Nearly one-third of children who are sexually exploited in England are looked-after, according to Barnardo’s.
The finding, taken from a survey of 498 children helped on one day by the charity’s 20 specialist sexual exploitation services, also revealed marked geographical variations.
More than three-quarters (76%) of victims in the North West were looked-after children. In London, eastern and south-east England 42% were in care while, in the South West, the figure was 39%.
Overall, Barnardo’s found 29% were looked after, 16% had a disability and 5% a statement of special educational needs.
Anne Marie Carrie, chief executive of Barnardo’s, called on local councillors to raise the issue with their lead member for children’s services and make a public commitment to tackle child sexual exploitation in their areas.
“Some of the children who are preyed upon by these calculating abusers are the most vulnerable in society,” Carrie said. “We all have a duty to cut them free from this abuse. Councils and professionals who work with children need to recognise their role.”
Practice varied across the country, Carrie said, but many children were going without the protection and support they needed.
“More work needs to be done on the ground if we are to truly make a difference to the lives of victims of this horrific exploitation, both now and in the future,” she said.
The charity has also launched a special awareness campaign to help children, parents and people working with young people to spot warning signs of sexual exploitation.
It follows a report in June from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) centre, which found child protection professionals were continuing to miss key signs, despite a number of high-profile cases.
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