Every local authority in Wales has a Children’s Services department which is responsible for improving the outcomes for children and young people who need care and support.
If you, a teacher, the police or another professional think your child is being criminally exploited, Children’s Services should be contacted. Children’s Services have a legal duty to keep children and young people safe.
Their powers and duties are outlined in the following:
- Children Act 1989
- Social Services Well-being (Wales) Act 2014
- All Wales Practice Guide (2019). Safeguarding children from Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE). https://www.safeguarding.wales/chi/c6/c6.p1.html.
Children Act 1989
The Children Act 1989 states that young people are best looked after by the family, where it is safe to do so; the young person’s welfare is paramount. While most of the Children Act 1989 applies to Wales, the Social Services Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 replaces part three (local authority support for children and families) and sections 22 and 23 relating to children who are looked after.
In relation to child criminal exploitation, part five (protection of children) says that local authorities have a duty to look into cases where a young person is thought to be at risk of harm. In these cases, the local authority should assess whether they need to support the family or whether they should take action to protect the young person.
Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 (SSWBA, 2014)
Under the Social Services Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, a young person is seen to be at risk if they have care and support needs, regardless of whether they are being met, and appear to be at risk of harm, abuse or neglect.
Section 130, Social Services Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 states that all professionals have a duty to report concerns about a young person’s safety or well-being. All agencies should have a Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) who will offer help and guidance to parents, carers and professionals.
Parents, carers or other adults can discuss their worries with the NSPCC either by phone on 0808 8005000 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Parents, carers or other adults can report their worries to their local Children’s Services or by calling 101. However, if a child or young person is in immediate danger, they should call the police on 999.
Responding to a referral
If there are concerns about a child’s welfare, Children’s Services must undertake an assessment to find out what is happening.
The Social Services Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 says that the assessment process should be based on what matters to the child and their family. The assessment should consider the child and family’s strengths, what existing support they are receiving and what support the family needs.
You should contribute to the assessment.
If you have been keeping a record of events and incidents, this should be given to Children’s Services, so they have all the information they need to make an assessment. The record should include the names of friends or people your child talks about, bus or train tickets for unusual or unexpected trips, and car registration numbers. This helps to build a picture of what is happening and evidence that can be used to show that your child is being criminally exploited.
You should tell CHILDREN’s SERVICES about your worries and any warning signs you have noticed.Multi-agency strategy discussion or meeting
Under section 47 of the Children Act 1989, a multi-agency strategy discussion or meeting must be held when child criminal exploitation is suspected. The section 47 assessment should consider the young person’s needs rather than whether they meet service thresholds. The aim of the meeting is to:
- Share information
- Identify the child’s care and support needs
- Develop a plan to reduce the risk of exploitation
The multi-agency strategy meeting or discussion is guided by the Wales Safeguarding Procedures. This includes the All Wales Protocols for Safeguarding Children which give practitioners detailed information about child criminal exploitation, trafficking, missing children and child sexual exploitation. This includes the warning signs and what practitioners must do if they suspect a child is being exploited.
The multi-agency response is led by Children’s Services and will include any professionals who can offer information about your child. This may include a teacher, health professional, youth worker, police officer, or another representative, such as someone from the youth offending team or substance misuse services.
Young people, parents and carers should receive support to attend the meeting and present their views. Under the Wales Safeguarding Procedures, the multi-agency meeting should be held in the geographical location where the young person is located. While this enables local agencies to respond, this information must be shared with agencies in the area in which the young person lives.
Children, young people and parents should be given time to prepare what they would like to say before the meeting. They can take someone with them for support, such as an independent professional advocate.
Parents and carers must be prepared to consider their child’s wishes and feelings. This may be difficult if your child does not believe they are being criminally exploited. However, it is important that you consider their views and try to keep talking to them about what is happening.
Care and support plan
Your child may be given a care and support plan. Care and support plans are a form of early intervention that are used to support children and families. The aim is to prevent the situation from escalating.
The care and support plan must be child-centred and it must say what actions will be taken, who by and when they will be completed.
Your child should be given a named social worker. The social worker will visit you and your child. They will coordinate and review the care and support plan.
Where possible, the local authority will try to keep children and young people with their family. However, if a child or young person is found to be at risk of significant harm, they may decide they can no longer be kept safe in their current home. In these cases, they will be ‘accommodated’ to keep them safe. This can be on a voluntary basis, where the parents agree that this is the best action for their child or after the court has decided that this is the best course of action.
When a child or young person is accommodated, they will be moved to a place managed or overseen by the local authority.
Child protection plan
If the child is assessed to be at significant risk of harm, they may be given a child protection plan. Child criminal exploitation is often recorded on the child protection plan under ‘neglect’. This does not reflect your parenting or your actions to protect their child.
Child criminal exploitation occurs at a time when parents have limited influence over their child. Professionals should hear your views and include you in decision making about how best to support and protect your child.
Talking to Children’s Services
Some professionals may have limited knowledge and understanding of child criminal exploitation.
This can be frustrating when you are frightened about what is happening to your child. However, it is important that you work with professionals.
Find out the names, roles and responsibilities of professionals involved with your child. Keep a record of meeting times. It may help to make notes before the meeting about what you want to say. You can take these notes with you to the meeting.
You should also make notes in meetings about what actions have been agreed, the timeframes and who is responsible for carrying out each action.