Headlines: June 14th, 2006

The children’s charity Barnardo’s is calling for a nationwide network of community services for children who have been sexually exploited. It also wants the Government to make child protection a priority for the police. The calls follow the organisation’s first long term study of its work with children who have been exploited for sex or groomed for abuse through prostitution, which is published today.The study, which is the first of its kind in the UK, found that young people helped by Barnardo’s had often been abused and neglected but that intensive support could reduce their risk of being sexually exploited and it could help them to achieve positive changes in their lives.

Barnardo’s says the study has identified a number of risk factors associated with sexual exploitation, including poor relationships with parents or carers, disengagement from education and children who are missing as well as a lack of awareness of rights and risks. It is calling for a securely funded network of community-based services for children who have been sexually exploited, steps to make the protection of children a policing priority and for the Department for Education to ensure there is preventative and protective work with the most vulnerable young people.

The charity has used regular risk assessments to monitor the progress of a sample of the children it supports. Case histories published today include that of a 14-year-old girl forced into prostitution who, after telling her story to a Barnardo’s project worker, was supported in making a statement to the police and has since has returned to education and her GCSE studies. She is planning to go to college and to move on with her life. Her Barnardo’s worker continues to see her every week. In another case, Emma came to into contact with Barnardo’s when she was 12-years-old and living in a children’s home. She had a history of running away and it was thought that she had been sexually abused. Her mother had different men coming to the house, who would often be physically abusive to her. Emma is now attending a special school and enjoying doing well. The report says, “From the raw, smelly child, who was being given drugs in a flat used for prostitution, Emma is now looking forward to a safe foster placement, to gaining the family she has never had and to taking her GCSEs”

Barnardo’s spends 1.6 million pounds on sexually exploited children but says demand is not met with provision of specialist services being patchy and the ability to get help depending more on geographical location than on need. Martin Narey, the charity’s Chief Executive, said, “We know there are many children, in many towns and cities, who are not helped. The Government has prioritised protective and preventative work with children in the Prostitution Strategy for England and Wales, announced in January this year. We want to see the investment to make it a reality.”