The Leader of Oldham Council and the Chair of Oldham Safeguarding Children Partnership (OSCP) commissioned an independent review into historic child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Oldham, following allegations being made about historical safeguarding practice.
Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, as part of his Police and Crime Commissioner responsibilities, accepted this request for the Greater Manchester-commissioned independent review into historical safeguarding practice to be extended to Oldham, with its own terms of reference and stand-alone report.
That report was published on Monday 20 June 2022 and can be read on the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) website:
The independent review was conducted by Malcolm Newsam CBE and Gary Ridgeway.
Malcolm Newsam has extensive experience in relation to Children’s Services and Safeguarding and has provided diagnostic intervention and improvement support to a range of councils across the country.
Gary Ridgway was previously a Detective Superintendent in Cambridgeshire Police and Head of Public Protection. He has pioneered proactive victim-led child sexual exploitation (CSE) investigations.
The independence of the review was critical to the work. That’s why it was conducted by an independent review team, and the process was assured by the Greater Manchester Safeguarding Standards Board and its independent Chair.
What did the review involve?
The focus was a review of historical allegations relating to Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE), to consider whether the council and partners provided an appropriate response to protect children.
Why is the independent review in Oldham part of a wider GMCA review?
In September 2017, the Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, and Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Bev Hughes, commissioned an independent assurance exercise in relation to CSE.
In 2019, the Mayor then accepted a request from the Leader of the Council and the Chair of the Oldham Safeguarding Children Partnership that this element of the assurance process is extended to Oldham.
Terms of reference:
How do I report child abuse, historic or current?
If you suspect a child or young person is being abused or was abused in the past, then you can help make it stop by making a child protection referral.
Contact the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) and ask to speak to the Duty Officer:
For urgent concerns outside office hours, you can call the Emergency Duty Team:
- Phone: 0161 770 6936
- or the Police on 101 (999 in emergencies).
If you suspect a child might be being abused but are not 100% sure it is still best to make the call.
Actions taken to Support Learning Identified in the Greater Manchester Child Exploitation Report
Multi-Agency Victim & Survivor Strategy
In the last 12 months a range of statutory and voluntary sector partners have come together to develop and embed new safeguarding processes as part of Oldham’s Multi- Agency Victim and Survivor Strategy. The strategy sets out a menu of services designed to support recovery and resilience, alongside plans for the detection and prosecution of crimes relating to non- recent child sexual exploitation. Agencies remain committed to safeguarding and supporting victim-survivors by tailoring responses to meet the unique needs and situation of each individual. The strategy remains in place with partners meeting on a monthly basis where required to ensure victims and survivors are able to access support as and when they need it.
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) have prioritised the detection and prosecution of crimes relating to non-recent child sexual exploitation. Supported by the complex safeguarding social work team, all victims/survivors included in the review have been contacted and offered access to support and independent legal advice. GMP continue to actively explore lines of enquiry from their initial investigations and criminal prosecutions will be pursued, where appropriate. This work is supported by Operation Sherwood Victim meetings, alongside the Operation Sherwood Perpetrator investigations.
Working with Keeping Our Girls Safe
Keeping Our Girls Safe (KOGs) leads the Victim Support Advisory Group to ensure the voice of local victims shapes ongoing support and is central to the co-production of future solutions. KOGS is an Oldham based charity working in partnership with schools, colleges, youth centres and within communities to prevent exploitation through education about unhealthy relationships and grooming; and by empowering young people to make positive life choices. KOGS leads the Victim Support Advisory Group to ensure the voice of local victims shapes ongoing support and is central to the co-production of future solutions.
Dedicated Helpline and Email Address
The dedicated helpline and email address remain in place. This enables the reporting of concerns about non- recent abuse as easy as possible. Helpline staff, trained in trauma informed practice and motivational interview techniques, are on hand to listen and signpost people to emotional and practical support. The number of contacts remain lower than anticipated, however feedback has been received which has been positive, with survivors thanking the team for listening and helping them share some really difficult conversations. Any new concerns received via this helpline/email address are shared with the Multi-Agency Victim and Survivor group to enable appropriate checks and appropriate safeguarding to take place.
Ongoing Support: Sexual Assault Referral Centre, Victim Support & NHS
Oldham has commissioned a specialist Crisis Support project from Greater Manchester SARC. Through a dedicated Crisis Worker, victims and survivors are supported to consider service and support options available to them, even if they do not want to support a police investigation. SARC works closely with Operation Sherwood; to ensure that the services on offer cover every element from emotional support and counselling to legal rights and help to navigate the criminal justice system. Health partners are actively supporting victims and survivors through a range of specialist services. Where support is accepted through the victim and survivor pathway, health services are available on an outreach basis.
The Multi-Agency Complex Safeguarding Hub
Launched in April 2020, the Complex Safeguarding Hub provides an innovative approach to tackling all forms of organised crime in Oldham. The service brings together Children’s Social Care (CSC), Police and Health and its remit covers Child Sexual Exploitation, Child Criminal Exploitation, Organised Crime and Gangs, Modern Slavery and Trafficking, all within the one service. The Hub works with young adults up to 18 years old (or up to 25 years for those open to the After Care Service) who are open to CSC and where there is an identified risk of, or current experience of exploitation. There has been an increase in referrals to Complex Safeguarding following the publication of the report, with support being implemented earlier in both criminal and sexual exploitation cases. The hub has supported the increase in referrals by increasing the establishment from 2.5 social workers and 1 x family support worker .. to … 7.5 social workers, 1 family support workers and an additional senior practitioner.
Contextual Approach to Complex Safeguarding Strategy
Oldham is taking a lead within Greater Manchester on the production of an all-age Contextual Approach to Complex Safeguarding. This approach is designed to address risk factors associated with criminal exploitation and builds on the Children’s Contextual Approach to Complex Safeguarding Strategy, launched in March 2021. Through the strategy, partners focused on three key priorities, to raise awareness, confidence, and skills, to ensure the earliest identification of complex safeguarding by professionals and the community; to ensure victims and families receive good quality support; and to hold perpetrators to account through improved disruption and prosecution and building of knowledge about the motivations of perpetrators. Professional Challenge. The three Board managers continue to meet bi-monthly to share learning and have co-authored a working protocol with Her Majesty’s Coroner.
Greater Manchester Peer Audit
In October 2022 the Complex Safeguarding Hub was reviewed by the Greater Manchester Complex Safeguarding Hub and its partners (including voluntary sector organisations, health, and Police representatives). The outcome of the review was positive, with it being documented that clear progression has been made within the complex safeguarding team, with the complex safeguarding workers being persistent in trying to engage young people and considering age, vulnerability, and young people’s preferences in doing this. It was also noted that there is a committed, motivated, and experienced partnership approach to complex safeguarding.
Areas of learning identified during this review include assessments to be more analytical, victim blaming language was noted in wider recordings (not within the complex safeguarding hub), support to be offered to Oldham young people placed out of area, staffing for health and police has not increased in line with the demand, missed opportunities identified in relation to CCE.
In relation to these areas of learning, the complex safeguarding team continue to offer appropriate language training to partners and CSC staff, where victim blaming language is noted this will be challenged and amended. The assessments have now changed to the WISE assessment (Working to increase safety in exploitation) this enables a more analytical assessment, and a more holistic assessment of the child/young person which this assessment being completed with the child/young person. Complex Safeguarding are now committed to supporting Oldham children/young people who are placed out of area, to ensure they receive the right support. Police and health resources remain a concern, with these not having increased in line with the demand. Due to the increased staffing within Children’s Social Care staff in the hub, an increase of 5 established social worker posts, this enables earlier intervention to commence in both CCE and CSE. The results of the peer review continue to inform the delivery and development of the Complex Safeguarding Hub.
Bringing Offenders to Justice
The Complex Safeguarding Police Team currently have open over 90 open crimes, investigating both sexual and criminal exploitation of children and young people. As part of disruption in relation to Exploitation the Complex Safeguarding Police team have issued 27 Child Abduction Warning Notices to adults.
There are three ongoing police operations in relation to non-recent Child Sexual Exploitation, alongside Operation Sherwood. These operations are Operation Armada, Operation Gable and Operation Gettysburg.
There has been one successful conviction, a male has been found guilty of four counts of sexual activity with a child and supply of cannabis, this was following him being the perpetrator of online grooming. This male is due to be sentenced on 26 June 2023. This investigation has also prompted the creation of Operation Rumford, which aims to identify any other victims.
There are several cases awaiting trial. The success of the Complex Safeguarding police team continues to be seen in the quality of their investigations, evidence collated through analysis of technology and sharing of intelligence within the team.
The Complex Safeguarding Police team also work closely with the complex safeguarding social work team, health, licensing, and community safety to complete disruption in areas of concern. Within the last 12 months, this has included car washes, coffee shops, take aways and also addresses of concern.
Child Protection Investigation Unit (CPIU)
Over the last 12 months the district CPIU have become an embedded department within the district. They have implemented a change in shift to increase the number of officers working during core hours with partners, whilst ensuring there is specialist support from the department into the night and on weekends.
The team deal with crimes against children which are conducted by those in a position of trust (and work closely with the LADO as a consequence). In addition, the department investigate all serious crimes against children, such as significant neglect as well as physical and sexual assault.
The districts detective superintendent is committed to building on staffing levels and has committed a number of newly qualified detectives who are posed to join Oldham to the department. In addition, the remit of the department is currently being reviewed by the forces Public Protection and Governance Unit and will likely see a broadening of the teams remit.
As part of the ongoing work within the Complex Safeguarding Hub, prevention work is high on the priorities. As such the Complex Safeguarding Hub have been proactive in reaching out to primary and secondary schools across Oldham to offer input sessions. To date we have delivered sessions in over 9 primary and secondary schools and have reached over 3000 students, alongside delivering training sessions to staff within these schools. This is now progressing to offering sessions within these schools to parents. The complex safeguarding hub are also delivering sessions regarding complex and contextual safeguarding and the use of appropriate language to care homes.
As part of the Safer Streets work, Performing Arts students at Oldham College created a performance around gender-based violence on public transport that was showcased at a Safer Streets Festival and will be rolled out to all education settings in Oldham and in addition, funding was secured for six Safeguarding Officers to complete a Young Person Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA) Qualification.
OSCP continues delivery of healthy relationships, online sexual harassment, public sexual harassment, and sexual consent work in Primary and Secondary and Further Education settings including key information about harmful sexual behaviours, CSE, CCE, grooming and E-safety. OSCP also work with school and college staff to raise awareness of sexual abuse and sexual harassment in schools
GMCA Community of Practice Review on Adolescent Safeguarding
A Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) Community of Practice Review considered the current Adolescent Safeguarding practice across the ten Greater Manchester safeguarding partnerships as a means of generating and sharing knowledge and improving organizational performance. The review was undertaken in December 2021 and singled out the Oldham Partnership as being further ahead in its Contextual Safeguarding work and highlighted both best practice and learning from its processes. Oldham has subsequently contributed to the development of the Adolescent Framework which in turn will be rolled out across the ten partnerships.
Contextual Safeguarding Workshops
Between April and June 2022, the joint OSCP and OSAB Complex and Contextual Sub Group hosted multi-agency workshops to support implementation of contextual safeguarding measures. The first session ensured a good understanding of the approach and how it differs from traditional child and adolescent protection systems. The second focused on existing contextual safeguarding practice; highlighting what was working well and identifying ways to build on good practice. The third resulted in a joint development plan including priorities and ambitious milestones for agencies.
Gang Response & Early Collaborative Intervention Project (GRIP)
GRIP was an 18-month project which Launched in November 2021 as a swift response to emerging concerns about youth violence, contextual risks and gang related concerns within two geographical areas, Limeside and Failsworth. Underpinned by a contextualised safeguarding approach, the team combined young people and community members with professionals from education, health, placement providers and social care. GRIP worked with 22 young people aged between 11-18 years old. There was a reduction in offending behaviours alongside an increase in young people’s self-esteem. The GRIP workers positively engaged with all the young people who worked with the project.
Through discussions the GRIP project has been able to build a holistic picture of concerns and risks to help identify solutions. Interventions completed include direct work, Failsworth Friday Night Project, and AVRO & Limeside Boxing Club targeted youth provision.
District Youth Offer
District Youth Teams remain central to Oldham’s drive to build awareness and prevent exploitation. Youth work provides young people with positive activities that enable them to be safe and aims to minimise the risks and negative behaviours within their communities. Recent successes have included bespoke projects based on needs, schools-based programmes and targeted response work in known ‘hotspots’. Youth workers play a vital role as trusted adults within local communities who are able to provide safe spaces for young people as well as targeted interventions to address key issues such as healthy relationships and reducing serious violence and knife crime. The Youth Service and the Complex Safeguarding Hub have become more closely linked within the last 12 months with joint projects planned, alongside working together to reduce contextualised risks.
Elected Member Steering Group: CSE
Proposed to offer greater scrutiny of Oldham’s CSE processes, The Steering Group provides cross- party oversight of current safeguarding practice. Through regular assurance updates from key safeguarding leads across both OSCP and OSAB, Elected Members gain a clear understanding of the support offered to victim-survivors of historic CSE and the work currently being undertaken to seek justice. The group also receive progress updates on plans to raise awareness of the issues and actions designed to support early intervention, prevention or disruption of CSE activity.