The Government needs to step up its response to Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) and develop a truly cross-party response, East Worthing and Shoreham’s MP has urged.
Tim Loughton set up the Government’s CSE action plan back in November 2011 as minister for children and young people, and made the comments during a House of Commons debate about older teenagers at risk of sexual abuse and exploitation.
He was one of several MPs to speak during the debate on Thursday December 17, which heard calls for action to tackle the huge number of sexual offences against 16-and-17-year-olds that go unreported and unpunished every year.
Mr Loughton said: “The Government have a good record in starting to approach this issue. The Child Sexual Exploitation action plan, which I launched back in November 2011, has produced many practical results.
“The Home Office produced a CSE report earlier this year. Since last year, there have been new sentencing guidelines for courts, enabling courts to give individuals more severe sentences in cases where the victims were particularly vulnerable, such as 16 or 17-year-olds.
“Much has happened, but much more needs to happen. The Government need to step up their response to this huge problem with a truly cross-Government strategy. In this debate, we have rightly raised serious concerns about 16 or 17-year-olds, but that is only part of a much bigger issue that we are only just beginning to get on top of.
“It is a subject I am deeply concerned about, which is why I so determined when Minister for Children and Young People to establish an inquiry into historic acts of child abuse.”
The debate was supported by national charity The Children’s Society, which provides a range of services to help young people cope with the trauma of sexual exploitation and to protect those at risk before they become victims.
The charity’s Seriously Awkward campaign is highlighting how 16-and-17-year-olds do not get the same protection or help as younger children, despite being at high risk of abuse or harm and are in many cases extremely vulnerable.
Teenage girls aged either 16 and 17 are more likely to be a victim of a sexual offence than any other age group, with almost one in ten surveyed saying they experienced a sexual offence in the last year.
But research by The Children’s Society shows that police take no action against suspects in more than three quarters of reported sexual crimes against teenagers in this age group. Only a very small proportion of cases result in successful prosecutions.
The Children’s Society is calling for the law to be strengthened to provide better protection for vulnerable 16-and-17-year-olds, and for police to be given greater powers to intervene when a 16 or 17-year-old is being targeted and groomed for exploitation.
For more information visit www.childrenssociety.org.uk
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