Prime Minister David Cameron will today unveil tough new measures for tackling the sexual exploitation of children, it has been announced.
In a summit to be held at Downing Street, David Cameron will admit that the Government must do more to protect children from “horrific sexual abuse”.
New criminal sanctions will be introduced against professionals who fail to protect young people, which could be extended to children’s social care services, schools and elected officials. The government say they will consult on extending the new criminal offence of ‘wilful neglect’.
‘Exit payments’ for senior staff, including council staff, will be ‘clawed back’ where those people are quickly re-employed in the same part of the public sector.
David Cameron will also demand local authorities work more effectively to strengthen the systems already in place to protect children.
The new package of measures will include a helpline to report bad practice and the creation of a new ‘Child Sexual Abuse Taskforce’.
Under the new plans, child sexual abuse would be prioritised as a ‘national threat’, meaning police forces will have a duty to collaborate to safeguard children.
And £14 million in funding has been allocated to organisations to assist them in supporting victims over the next two years.
Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to say: We have all been appalled at the abuse suffered by so many young girls in Rotherham and elsewhere across the country.
“Children were ignored, sometimes even blamed, and issues were swept under the carpet – often because of a warped and misguided sense of political correctness. That culture of denial which let them down so badly must be eradicated.
“Today, I am sending an unequivocal message that professionals who fail to protect children will be held properly accountable and council bosses who preside over such catastrophic failure will not see rewards for that failure.
“Offenders must no longer be able to use the system to hide their despicable activities and survivors of child sexual abuse must be given the long-term therapeutic treatment they need to re-build their lives.
“But it is not just about introducing new policies. It is about making sure that the professionals we charge with protecting our children – the council staff, police officer and social workers – do the jobs they are paid to do.
“We owe it to our children, and to the children who survive horrific sexual abuse, to do better and ensure the mistakes of the past are never repeated again.”
However, Labour has criticised the move for not going far enough.
Yvette Cooper MP, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, said: “We all agree we need a stronger child protection system that properly listens to children.
“The Prime Minister has a real opportunity to improve child protection. But these changes don’t go far enough.
“Stronger laws are needed to protect children. The Government should bring forward a legal duty to report child abuse, a new specific offence of child exploitation and new child abduction warning notices – however, ministers voted against these last week.
“Most important of all, we desperately need proper, compulsory sex and relationship education in schools to teach young people about consent and healthy relationships- however, the Government is continuing to refuse to bring it in.
“Support for victims is vital, but the delays in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services remain too long.
“It’s right for this to be a priority for the police and the taskforce, and joint inspections are welcome. But many forces are struggling to cope at the moment and that will be harder if the Government goes ahead with its plans to cut another 1,100 police officers next year.
“David Cameron needs to also do more to tackle the growth in online abuse. We know the National Crime Agency has details of between 20,000 and 30,000 people accessing online child abuse images and yet under 1,000 have been arrested.
“For too long, too many victims of child abuse have been dismissed, their voices ignored and the crimes committed against them left uninvestigated. In Rotherham, Oxfordshire, Rochdale, in the NHS, in the BBC, in care homes and schools, children were let down.
“We need a radical overhaul of our child protection system – but I fear this is still a missed opportunity to get all the reforms we need.”