Deputy children’s commissioner launches sexual exploitation inquiry

A two-year inquiry into the sexual exploitation of children in England has been launched by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner.

Maggie Atkinson announced plans to hold the inquiry in her office’s annual review in July. It has now been confirmed that deputy children’s commissioner Sue Berelowitz and a panel of experts will lead the inquiry.

The team will be invoking powers granted to the children’s commissioner under the Children Act 2004, which requires the government, local authorities and other agencies to provide information as requested by the commissioner’s office.

Launching the inquiry, Berelowitz said: “Right now substantial numbers of children in all parts of England are being abused and exploited by multiple perpetrators.

 All agree that we simply don’t yet have the full picture as the data is still inadequate. This is why, using our unique powers, we will bring to light the hidden and unknown truth, producing an interim report in July 2012.”

Referring to previous media coverage of the topic, Berelowitz said it would be wrong for anyone to conclude that sexual exploitation is restricted to one particular ethnic minority.

“The emerging evidence is that the children and perpetrators involved are very diverse and seem to reflect the local demographic of where the abuse is taking place,” she said. “Accurate data is essential so that government, police, local authorities, schools, the youth justice sector and health professionals can properly identify and protect child victims.”

Members of the inquiry panel include chief executive of Missing People Martin Houghton-Brown, professor of young people and public policy at the University of Bedfordshire Jenny Pearce and Marai Larasi director of Imkaan, an organisation dedicated to challenging violence against black, minority ethnic and refugee women and children.