In 2013 an independent investigation by Professor Alexis Jay into allegations of child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Rotherham published its finding in the Jay Report. At the time of the investigation about 154 children had come forward to report current or historical abuse. The report highlighted shocking abuse suffered by children including being doused with petrol, forced to watch violent rapes and being held at gun point. It also found significant failings across numerous agencies to acknowledge the allegations as serious or to fully investigate them, denying victims both justice and support. Following the scandal Sarah Champion, MP for Rotherham, has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of CSE. She is building a campaign for preventative measures in schools to equip young people with the skills they need to protect themselves. Speaking at the Women in Napo conference earlier this year Sarah highlighted some of her key concerns that had arisen from discussions she’d had with young people in school. She was stunned at the number of young girls that accepted abuse or violence in their relationships and the general normalising of such behaviour amongst both boys and girls.( Recent studies into young people’s attitude to relationship violence has shown 30% of girls think it is acceptable for their partner to be violent or aggressive). The other worrying issue raised was the impact of social media on young people and a failure to teach young people how to keep safe online and the potential lifelong consequences of online postings such as explicit photographs. These need to be urgently addressed, not just to keep young people safe but about educating young people to treat each other with respect, what a healthy relationship is and to have the confidence to resist pressure from peers and adults.
Napo has given its initial support to Sarah’s campaign (although this is subject to a motion submitted to AGM by Campaigning Committee) as well as submitting a motion to TUC Congress this year. CSE is an issue that affects all our members, whether that be working with families and children at risk in the family courts or working with perpetrators subject to probation supervision. But it is also affects members directly in their communities and families and as such we have a societal duty to help protect young people from becoming either victims or perpetrators of the future and not just focus on dealing with perpetrators after the crime has been committed. A large part of Sarah’s campaign is looking at working with young people in schools and youth groups, increasing access to education and support. Barnardo’s children’s charity recently donated over £3million to Rotherham to help fund some of the work Sarah is promoting. Napo’s TUC motion (full text can be found below) supports the objectives of the campaign and Napo hopes to get full support from congress.
Child Sexual Exploitation – Campaign to provide services
This Congress notes the alarming rise in incidents of crime involving child sexual exploitation. Too many of our young people are becoming victims of this abhorrent crime and need support and education to help to keep them safe. Furthermore, victims need support to report these crimes and give evidence to aid prosecutions.
Congress notes the Government’s commitment to help tackle this crime and make provision for victim services and support around giving evidence. Nevertheless, more needs to be done and the provision of services must be consistent and not dependent on postcode or access to funding.
This congress supports the magnificent work undertaken by Sarah Champion MP and endorses the call for the launch of a national campaign. The General Council are instructed to make representations to the Government to address the following:-
- A national campaign to raise awareness of CSE to develop a culture where adults will recognise the signs and symptoms
- An education programme in schools around healthy relationships and the right to say no
- The development of a national task force with a multi-agency approach
- Specialist training for identified professionals within criminal justice agencies and victims services
- An adequately resourced victim focused approach to minimise incidents of crime and support for survivors and their families.