Figures from the 2019 Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) revealed that 7.5% of adult respondents had reported experiences of child sexual abuse before the age of 16 years old. However, The Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse (CSA centre) believes that a more realistic estimate based on additional data is that at least 15% of girls experience child sexual abuse before the age of 16 years old.
The cause of these astonishing figures is believed to be a decline in the identification of child abuse cases by the police and child protection services. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused further issues in identifying at risk children due to victims being less likely to report the abuse and the signs of abuse being more difficult to spot as families follow ‘stay at home’ government guidance.
CSEW data demonstrates that fewer than 10% of children who are being abused become known to agencies. The CSA Centre has consequently called for professionals to be trained in learning how to better identify and act upon concerns relating to child sexual abuse.
Home Secretary, Priti Patel has responded to such concerns to say that the government continue to invest in the CSA centre and the National Crime Agency in order to gain a better understanding of the issue of child sexual abuse, learning how to prevent it and how to tackle offenders.
However, this does not appear to address repeated failings by agencies in protecting children who are at risk of sexual abuse, which is arguably demonstrated by figures from the Local Authority Children’s Services. The report released by the Local Authority revealed that child protection plans for sexual abuse has been the lowest in 18 years with just under 2,600 children being subject to child protection plans despite 30,460 children being identified as being at risk of such abuse. Therefore, it is undeniable that even if children at risk become more readily identified, agencies need to be prepared to take more proactive measures to protect such children.
These figures were released in the same week as a highly critical report of Children’s Social Care. The report found that we have an ‘over-bureaucratised’ system with very little interaction between Social Workers and children. The report cited findings from the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel about poor risk assessment and decision making in serious cases.
At Farleys we regularly see the long-term impact that abuse can have on children. We see claimants of all ages whose lives have been changed by incidents during childhood. Often the abuse was preventable and failings by the Local Authority have allowed the abuse to happen. The various successful claims perused following the Rochdale Abuse scandal are testament to this.
The studies seem to demonstrate a worrying trend. On the one hand a high percentage of young girls are still being subjected to abuse. On the other, Local Authorities are still failing to provide the necessary support that our children need.
If you or someone that you know has been affected by child sexual abuse, please contact our dedicated team on 0330 134 6340 who can offer support and assistance, whilst keeping all matters confidential. Alternatively, you can send us an email or chat to us through the online chat below.