Government plans to crack down on child sexual exploitation revealed

The government is expected to outline plans to improve the court process for child victims of sexual exploitation and ensure all police forces improve their initial response to cases to increase the number of prosecutions.

In its Child Sexual Exploitation Action Plan due to be published later today, the government is also expected to emphasise that all people working with children must be able to recognise the signs of exploitation.

Local authorities will also be called upon to prioritise child exploitation and put in place plans to tackle it.

Sue Berelowitz, deputy children’s commissioner for England, who is undertaking a two-year inquiry into gang-associated sexual exploitation, said: “For the first time ever we see the coming together of government departments, agencies and independent bodies with the voluntary sector to make tackling child sexual exploitation a top priority.

“Working with government we will ensure our collective knowledge is increased and be a continuing and active partner in the fight against sexual exploitation.”

Enver Solomon, policy director at The Children’s Society, said all professionals must be able to recognise early warning signs such as running away from home.

“For far too long, sexual exploitation has remained a hidden issue, unidentified by professionals who have failed to spot the tell-tale signs of abuse,” he said. “If this is to change everybody whose job it is to protect children must make it a top priority.

“Early warnings, particularly running away from home or care, must always act as a trigger for help and support. This is why it is critical that sexual exploitation and running away are seen as part of the same problem, not dealt with in isolation of each other.

“The action plan’s success will ultimately depend on all professionals doing a better job to keep children safe, particularly teenagers, who are too often misunderstood and seen to be able to cope without getting the support they critically need.”

Barnardo’s, which is hosting the launch event for the plan, has been campaigning to bring child sexual exploitation to the top of the political agenda.

Chief executive Anne Marie Carrie said: “The government’s action plan to tackle child sexual exploitation will lay down the gauntlet for the criminal justice system to bring more prosecutions of this type of sex offender, but we need urgent action for the innocents who are groomed and exploited for sex.”