Vulnerable children are still being groomed, abused and raped by gangs of men across the UK, as local authorities have failed to put in place measures to protect them, according to a damning report by the office of the Children’s Commissioner.
Protection services are said to be in denial over the problem of sex abuse and the services designed to protect them have been described as ‘woefully inadequate’. The research for the Children’s Commissioner reports that children across the UK are suffering ‘sadistic levels’ of gang sexual abuse and that offenders may be as young as 12 years old.
According to the report, only 6% of local safeguarding children boards have fully implemented government guidance put in place in 2009 on tackling sexual exploitation. This is despite the high-profile exposure of brutal child grooming gangs in Rotherham, Rochdale, Derby and Oxford.
Sue Berelowitz, the deputy Children’s Commissioner has stated that, “Local authorities are still failing the most vulnerable children, and agencies are still in denial about the extent of the problem.”
Ms Berelowitz commented further on her findings stating “I have worked with many children who have been victims of sexual violence, but I have never before encountered the levels of sadism and cruelty that I have during this inquiry. The sheer degree of depravity that has been enacted on children, sometimes by other children, has been truly shocking.”
In a long list of failings, the report says agencies are ‘failing to engage’ with children, that there is a ‘lack of leadership’ and ‘limited or no strategic planning’.
The Children’s Commission is now calling for the Department of Education to review the guidance on child sexual exploitation and to ensure that local services are complying with what has already been set out.
It suggests that problem-profiling of potential victims, offenders and gangs needs to take place, along with a greater emphasis on relationship and sex education by trained professionals for children and young people.
The report also proposes a ‘child-centred’ framework that would force agencies to ask at risk children a series of questions when they first come into contact with authorities, which it is hoped will ensure that ‘agencies can no longer ignore child victims’.
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By Jonathan Bridge, Child Abuse Claim Solicitor