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Council to discuss child exploitation in Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough Council's Executive Committee will meet today to discuss a recent report in which the scale of child sexual exploitation in the town was described as "extremely prevalent".

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Report on child exploitation: Children as young as 11 targeted

Child sexual exploitation in Middlesbrough is a "growth industry" and affects pupils as young as 11, an in-depth inquiry into the problem has found.

Councillors in Middlesbrough were discussing a major report carried out into grooming on Teesside.

They waited to debate the issue in the light of the Rotherham scandal, which showed 1400 children were sexually exploited between 1997 and 2013. Middlesbrough councillors wanted to learn from any issues highlighted in South Yorkshire before discussing the local problem.

The report said: "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."

The town was blighted by a major prostitution problem but in recent years that has been tackled, the report said.

"Now the scene had changed, the way in which perpetrators groomed children is entirely different and perhaps not as obvious," it said.

"Members heard that children might be groomed via the internet, befriended via social networking sites or a perpetrator might even groom (or befriend) their parents first, they might be targeted whilst sat in the park going about their business as young people.

"In some cases it has been reported that the children that had been targeted were as young as 11 years old."

The report could not give a figure on the scale of the problem, as agencies said they did not have enough information to quantify it.

But the report stressed different organisations, including schools, the council and charities such as Barnardo's were working well together to tackle exploitation.

Pupils at some schools were offered information and advice on how to deal with approaches from perpetrators, and teachers were well trained to look out for it.

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