So I watched the documentary Betrayed Girls today, and unlike the very well done drama on this issue, I was annoyed. I have watched the narrative that this was a race issue be used repeatedly over the years, I have watched cause incredible harm and it usually comes from or two sources. Police, or Labour politicians.
They are lying.. Ann Cryer was obfuscating when she stood up in parliament and said this was a race issue, and police officers who were indifferent to this, are doing the same. Both are trying to prevent reflection on the real cause, which is a combination of indifference, the erosion of responsibilities to protect children by institutions, and the complete contempt for these girls. Who were not seen as children worthy of protection by anyone. I don’t know with Labour people any more if it’s intentional or not, because they do this as reflex no matter what the harm.
I am tired of having this conversation. As one of the social workers who worked at Cooke Street in Keighley, I can tell you absolutely and categorically this could not have been the reason.
The thing that shocking here was not just street grooming, that was only half my caseload. The risk thresholds were the same for my entire caseload. There were none.
The planning meetings for children at this level, including what were called protocols for Children Involved In Prostitution(which is what we used to call them) were not like other child protection meetings. There was no independent oversight, no independent chair and they would be chaired by your manager, with you as the most senior person in the room. Noone without budgetary responsibility overseeing these. This was the case for all kids over 11 where this could be got away with.
The planning meetings which were used to prevent resources being allocated, were held every two weeks, and you had to wait until this planning meeting before you could ask for resources. This was the same process for all children no matter how serious the situation. Two weeks.
Risk thresholds were higher for ALL cases in teams that dealt with street grooming. There was a gradual gradiation from age 11 to age 15, by 15 there was no risk threshold and we would place them in bed and breakfasts that were not safe for adults, as living independently. These would be paid for by team budgets. This was not a race issue.
There are lower levels of court applications for teams dealing with over 11s. Much lower. Criminal justice work in this area was with children as perpetrators and criminals, not as victims. Always. The common strand of demonisation which harmed the girls at the centre of CSE, was common to all working class children of this age. Who were deemed culpable and responsible for their own choices, and noone protected. If you analyse data and outcomes from ALL cases in these teams, and you isolate street grooming you will find no difference. At all.
Media intervention in the work with over 11s had one aim, undermining it. Media demonised these children so sufficiently we had a wall of shame where our kids had made media attention. Kids subject to ASBOs, with Times journalists living with them for the weekend, kids whose ‘treats’ were subject to media scrutiny cos they were thugs.
The common thread for these teams was that entire teams were working ENTIRELY to protect Local Authorities from the use of Out of Authority Placements. There will be no difference in placement rates for street grooming. None.
The specific work done with street grooming was contracted out. In Bradford it was the Barnados Streets and Lanes Project, who were exceptional at providing media comment, but just didnt provide actual services. You can examine waiting periods for work don ehere, you can examine data from referrals and find out how much work was done, what referrals were made and how long work went on for. This was not decided by race.
You will be able to examine the arrest rates of people prosecuted for street grooming who were prosecuted for other crmes, you will find no hesitation in prosecuting for other crimes, There was no fear of being called racist when other crimes were concerned. There will be no evidence of this. Because there is none. This is the case all over the country.
This will be fewer court applications, shorter periods where cases are open, higher risk thresholds and this will be common to every single LA team working with over 11s all over the country
The only time there is the accusation this was fear of racism, you will find either a Labour politician, as with Anne Cryer, or police, stating that is what it was. This is a barefaced lie. And its a lie because street grooming is only ONE of the issues these teams dealt with and ALL children dealt with of this age group were failed. Consistently, systematically and repeatedly.
This is not because we only just know about this issue. At 14 I shoplifted and my social worker wanted to know where the jumper came from, I said an older boyfriend, this triggered immediate work to check how at risk I was of this type of exploitation. This is was 1992. By mid 2000s when I was practicing, our knowledge had grown and resources had shrunk, there was more knowledge of the risk being ignored and fewer resources to address it.
If this was JUST street grooming, there would be evidence somewhere of a difference for other children. There is not. All political parties shared these priorities, all political parties assisted in demonising these children, these children because of their age would always be bottom of the priority list in services which are always bottom of the priority list. You will not find that kids involved in street grooming are any different. If you watch the documentary by Anna Hall that kicked this off, you will see there are multiple cases using the same processes, the same decision making. This could not have possibly been a race issue because it applied to all.
I had to leave social work because I was on a team where my job was to wash the state’s hands of all the kids I worked with, to leave kids at risk while managers argued over pennies. This was national. This is a bigger story than CSE being a race issue. CSE and street grooming is the ONLY commercial sexual abuse where the race profile is not white men, its the only one where it’s asian males.
None of the structures I describe above are about race. They are about money, they are about institutional erosion and they are about indifference to working class children and a refusal to see them as children. The same is reflected in Camhs referral rates and case closure rates.
It is easier to say it was because we were afraid of being seen as racist than to tell the truth. We didnt see these children as worth any more than their abusers did. This is institutional indifference which should have been marked out as the point at which we stopped protecting over 11s and we should be joining dots and saying if we didn’t protect kids involved in Street Grooming who did we protect? That dot joining isn’t happening.
The dramatisation of Three Girls did this very well. The inclusion of Anne Cryer in that documentary and the shaping of the narrative in #BetrayedGirls was incorrect and it obscures a much bigger and much more serious picture. And the data exists to demonstrate this. But noone wants to see it. The way nooone wanted to see that what was being done to these girls was industrial. An industry that emerged over a long time because it could, because noone was going to do a thing about it. Ever.
The only relevance race has to this, is that information could be withheld by police because they could claim the risk of the far right, who were exploiting this issue and provided an easy out for MPs like Anne Cryer and for the police when Labour or the police were implicated.
Child protection social workers only had legal power over the girl herself or family, and were left repeated by management and police as the ONLY place this was dealt with. This meant services were used abusively and harmfully, and the treatment of those girls when they became mothers, was the same everywhere.
Those social workers know it was NOT just these children. That bigger picture isn’t just thousands of kids involved in street grooming, its a nation’s children being failed deliberately for a very long time.
We have not been protecting over 11s since somewhere between 1992 and now. That did not change and it is not a race issue. The people trying to make this a race issue are the people covering their arse, and they are covering their arse because the bigger picture makes Rotherham look small fry.