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Tackling child abuse

Russell announces public awareness campaign and service chief summit.

A major public awareness campaign to educate people on the warning signs of child sexual exploitation (CSE) forms part of a wide ranging action plan published yesterday aimed at safeguarding young people at risk.

The national action plan was unveiled as Education Secretary Michael Russell made a statement on child protection to the Scottish Parliament. It has been co-produced by the Scottish Government and a national Ministerial Working Group (MWG) on CSE made up of a range of experts, including Police Scotland, Children in Scotland, the Care Inspectorate, Aberlour, Barnardos and the Crown Office.

Its recommendations include:

  • Increase frontline practitioners’ understanding of CSE, including medical staff and teachers;
  • Develop guidance for taxi-drivers, hotel workers and others in the ‘night-time’ economy to help identity and report suspicions of CSE;
  • Develop protocols for local authorities to be used as best practice and establish consistency across the country in supporting CSE services;
  • Establish a children & young people steering group on CSE to advise on key issues such as areas for support; and
  • Review current civil preventative orders on sexual offences.

The action plan, which will be updated annually, was published alongside a report from Children in Scotland Chief Executive Jackie Brock, who also chairs the MWG on CSE, into the working of the Scottish Child Protection System. Commissioned by Scottish Ministers, her recommendations include bringing together Child Protection Committee chairs and chief officers of Scotland’s Community Planning Partnerships and health & social care partnerships to address the findings of recent Care Inspectorate reports and ensure roles and responsibilities are clear. The Scottish Government will convene that summit before the end of this year.

Mr Russell also updated MSPs on Ministers’ recent InterAction meeting with survivors of historic abuse in care, including the Government’s on-going consideration of whether a further inquiry is needed and what form that might take to create a better national understanding, place the facts on the record and provide people with the opportunity to move on.

The Cabinet Secretary said:

“This Government is working continuously with law enforcement, health and local authorities, children’s charities, the Parliament and others to ensure that we target those who would prey on Scotland’s children, that we protect those vulnerable to sexual exploitation or abuse, and that we also support those who have fallen victim to such despicable crimes.

“We have made protecting Scotland’s children a priority for the Government – while acknowledging that it is a priority and a responsibility for all in society as well. Alongside all of the others steps being taken, we will be working with others to raise public awareness of child sexual exploitation and ensure that people in communities across Scotland are aware of the signs of risk and how to act upon them.

“I’m grateful for the contribution of all those in the expert ministerial working group who developed the Plan with us, and also to Jackie Brock for her review of Scotland’s approach to safeguarding children and young people which can help us, collectively, to ensure that our system of child protection is as robust and responsive as possible.”

Updating MSPs on commitments made in the Government’s response to the Scottish Human Rights Commission InterAction process for survivors of historic cases of abuse in care, Mr Russell said that survivors would continue to be involved in the development of a support fund and also a commemoration for those who had been abused and that the National Confidential Forum, which will provide a national record of survivor accounts, will begin its hearings soon.

The Cabinet Secretary added: “We all share a moral imperative that demands we do everything we can to protect young people at risk of abuse and support survivors betrayed by those in a position of trust. Our response to InterAction signals our commitment to supporting survivors, as well as to ensuring lessons are learned and that others are shielded from repetition of such experiences.

“Today I also give my assurance that we will reach a decision on whether a further public inquiry will be convened by Christmas. I will listen closely to views on all sides of the debate, to ensure whatever we decide is well-informed and meaningful – rather than unduly raising expectations about what an inquiry may or may not deliver for survivors.”

Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham, Police Scotland lead for Public Protection, said:

“Police Scotland welcomes the publication of a Scotland’s National Action Plan to tackle child sexual exploitation. Police Scotland has worked closely with Scottish Government and other partners to develop this plan, in recognition of the devastating impact child sexual exploitation can have on children and their families. Tackling CSE requires a well co-ordinated and committed partnership approach where children and young people who may be a risk are proactively identified, protected and supported.

“While our understanding of child sexual exploitation is increasing so is our commitment to strong partnerships, to allow early identification of the signs of child sexual exploitation and sharing information to ensure that children at risk are protected and those responsible are identified.

“Police Scotland is committed not only to preventing child sexual exploitation but to actively targeting those individuals who exploit our children and young people to ensure those who commit these crimes are brought to justice.”

Notes To Editors

The Child Sexual Exploitation Action Plan can be found here.

The Minister for Children & Young People established an expert Working Group on CSE that reported with initial recommendations last year. The group’s life span was extended into this year to ensure the action plan was comprehensive and took account of the widespread work being carried out in this area, including the Public Petitions Committee report published in January.

Other work, commissioned by the Scottish Government, considered by the CSE expert Working Group included: the sub-group of Child Protection Committee chairs which gathered in August 2014; the National Child Protection Guidance published in May and the Care Inspectorate report on the effectiveness of child and adult protection arrangements, published last week.

The Education Secretary and the Cabinet Secretary for Justice recently met with Professor Alexis Jay, independent Chair of the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland (CELCIS) and author of the report into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, and key care agency representatives to ensure that all of us working to keep children safe in Scotland properly consider what lessons may be learnt to ensure we maintain a robust, responsive system of child protection across Scotland.

The Education Secretary, the Minister for Children, the Minister for Public Health and the Minister for Community Safety also met again with survivors a fortnight ago (at the InterAction event in Glasgow) and committed to working with them and other organisations to develop a Survivors Support Fund. More information is available here.

The Education Secretary asked Jackie Brock, Chief Executive of Children in Scotland, to review child protection services in Scotland and to specifically consider the safeguards put in place; the impact of the Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) approach; developments in preventing Child Sexual Exploitation and the implementation of the recommendations of the Shaw Review into systematic abuse in residential care published in 2007. That report can be found here.


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