Enver Solomon, Director of Policy at the Children’s Society said:
'For far too long sexual exploitation has remained a hidden issue, unidentified by professionals who have failed to spot the tell-tale signs of abuse. If this is to change everybody whose job it is to protect children, in every local area, must make it a top priority.
'Early warnings, particularly running away from home or care, must always act as a trigger for help and support. Which is why it is critical that sexual exploitation and running away are seen as part of the same problem - not dealt with in isolation of each other.
'We know from our research that a child runs away every five minutes, putting themselves at great risk. This has to change.
'The action plan reflects a real commitment from central government to deliver a step change in responses to children who are exploited. But its success will ultimately depend on all professionals doing a better job to keep children safe, particularly teenagers who are too often misunderstood and seen to be able to cope without getting the support they critically need.'
The Tackling child sexual exploitation action plan is available on the Department for Education's website.
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Notes to editors
The Children’s Society wants to create a society where children and young people are valued, respected and happy. We are committed to helping vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, including children in care and young runaways. We give a voice to disabled children, help young refugees to rebuild their lives and provide relief for young carers. Through our campaigns and research, we seek to influence policy and perceptions so that young people have a better chance in life.