Posted: 27 October 2016

Remember what you were like when you were 16?

In June 2015 we launched our Seriously Awkward campaign to improve the lives of 16-17 year olds. Adolescence is a period of greater vulnerability and for those with earlier experiences of abuse, trauma and neglect, this awkward age can have serious consequences.

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Take action to stop child sexual exploitation

Ask the Government to strengthen the law so that 16 and 17 year olds experiencing sexual exploitation are given protection, get the help they need and access to the justice they deserve.

With thousands of campaigners help, we have been calling on the Government amend the Policing and Crime Bill to:

  • Give police more powers to intervene early to stop sexual exploitation of vulnerable 16 and 17 year olds before it happens
  • Ensure children who have been sexually abused get better access to mental health support, so they get the help they need early, before reaching crisis.

Since June last year, over 20,000 people have helped us push the Government to do more and contacted 97% of MPs. Supporters of The Children’s Society are passionate about our campaigns and often have personal or professional experience of the issues we work on.

Speaking to supporters

As part of our submission to the Joint Committee on Human Rights scrutiny of the Bill, we asked supporters why they felt 16 and 17 year olds needed more protection and support at this vulnerable age. We included these responses as part of our submission.

People from all walks of life contacted us. Many highlighted how this particular age group find it difficult with finding support:

As a paediatrician I see young people who are victims of domestic and child abuse of all types on a regular basis. Support and services for this age group are struggling to cope with the demand for housing, social care and emotional support for these teens.’ Timothy, Avon

The Children Act from 1989 defines a child as anyone who is under the age of 18 and recognises that children who are over 16 are as vulnerable to abuse and neglect as younger children. Many campaigners mentioned how the fact that these young people fall between adulthood and childhood – and how this age group are perceived – can cause them to be more vulnerable.

16 and 17 year olds are incredibly vulnerable, wanting to be accepted, loved, and to fit in – especially if they have had to deal with difficulties during their childhood. Too often young people seem able to “look after themselves” when they appear “a bit tough”… It is vital that people of this age are protected from potential harm, and given the information and support to know what to do if/when they are targeted.’ Hilary, Suffolk

16 and 17 year olds are more likely to be recorded as ‘children in need’ because of abuse and neglect than any other age group, but do not get the same level of legal protection as younger children. A report by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner estimates that 7,260 children aged 16 or 17 are at risk of child sexual exploitation each year.

In this country we keep all our children in some kind of education program until the age of 18. Therefore surely the rights of 16 and 17 year olds must be the same as those for younger children. We cannot treat them like children in some respects and not in others. It’s imperative that they get the protection they need.’ Daphne, Staffordshire

We know that 16 and 17 year olds are, in some ways, more vulnerable to sexual exploitation than younger children, and our supporters agreed.

Sexual exploitation ruins lives. Sixteen and seventeen year olds are still children in our complex society. They are required to attend school, not drink or smoke and are not expected to work. In our technologically rich world sexual relations are complex social interactions where young people under the age of 18 still need protections from predatory and often organised exploitation. Many of the most vulnerable do not have people in their family or community and they need the pillars of our society even more to protect them. Be clear. Stand up and say that this age group deserves protection.’ Amy, Bristol

We had supporters who have worked in children’s services for many years who highlighted how age is not related to vulnerability:

Having worked with children and young people for over 25 years it’s evident that chronological age often bears no relevance for vulnerable young people and their emotional developmental age can be far younger. I firmly believe that all young people should be protected regardless of chronological age and that sexual exploitation is seen clearly as an issue that cannot be consented to.’ Rachel, Beckenham

And 16 and 17 year olds also got in touch:

‘As a 17 year old I think the Joint Committee on Human Rights should stand up for 16 and 17 year olds as they have no one else to stand up for them. They are turned down by professionals when they confide in them, for “getting themselves into it”. A serious amount of damage has already been done and now it is time for the Government to try and prevent more damage from being caused. By protecting 16 and 17 year olds from exploitation, a life will be saved from being ruined.’ Sabina, London

Thanks to all the campaigners who helped us pull this response together. We are continuing to push the Government to take action on this issue.

You can read our full submission here.

If you haven’t already signed up to help us campaign on this issue, you can sign up below.

 

By Andy Soar
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Take action to stop child sexual exploitation

Ask the Government to strengthen the law so that 16 and 17 year olds experiencing sexual exploitation are given protection, get the help they need and access to the justice they deserve.

more...

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Seriously Awkward: Protect older teenagers

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