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. – David Cameron
London: New criminal sanctions for those who fail to protect children from sexual exploitation are at the heart of a package of new measures in the UK announced last week by British Prime Minister David Cameron.
The government will consult on extending the new criminal offence of ‘wilful neglect’ of patients to children’s social care, education and elected members as part of its national response to damning reports by Alexis Jay, Ann Coffey, Louise Casey and others, which found systematic institutional failings and cultures of denial and blame in Rotherham, and elsewhere.
The Prime Minister – alongside the Home Secretary and Secretaries of State for Health, Justice, Education and Communities and Local Government – met leaders from local authorities, children’s services, health professionals, chief constables and experts in child protection earlier this month in Downing Street to demand local areas work more effectively to strengthen the systems in place to protect children. This initiative is significant and comes close on the heels of the Report ‘Independent oversight of investigations into matters relating to Jimmy Savile at schools and children’s homes’ going into the public domain. This report exposes a lot in terms of child abuse but falls short of drawing firm conclusions in the absence of solid evidence.
The new package will ensure local areas have long term practical plans to uncover child sexual exploitation (CSE) and bring more offenders to justice – or face tough consequences.
New helpline to report bad practice
CSE remained hidden and was ignored: a new national whistleblowing helpline for public sector workers to report bad practice will help shine a light on problems and help authorities to spot patterns of failure in order to address them quickly.
Tackling the culture of denial
Victims were appallingly let down, disbelieved and even blamed. We will eradicate the culture of denial including through new joint official health, police and education inspections and a new Child Sexual Abuse Taskforce of professional troubleshooting experts in social work, law enforcement and health to support local areas at every level.
Consequences for those failing to protect children
Those who failed to protect them saw no consequences – some got huge pay-offs. We will ensure that exit payments for senior staff, including council staff, can be clawed back where those people are quickly re-employed in the same part of the public sector.
Prioritising child sexual abuse
Child sexual abuse will now be prioritised as a national threat, like serious and organised crime which means police forces now have a duty to collaborate with each other across force boundaries to safeguard children including more efficient sharing of resources, intelligence and best practice, supported by specialist regional CSE police coordinators.
Support for survivors
We have given an additional £7 million this year and in 2015 to 2016 to organisations which support the victims of sexual abuse.
- 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.