The Labour party will set up a specialised child protection unit within central government if it wins May’s general election, the shadow home secretary announced today.
Speaking in London this morning, Yvette Cooper outlined plans for the new unit, which she said would improve the standards of all agencies involved in keeping children safe.
The proposed unit would put prevention, earlier intervention, stronger deterrence and the pursuit of offenders at the heart of child protection, Cooper said. It would be run by the Home Office and Department for Education, but would also work across government to improve information sharing at a local level.
Cooper warned there is a “terrible gap” between the scale of child abuse and the collective response to the problem. Child protection needs to become a major priority, she said, pledging “more support for children, stronger prevention, stronger protection, and stronger pursuit of criminals to bring them to justice”.
Sexism and class prejudice that sees exploited girls dismissed as prostitutes must be challenged, she said, as well as homophobia and stigma, which makes make it hard for abused boys to ask for help, Cooper said.
Child protection needs to become a major priority for any government, she said, “with more support for children, stronger prevention, stronger protection, and stronger pursuit of criminals to bring them to justice”.
Labour would also strengthen the law so child abduction warning notices or sexual risk orders could be used in all cases when police are concerned a child may be at risk of sexual exploitation, Cooper announced.
The plans were unveiled during a speech outlining Labour’s wider child protection policies.