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‘Children are still being exploited’

by
27 February 2015

by a staff reporter

iSTOCK

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 10,000 children.

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 healthy relationship.

"The Government must also make sure that the police have all the tools they need to disrupt sexual exploitation."

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