CHILDREN AND young people in South Yorkshire who have been or who are at risk of being sexually exploited will be getting more support from Barnardo’s specialist workers, thanks to a £3.1m injection of partnership funding.
The package was pulled together by Rotherham Council, working with the KPMG Foundation, Department for Education, Communities and Local Government Department and children’s charity Barnardo’s.
Barnardo’s will be delivering the service for the next three years, employing a team of 15 specialist workers.
The service will help children who have been sexually exploited to rebuild their lives and support them through the criminal justice system. New staff are expected to be in post from autumn 2015.
The specialist team will also proactively look out for young people who are victims or at risk of being exploited, and its community expertise will help the council and police prevent future crimes.
Raising awareness in the town of how to spot the signs of sexual exploitation is a major priority. Preventative education programmes will be delivered working closely with schools, families and local communities.
An independent report by Professor Alexis Jay, published a year ago, estimated that 1,400 children were sexually exploited in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013.
A shortage of effective support for victims in the town was highlighted in an independent inspection of Rotherham Council by Louise Casey, published in February this year.
Following those reports, the Government put in place a team of five external commissioners. Their task is to help rapidly to improve the council’s services and to provide extra support for victims.
Sarah Champion, MP for Rotherham, said: “I am delighted to hear that Barnardo’s will be investing over £3 million in Rotherham to directly support victims and survivors of child sexual exploitation. I have argued for this type of investment since the Jay a year ago. I am pleased to hear that finally progress is being made. I have been working closely with the Barnardo’s team since 2013 and I am optimistic that they will be able to deliver the much needed support this town requires.
“In particular, I welcome the news that part of the investment will be dedicated to running a campaign in schools to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation.
“One of the items of my five point plan for tackling abuse nationally was about teaching children and young people about healthy relationships; when to say no; and what to do if they have concerns that they are being exploited. This type of work in schools will act as a preventative measure against child abuse, because children that learn to respect boundaries will grow up to be adults that do the same.”
Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan, said: “Barnardo’s has supported sexually exploited children across the UK to rebuild their shattered lives for more than 20 years. We bring all of our combined expertise and experience to deliver this specialist service in Rotherham, to help prevent this abuse from inflicting devastating damage on more young lives.
“We must all become alert to spotting the signs that sexual exploitation may be taking place as a matter of urgency. It is everyone’s responsibility to protect those girls and boys who are most vulnerable from ruthless predators.”
Coun Chris Read, Leader of Rotherham Borough Council, said: “We know from Professor Jay’s findings and from what victims and survivors have told us that projects like this can make a real difference, reaching out to young people who might be at risk, building trust and supporting those who ma become victims.
“It is a real credit to our Director of Children’s Services, Ian Thomas, and his team that we have this package of funding in place – building on the resources that the council is making available – to secure this innovative project for Rotherham.”
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Greg Clark said: “Victims of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham have been appallingly let down in the past. These new services, run by Barnardo’s, will help victims rebuild their lives and ensure they are supported as they seek justice through the courts against the perpetrators. It will also work to ensure schools, families and the community are aware and vigilant to possible signs of sexual exploitation, so vulnerable people get the protection they deserve and have a right to expect.”
Minister for Children and Families, Edward Timpson, said: “Child sexual abuse is a truly abhorrent crime. Tackling all forms of abuse and exploitation is one of the most profound responsibilities we have as a government – and our work doesn’t just stop once the perpetrators have been jailed. It is our moral duty to continue to support children and young people who have suffered from such pernicious abuse, so they can go on to live a fulfilling and healthy adult life. The new money announced today will play a vital part in this, making sure the right support is available for victims as they start on the road to recovery.”
Jo Clunie, Director at the KPMG Foundation, said: “The KPMG Foundation is pleased to be able to contribute to such an important programme. The crimes committed in Rotherham show there is an urgent need for effective and intensive preventative work to ensure that we can keep Rotherham children safe in the future.”
Meanwhile, a young woman who was raped says she welcomes the £3m investment. Nadima, not her real name, was raped when she was 14 by a 34-year-old man. She was reluctant to report the crime, because of honour and shame issues in her community.
Nadima’s perpetrator recognised she was seeking escape from her sometimes chaotic household. He offered her free alcohol and drugs and encouraged to spend time away from her household in other cities.
She added: “If Barnardo’s can help me pick up my pieces, it can help other girls too. I’d say to other girls in similar situations, don’t doubt yourself. Know that it’s the men that did wrong, not you. And don’t think you can’t move on, because you can.”