The Government have today released a strategy setting out their vision for preventing, tackling and responding to child sexual abuse. The strategy covers sexual abuse in all its forms, no matter whether it is committed in person or online, in families or communities, or in the UK or overseas.
Catch22’s Director of Young People and Family Services, Kate Wareham, responds:
“For too long, efforts to prevent and address children’s experiences of some of the most horrific crimes have been done in isolation, without a joined up approach. Catch22 welcomes today’s strategy aimed at Tackling Child Sexual Abuse.
“Acknowledged in the report is that children, such as those Catch22 works with, in hard-to-reach communities and in alternative provision schools, are particularly vulnerable to exploitation. We hope today’s strategy is a commitment to preventative, long-term, and relationship-focussed support so badly needed by those who have been harmed. Without effective victim and peer support, we risk the cycle of abuse continuing.
“Key to this strategy is prioritising investment in the technology. Government and big tech have a responsibility to target funds towards safe platforms for young people, towards technology which prevents the sharing of the most harmful content, and to that which deters potential offenders towards seeking help. Any developments in this space should use the existing expertise of frontline delivery organisations to ensure the technology meets the reality of young people’s experiences, online and offline.
“With that, while the strategy puts a focus on raising awareness amongst parents, carers and families, we need to see more in terms of education. All professionals engaging with children, be it social workers, teachers, police and mentors, must be given regular, up-to-date training on the risks of child sexual exploitation; training needs to cover the risks of online harms, the increased susceptibility of some to exploitation, such as those who go missing, and how to have constructive conversations about online activity. These conversations must go beyond basic privacy principles and instead focus on what a young person can achieve with the tools available to them.
“It is not children’s responsibility to protect themselves. Right now, they are utterly reliant on technology to access education and to communicate with their peers and it is the state, and society’s, responsibility to make sure they can do that in a safe way, online and offline.”
Catch22 will soon be releasing its latest research into online harms experienced by children and young people, and the gaps in education and regulation witnessed by them, as well as police and front safeguarding professionals.