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Thursday, 16 February 2017

'Centre of Expertise' among new measures to tackle child sexual exploitation

Written by Hayden Smith

Home Secretary Amber Rudd will on Thursday announce a £40 million blitz on child sexual exploitation.

The cash injection aims to bolster the Government's efforts to prevent a repeat of high-profile episodes such as the scandals seen in Rotherham, Rochdale and Oxford.

The National Crime Agency will receive an extra £20 million to tackle online child sexual exploitation under the new drive.

The measures will see a new Centre of Expertise launched and £2.2 million handed to charities working to protect children at risk of trafficking.

Professionals such as teachers, social workers and police are also being given a revised definition of child sexual exploitation.

It makes clear that a victim "may have been sexually exploited even if the sexual activity appears consensual", and states that "child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology".

Writing for Mumsnet, Ms Rudd said: "Children should be able to grow up free from the horrors of sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking.

"Since 2010, the Government has done more than any other to tackle these horrific offences.

"We have increased support for victims of sexual abuse, invested in training and technology to improve law enforcement's response to abuse both on and offline, and brought in a tougher inspection regime to ensure all front-line professions are meeting their child protection duties.

"But there is more to do.

"The measures I am announcing today will further improve our ability to protect children and under my watch I am determined to bring those that would try to steal their childhood to justice."

The Home Office said the Centre of Expertise - headed by the charity Barnardo's - will become the "definitive source of information and guidance to those tackling child sexual abuse and exploitation on the front line".

Barnardo's Chief Executive, Javed Khan, said: "Through the Centre of Expertise we will develop a deeper understanding of this abuse so that more children can be protected and helped to recover."

Richard Watts, chairman of the Local Government Association's Children and Young People Board, said: "The measures announced today will make sure that we have the best evidence we can about preventing, tackling and helping victims to recover from child sexual abuse and exploitation, and much-needed investment in services will help partners work together to keep more children safe.

"However, it is important the Government recognises the wider funding pressures facing social workers and others trying to deliver services for vulnerable children, with councils facing a £1.9 billion funding gap in children's services by 2020.

"While funding individual programmes of work is positive, a co-ordinated long-term strategy and funding to protect all children is vital."

The Government will publish a progress report on Thursday showing that there has been a 24% increase in police recording of contact child sexual abuse offences.

It also notes increases in the volume of defendants prosecuted and offenders convicted for child sexual abuse-related offences.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Peter Byrne / PA Wire.