Progress has been made in the South-East to protect victims of child sexual exploitation across the region, but there is still a long way to go to tackle this form of abuse.
On the anniversary of its Cut Them Free campaign, charity Barnardo’s recognises that there are pockets of good working practice in the South-East, including Bucks, Southampton and Portsmouth and that ten local authorities in the region have signed up to continued action to protect vulnerable children and young people with the charity’s campaign*.
But more local authorities in the South-East still need to take action, and the charity needs people to continue to campaign to their local council to urge them to get involved and make a public commitment to do all they can to cut children free from sexual exploitation in their area.
The children’s charity’s new report CuttingThem Free surveyed its 21 specialist services, and reveals that locally, awareness raising of sexual exploitation has reduced by 30 per cent due to funding cuts and that acknowledgement and recognition of the issue still remains patchy.
Yet this crime is becoming ever more complex and pernicious and without local action children will continue to be groomed, raped and abused in towns and cities across the UK.
Barnardo’s service data also shows:
> The number of sexually exploited children Barnardo’s works with has grown by 8.4 per cent to 1,190
> The majority of grooming is in private with cases of ‘street grooming’ being rare
> One in 10 of those exploited were boys
> Nearly half (44 per cent) of the children have gone missing from home
> One in six young people have been trafficked and moved from town to town and city to city, rising to one in two in some areas
> One in three services has seen a marked increase in peer-to-peer exploitation.
Michelle Lee-Izu of Barnardo’s said: “Positive steps have been made in the South-East to help vulnerable children escape a world of sexual exploitation. However, we still have a long way to go in the region to tackle this horrific crime.
“We have been actively campaigning for more help from central and local governments for these vulnerable girls and boys for a year now and we will not let it slide.
“Too many children from all walks of life can so quickly be caught up in a world of drugs, violence and sex – this is a sickening slur on our society and we must continue to work together to do all we can to end it.”
Barnardo’s is calling on all local authorities in the South-East to commit to tackling child sexual exploitation.
There will be a campaign presence in shops across the region that are located where local councils haven’t signed up to the campaign.
People in the South-East can get involved by signing up at these shops to help us persuade the remaining local authorities to sign up. These shops will also be displaying posters, campaign petitions and leaflets for parents on how to spot the signs of sexual exploitation.