August 3: Tackling child exploitation

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NADIMA’S story is a harrowing one. Raped by an older man when she was 14, her life began a downward spiral into a world of suffering and abuse.

But she is not alone. Nadima is one of at least 1,400 children who were sexually exploited by gangs of men in Rotherham over a 16-year period up until 2013.

When the scale of the abuse emerged it shocked the whole country, so the news that Barnardo’s is investing £3.1m in Rotherham to support the victims of child sexual exploitation is to be welcomed.

The children’s charity will use the money to raise awareness about the tell-tale signs of sexual exploitation and help identify those in the town at risk of being exploited.

It will also be used to support those who were preyed upon by these gangs. It cannot undo the distress they suffered, but it can help them rebuild their shattered lives.

Barnardo’s deserves great credit for taking the initiative, as does Sarah Champion, Labour’s Rotherham MP, who has spoken about the importance of tackling this issue nationally.

For let us not think for a minute that this is confined to Rotherham. The tentacles of these wicked crimes stretch far beyond South Yorkshire.

Revelations of gang rapes, grooming and trafficking of young girls in places like Rochdale and Oxford have been no less shocking.

The sexual exploitation of children is still happening across the country and the Government, local authorities and other relevant bodies need to work more closely if it is to be eradicated.

There can be no half measures if we are to prevent this kind of dreadful abuse from happening again. And prevent it we must.

If people like Nadima have the courage to speak out then we, as a society, have a responsibility to try our utmost to put an end to such vile behaviour.

Green belt: Protecting our countryside

THE fact that almost two-thirds of people believe the green belt should not be built on is to be welcomed.

Perhaps the only surprise is that this figure is not higher.

These findings, for a poll carried out on behalf of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), are a reminder of just how important our precious countryside is to many people.

When the green belt was first introduced 60 years ago it was to curb urban sprawl and give people from our towns and cities better access to what William Blake famously called our “green and pleasant land”.

However, there are now growing fears about its future. Building on the green belt has soared in the last five years and according to the CPRE it is under greater threat than at any time in its history.

The campaign group warns that the number of houses being granted planning permission has jumped over the past 12 months.

This comes despite the Government repeatedly stating its support for maintaining green belt protections.

The CPRE is quite right to be concerned, because once we lose this land we will not get it back.

It is also correct in its assertion that the focus should be on suitable brownfield sites, with estimates that at least a million homes could be built on such land.

Cities like Bradford and Sheffield are ringed by some of our most breathtaking countryside and this must not be threatened, despite the need for more homes.

It is essential that our countryside remains both “green” and “pleasant”. Not only for our enjoyment but for all future generations.

Morrisons: falling profits

WHEN David Potts took over as chief executive of Morrisons in March, it was widely accepted that changes were needed in order to revive the struggling supermarket giant.

He quickly brought in a raft of new measures –including recruiting 5,000 shop floor workers in a bid to improve customer service and bringing back staff to man the express checkouts.

This back-to-basics approach was broadly welcomed and, crucially, got the approval of Sir Ken Morrison.

The feeling among business experts is that Morrisons is heading in the right direction, despite an expected fall in profits for the first half of the financial year from £181m to £135m.

Perhaps more of a concern for Morrisons, and indeed some of their traditional rivals, is it is being squeezed by discount retailers like Aldi and Lidl, who have gatecrashed the party and helped create a supermarket revolution in Britain.