THE team set up to tackle child sexual exploitation in Oxfordshire following the Operation Bullfinch trial has been praised by Government inspectors.
The Kingfisher Unit, a joint operation between Oxfordshire County Council, Thames Valley Police and the health service, was told it has helped more young people earlier than previously.
It was set up after seven men were jailed at the Old Bailey for a total of 95 years last year for sexual abuse against vulnerable young girls in council care.
The Ofsted report said the unit provides “excellent” awareness-raising activities.
A team of seven inspectors visited the county council between April 29 and May 21, and a report of its findings was published yesterday.
Its children’s services department was given an overall good rating by Ofsted, across all areas, including the Local Safeguarding Children Board.
It is the first time it has been inspected since the trial, and since tighter guidelines were set down by the Government.
The report also praised the work of the Thriving Families scheme which, as reported by the Oxford Mail in May, has turned around the lives of more than 400 troubled families.
At the end of March this year, 3,151 children were assessed as needing specialist children’s services, and 512 were subject to child protection plans.
County MPs welcomed the report.
Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said he hoped the unit could be used as a model for other local authorities, adding: “It is clear that in the past there have been shortcomings.
“And we have not yet had the findings of the Serious Case Review on Bullfinch.
“Sending children in care outside the area has now been looked at as well as recruiting more foster carers.”
Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood said: “This is testament to all the hard work and investment put into child protection.
“I am pleased it has highlighted the Kingfisher Unit and in my role on the Home Affairs select committee we have pointed to the unit as an example of co-located units in intervening earlier in child sexual exploitation.”
Wantage MP Ed Vaizey said: “This grading reflects very well indeed on the staff working in children’s services across the county and is the result of a huge amount of hard work and commitment.”
Last week six men from Banbury were charged in connection with child sexual exploitation. The town’s MP Sir Tony Baldry said: “When Ofsted congratulates and compliments the good work the Kingfisher Unit is doing in the county in helping more young people earlier, I think we should all take that as a finding of fact.’’ Det Chief Insp Katy Barrow-Grint, of Thames Valley Police, said: “The team is committed to working with compassion, energy and dedication to safeguard our most vulnerable children in Oxfordshire.
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