17 Jan 2011

"Barnardo’s findings echo our own experiences in projects run by The Children's Society that help vulnerable children who have been abused.

"Too many children and young people are being sexually exploited in the shadows of society, groomed in secret by heartless gangs of sexual predators or bogus boyfriends who shower vulnerable children with gifts and lure them to be horrifically exploited, sometimes for years on end. It can happen to any child and it is time we shone a powerful light on this hidden abuse suffered by children as young as 11 and 12 in cities and towns across the UK.

"We join with Barnardo’s in calling on the Government to take urgent action, ensuring a Minister has special responsibility for overseeing a countrywide response to combat sexual exploitation. We want the Government and all agencies who work with children to see this as a serious child protection issue."

For more information or further comment, please call the media team on 0207 841 4422 / 07810 796508.