Child exploitation

Once again child sexual exploitation is in the news. The final report from the national enquiry headed by Sue Berelowitz, Deputy Children’s Commissioner, found a serious situation. Not only are local authorities unable to fully deal with the number of cases identified, but some authoritative sources talk of units under threat of closure due to the austerity measures.

The other very serious fact underlined in this report is the growth in peer on peer abuse.¬†We’re talking of a situation where gangs and various groups of young people perpetrate child sexual abuse, mainly on girls who are associated with the gang or targeted by the gang. This in addiction to the recently identified problems of adult males in groups abusing young people following long periods of grooming.

A further twist is that researchers from London Metropolitan University found that amongst young people a prevailing attitude to sexual consent included a seriously high percentage blaming girls if they were sexually exploited.

It’s all very well saying that local safeguarding boards need to step up training and resources for research into this, but at the moment only 6% of safeguarding boards are actually able to comply with Government guidance, which includes an ability to even identify how many victims were in their area. Bridget Robb, Chief Executive of British Association of Social Workers is quoted saying “the reality on the ground is the opposite direction of travel to the reports findings due to the threats of closure hanging over many sexual abuse units.” The whole matter must be a multi-agency effort in identification, support and therapeutic intervention as well as law enforcement. The damage done to young people if this trend is allowed to continue and grow will not only cost many children their childhood and probably destabilise their adulthood, but will cost the country a greater fortune in years to come with the price of healing and support required.

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