Social work failures blamed for prostitution

Social services are failing children in residential homes and
care leavers who turn to prostitution, says a report from the
Children’s Society this week.

A new campaign by the charity argues for protection, not
prosecution, for young people who take to the streets.

Under the Children Act, social services have to protect children
from significant harm and investigate those who sexually abuse and
exploit them.

But most social services departments’ child protection
procedures do not specifically include prostitution, although many
child prostitutes are, or have been, in care.

Negative experiences of care increase the risk that young people
will take to the streets. But current responses to child
prostitution do not help young people to leave the streets or
remove them from the risk of violence, rape, and HIV/AIDS, says the

Social services departments should offer consistent financial
and emotional support to care leavers. Young people are often left
with little in the way of leaving care grants, and are
disproportionately represented in the figures for homeless people
and prostitutes.

If social services developed more effective preventive policies,
such as more family support to reduce violence and other abuse
within the home, fewer young people might run away or enter the
care system, says the report.

The charity is calling on the government to amend legislation so
no young person between the age of ten and 18 can be cautioned,
charged or convicted for their involvement in prostitution.

But the Association of Directors of Social Services has grave
reservations about the proposition for child prostitution to be

Brian Waller, chairperson of the ADSS children and families
committee, called the proposals ‘muddle-headed’.

‘It could lead to a pimps’ charter, because they will feel more
able to exploit young people in the knowledge that they [young
people] will not be arrested,’ he said.

The ADSS had more confidence than The Children’s Society in the
courts’ ability to make sensible decisions based on individual
circumstances, he added.

* Police in Bradford, Southampton, Staffordshire and Leicester
estimate that between one-half and three-quarters of children
involved in prostitution are in care, according to research by
Channel 4’s Dispatches programme shown earlier this week.

* See feature on page 16

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