Posted: 15 December 2016

Seriously Awkward success!

For nearly a year, we’ve been pushing for the Government to better protect 16 and 17 year olds from sexual exploitation through amendments to the Policing and Crime Bill. Last week, after nearly a year in the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the final amendments were added. The bill will now go back and forth between the Houses to refine the changes.

Our Seriously Awkward actions

We have been calling on the Government 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 are able to receive the help they need, before reaching crisis

A record 3000 campaigners contacted their MP to attend the 2nd reading of the Policing and Crime Bill in March. We were the most mentioned organisation by MPs and Seriously Awkward the most mentioned campaign. As a result, we were asked to give oral evidence to the committee examining the bill.

In April, we held a drop in day for MPs to speak to professionals from our projects, who work with sexually exploited 16 and 17 year olds. They told the MPs how the changes we are calling for will make a difference for the young people we support in our services.

On 13 June, the Policing and Crime Bill was discussed for the last time in the House of Commons. After thousands of people contacted their MP, the then Minister for Preventing Sexual Exploitation, Karen Bradley MP, announced she was ‘determined to tackle this issue’.

On our ask to ensure that victims of child sexual exploitation receive a mental health assessment, Home Office Minister Mike Penning MP said: 'If someone is assessing a child who has been abused, how can they not assess them for mental health damage that may have occurred? That is the natural thing to do…that is the moral position'.

Another crucial change we’re calling for is to ensure police have the tools they need to intervene when 16 and 17 year olds are at risk of or are being sexually exploited. Sarah Champion MP spoke at length on this issue, highlighting how it’s 'vital that we get legislation to protect all children up to the age of 18 from abuse’.

As the bill moved into the Lords, we continued to push for change – with campaigners helping us to produce a report for the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

In the House of Lords the Government announced that they had set up a working group to look at how police can better intervene to disrupt the sexual exploitation of 16 and 17 year olds. We will play a key part in the working group to ensure that police get the tools they need to tackle child sexual exploitation.

This was fantastic progress – and in the same week we heard that another recommendation from our Old Enough to Know Better report was going to be taken forward. The Government, responding to the Home Affairs report, announced they would ensure that young people who were victims, or at risk of, child sexual exploitation prior to turning 18, would still receive the appropriate support after they turned 18. This is vital for a highly vulnerable group of young people who are often neglected by the services who are supposed to support them.

Unfortunately our recommendation to get all children, who are suspected of being exploited, a mental health assessment, was not voted on. However we will continue to pursue this through other opportunities.

a huge thank you to our supporters

Over 20,000 campaigners have contacted their MP, shared stories on Facebook and turned up to events to support the campaign to better protect these young people - we'd like to give a huge thank you to our supporters for making this happen.

Theresa May, when she was Home Secretary, responded to the Seriously Awkward campaign in parliament saying 16 and 17 year olds are ‘equally as vulnerable as younger people and need the protection and care we should be giving them when we deal with these issues’.

Now she is Prime Minister, we will hold her to her word and push the Government to do more for vulnerable 16 and 17 year olds.

Your support

In the meantime, please support our Debt campaign.

Children growing up in families struggling with debt are five times more likely to be unhappy than children living in families without debt difficulties. 

As Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Simon Kirby can grant struggling families a breathing space: a year to get their finances back on track without spiralling fees or visits from intimidating bailiffs.

We need your help to persuade him! Send Simon Kirby a Christmas card and tell him, in your own words, why he should use his position to protect children from the damage of debt this Christmas. 

send a christmas card



By Andy Soar

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