250 children 'at risk of grooming in Greater Manchester'

Nearly 250 children are "at risk" of being sexually exploited across Greater Manchester, the BBC has learned.

Figures show that out of 246 children being dealt with by local councils, 111 were deemed to be at high risk of being sexually exploited.

Rochdale Council had the highest number of children at risk, but said tackling sexual exploitation was one of its top priorities.

In 2012 nine men were jailed for running a child sex ring in the town.

Manchester City Council had 36 children known to it, of which 20 were at high risk.

Rochdale Council said there were 40 children at risk but only three of those fell into the high risk category, making them susceptible to being targeted by groomers.

Risk level

The council's assessment looks at school attendance, home life, sexual health and types of risky behaviour.

Each area is rated between 1-5, with an extra rating added based on an assessment of the seriousness of the young person's situation. These ratings give a score which allows the risk level to be identified as low, medium or high.

The rating is reviewed at least every three months or following a significant event to allow the teams to monitor progress by the rating score increasing or decreasing over time.

Gail Hopper, director of children's services at Rochdale Borough Council, said staff were now "better trained, skilled and supported to effectively assess and manage risk".

She said there was a better process of "identifying, assessing and intervening with young people at an earlier stage".

Protecting youngsters

"As a result, the vast majority of young people involved with specialist services currently are considered to be at a medium rather than high level of risk, which is a continually improving picture," she said.

Stockport Labour MP Ann Coffey, who is conducting an inquiry to assess the improvements in protecting youngsters for Greater Manchester's Police and Crime Commissioner, said: "I think it's great that the local authorities are identifying children at risk, because if they can identify them they can make interventions that will stop these children being sexually exploited."

BBC Radio Manchester obtained the figures from safeguarding boards across Greater Manchester - the groups of professionals who are given the job of protecting children from abuse.

A serious case review by the Rochdale Safeguarding Children Board last year highlighted failures by 17 agencies who were meant to protect the children.

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