Rigby P, Owens L & Shapira M (2017) Child Sexual Exploitation: A Multi-Agency Case Study. Glasgow Child Protection Committee. University of Stirling.
The present study was commissioned to provide comment on nine cases of child sexual exploitation (CSE) identified in Glasgow. Through case file and documentary analysis, and discussion with professionals, the aim was to identify pathways into exploitation, agency responses and outcomes for young people. Its longer term objective is to provide baseline information from which to develop a more robust assessment framework for practitioners to better identify and support children and young people.
The case file data and agency reports provided both historical and contemporary context about the circumstances of children and young people and interventions over a number of years. It also provided contextual information to inform focus group discussions, which provided a valuable opportunity for experienced practitioners in the city to share some of their thoughts about practice. Their input provided a complex picture of CSE, with both positive and negative perceptions of practice and responses. Professionals shared their anxieties about working in such a complex and challenging area of child protection, under political and media scrutiny.
There are limitations in such small scale case studies which preclude any definitive, generalisable statements. However, the indicative findings suggest that Glasgow has made progress in addressing concerns about child sexual exploitation that can now be built on to support practitioners in protecting children and young people.
The study found evidence of growing awareness and confidence in responding to CSE in the city, tempered with recognition that challenges remain in addressing such a multifaceted issue. Recognising the complexities, challenges and uncertainty inherent in CSE the outcomes for victims are not all positive despite substantial, and in many cases, early and long term multi-agency involvement and commitment from many professionals. It appears those children and young people with less adverse histories are more likely to seek support, exit exploitation and achieve more positive outcomes.
Even from such a small number of cases the varying complex pathways into sexual exploitation, and other negative outcomes, indicate the need for more robust assessment frameworks and risk indicators. It is apparent that the indicators and risk factors commonly used in existing matrixes are also indicators for many other types of adverse outcomes; risk and vulnerability to CSE is not easy to identify amongst a myriad of other concerns. Future work can develop the data capture form to provide a comprehensive overview of the background circumstances of children and young people who have been sexually exploited, preferably with a comparison group, to support the development of a more robust framework for assessing potential risk.