Within the Gwent boundary there are 15 residential child care units, 3 are provided by the local authority, 12 are privately provided and between them they offer placements to 42 children. These children will be amongst the most vulnerable children in society. 28 of these placements are for children placed by local authorities outside of the Gwent boundary as a means to safeguard them, very often due to issues of CSE within their home towns. These cross boundary placements can render children more vulnerable as their original abusers can follow them to their new placement where local police and safeguarding agencies are not aware of them, or they are identified by ‘local’ abusers due to their presenting vulnerabilities. The residential forum process has enabled us to ensure information in relation to these children and the associated risks is shared and known.
Our residential child care training package has been afforded to every residential unit. The package offers an understanding of recognising the risks associated with missing behaviour and being confident and competent in reporting. It builds the workers confidence in ensuring the placement planning reflects expectations when children are reported missing and encourages joined up working in safeguarding. We encourage the workers to look for signs and symptoms of CSE and to see the challenges the child is presenting through this framework. That is, we are training staff to look at the 'why' of the behaviour rather than the 'what'
The training has proved successful in relation to missing episodes as the units now report appropriately and better accept their responsibility to manage the child and plan for missing episodes. Hostels
There are 7 hostels in Gwent offering accommodation to 81 children and young people aged 16-21, provided by two separate charities. These children and young people are both care leavers and homeless due to reasons such as family breakdown. The children and young people in these placements are extremely vulnerable to missing behaviour, CSE, Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery.
Initially we linked the hostels to the residential forum but quickly recognised the issues were different as the way they care for and manage the children has to be different due to their age.
Again it was evident that missing and absent reports were both confused and confusing and the understanding of CSE and trafficking was poor. The children and young people living in the placements are not all open or known to social services; as stated, some have been placed due to being homeless. The hostel forum is now established and meets once per quarter.