Westminster Column - Child sexual exploitation

16th March 2018
The reminders in last week's national newspapers about the scale of historic child sexual exploitation in Telford made for harrowing reading. It is a wake-up call to an extremely serious issue - this is not something that is happening to other people in other cities many miles away: it is on our doorstep in Telford.
 
I have had briefings from West Mercia Police outlining how they have been tackling this issue since it emerged, and I am encouraged West Mercia Police have become more skilled in identifying vulnerable young people at risk from grooming, especially looked after children, and in tackling perpetrators.
 
Following the Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation report in March 2015, all police officers are required to be trained in responding to child sexual exploitation more effectively. The guidance has been revised, to help police identify and prevent child abuse and neglect, and what action to take to support victims.
 
Much of the abuse reported so widely is historic, and points to a catalogue of failures in the past by the police and the local authority in Telford to act and safeguard children against such horrific exploitation. But we still see headlines in our local papers about child sexual abuse uncovered in Telford and other areas. So I do not believe we can accept that this is not an ongoing issue today.
 
Telford Council have said these allegations will be covered by the national Child Sexual Exploitation review. But my parliamentary neighbour Lucy Allan MP has publicly called on authorities in Telford to commission an independent inquiry at the earliest opportunity, and I fully support her demand.
 
Half measures will not suffice, and will not represent justice for those allegedly 1,000 girls or so and young women since the 1980s who have suffered at the hands of abusers. A full independent inquiry would send a powerful message, would likely lead to others coming forward, and would highlight to today's perpetrators, victims and those in positions of responsibility what horrendous consequences such exploitation can have. Crucially an inquiry would make recommendations to stamp such exploitation out.
 
Anyone concerned about this issue can visit www.tell-someone.org<http://www.tell-someone.org> to learn more about recognising signs and how to get help. Information about a child at risk should be provided to West Mercia Police on 101. Young people in distress can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or www.childline.org.uk<http://www.childline.org.uk>.
 

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