Councillors have been told that many young people fall victim to sexual exploitation after being dismissed as being “troublesome” by society.
Bradford Council’s Children’s Services Scrutiny Committee were discussing child sexual exploitation (CSE) in the District at a meeting last week.
In July a review into CSE in Bradford was published that highlighted how young people in the District had been failed over the past 20 years.
It found some children in Bradford were still likely to be vulnerable to exploitation.
Jane Booth, the independent author of the report, attended the meeting to discuss its findings.
Chair of the Committee Councillor Geoff Winnard, Conservative Councillor for Bingley, said the detail in the report was “horrendous” and “brings shame on Bradford.”
Mrs Booth said the issue of sexual exploitation was treated much more serious now than it had been in the past, but that there were still issues.
She said it was important to intervene in potential victims lives at “key moments” to help prevent them from falling prey to abusers.
She said: “It is about finding those moments we may be able to intervene. There are critical moments services need to engage with these children. It could be when a young woman returns from a period of being missing from home. It is that moment someone can intervene and help these children, but staff need to have the knowledge to do that.”
Explaining how many children were exploited without intervention from groups like police or social services she said: “These children were simply seen but not heard. The visibility of the children is there, but they are often seen as troublesome. If they are seen that way, then their vulnerability can get lost.
“Adverse childhood experiences have set them up to be vulnerable.”
She told members that living in a household where they regularly see domestic abuse can be one way these children are made vulnerable to exploitation.
Richard Padwell, Chief Inspector at West Yorkshire Police, told members that there was now a huge amount of partnership work between police, Councils and charities working with vulnerable children. There had also been numerous arrests in recent years, relating to both recent and “historic” crimes.
When asked the scale of CSE in Bradford he pointed out that the true scale will likely never be fully known, adding: “Most offending takes place in the home by someone known to the victim. This can be an ongoing challenge, but it is now being treated as the priority it is.”
Conservative Councillor Mike Pollard, for Baildon, said nationally a large amount of grooming takes place within the “nighttime economy”, and said in most areas the issue will be linked to the demography of the people who work in that sector.
He added: “In Exeter or Tunbridge Wells the people in that sector are likely to be White British. In Bradford, it is likely to be South Asian. Does this mean that we put dealing with this sort of issue in the ‘hard to do’ box?”
He asked if enough was being done to spot children who may be taking on aspects of another culture, and if this was seen as a sign they were being groomed.
Mrs Booth said a change in cultural identity was not in itself a sign a child was being groomed, but having it forced on them was. She said: “We’d look at a teenager talking about going to get married in Afghanistan the same way as if they said they wanted to go join a cult in Cornwall.
“It is not about children suddenly taking on a particular identity per se, but it is about a child moving into a situation that may be seen as unexpected.”
The committee asked for a further report into the progress being made to tackle the issue at a meeting next month.