A SURGE in the number of children as young as 10 seeking help for sex abuse has seen demand on services more than double in just five years amid warnings that charities are being inundated by victims desperate for help in the wake of cases such as the Rotherham scandal.
Senior officials at the Barnardo’s charity have revealed that they need £500,000 in funding to cope with a 169 per cent increase across the UK for expert advice and support, after providing help to 3,200 vulnerable children last year alone. The figure is more than twice the 1,190 children who were helped by Barnardo’s in 2010 and the charity warned it is finding victims “everywhere”.
Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan said widespread publicity of high-profile sex abuse cases in recent years had helped to raise awareness that in turn has helped the charity to identify sufferers and children at risk.
He said: “We urgently need more funds to give sexually exploited children the vital support they need. Every penny the public gives will help us make a difference to a young person’s life.
“High profile child sexual exploitation cases across the UK have raised people’s awareness about sexual exploitation and what it is. This has led to better identification of victims and those at risk but everywhere we go we find more young people needing our services.
“We all need to be aware any child can become a victim of this horrific form of abuse, regardless of where they live or their background. Barnardo’s will always strive to help protect these vulnerable children.”
As referrals have rocketed, the charity has increased its capacity, opening 11 new services in the last 12 months.
The charity now has 59 centres around the country where its experts support victims of child sexual exploitation, some who are just 10 years old. However, the charity’s officials say the current coverage “is not enough” as they appealed for extra funds to deal with the “horrific” abuse children are suffering.
The Shadow Minister for Preventing Abuse, Sarah Champion, warned last month that child sex abuse is a “national epidemic” and parents should be supported to recognise the warnings signs to keep youngsters safe.
The Labour MP for Rotherham cited the proliferation of pornography as a key reason for the increasing danger to youngsters, and digital technology which has increased image and video sharing online.
The South Yorkshire town has been at the centre of a national scandal after a report by Prof Alexis Jay, which was published in August 2014, revealed the shocking scale of child grooming in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013, with 1,400 children abused as local authorities failed to tackle the problem.
A separate scandal involving disgraced Leeds-born DJ and broadcaster Jimmy Savile, which has seen hundreds of victims come forward to say that he had abused them, also brought the issue of child sex exploitation under intense public scrutiny. Savile died in 2011, before the allegations against him emerged.