A teacher has told how it took more than TEN phone calls to social workers before a meeting was held about a missing pupil.
And they claim worried schools highlighting child safety concerns, including sexual exploitation, are sometimes treated with a “dismissive” attitude by Birmingham Children’s Services.
The criticism comes just weeks after Councillor Des Flood warned the city was facing a ‘tsunami’ of child sexual exploitation (CSE).
He spoke publicly at a council meeting about his concerns after the Birmingham Mail had highlighted how gang members were targeting schoolgirls for abuse and exploitation.
Last month, the city council rejected demands for a joint task force to be set up to urgently tackle gun and knife crime and CSE.
The Conservative group made the call after the Mail revealed how a crimewave of shootings, stabbings and child rapes, was linked to the groups.
Now, in an exclusive interview, a teacher has spoken out about experiences with social services in a bid to highlight shortcomings in the current system.
Asked what kind of service their school had received from Children’s Services, the teacher, who we are not naming, said: “The best word to use would be ‘dismissive’.
“When we make any referral we clearly have to give a great deal of consideration as to whether we think we have enough evidence.
“And by the time we are making a referral it may well be that the family is even in more crisis than we would want them to be.
“But we are mindful that if we do not have a significant amount of evidence, then we’re not taken seriously by Children’s Services.”
A recent case saw the school attempt to alert social workers after a pupil did not return to class in September.
The teacher said: “It took more than ten calls to Children’s Services until there was a meeting involving them.”
Other schools felt unhappy with the co-operation and partnerships with Children’s Services, the teacher added.
“Sometimes it feels like we’re not working in the same direction as services together,” they said.
“I find it difficult to understand why it wouldn’t be one of the most important things for a social worker to do – to get a child in school.
“Because for a bare minimum of seven hours a day, you are going to know where those children are.
“We have counselling services in schools, we’ve got access to other agencies who can come into school and see the child in school.”
The teacher also raised concerns about how effective the city council’s attendance team was in identifying persistent truants – and prosecuting their parents.
“There doesn’t appear to be any kind of truancy sweeping from the attendance team here in Birmingham like you do see in other counties,” they said.
“That doesn’t happen in the city centre of Birmingham. They’re not picking up children who should be in school and then taking them back to school.
“And the attendance team is then reluctant to take any kind of prosecution route for parents in order to force them to get their children back into school.
“If you say to a parent,‘Well, you’re putting yourself at risk of prosecution’, and then three months later there is still no prosecution then they will just laugh at you.”
The teacher also said they doubted Children’s Services kept proper track of the total numbers of absent and missing pupils.
“I would be surprised if Children’s Services could track them at all,” they said.
“The local authority, I imagine, wouldn’t even know how many children we have on our school roll because they don’t insist that we give that to them.
“There is no way they could possibly track how many children they have got in the city and how many spaces they have got in schools in the city either.
“Children’s Services have a statutory role which is safeguarding and admissions and the prosecuting part of attendance.
“Those three things are crucial in avoiding placing children at risk of sexual exploitation because that’s how you track where your children are.
“If you don’t have those processes and protocols in place, you can’t possibly be certain that you haven’t got children who are being sexually exploited in the city.”
Social workers accused of failing child sexual exploitation victims
A second teacher claims that social workers are failing child sexual exploitation victims by dismissing some gang abuse allegations.
They also claimed some children were not being properly identified in the most ‘at-risk’ category by Children’s Services, meaning they were not being allocated social workers.
“A lot of information that we receive as schools comes from parents and carers,” the teacher said.
“To me, alarm bells should be ringing all over the place but they’re not – they are being muffled.
“Schools are aware of agencies who share a frustration that Children’s Services send them scant information.”
The teacher also claimed the city council had not offered enough advice to schools about how to tackle child sexual exploitation with pupils.
“The council don’t give any lead because they say each case or child is dealt with on their own merits,” the teacher said.
“There is no direction coming from the local authority, yet the lead agency is the city council. It’s frustrating, to say the least.”
Community sources say stolen cars are being used by gang members to abuse girls, and claim police could use the intelligence to help victims.
“I’ve no doubt that issues with the use of motor vehicles is key,” they said.
“Yet the only time these motor vehicles seem to be intercepted is when there’s a crash or something.
“There’s a link to stolen cars. There’s a link to cars that might be being used by gangs to assist in whatever exploitation is taking place, in sharing and passing on girls.”
Conservative councillor Debbie Clancy has recently called on the council to pass on to police more information that might help protect children at risk of CSE.
She said: “I am horrified that schools and the Council are not passing any information that could help protect children onto parents. If this information can help save just one extra child from the horrors of CSE then we have a moral duty to ensure parents are informed.
“I have written to the Council, demanding that they take action and brief parents in the affected areas.”
What the council says
A Birmingham City Council spokeswoman said: “We take the matter of all vulnerable children extremely seriously and it is simply not true to suggest otherwise.
“Where teachers have concerns we will, of course, discuss them and seek to address them together as best we can, but anonymous comments like these are unhelpful.”
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* It is understood suspected victims of CSE are being referred to Children’s Services by schools.
* Those heavily entrenched are categorised as having ‘complex/significant needs’ and are allocated a social worker.
* Those believed to be at risk, or possibly involved, but not in the highest risk category are categorised as having ‘additional needs’.
* These are not given direct help from Children’s Services and are assigned no social worker.
* Instead, they are often being referred to charities and voluntary projects, where places are extremely limited.
A teacher said: “It seems that if you are not at what Children’s Services consider to be a very serious level, you get very little help.”