Councils launch campaign to raise awareness of sexual exploitation

National consultation will focus on raising awareness and breaking down a 'veil of secrecy' that plays into the hands of abusers

LGA campaign is backed by the children's minister

Council leaders have launched a campaign to better protect children from sexual exploitation, arguing Britain needs to ‘break the taboo’ that leaves abusers free to offend.

Led by the Local Government Association (LGA), the eight-week campaign will take the form of a national consultation focusing on raising awareness of this often hidden abuse. It is hoped national debate and publicity will improve support for victims, increase prosecutions and stop abuse from going undetected.

Cllr David Simmonds, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said reluctance to discuss such abuse creates a “veil of secrecy” that enables offenders.

“This is not an easy subject for people to talk about,” Simmonds said. “It is highly sensitive, distressing and understandably can be an uncomfortable issue to raise. But this must change. By breaking the taboo we will also break down the veil of secrecy, which plays into the hands of the perpetrators of child abuse.”

The campaign follows a number of high profile sexual exploitation cases, which saw gangs of men arrested and charged around the UK, including in Rochdale, Derby and Oxford.

He recognised the progress local authorities and the voluntary sector have made to improve safeguarding responses, but admitted there is still a very long way to go.

He urged councils to spread the word among local communities, to raise awareness of the problem and start a national discussion to gather views, ideas and best practice.

Children’s minister Edward Timpson welcomed the campaign, agreeing more has to be done to establish the nature and scale of the problem. “Everyone who comes into contact with these vulnerable young people has a role to play in tackling and ultimately preventing this appalling and despicable form of abuse,” he said.

  • Community Care will be holding a major two-day conference on tackling child sexual exploitation later this year. If you would like to help shape the programme please contact penny.macoustra@rbi.co.uk

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