MP launches anti-abuse strategy

MP Sarah Champion
MP Sarah Champion
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The shadow women’s minister and Rotherham MP Sarah Champion will call on the Government to step up and “save lives” today, as she unveils her new national strategy to tackle child sexual abuse.

The Labour MP has been a fierce campaigner for improved protections and education among young people in recent years, following damning revelations about child exploitation in her own constituency.

And following on from the launch of her Dare2Care campaign in January, she has put together a list of “simple” recommendations she believes could tackle abuse at the source.

Speaking to the Yorkshire Post ahead of the report’s publication, Ms Champion explained that one of the biggest issues that stood out during her research was a lack of awareness.

She said that whether she was speaking to children or the adults looking after them, there was a sense of the need for better education.

“Going round schools, all the children were telling me the same sorts of things: they wanted information, they wanted to know if something was right or wrong,” she said.

“[And] looking at this online stuff... parents are very naïve about this, they’re not using the same parenting skills they would use off-line.

“They don’t grasp, because to be quite honest we were too old to have this complete immersion that you now get because of smart phones.

“This is very much a whole new world that we don’t have enough protections for.”

The new Dare2Care strategy is therefore heavily focussed on the need to improve sex and relationship education in schools, including in appropriate forms at primary level.

It also recommends a “far-reaching” public health campaign on spotting the signs of abuse and exploitation and reporting it.

This is in addition to ensuring that teachers and other front line professionals are trained to understand the dangers posed to children online. It also recommends providing up-to-date support for parents around issues like cyber bullying and sexting.

According to the latest figures, the number of reported incidents of sexual offences against children increased by almost a quarter over the last year.

More than 38,000 reports were made to police in England and Wales between April 2015 and May 2016, including allegations of rape, sexual assault, sexual activity with a minor, and sexual exploitation.

Ms Champion believes that for too long experts have been preoccupied with how to respond to these crimes, rather than how to prevent them.

But she claims that the solutions identified in her report are not only relatively straightforward but also inexpensive.

“I’ve worked with about 40 charities, academics, and a lot of survivors and parents whose children have been through this horror, and it’s quite simple to prevent child abuse,” she told the paper.

“We’re looking at £1bn a year that the police have to spend investigating child abuse crimes... going up to £3bn by 2020.

“Why don’t we focus just a tiny amount of our resources on preventing this crime? It makes economic sense as well as saving lives.”

The strategy will be launched in Parliament this afternoon, at an event attended by women whose lives have been directly affected by abuse, as well as academics and charity representatives.