The wide-ranging work the City of Wolverhampton Council is doing to protect young people from becoming victims of child sexual exploitation is being put under the spotlight.
The council's Scrutiny Board has set up a review group to look at the steps the authority and its partners are taking to prevent child sexual exploitation.
Local authorities have a key role to play in protecting children and young people from sexual exploitation and the review will provide reassurance that the council and its partners are meeting their safeguarding responsibilities.
Councillor Val Gibson, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said: “The issue of child sexual exploitation is an absolute priority for the council.
"It is an appalling crime that can affect any child, regardless of their social or ethnic background. It involves perpetrators grooming youngsters and emotionally and sexually abusing them.
"We already work closely with West Midlands Police and other partners across the region to safeguard children and young people from sexual exploitation, and want to make sure that our efforts are having the desired effect. I therefore welcome this scrutiny review which will help identify areas of strong practice and potentially things we could be doing better."
Councillor Jasbir Jaspal, Chair of the Scrutiny Review, said: "We are pleased to have been invited to scrutinise this hugely important area of the council's work. And will be talking to different people to check that everything possible is being done to keep children and young people safe from sexual exploitation.
"We are aware of the great efforts that the council and its partners are already making to help prevent the sexual abuse of children and young people, protect those who are most at risk and support the prosecution of perpetrators, and we will be looking to see if there's any way in which this response can be strengthened still further."
Over the last 18 months, significant improvements have been made in the way in which the council and its partners assess, monitor and tackle cases of child sexual exploitation in Wolverhampton and identify children considered to be at risk.
Closer links have also been forged between the council's safeguarding service and regulatory services to support the identification of perpetrators and victims of child sexual exploitation, with taxi drivers being trained to act as eyes and ears on issues like child sexual exploitation, while the council is working closely with local headteachers to ensure schools raise the profile of child sexual exploitation among pupils.
The council also supports the regional See Me Hear Me campaign, launched in partnership with West Midlands Police and six other local authorities in the West Midlands, to raise awareness of the issue of child sexual exploitation and encourage public and professionals to report any concerns they might have.
Anyone who is concerned about a child or young person should call the council’s Child Protection Service on 01902 555392, West Midlands Police on 101 or Barnardos in confidence on 0121 550 5271. In an emergency, always call 999. For more information about child sexual exploitation, please visit www.seeme-hearme.org.uk.