‘Much work’ needed on child abuse

Published: Tuesday 17th February 2015 by The News Editor

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There are still children at risk of becoming victims of sexual exploitation who have not been identified by authorities, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC) has warned.

In a report about progress made in tackling child sexual exploitation in gangs and groups, the OCC said different rates of child sexual exploitation have been reported in different parts of England.

In one cluster of nine local authorities with similar demographics and deprivation levels, the rates of known victims of child sexual exploitation varied between one and 65 per 10,000 children.

And less than half – 48% – of local children safeguarding boards said that the agencies in their area had identified any victims at all.

The OCC’s inquiry into child sexual exploitation in gangs and groups was launched in October 2011 and published six reports making 37 recommendations for local and national agencies to protect children and young people from child sexual exploitation.

In its latest report, the OCC said it was ” worrying” that the inquiry’s recommendation that personal, social and health education (PSHE) programmes become a statutory component of the curriculum has not been adopted by the Government.

Sue Berelowitz, deputy children’s commissioner for England and chair of the inquiry, said: “When we began our inquiry into child sexual exploitation in gangs and groups in 2012, there were a few lone voices around the country desperately trying to help the child victims.

“Thankfully, much has improved and many of the agencies which are responsible for protecting child victims have woken up to this damaging crime. However, it is clear that at the frontline much work is still needed.”

She added: “Once again we are calling for age-appropriate relationships and sex education to be made a statutory component of the curriculum. Young people need to understand what are and what are not healthy relationships.”

The report says that 92% of local safeguarding children boards have produced a strategy to address child sexual exploitation and 79% of police forces have done a strategic analysis or problem profile of child sexual exploitation victims and offenders.

However, it found in many cases that progress at a strategic level had not yet filtered down to front-line practice.

Peter Grigg, director of campaigns and policy at the Children’s Society, said the report ” should serve as yet another wake-up call for police, social services and all those responsible for protecting children from sexual predators”.

He said: ” It sends a clear message that the time has come to move from plans to real actions to protect children and young people from this horrible crime.

“It is shocking that after so many reports, court cases and inquiries on child sex abuse there are still areas of the country where the authorities have no idea how many victims there are.

“We have to stop relying solely on children coming forward to report abuse and sexual exploitation. Professionals working with children – the police, teachers, social services and health staff – should pay careful attention to the signs of child sexual exploitation and communicate with each other about it. They need to listen to children and young people and act with urgency to keep them safe.”

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper MP said “This report from the Children’s Commissioner highlights worrying gaps in our child protection system.

“Although the vast majority of local authorities and police forces have strategies in place to deal with child sexual exploitation, in too many cases this is not filtering through to the front line.

“This means in too many cases children are not being listened to, victims are not getting the protection they need and abusers are not being brought to justice.”

Published: Tuesday 17th February 2015 by The News Editor

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