public that closes at the end of this week, where residents are invited to participate in an online survey. 

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