Posted: 27 August 2013

Preventing and tackling childhood sexual exploitation

We are supporting Nicola Blackwood MP’s Childhood Lost campaign with other leading children’s charities such as Barnardo’s, NSPCC, Save the Children, ECPAT UK and PACE.

In the year 2012-13 there were 18,915 sexual crimes against children and there are at least 16,500 children at risk of child sexual exploitation nationally. We know that this is a major problem – our services support many children who are at risk and victims of child sexual exploitation up and down the country. There is an urgent need for this campaign so that these children do not lose their childhood.

Nicola Blackwood, MP for Oxford West & Abingdon, developed the campaign in response to the 'Operation Bullfinch' child exploitation cases in her constituency and other horrendous cases that have happened up and down the country. 

Nicola is a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee and was on the panel for the committee’s inquiry into localised grooming. This campaign is helping take forward some of the inquiry’s most important recommendations.

Six steps to stop child sexual exploitation

The Childhood Lost campaign is petitioning the prime minister to take six steps to stop child sexual exploitation:

  • Step 1: Introduce new Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Orders to give the police tougher restrictions to prevent sexual offenders from grooming and exploiting children
  • Step 2: Make sure local areas set up the specialist child sexual exploitation centres needed to identify & protect victims
  • Step 3: Give judges clear guidance on sentencing complex child sexual exploitation cases
  • Step 4: Reform courts so that very vulnerable witnesses in child sexual abuse cases are no longer traumatised by giving evidence
  • Step 5: Give the Education Secretary the power to order the publication of Serious Case Reviews
  • Step 6: End the postcode lottery of support for victims of child sexual exploitation

Why we are supporting the campaign

Specialist child sexual exploitation centres are essential if all agencies in a local area are to work together to effectively identify, protect and support victims of child sexual exploitation.

We are part of a number of these centres (or Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hubs) across the country which ensure these vulnerable children do not slip through the net. Sharing information between agencies in this way helps ensure young people get the protection that they deserve and is also crucial for securing the evidence to prosecute the offenders of such horrific crimes.

You can read our written and oral evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into localised grooming which raised these issues.

Identifying and supporting vulnerable victims 

It takes great courage for these children to come forward and give evidence in court but they can only do this if they are supported properly by the courts, prosecutors and judiciary and treated as vulnerable victims who need support.

Our experience of supporting child victims of sexual exploitation before, during and after giving evidence has shown us that more needs to be done to support young victims through the court process. However, there are not enough organisations providing this support across the country and helping these children when they need us most.

To prevent this atrocious crime, we need to get better at pro-actively identifying victims of child sexual exploitation and not just rely on them coming forward.

We support the Childhood Lost campaign in calling for important national and local reforms to protect more victims and prosecute more perpetrators.

Our Chief Executive Matthew Reed said:

‘We work with thousands of child victims of exploitation across the country, many of whom are still being let down by the very professionals there to protect them. The Childhood Lost campaign can help change this.’

Visit the Childhood Lost website to find out more.

 

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By Natalie Williams - Policy team

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