Campaigns / Slider / February 23, 2015

CHILDHOOD LOST

Hidden in plain view within their communities, thousands of vulnerable children across the UK are being cynically targeted, groomed and subjected to appalling sexual abuse. Help us stop more children losing their childhood.

As an Oxford MP, I saw for myself the appalling devastation caused by child sexual exploitation when it emerged that a violent gang had been grooming and sexually abusing children in Oxford for at least eight years. The victims spoke of being plied with hard drugs, beaten and repeatedly raped by strangers.

Unbelievably though this case is not unique. This year there were over 23,000 sexual crimes against children but only a quarter were prosecuted. The Children’s Commissioner has reported that at least 16,500 children are at risk of sexual exploitation. We have to get better at protecting the victims and prosecuting the perpetrators.

That it why, with the support of the NSPCC, Barnardos, The Children’s Society, PACE, ECPAT, Save the Children, Oxcat and others, I launched the CHILDHOOD LOST campaign in August 2013 calling for better protection, support and justice for the victims.

The CHILDHOOD LOST Campaign calls for six steps to stop child sexual exploitation:

STEP 1: Introduce new Child Sexual Abuse Prevention orders so police can prevent child sexual abuse
STEP 2: Make sure local areas set up the specialist child sexual exploitation centres needed to identify & protect victims
STEP 3: Give judges clear guidance on sentencing complex child sexual exploitation cases
STEP 4: Reform courts so that very vulnerable witnesses in child sexual abuse cases are no longer traumatised by giving evidence
STEP 5: Give the Education Secretary the power to order the publication of Serious Case Reviews
STEP 6: End the postcode lottery of support for victims of child sexual exploitation

UPDATE: Over 100,000 people signed the CHILDHOOD LOST petition and the Government listened. With YOUR help we have already made progess:

STEP 1: New, reformed Sexual Harm Prevention Orders are now law and mean police can step in earlier to disrupt grooming gangs and prevent child sexual exploitation
STEP 2: Many local areas, including Oxford, have set up the specialist child sexual exploitation centres needed to identify & protect victims
STEP 3: New sentencing guidelines for all sexual offences mean judges have clearer guidance on sentencing complex child sexual exploitation cases

However, as the appalling scandal exposed by the Rotherham Report shows there is still much more to do on the remaining steps:

STEP 4: Reform courts so that very vulnerable witnesses in child sexual abuse cases are no longer traumatised by giving evidence
STEP 5: Give the Education Secretary the power to order the publication of Serious Case Reviews
STEP 6: End the postcode lottery of support for victims of child sexual exploitation

In addition, over the last year further priorities have become evident:

STEP 7: Reforming Abduction Orders so that all children, whether they live at home or in care, are protected up to the age of 18 and so that there is a penalty if the perpetrator breaches the order.

STEP 8: Introducing mandatory reporting so that questions over disciplinary action and lines of responsibility are clearer and parents and survivors can regain confidence in their child protection services.

***UPDATE***

Nicola tabled an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill to try and strengthen Abduction Orders so that they could be used to protect 16-18 year olds from abduction and sexual abuse.

The Serious Crime Bill brings forward a number of measures to protect children from abuse and neglect, including from sexual abuse and also from female genital mutilation. But Nicola is deeply concerned about a gap in the legislation in relation to Child Abduction Warning Notices (CAWN)s, which are used by police to disrupt contact between children and harmful adults. At the moment, CAWNs apply only to children aged 15 and under and children in care. However, 35% of all missing incidents reported to the police are related to children aged 15-17 which is more than any other age group.

Therefore Nicola’s amendment would have enabled CAWNs to be used to protect 16 to 18 year olds, whether or not they lived at home, and still be able to be implemented swiftly by police without having to gather increased evidence and apply through the courts. Unfortunately the Government did not support Nicola’s amendment on this occasion and so Nicola is disappointed that a way to address this serious problem has not been found.

She also wants to see the Government working with the College of Policing to develop guidance on how CAWNs fit with other tools such as Sexual Harm Orders, trafficking orders and gang injunctions now available to police. Nicola will therefore continue to push for this, and looks forward to the Bill progressing to the House of Lords in early March.

To read Nicola’s full contribution to the debate and the Minister’s response follow this link: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2015-02-23a.51.7&s=nicola+blackwood#g85.3.

Nicola has promised to continue to challenge the Government to find a way to close this gap, whether it be through legislative means or otherwise. Follow Nicola’s work on child protection in the House of Commons, and see the Parliamentary Questions she has asked, here: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/search/?q=nicola+blackwood+child

 

 



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Nicola calls for greater protection for children at risk
Nicola is seeking to reform the Serious Crime Bill to try and strengthen the role of Child Abduction Warning Notices (CAWNs)...