One of the messages we are pushing this week (and every week because sadly this problem will not go away overnight) is that it is not just the county council’s responsibility to help protect vulnerable children from harm but it is everybody’s.
Please say something if you see something. Please alert the authorities, whether that’s us, the police or the NHS. Please don’t say nothing.
One of our key priorities as a county council is to help give children the very best start in life. Protecting them from harm has to be at the forefront of that. That’s why I am so supportive of this campaign. We support really driving home the message that protecting our young and vulnerable is everyone’s responsibility because I believe that’s the only way we can ensure that we can eradicate this from our communities.
What happened in Rotherham was truly shocking and reading the reports was extremely uncomfortable and disturbing – so we all need to learn and do our best to ensure that we do everything we can to prevent it happening again anywhere.
So our position is to look at everything.
People will often report concerns to either the police or our Children’s Services if they are worried about a child’s welfare. Any call is always looked at and, if needs be, accelerated because a child’s welfare is paramount.
We work very closely with the police and other partners, sharing our knowledge across all the different agencies who might be involved to ensure that nothing is missed.
The County Council has statutory safeguarding powers and like all other authorities has a Local Safeguarding Children’s Board – The West Sussex Local Safeguarding Children’s Board (LSCB). This board is independently chaired and made up of members representing various bodies and interests such as police, schools and West Sussex County Council.
Each year the West Sussex LSCB prepares a report which the Chairman presents to Cabinet Board, it is also available on their website www.westsussexlscb.org
Recent work of this Board includes work on Child Sexual Exploitation, in response to Rotherham and no doubt will continue to do so.
As I said, everyone needs to play their part by keeping an eye out, sometimes it may seem rather small but that does not mean that it should be ignored.
We appreciate that this can be such a difficult subject and there are a lot of ways that people can report their concerns without having to give their names.
To report concerns people can call the County Council’s Children’s Access Point (CAP) on 01403 229900 (9am-5pm Monday–Friday) or email email@example.com . This is a secure email system which can only be accessed by professionals.
People can also contact the police on 101 (or 999 in an emergency). People can also contact Childline on 0800 11 11 or the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000.
More information can be found on the West Sussex Safeguarding Children’s Board website www.westsussexscb.org.uk
People can download leaflets with advice for young people and parents on the signs to look out for and what to do if you think you or someone you know is being sexually exploited.
Please say something if you see something. Not just on Wednesday, March 18 but everyday.
Louise Goldsmith.Leader West Sussex County Council
Chichester West Division.