Stoke-on-Trent has been identified as a hotspot for gang-related child sexual exploitation.
Scores of children as young as 10 are victims of grooming and exploitation in the city, with many more likely to be targeted, a shocking report has revealed.
Officials are now battling to ensure they get to grips with the problems before the city becomes another child abuse scandal like Rotherham and Rochdale.
In a report issued by Stoke-on-Trent City Council, it states that 27 children in the city were sexually exploited last year, with another 78 believed to be at risk.
And in July 2012, Staffordshire Police identified more than 200 children and young people across both Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent who were at risk of child sexual exploitation.
A report issued by the council said: “It is undoubtedly the case that child sexual exploitation is taking place across the city and that there are elements of organisation to this form of abuse.”
Cllr Gwen Hassall, cabinet member for social care at the city council, said: “We want parents in the city to know the council is doing everything it can to ensure the issues we are seeing across the country are prevented.”
An independent review into child sexual exploitation and missing children services in the city highlighted some good practice but has also made 25 recommendations for improvements.
The report stated that although children in all areas are at risk of exploitation, the high level of deprivation and the number of independent children’s home mean children in Stoke-on-Trent are more at risk.
In September the number of young people that were believed to be at risk was 45.
There have been six Staffordshire Police-led operations into child sexual exploitation since 2002, including three in the last five years.
Staffordshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Jon Drake said: “This is something that we need to keep working on until we can say the problem is gone, that is solved, and it certainly isn’t yet.”
£14,000 of additional funding from Stoke-on-Trent Clinical Commissioning Group allowed Staffordshire Police to double the size of its child exploitation team, which now comprises a detective inspector, two detective sergeants and 12 police officers.
(Pic courtesy of creative commons licence by Nishanth Jois)