David Cameron outlines plans to tackle child sexual exploitation at summit today.
“Teachers, councillors and social workers in England and Wales who fail to protect children could face up to five years in jail under new proposals.
The new measures, being unveiled by the prime minister, would see the crime of “wilful neglect” extended to cover children’s social care and education.
There would also be unlimited fines for individuals and organisations shown to have let children down.
Meanwhile a retired officer said police failed victims of an Oxford abuse gang.
We owe it to our children, and to the children who survive horrific sexual abuse, to do better”
Prime Minister David Cameron
The government’s proposals – also to include a national helpline being set up to enable professionals to report bad practice – are a response to child abuse scandals in Rotherham, Oxford and elsewhere.
Police are being ordered to prioritise the issue as a national threat, as with serious and organised crime, with police forces, chief constables and police and crime commissioners having a duty to collaborate in order to protect children.
The proposals are being unveiled at a summit in Downing Street – attended by victims, survivors groups, ministers, police chiefs, council leaders, child protection experts, and health and social care providers.
Labour has criticised the summit as a “missed opportunity”, saying the government is not going far enough.
David Cameron will say that in Rotherham and elsewhere, children had been “ignored, sometimes blamed” with the issue of exploitation “swept under the carpet”.
He will also say: “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.
“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 officers 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.”
The plans involve making it a criminal offence to wilfully neglect those at risk of, and victims of, child sexual abuse.
Social workers, education practitioners and local councillors would be covered by the sanction, which would be introduced as an extension of the crime of wilful neglect of patients by care workers in this year’s Criminal Justice and Courts Act. The plans are going out to consultation.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has called on the government to create a new offence of child exploitation.
She said: “We need a radical overhaul of our child protection system, but I fear this is a missed opportunity to get all the reforms we need.”
Anne Longfield, the new Children’s Commissioner for England, said there were “worrying levels” of abuse taking place across the country.
She told BBC Breakfast: “I think this is a very clear and symbolic signal that things need to change.
“We can’t have this situation where children suffering one of the most horrendous crimes you can think of, as young as 11 or 12, are being systematically ignored if they present to you.
“The firm message here is that professionals must respond.”
Britain has been rocked by a series of child sex abuse cases including those in Rotherham, Rochdale and Oxford.
An independent report found that at least 1,400 children were sexually exploited in Rotherham by gangs of men who were predominantly of Pakistani origin between 1997 and 2013. ”
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