New criminal sanctions for those who fail to protect children from sexual exploitation are at the heart of a package of new measures announced today by Prime Minister David Cameron.
The government will consult on extending the new criminal offence of ‘wilful neglect’ of patients to children’s social care, education and elected members as part of its national response to damning reports by Alexis Jay, Ann Coffey, Louise Casey and others, which found systematic institutional failings and cultures of denial and blame in Rotherham, and elsewhere.
The Prime Minister – alongside the Home Secretary and Secretaries of State for Health, Justice, Education and Communities and Local Government – met leaders from local authorities, children’s services, health professionals, chief constables and experts in child protection today in Downing Street to demand local areas work more effectively to strengthen the systems in place to protect children.
The new package will ensure local areas have long term practical plans to uncover child sexual exploitation (CSE) and bring more offenders to justice – or face tough consequences.
New helpline to report bad practice
CSE remained hidden and was ignored: a new national whistleblowing helpline for public sector workers to report bad practice will help shine a light on problems and help authorities to spot patterns of failure in order to address them quickly.
Tackling the culture of denial
Victims were appallingly let down, disbelieved and even blamed. We will eradicate the culture of denial including through new joint official health, police and education inspections and a new Child Sexual Abuse Taskforce of professional troubleshooting experts in social work, law enforcement and health to support local areas at every level.
Consequences for those failing to protect children
Those who failed to protect them saw no consequences – some got huge pay-offs. We will ensure that exit payments for senior staff, including council staff, can be clawed back where those people are quickly re-employed in the same part of the public sector.
Prioritising child sexual abuse
Child sexual abuse will now be prioritised as a national threat, like serious and organised crime which means police forces now have a duty to collaborate with each other across force boundaries to safeguard children including more efficient sharing of resources, intelligence and best practice, supported by specialist regional CSE police coordinators.
Support for survivors
We have given an additional £7 million this year and in 2015 to 2016 to organisations which support the victims of sexual abuse.
About the CSE summit
Prime Minister David Cameron said:
We have all been appalled at the abuse suffered by so many young girls in Rotherham and elsewhere across the country. Children were ignored, sometimes even blamed, and issues were swept under the carpet – often because of a warped and misguided sense of political correctness. That culture of denial which let them down so badly must be eradicated.
Today, I am sending an unequivocal message that professionals who fail to protect children will be held properly accountable and council bosses who preside over such catastrophic failure will not see rewards for that failure.
Offenders must no longer be able to use the system to hide their despicable activities and survivors of child sexual abuse must be given the long-term therapeutic treatment they need to re-build their lives. But it is not just about introducing new policies. It is about making sure that the professionals we charge with protecting our children – the council staff, police officer and social workers – do the jobs they are paid to do.
We owe it to our children, and to the children who survive horrific sexual abuse, to do better and ensure the mistakes of the past are never repeated again.
The cross-government national response, led by the Home Secretary Theresa May, was commissioned by the Prime Minister following revelations of a long-term culture of denial in Rotherham, where it is estimated at least 1,400 children were sexually abused over a number of years, and elsewhere.
The Home Secretary, Theresa May, said:
Professor Alexis Jay’s review of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham showed that organised child sexual exploitation had been happening on a massive scale over many years. Local agencies had dismissed concerns or put in place an inadequate response.
Shockingly, Louise Casey’s report earlier this year showed that even since the Jay report, the council and its local partners had continued to deny the scale of the problem, and not enough action had been taken to stop the abuse.
This is completely unacceptable. We must stamp out the culture of denial that allows organisations and individuals to avoid the issue and be clear that people who abuse children must be stopped. Their race, age or gender is irrelevant. We cannot allow professionals to avoid tackling the sexual abuse of children by members of ethnic minority communities for fear of being seen as racist.
Child sexual exploitation is not exclusive to any single community, race or religion. There is no culture in which sexual abuse is not a serious crime and there is never any excuse for failing to bring its perpetrators to justice.
Representatives from local areas across the country including Rochdale, Nottingham, Kent, Middlesbrough and Barking and Dagenham; the newly appointed Commissioner for Rotherham Sir Derek Myers, Professor Alexis Jay, Sarah Champion MP, the new Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield, and the national policing lead Chief Constable Simon Bailey will be among the attendees at the Downing Street event.
Innovation Programme funds
The Department of Health has also published new guidance on the role of school nursing services in preventing child sexual exploitation and the Department for Education will announce a new £3.8 million allocation of its Innovation Programme:
Sheffield and South Yorkshire Councils (£1.2 million)
To develop a sub-regional delivery model for young people experiencing or at risk of child sexual exploitation. This will include recruitment, development and support of specialist foster carers to provide safe placements for young people across South Yorkshire. Local authorities involved are Sheffield, Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster. Other partners are LSCBs in these areas and South Yorkshire Police.
Wigan and Rochdale Councils (£956,000)
To find alternatives to high cost and secure accommodation for victims of, or those at risk of, child sexual exploitation, and to improve outcomes for those young people and their families. They plan to develop and deliver a research programme and pilot which involves testing a new hub and bespoke social care service model with 30 young people in Wigan and Rochdale, with the intention of scaling this up across Greater Manchester local authorities.
St Christopher’s Fellowship (£1.19 million)
To develop a children’s home with wrap-around care in London for looked-after girls at risk of sexual exploitation, gang membership and substance misuse who might otherwise be placed in secure children’s homes on welfare grounds.
Durham County Council (£496,000)
To open a new unit at Aycliffe – their Secure Children’s Home – to test a new model of support targeting the trauma experienced by young people who have been sexually exploited. They intend to couple this with an extended ‘step-down’ service to support the young people in making the transition from the secure setting into more independent living.
Notes to editors
1) The government’s full report Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation was published on Tuesday 3 March.
2) The government has introduced a number of new measures to help protect children from sexual abuse in recent months including:
- legislation making it an offence to possess rape porn in the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2014 and new provisions through the Serious Crime Bill to criminalise sexual communication with a child and the possession of ‘paedophile manuals’
- legislation which will allow police to require hotels and similar establishments, in which they reasonably believe child sexual exploitation is taking place, to provide information about guests, better equipping them to investigate sexual offences committed on the premises (Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014)
- new guidelines on prosecuting cases of child sexual abuse, which have established a new approach for dealing with cases of sexual violence against vulnerable people, focusing on the credibility of the allegation rather than the credibility of the individual
- a single, secure database of indecent images of children which will provide law enforcement with effective tools to search seized devices for indecent images of children, reduce the time taken to identify such images, increase the ability to identify victims and allow industry and international partners to remove this material from the web
- a further £10 million for 2015 to 2016 to allow NCA-CEOP to create new teams to tackle online CSE, and a joint NCA and GCHQ team that will use the latest techniques and expertise to track down online offenders following the PM’s #WeProtect children online summit last year
3) New guidance on the role of school nursing services in preventing child sexual exploitation. Over the last 6 months, Department of Health officials have worked with professional organisations and school nurses drawn from a variety of backgrounds to develop professional guidance to support local delivery and raise awareness of CSE amongst school nurses. The pathway is designed to clarify the role of the school nursing service regarding child sexual exploitation. It aims to consolidate best practice by:
- helping practitioners recognise child sexual exploitation and understand its impact on health and wellbeing
- summarising the evidence base, including the types of child sexual exploitation, its prevalence and consequences
- identifying the school nurse role at different levels of service and outlining a core offer from the school nursing service
For further information please contact the Department of Health press office.
4) For more information about the Innovation Programme, please contact Department for Education press office.