A 12-YEAR-OLD girl who was raped at least four times was let down by social services, a damning report into failings in care has revealed.

The schoolgirl, who has learning difficulties, was not protected as social workers, medics and school staff failed to recognise she was being regularly sexually exploited.

Named only as “Julia”, a serious case review discovered she had sex with up to 20 men and was given contraceptives by her school nurse.

In a case that mirrors some of the missed opportunities during the Rotherham child exploitation scandal, Thurrock Local Safeguarding Children Board found a series of failings by social workers and other professionals over three years.

During this time, the girl said she had been raped four times by men and boys aged 15 to 19, including one who was suspected of raping another girl.

Although Thurrock Social Services received “safeguarding referrals” from Essex Police, Basildon Hospital, Julia’s school and doctors, it was never taken seriously enough. Her case was closed twice and at times she was deemed no longer at risk, it found.

Social services was first tipped off after Essex Police made a referral in January 2010, after Julia said she had been sexually abused by a male friend.

By March, a social worker concluded Julia was “no longer at risk”, even though police investigated until June, but were not able to prosecute.

The review found 25 separate failings or missed opportunities for social services to intervene in Julia’s care between January 2010 and December 2012.

It also blamed her 39-year-old mum, “Sophia”, who also had learning difficulties, because she was sometimes reluctant to meet professionals.

The report said: “Julia made four disclosures of rape over three years, aged just 12 to 15 years. It was striking how the language used by her mother such as Julia ‘had 15 to 20 partners’, and that of Julia that she ‘consented to sex” was recorded by professionals without any clear critique or analysis.

“Given the seriousness of the concerns regarding sexual assault and her mother’s attitude, it would have been expected that child protection procedures would have been considered.”

The report also revealed Julia had been sexually abused aged six and 11 and said this early trauma affected the youngster.

It added: “Julia was not always understood to be a victim of sexual exploitation by professionals, her parent/siblings and significantly she also did not understand that this was what was happening to her.

“Julia was seen as a child in need – not a child in need of protection.”

In a statement, the board said: “A detailed action plan involving agencies identified in the review has been agreed, ensuring improvements in practice. Those improvements are fully embedded to prevent this happening again.

“This response is being closely monitored to ensure we all continue to improve and future opportunities to intervene are acted on.

“The review shows how seriously each of the agencies take the issues raised and reinforces their determination to learn from it.”

Maggie Tuttle, 71, who runs Southend charity Children Screaming to be Heard, which is fighting to stop abuse of children and runs a helpline, said: “I get lots of complaints that social workers at Thurrock don’t intervene when they should, like this, which is of great concern.

“At the same time, there are cases on record where they intervene and take children into care when it is not even necessary.”

Police couldn’t prosecute

POLICE were unable to prosecute anyone for the four rapes reported by Julia, despite carrying out “extensive” inquires, the review found.

The panel was not critical of the force, but said it was “overloaded” with other work at the time.

The report said: “Police worked hard to achieve a prosecution. Given Julia’s learning difficulties and difficult early childhood experiences, it was always going to be complex for Julia to provide a clear picture of what had actually taken place.

“They did not have enough evidence to pursue a criminal investigation.”

It said the lack of police action affected how social workers reacted, adding: “The difficulties in achieving a criminal prosecution influenced the practice response at times.

“When Julia made a disclosure in October 2010, the difficulties of achieving a criminal prosecution led to the belief that a strategy meeting was no longer required.

“This was incorrect.

“Many of the professions involved, for example the social care team and police, were overloaded in the period under review, and this had an impact in this case.”

Essex Police refused to comment on why prosecutions were not possible.

Missed opportunities

JANUARY 2010: Social care received police referral about sexual assault

MARCH 2010: Social worker concluded Julia was no longer at risk of harm

JUNE 2010: Police dropped case

NOVEMBER 3, 2010: School reported Julia had sex with a boy to social care. Social worker unable to contact mother

NOVEMBER 9, 2010: Julia visited GP with mother and was prescribed contraception. GP to contact police, but didn’t

JANUARY 13, 2011: Police said no further action on second rape

AUGUST 8, 2011: Social services closed case then reopened it in September, after another hospital referral

NOVEMBER 2011: School nurse assessed Julia as mentally able to consent to sex with 14-year-old and supplied contraception without mother’s consent

JANUARY 2012: Social worker gave up making contact and closed case

OCTOBER 2012: A girl told police she was raped and the man also raped Julia. Officers referred it to social care

DECEMBER 8 2012: Julia reported another rape by 19-year-old man to police. Sex clinic nurse made referral to social care

JANUARY 18 2013: Social care held meeting to discuss rape. Child protection conference finally held