MPs have backed calls from The Children’s Society for local agencies to do more to tackle grooming and child sexual exploitation.
The leading children's charity gave written and oral evidence to Home Affairs Committee inquiry into child sexual exploitation and grooming, published today (Monday 10 June).
The report backed calls from The Children’s Society for a shift in attitudes towards the victims of abuse, and an end to vulnerable children being dismissed as troublesome or complicit in their own abuse.
And while the current system relies heavily on vulnerable children coming forward, local agencies and professionals must do more to pro-actively identify vulnerable children to prevent and disrupt sexual exploitation.
The report backs calls from The Children's Society for every child that goes missing from home or care to be offered an independent return interview and for children to be given better support throughout investigations and prosecutions.
Several recent high-profile cases, including the exploitation of several girls in Oxford, have involved children running away from care. And going missing is known to be a key risk indicator that a child is vulnerable to sexual exploitation.
Statutory guidance already states that all children that go missing should be offered an independent return interview. But research by The Children’s Society reveals that 74 of 152 local authorities could not provide figures for the number of return interviews they carried out.
Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said:
'The Committee's report paints a disturbing picture of indifference and a lack of curiosity among some professionals. They are not recognising that theses children are suffering and allowing sexual exploitation to go on unchallenged.
'Every year we support hundreds of children who are victims or at risk of sexual exploitation. The sad truth is that this is a problem that affects incredibly vulnerable children in every community.
Crucial step forward
'But as this valuable report shows, there is a lot more that can be done to tackle this awful crime. Given what we know about the link between running away and sexual exploitation, it is shocking that return interviews are not happening in some areas of the country. Making sure that every single child that goes missing is offered one would be a crucial step forward.
'We urge the government to act on the Committee's recommendations to prevent this horrific crime.'
The Children’s Society’s written evidence can be found on the Parliament website.
For more information or interview requests, please call 07810 796 508 outside office hours, 020 7841 4423 during office hours or by email.
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.
- We have six programmes across the country that work with children at risk on the streets, six that work with children in care and one that works with children involved in gangs.
- Last year our projects across the country supported 556 children that were victims of - or at a high risk of – sexual exploitation.