Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation – ‘Unsafe Children’ A Report from The Centre for Social Justice

1st April 2021

We are proud to announce our partnership with the Centre for Social Justice, an independent think tank focused on transforming people’s lives by releasing them from poverty, an aim that strongly supports our mission to protect children from abuse, harm and neglect. Alongside Google, we were invited to support the Centre’s landmark research on Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation (published on 30 March 2021), which is essential reading for anyone involved with safeguarding or child protection.

‘Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation – Unsafe Children’, is a 100-page report produced by a commission of subject matter experts led by former Home Secretary The Rt. Hon Sajid Javid MP.  Other commissioners include Charlie Webster Broadcaster (Victims Advisor and Survivor Advocate), Sheila Taylor MBE (CEO of the NWG Exploitation Response Unit), Chief Constable Simon Bailey QPM (Chief Constable of Norfolk Police and the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for Child Protection and Investigation), Peter Wanless CB (CEO of the NSPCC).  In preparing the report it’s author, Olivia Robey, from the Centre for Social Justice worked tirelessly with victims/survivors, members of the commission and other contributors, as well as bringing to bear her own extensive expertise.

On launching the report Sajid Javid said, ‘We’re facing an epidemic of child sexual abuse in this country. Although the Government and industry are doing valuable work to protect children… sadly, the pandemic will have made things far, far worse.’

The report warns that the Covid-19 lockdowns have isolated many children at home with their abusers, preventing them from escaping their abuse or reporting it to adults they trust, such as their teachers.

 

 

Research for the report found that not only are victims being sexually abused more frequently during the lockdowns due to the increased time with their abuser, but child sex offenders have taken advantage of the lockdown restrictions meaning that illegal online activity has also rocketed. Within the month of April 2020 there were over nine million attempts made to view child sexual abuse with many children being tricked or coerced into taking the images themselves due spending more time online during lockdown.

It is crucial that the signs that a child is being abused are not missed, particularly for those being abused at home, the best place for support can be at school. One of the 96 key recommendations made in the report is that Government should consider reversing the significant decline in school nurses as many young people often feel safer discussing sensitive issues with healthcare professionals. Even when a child is not ready to disclose an issue nurses are well placed to noticed problems such as sexually transmitted infections that can point to potentially, more serious issues.

Alarmingly the research for the report found that thousands of convicted sex offenders could be operating in jobs that bring them into close contact with children and young people due to the simple method of paying £15 to change their names by deed poll. At no stage is an applicant required to disclose their criminal history and Sajid Javid stressed the utmost urgency for this process to change in order to better safeguard children and protect them from individuals who may have changed their names without notifying the police.

 

 

Overall, the protection and support of victims of child sexual abuse is only one part of the larger picture. In order to proactively lower the rates of child sexual abuse then more must be done to reflective the seriousness of these crimes in the sentencing of offenders. Currently offenders who hire traffickers to find children for them to abuse online receive on average a two-year custodial sentence.

Online and offline offences are not necessarily different forms of criminal activity and both can have a shattering impact on children. Morally, directing the abuse of a child over the internet is no different to abusing a child in person, and both offences should be penalised alike. Similarly, British gangs that force children to smuggle drugs within their bodies should been seen as committing a sexual violation and treated as such. The report also recommends that children groomed into committing crime should be eligible to have their convictions quashed. The report highlights there is the opportunity here to correct long-standing injustices and anticipate future types of offending.

The report makes 96 policy recommendations, across Government departments, including:

  • Schools adopting a ‘whole-school’ approach to child sexual abuse; every staff member should have safeguarding training to identify the signs of abuse and have the knowledge of next steps.
  • School nurses should be returned to pre-2010 levels with practitioners required to both undertake training on child sexual abuse and work alongside the school’s designated safeguarding leads to help support disclosures.
  • Government should establish a taskforce consisting of Home Office ministers, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office ministers, policing and industry including money transfer services to develop a more proactive policy approach to live-streamed child sexual abuse.
  • Government should introduce a statutory definition of child criminal exploitation.
  • A new ‘victim’s law’ to guarantee the rights of victims and support services.
  • Victims/survivors must be informed of the release of their abuser from prison to avoid traumatic encounters.
  • The Home Office should commission an urgent inquiry into ‘missing’ sex offenders to establish their location and activities.
  • A crackdown on internet bosses whose security features protect the identity of abusers.
  • A new law with harsher penalties for forcing children to carry drugs inside their bodies.
  • All frontline services need to be cognisant of cultural differences and ensure that rather than dubbing communities ‘hard to reach’ they are reflecting on whether their service might be hard to find.

 

 

The list of potential threats facing children and young people are extensive and the solutions are not easy or straightforward. However, Sajid Javid stresses we have a duty to protect the futures of child and young people in our society.

‘As we recover our freedoms, we must ensure that we take the tough measures needed to protect our kids against these dreadful crimes that robs them of their childhood and leaves deep scars for life.’

Martin Baker, CEO of One Team Logic explains, ‘The effect of adverse childhood experiences can be life long, life limiting and life threatening, and the constant vigilance of adults for the signs and symptoms of abuse and in creating the circumstances in which children feel confident and are able to disclose abuse are essential components in making children safer.  The recommendations made by the Centre for Social Justice provide clear and practical ways to protect children from sexual abuse, and these recommendations require urgent action.”

 

Read the full report here

Written by Georgia Latief