Tackling child sexual exploitation must be a priority
A new action plan calls on all local areas to take urgent action to stop the sexual exploitation of children and young people.
Children's Minister Tim Loughton warned of failure by local agencies to recognise and deal with the problem of child sexual exploitation in many areas of the country.
He said tackling child sexual exploitation must be a priority and Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) must now act to establish the severity of the problem in their areas, make sure they are tackling it effectively, and put in place robust preventative strategies.
The Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation Action Plan brings together for the first time actions by the Government and partners to protect children from this largely hidden crime. These include:
- Work with the Association of Chief Police Officers, health professional bodies, and the Social Work Reform Board to make sure child sexual exploitation is properly covered in training and guidance for frontline professionals.
- LSCBs to prioritise child sexual exploitation and undertake robust risk assessments and map the extent and nature of the problem locally.
- Support organisations like Rape Crisis, and local sexual assault referral centres, to improve services for young victims. It will also look at raising awareness by improving sex and relationships education in schools and helping parents know what tell-tale signs to look out for.
- The police, the Crown Prosecution Service, judges and magistrates to fully support young witnesses and victims, and increase the use of ‘special measures' in court to ease the stress and anxiety of criminal proceedings on young people. For example, live links to the court from an outside location and screens so the witness does not see the defendant.
Sexual exploitation of children under 18 can involve gangs or individuals giving gifts like money, food, drugs or alcohol in exchange for the victim performing sexual activities. Or it can happen through grooming using technology, for example being persuaded to post sexual images on the internet or phone. The young people are often lured into this and trapped through very heavy intimidation and controlling tactics.
Victims of child sexual exploitation often suffer long-term physical and psychological damage that can affect all the family and needs long-term care. Research by Barnardo's shows that there is an estimated potential saving of £12 for every £1 spent on providing the intervention.
Sheila Taylor, director of the National Working Group for Sexually Exploited Children and Young People, said: !I welcome this urgent call to action by the Government. There are pockets of good, innovative practice but most local authorities have no one to co-ordinate such work and no one to look at the bigger picture. This must change, if no one is putting the pieces together, children's desperate situations will continue to be missed."
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