Social services departments will have to agree formal working
protocols with the police and other agencies to combat child
prostitution under government guidance released this week.
Social services directors and children's charities have welcomed
the multi-agency guidance that says that children involved in child
prostitution should be treated as victims rather than
But the government has not earmarked any further funding and
meeting its objectives will divert resources, social services
directors have warned. The multi-agency guidance has been issued by
the Home Office, the Department of Health, the Department for
Education and Employment and the Welsh assembly.
It builds on existing draft guidance and outlines how social
services departments, the police and the voluntary sector should
deal with children that have been abused through prostitution, or
are at risk of abuse. It also complements government child
protection inter-agency guidance released last year.
The latest guidance stresses the need for agencies to recognise
that there is a problem with child prostitution and to treat the
child primarily as a victim of abuse. It will also encourage the
investigation and prosecution of people who exploit and abuse
children through prostitution.
Andrew Webb, spokesperson on child protection for the
Association of Directors of Social Services, said the guidance
would require local area child protection committees to develop a
formal child prostitution strategy.
This will include establishing the extent of child prostitution
in their area, raising the public's awareness of the issue and
working closely with voluntary organisations.
"You have to educate and involve the whole community," said
Webb. "The problem of child prostitution might not be as visible if
there is no red light district."
Meeting the guidance would create more demand for child
protection services and affect overstretched budgets, Webb
Barnardo's development worker, Tink Palmer, welcomed the
guidance. "It is extremely good news that the emphasis is now on
safeguards for children abused through prostitution and not on
treating them as criminals," she said.
Palmer added that she hoped the government's review of sexual
offences, which is expected next month, would provide greater legal
protection for children abused through prostitution.
· Safeguarding Children Involved in Prostitution,
available from www.doh.gov/quality.htm