TOO MANY children are still at risk of sexual exploitation,
despite progress in some areas after an official inquiry in the
wake of high-profile cases such as the Rotherham sex-abuse scandal,
a new report suggests.
The report, If It's Not Better, It's Not the End, by
the Office of the Children's Commissioner, pub-lished last week,
shows that there has been progress since its inquiry began in 2011,
but that much of it has still not filtered down to the front line,
and child victims are being overlooked.
The rate at which child victims are being identified varies
substantially between areas, and in some areas in England the
Commissioner found that exploited children were still slipping
through the net.
In one group of nine local authorities, the rates of known
victims of child-sexual exploitation vary between one and 65 per
Only 48 per cent of local Safeguarding Children Boards said that
they had identified victims.
"There are still many parts of England where the identification
of victims remains very low, despite the evidence we published that
there are children in every part of England who are at risk or who
are victims," the report said.
Strategic objectives had not always filtered down to "front-line
practice", and information-sharing between different agencies
"remains a problem", it said.
The Rotherham scandal, where 1400 children were abused between
1997 and 2013, brought about heightened awareness of the issue of
child sexual exploitation by groups and gangs. In Rotherham many of
the abusers were of Pakistani origin - nationally, the latest
report suggests, most abusers are white.
The Children's Commissioner, Sue Berelowitz, said that it was
essential that sex education be a statutory part of the school
curriculum, as a way of helping young people "recognise abuse and
understand healthy relationships".
The director of campaigns and policy for the Children's Society,
Peter Grigg, said: "This new report should serve as yet another
wake-up call for police, social services, and all those responsible
for protecting children from sexual predators. It sends a clear
message that the time has come to move from plans to real actions
to protect children and young people from this horrible crime.
"It is shocking that after so many reports, court cases, and
inquiries on child sex abuse, there are still areas of the country
where the authorities have no idea how many victims there are. It
is not enough to protect those at risk. We need to prevent this
horrible crime happening by empowering children and young people
with knowledge. Schools should be legally obliged to educate
children about relationships and sex, particularly on the signs of
grooming and issues like consent, violence, and what constitutes a
"The Government must also make sure that the police have all the
tools they need to disrupt sexual exploitation."