Home Secretary Amber Rudd has today announced the delivery of a £40m package of Government measures to protect children and young people from sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking, and to crack down on offenders.
It includes the launch of a new Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse, an extra £20m for the National Crime Agency (NCA) to tackle online child sexual exploitation, £2.2m for organisations working to protect children at risk of trafficking and the launch of Independent Child Trafficking Advocates in Wales, Hampshire and Greater Manchester ahead of full national rollout.
The investment was welcomed by South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings, but he urged Ms Rudd to consider additional funds to help cover the likely “substantial” costs that will arise as the NCA works with South Yorkshire Police to investigate and bring to justice perpetrators of historic child sex exploitation in Rotherham.
The NCA has taken over the investigations which have followed the ‘Jay Report’, a dossier prepared by Professor Alexis Jay in 2014 that provoked a wave of shock when she described how more than 1,400 children had been groomed, trafficked and raped in the town over a 16-year period.
To date, three trials, based around two families and their associates, have seen 18 people jailed for a total of more than 280 years.
Dr Billings said: “I welcome any initiative that will help tackle the evils of child sexual abuse and exploitation. However, in South Yorkshire we are having to deal with the aftermath of the Jay Report and its revelations of non-recent child sexual exploitation.
Since 2010, the Government has done more than any other to tackle these horrific offences.Home Secretary Amber Rudd
“The NCA has one of the biggest operations in the country located here and is planning to have more than 100 detectives working here alone. The cost of both the investigations and the potential legal actions that may follow are substantial. I hope the Home Secretary will be willing to consider offering financial support for this as well.”
He also said the Home Secretary should also recognise the cuts to police funding which means forces struggle to keep numbers of officers and staff at the levels they would like for protecting vulnerable children.
“Every year more is demanded with less capacity,” he said.
Ms Rudd said: “Since 2010, the Government has done more than any other to tackle these horrific offences. We have increased support for victims of sexual abuse, invested in training and technology to improve law enforcement’s response to abuse both on and offline, and brought in a tougher inspection regime to ensure all front-line professions are meeting their child protection duties.
“But there is more to do, the measures I am announcing today will further improve our ability to protect children.”
Sarah Champion, the Shadow Secretary for Women and Equalities, said the announcement was “a huge relief” for those who had been calling on the Government for years to commit more funding to tackling child sexual exploitation and supporting victims.
The Rotherham MP added: “Whilst the police, social services and CPS have come a long way, and we are seeing more prosecutions as a result, we have still been falling short on providing appropriate care to the victims and survivors.”
She added: “It concerns me that as a country we are still not recognising the scale of child abuse in the UK, so this funding commitment demonstrates real progress, but should only be seen as a first step.”