A CHILD aged just 10 was one of 50 children in Monmouthshire considered as being at risk of criminal or sexual exploitation, a report has revealed.
The figures – covering the year from March 2022 to April this year – however were a reduction, from 61, in the previous year.
Of the 50 children discussed by Monmouthshire County Council’s child exploitation meetings, 30 were considered primarily at risk of criminal exploitation and 20 to potential sexual exploitation – and the council has acknowledged “it is not uncommon for children to be at risk from both forms of exploitation.”
The meetings consider if the children at risk should become part of a Gwent Police operation named Quartz, which addresses child exploitation, and which youngsters can be referred to up to age 18.
Councillors have been told the risk of criminal exploitation is often linked to drugs and this year’s figures show more boys than girls are being discussed at the meetings.
Kelly Turner, Monmouthshire council’s head of safeguarding, told members of the overview and people scrutiny committee: “It is recently recognised criminal exploitation is becoming a theme, historically it was sexual exploitation, as it has been added a number of boys have been recognised to be involved in criminal exploitation and that’s where the (number) of males has increased quite significantly for example drug misuse.”
The council’s annual safeguarding report, which contains the figures, also stated, while the majority of children discussed are aged 16: “One child aged 10 has been discussed in this arena.”
In addition to the 50 children discussed as being at risk of exploitation, a further eight from the county were discussed at complex strategy meetings.
Ms Turner told councillors a police officer is based with her team at County Hall, in Usk, to consider cases of potential exploitation referred to them.
The council has five “cornerstones” to safeguarding which are based on having effective policies and oversight of them, termed as good governance, at the heart of them – and which the council’s own report has judged it to be “very good” with “major strengths”.
The other cornerstones are; safe services, a safe workforce meaning those working for the council have been subject to appropriate checks, that it takes a preventative approach and offers robust protection. Those four are all marked as “good” with “important strengths with some areas for improvements”.
The markings are the same as last year’s report.