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7 October 2014, 06:00
A report looking at children as young as 11 being targeted for sex on Teesside's being discussed by Middlesbrough Council.
The report by the council's community safety and leisure scrutiny panel contains evidence from a number of people who work with young people in Middlesbrough, including teachers and youth workers.
Middlesbrough Council has been told of incidents of primary school children in the town being groomed.
Evidence from Martin Burnett, assistant head teacher at Acklam Grange Secondary School, says child sex exploitation was "extremely prevalent in Middlesbrough".
Mr Burnett gave evidence to the panel along with other groups and experts such as Barnado's and Cleveland Police.
Barnardo's highlight a number of tell-tale signs or indicators that a child is being groomed for sexual exploitation:
* Going missing for periods of time or returning home late
* Disengagement from education, children not in school during the day are more at risk of sexual exploitation
* Appearing with unexplained gifts or new possessions
* Association with other young people involved in exploitation
* Sexual health issues
* Changes in temperament/depression, mood swings
* Drug and alcohol misuse
* Displaying inappropriate sexualised behaviours, being over-familiar with strangers or sending sexualised images via the internet or mobile phones
* Involvement in exploitative relationships or association with risky adults
Speaking to Heart, Mark Braithwaite, chair of the Safeguarding Children's Board in Middlesbrough said:
"We are much better informed now about the extent of the problem.
It's a problem globally, nationally and we've got evidence of it here on Teesside.
Some refer to it as a growing problem.
I would say that for some time, agencies have been looking closely at this subject area and we have a much clearer picture of what we're dealing with now than we did 12 months ago and certainly 2 or 3 years ago."
The report said:
"When speaking to the assistant head teacher from Acklam Grange school the panel learnt that CSE in Middlesbrough was a 'growth industry' and that it was extremely prevalent in Middlesbrough.
Worryingly members heard that the risk was not only to secondary school pupils and that incidences of primary school pupils being targeted had been picked up in the transition process from primary to secondary school."
It also looks at the issue of trafficking and says:
"There have been six cases of children coming to Middlesbrough from outside the UK in the last five years.
The young people were generally picked up by the Border Agency and usually coming to stay with extended family in Middlesbrough.
The Deputy Director of Safeguarding commented that sometimes some of the families who were known to them, their lives were so chaotic that it was difficult not to be suspicious about their living arrangements."
The meeting of the council's executive will take place at 1pm.