In February of this year, the Government announced that £40m was being allocated to implement various measures to help to protect children and young people from being sexually abused. £20m is to be paid to the NCA (National Crime Agency) to tackle the serious problem of online child sexual exploitation. There is a new centre of expertise being launched and £2.2m is to be provided to charities which work to protect children who are at risk of trafficking.
The Government also released a report which looked at the progress that had been made since 2015, when the report “Tackling Sexual Exploitation” was published. The report has identified that there has been a significant improvement in tackling the culture of denial regarding both the scale and nature of the crimes being committed. It has also identified an increase in accountability and support for victims of child sex offending. Since 2015, the Government has provided £14 million of additional funding for direct support of victims. It will be providing a further £7.15m over the next two years to bring in a means of support for victims, which is referred to as the ‘Child House’ model of wraparound.
The report states that in the 2015, 5,879 offenders were convicted of child sexual abuse offences. That is 1,000 more offenders than were convicted in 2014. The police recording of contact child sexual abuse had increased by 14%. The Metropolitan Police revealed figures in March 2017 disclosing that child sexual exploitation crimes had risen by nearly 50%. Part of the reason for the increase was thought to be due to improved recording, but clearly it seemed there as also been an actual increased number of offences.
In July, the Mayor of London’s Office produced a report from the Co-Commissioning Workshop (which has some useful links). Data that had been obtained from the Havens on rape and serious sexual assault of children also identified that those in the most deprived communities were 7.5 times more likely to suffer abuse than those in the least deprived communities, that almost a third have a pre-existing mental health issue and/or have experienced domestic violence, and that nearly 7% had learning disabilities. Nearly a quarter used alcohol or drugs.
The Child Online Protection Centre estimated prevalence at 5% of children being victims of sexual abuse at some time in their lives by the age of 18. The NSPCC also estimates that one in twenty children is sexually assaulted as a child, that one in three of those children don’t tell anybody and that over 90% of the children abused were abused by somebody that they knew.
‘How safe are our children? 2017’ is the “most comprehensive overview of child protection in the UK”. Over half a million children were referred to Social Services in the year ending March 2016, albeit not all relating to sexual vulnerability. It is a shocking figure, especially in the context of the known problem of non-reporting.