Luton Borough Council is not responding to child sex exploitation “consistently well”, an Ofsted investigation has revealed.
In a survey, the first of its kind, the schools watchdog inspected the town council’s current response to child sex exploitation, along with that of seven other local authorities across the country (Brent, Bristol, Camden, Kent, Oldham, Rochdale and Rotherham).
The thematic inspection comes after a number of high- profile scandals over failings, which have embroiled Rochdale and Rotherham councils in controversy.
The findings were also published a week after a series of sexual exploitation raids in Luton, after which six women and a child were taken into care. During the investigation it was found that “none of the eight local authorities inspected were covering child sexual exploitation well across the full range of responsibilities”.
The report read: “The performance of local authorities in delivering services to children suffering or at risk of suffering sexual exploitation in response to statutory guidance has been variable, both between and within the authorities.
“Some had used quality assurance processes to identify deficits in practice...for others, inspection brought appropriate focus to acknowledged deficits and these are now identified as areas for development.”
Inspectors found that Luton, as well as each of the other seven councils, had young people known to be at risk of sexual exploitation being supported as children in need.
The report added: “Inspectors found that child in need plans were often monitored less robustly than child protection or looked after children plans.”
None of the eight councils inspected were found to be using information about children missing or absenting themselves from school effectively, which would allow them to ”make links with the bigger picture about child sexual exploitation”.
Although the report does not individually name councils when identifying shortfalls and successes in dealing with exploitation, LBC has said that the report identified areas in need of improvement for its assessments, planning and performance data.
The council has said that at the time of the inspection it was “already in the process of taking the necessary steps to address these issues.”
A spokesperson added: “We are actively working to achieve the recommendations as stated in the report.
In conjunction with key partners we are reviewing policy, best practice and resources across the borough to ensure that sexual abuse is dealt with effectively and children and young people receive the necessary support and protection required.
“We appreciate there is still much more work to be done and to successfully tackle sexual exploitation we need everyone working together.”