More than 130 children in Birmingham have been sexually exploited or remain at risk of being harmed, according to a study suggesting that grooming gangs are operating in the area.
Amid worrying signs the UK’s second city is troubled by the same kind of child sex abuse that has scandalised Rotherham, Rochdale and Oxford, the year-long study by Birmingham City Council found that young girls were raped as part of gang initiation ceremonies, while those in care were most at risk of sexual exploitation.
Entitled We Need to Get it Right, it highlights 83 children most risk of exploitation – 80 girls and three boys. Of these, one was under 13, and 57 were aged 14 to 16.
The report also detailed “harrowing” testimony of victims, including a 15 year-old girl raped by three men in a park while filmed on a mobile phone by one attacker.
Her attempts to speak out were largely ignored, the report said, because she was seen as a “troublemaker” at school. Her rapists began plying her with drugs, alcohol and money and made her see them as friends. But they continued to rape and physically attack her.
Based on evidence from a range of agencies, professionals and victims groups, it suggests this case was far from unique. “We heard of many cases where lives have been put back on track due to timely interventions and we also heard of many examples of, at best, frustration with the systems in place, and at worst failure of procedures, multi-agency working or a lack of resources,” it said.
While child sex exploitation scandals in Rotherham and Rochdale overwhelmingly involved men of Asian origin preying on white girls, officials said they did not see the same pattern in Birmingham.
Anita Ward, chairwoman of the Education and Vulnerable Children Overview and Scrutiny Committee, said: “For far too long, child sexual exploitation was a hidden issue, but following the recent number of high profile cases across the country the problem has been exposed and we can no longer pretend that it does not exist within our society.”
The disclosures follow a damning report by Ofsted last week which said the most vulnerable children in society are at risk of sexual exploitation due to unacceptable failings by social services, health workers and police.
Ofsted said local authorities have been “too slow” to face up to their responsibilities in preventing child sexual exploitation. Arrangements to tackle sexual exploitation at a local level were described as “underdeveloped”, while leadership was criticised as being “frequently lacking”.Reuse content