The government has promised to fund £40m towards the fight against child sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking.
The intention is that the money will be used for bringing offenders to justice, targeting online exploitation, and protecting vulnerable children at risk of trafficking.
A new £7.5m “centre of expertise” will be set up to offer support and guidance to professionals on the front line.
The money, although welcome, is not enough. The government is missing an opportunity to offer meaningful protection for this vulnerable sector.
Child sexual abuse is no respecter of the law or geography and with the rapid development in social media, offenders are finding new ways to exploit the vulnerable. What we should be doing is identifying offenders and those potentially at risk of abusing, stopping them in their tracks, and ensuring the right measures and policies are implemented to ensure that they do not offend.
There should be far greater efforts in educating the public about the risks presented by social media. For example, “selfies”, exchanging intimate photographs, and “sexting” are all areas around which we need to raise the public’s level of awareness and education. This is a time bomb that is going to go off one day if we are not careful. When it does go off it will extract a heavy price in damaged lives.
We are also seeing on-going child protection issues where vulnerable young people are falling through the net and are being sexually abused. High profile cases in the news from Aylesbury and Rotherham serve as a reminder that the challenge society faces is both complex and alarming. Much more needs to be done to ensure that the UK has the best child protection policies and that means investment.
However, councils are warning that a “funding gap” of £1.9bn could put child protection services at risk.
In 2015, the government published a new strategy for addressing failures in child protection across England. The strategy was published in response to the Rotherham abuse scandal in which more than 1,400 children were abused between 1997 and 2013
Given the scale of the challenge, the reality is that the news is welcome but the investment is likely to prove inadequate.