Last week the home secretary announced the delivery of a £40m package of government measures to protect children and young people from sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking, and to crack down on offenders.
These are difficult issues to think about, but with the NSPCC reporting that one in 20 children in the UK has been sexually abused I welcome the government’s investment in such an important area of work.
Part of the package will be used to launch a new Centre of Expertise on child sexual abuse. This will be a consortium of health, law enforcement and social care professionals, charities and academics, and will receive £7.5m until 2020.
It will provide individuals and organisations tackling child abuse with a definitive source of information and guidance.
Nearly £2.2m will go to seven charities for projects protecting vulnerable children in the UK and overseas who are at risk of trafficking, and Independent Child Trafficking Advocates will provide specialist support across three UK regions, in anticipation of a full, national roll out. Hampshire and the Isle of Wight has been chosen as one of these early-adopter sites.
The aim of specially-trained advocates is to provide trafficked children – arguably the most vulnerable members of our communities – with access to the immediate support they need, so they no longer have to navigate complicated statutory systems including health, social care, education and criminal justice.
The accessibility of support systems is a key issue that I am glad to see being addressed.
The successful Disrespect NoBody campaign, which speaks to young people about healthy relationships, will receive £2.2m in funding, and the core funding from central government for sexual abuse services has been doubled.
This funding is vital, not least in the pursuit of changing attitudes. In the not-too-distant past, issues such as sexual abuse were taboo subjects, and a culture of denial prevented professional recognition of the scale of sexual exploitation, particularly among children. It is encouraging to see attitudes are changing.
There are some fantastic local projects who both raise awareness and provide support at a grass-roots level.
I was delighted to see both Southern Domestic Abuse Service and Portsmouth Abuse and Rape Counselling (Parc) recently awarded Police and Crime Commissioner funding.
This will help them continue their invaluable work in building resilience and recovery among victims and preventing domestic abuse and child sexual exploitation through one-to-one intervention.
It was great to see Parcv at the Gosport Youth Council’s excellent Crime Conference earlier this month.
They brought along their big, inflatable ‘elephant in the room’ to this inspiring event which gave over 100 local young people a great opportunity to discuss issues such as consent, respect for others, sexual violence and domestic abuse.