The city’s Partnership Exploitation and Missing Hub was set up in February last year to bring together all the services that work to protect local youngsters at risk of sexual, criminal, psychological or any other form of exploitation.
Whilst the hub has predominantly focused on children and young people, it is now looking to expand services to provide an education post and adult exploitation screening tool.
In a paper addressing the city’s schools’ forum, head of specialist support Rachel King said: “A report presented to Wolverhampton Safeguarding Together (WST) in September 2021 demonstrated that since the hub was established, the number of young people and adults identified as being at risk of or experiencing exploitation has significantly increased.
“Between February 2021 and May 2022, 418 screenings have been received and considered. Out of these, 143 young people were identified as meeting the threshold for multi-agency child exploitation meetings (MACE). 84 of these had high risk levels that have now reduced and the remainder are still being supported.
“This represents a 63 per cent increase in the number of young people being supported since the hub went live. In addition, there has also been a significant increase in reported missing person episodes. The average number per month during 2019 was 40, rising to 67 during 2021 with a peak of 98 in December. The average per month so far in 2022 is 71,” she added.
“Following a review of this increased demand on the hub, a decision was made in May for the local authority to increase its resourcing. Additional investment of approximately £200,000 has been agreed to establish more specialist posts.”
When it was established, the core team in the hub initially consisted of a manager, missing returns officer, partnership strategic co-ordinator, partnership analyst and a police team made up of one sergeant, four constables and two intelligence officers.”
“The proposal now is to establish a dedicated education post, initially for 12 months at a cost of £45,000 funded from the dedicated schools’ grant. An education representative would be able to visit schools to discuss and promote use of the screening tool,” said Ms King.
“Schools in Wolverhampton would benefit from a named professional who has multi-agency knowledge and understanding of exploitation. The postholder will promote training with education professionals and parents. They will also provide a critical link into pupil referral units and for children and young people who are not in any provision.”
The city’s schools’ forum is being asked to approve the proposal at a meeting next Thursday. A report will then be presented in June 2023 to evidence the impact of the post and agree longer term funding.