Herefordshire Council has released a statement following a review into the handling of peer on peer sexual abuse cases

Following a review into the handling of peer on peer sexual abuse cases referred to the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) between January 2017 and November 2019, at its meeting today (15 September), the children and young people scrutiny committee acknowledged the work to date and agreed a number of recommendation for future improvements. The report and the committee’s recommendations will now go to Cabinet for final comment and approval.

Cllr Felicity Norman, Cabinet member children and families said: “Peer on peer sexual abuse has a profound impact on the young people involved and their families. It is vital that we ensure the way that the council, the school and other agencies respond is as supportive as possible to those involved, and that this is underpinned by structured, consistent and effective policies and actions. We have done much over the past few years to improve our advice and support to schools and to families but this report makes it clear that we could and should have done more, and I am determined that we learn the lessons from the past so we can all do better in future.

“I want to pay tribute to survivors and families who have made important contributions to raising issues nationally and locally, influencing the improvements in national guidance that have taken place. This review set out to identify whether the actions taken by our services were appropriate and in line with national guidelines and whether or not the council could have done anything differently. What it found was that there has been successful work to recognise, raise awareness and develop approaches to peer on peer abuse however, importantly, it highlighted areas where we need to improve, strengthen our response and where we need to learn lessons.

“One significant area and a key recommendation is how we improve how we respond to the impact of peer on peer abuse on the young people involved and their families – we need to do more to listen to their experiences. Campaigning from families affected by this form of sexual abuse has helped to broaden and grow our understanding and there is a clear need for continuous learning and improvement. Our first priority will be to establish a process of reconciliation to listen to young people who have experienced this type of abuse, so that we can make further improvements to how we provide support and respond.

“Other areas for improvement include the way referrals and actions are recorded, the timely sharing of experience and expertise across the county and how we identify preventative actions.

“Following today’s support from the committee for the review’s recommendations and the recommendations they have added, the next steps are to start to put these into place. It is imperative that we now take this opportunity to implement all we have learned through this review, to listen better and to respond more swiftly to advice from experts and feedback from families. We have clearly stated this administration’s ambition to go beyond just what is expected nationally and will work determinedly towards becoming an exemplar area of best practice.”