Roma children need translators to help spell out exploitation risk
Interpreters may be drafted into schools to warn children about the dangers of sexual exploitation.
A major police investigation was launched in Govanhill, Glasgow, after The Times published concerns that children and teenagers from the Roma community were being sold for sex.
A programme is already in place for primary and secondary pupils living in the community to be given lessons in sexual health and how to identify and protect themselves against abuse.
However, a senior social worker said that many Roma children did not yet have a sufficient grasp of English to be able to understand the warnings.
Keith Moore-Milne, the team leader for Roma children and families with Glasgow city council’s social work department, said: “The difficulty for the Roma kids attending schools is that many of them struggle with English as an additional language. Discussing sexual health and child sex exploitation risks can be quite a challenge for teaching staff.
“They [Roma pupils] are maybe understanding 30 or 40 per cent of what is happening in the classroom. I know senior managers in education have talked about this for many years.”
Mr Moore-Milne said that discussions had taken place about sending interpreters into schools to help deliver programmes exploring sexual health alongside drug and alcohol use.
He said: “One of the recommendations is we employ Roma mediators and facilitators. We are looking at that, as we have been wanting to do this for a long time.”
Soryia Siddique, a Labour councillor who represents the area, gave her support to the proposal. However, she wanted the social work department to go further and establish a child taskforce, offering multilingual advice and information on sexual exploitation, in the community. Dr Siddique said: “The idea of the taskforce was prompted by discussions with residents who raised concerns about recognising and reporting exploitation. It is important that the community is empowered to report any concerns to the relevant authorities.”
Glasgow city council said that the idea of taking interpreters into schools was being considered.
A spokesman said: “We have a responsibility to ensure all of our young people have access to quality information on a range of issues that could potentially affect their health and wellbeing. Mediators and facilitators could have an important role in making that information as accessible as possible, particularly where English is a second or other language.”
Last week two women came forward at a meeting of the Govanhill Regeneration Group to say they had witnessed suspicious incidents in the neighbourhood. However, both said that they thought twice about reporting what they had seen to the authorities, believing that it would result in the victims being deported.
Police Scotland dismissed such fears, saying that people had a duty to report any suspicions of child sexual exploitation to them or social services. Chief Inspector Ross Allan, the area commander for southeast Glasgow, said: “There is no agenda. If we receive information or concern about the welfare, for instance, of two girls in the street, our focus is on ensuring that they are safe and, if they are the subject of criminality, finding out who is responsible.”