Data collection and analysis: CSE

We wanted to get a sense of what Local Children’s Safeguarding Boards (LSCBs) are using to measure prevalence of CSE, the amount of service activity in this area, quality of services and outcomes for children. To do this we picked ten LSCBs at random and looked at their 2015/16 annual reports and their CSE strategies. We actually picked 16 LSCBs to start with, but four don’t appear to have published their 15/16 reports, one only had the Executive Summary available and the other LSCB had a link to its report but the file was corrupt. Our ten chanced to skew towards cities and metropolitan boroughs where CSE may have become a focus earlier than in some more rural areas.

Eight out of ten of the LSCBs reported the number of children known or suspected to be at risk of CSE either at a specific date in 2015/16 or throughout the year, or the numbers of children referred during 2015/16 for known or suspected CSE. We have calculated the numbers as a rate per 10,000 children in each authority:

  • The rate of those at risk throughout the year varies from 15 to 23 per 10,000, excluding one small rural LA where the rate is much lower.

  • The rate of those at risk at a specific date in 2015/16 varies between 5/6 for two LAs and 29 for a third.

  • The rate of new referrals of children at risk of CSE in 2015/16 is remarkably consistent for the three LAs for which we have data, at 12, 13 and 14.

As LAs and LSCBs begin to collect this information in consistent ways and to compare it with each other, there will be issues to explore – whether apparent variations reflect a real difference in children’s risk of CSE between different areas, or whether these are to some extent variations in identifying and recording CSE.

Only three LSCBs gave numbers of children by assessed risk level. Three Boards published some data about children’s ages. Five Boards gave a breakdown of children at risk of CSE by gender: for three of these areas girls made up 88% of children at risk, in one area girls were 88% and in the fifth the proportion of girls was lower at 72%. Several Boards note the possible under-identification of boys at risk of CSE.

Another very common indicator quoted was the number of people attending training; 7 of the 10 Boards gave this figure. We understand the wish to quote this to make it clear that training has been provided and attended, but we’re concerned that it is sometimes used as a proxy for how effective the training is. We’d advocate not giving this figure unless Boards can also provide decent evidence that people have learnt from attending training sessions and that the ways staff support children at risk have therefore improved.

Rarer indicators we liked included:

  • the percentage of children at risk of CSE who go missing;

  • children at risk of CSE who are looked after or the subject of a CP plan;

  • absence from school of children at risk of CSE;

  • children receiving an intervention for CSE whose risk lessened, increased and stayed the same;

  • the percentage of children referred as at risk of CSE who were not previously known to Children’s Services.

We are not yet seeing detailed multi-agency data for children at risk of CSE. We think these could include

Children at risk of CSE who …

… have offended or are at risk of offending;

… have disabilities;

… are receiving CAMH services;

… have substance misuse problems;

… are living in temporary accommodation.

LAs and LSCBs have a great opportunity now to develop on local datasets to ensure they identify factors likely to be linked to CSE. That they are eager to do this is clear from the fact that eight of the ten LSCBs we reviewed said that they have plans to develop CSE data. Four of them set out ambitious lists of the measures they hope to monitor, including data relating to processes, outcomes and the engagement of children and young people in decision-making.

We would welcome the opportunity to support your organisation in developing a framework to ensure you know what you need to know about the prevalence of CSE in your area and the quality of services supporting it. Please do get in touch if you’d like to talk about this.