Extra measures are being taken to protect vulnerable children from exploitation in Dorset.

A new strategic group has been set up by the county council, starting work this month, with a second group tracking high risk cases.

The county is also introducing a screening and assessment tool to assess vulnerable children in the care of the council who could be open to exploitation.

There had been fears last year that some children, especially those permanently excluded from school, could be at risk from county lines drug gangs as well as other forms of exploitation. The issue was raised at a one-day conference in the autumn held in Dorchester and organised by the Police and Crime Commissioner, Martyn Underhill. That meeting heard from a victim of a drugs gang.

The county council has also started a Children Missing Education group which aims to get excluded children back into education as quickly as possible and to safeguard them while they are out of school. This often means a move to a new school.

A report being discussed at County Hall on Monday says that the new action plan will ensure that intelligence is shared between agencies and acted upon in a ‘timely and effective way.’

There was criticism of Dorset in a Government report in July which claimed the county should be acting in a more holistic way to protect vulnerable children. The report said that “While some work is of a reasonable quality, the poorest work is very poor.” It highlighted a number of areas which the new structures hope to tackle.

Says the report to Monday’s Safeguarding Overview and Scrutiny committee: “Additional training and mentoring has been provided to Managers to ensure that they are aware of their responsibilities in ensuring that children and families receive a good service and that cases are not closed prematurely….

“There is ongoing work, both within DCC and with partners through the Safeguarding children boards to ensure that we have measures in place to identify and protect young people from exploitation and to be ahead of the curve as the risks continue to emerge and change.”