At a landmark Downing Street summit today, David Cameron unveiled new measures to tackle child sexual exploitation.
- tougher sanctions for senior public workers who fail to protect children
- a new national helpline for professionals to blow the whistle on bad practice
- child sex abuse to be prioritised as a national threat by the police
Our response: 'We are finally starting to take this seriously as a nation'
Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, which speaks out for children who are sexually exploited and supports them to escape, says:
'The Children’s Society has been working with child victims for over a decade and demanding that the true scale of this horrific abuse is exposed and stopped. Today’s announcement is a long-awaited watershed that shows we are finally starting to take this seriously as a nation. The Prime Minister is right to recognise that sexual exploitation is a national threat – and the culture of denial must end now.
'For survivors of sexual exploitation the consequences of abuse can last a lifetime. It’s therefore right that anybody who has deliberately covered-up abuse, or wilfully turned a blind eye should face a tough sentence.
'Child protection workers in the police, social services, health and schools must tackle this issue head-on. But protecting children costs money: it takes time, training and resources. If we are serious about stopping abuse, we must invest.
'But legislation is not enough on its own. Time and again we have seen shocking cases of vulnerable young people being dismissed, or blamed for their own suffering – even when they have been brave enough to ask for help. A wholesale change in attitudes and culture is crucial if things are really going to change.