Posted: Friday 5th September 2014
In light of the recent tragic reports on Rotherham the issue of child sexual exploitation is firmly back in the spotlight. Once again the report’s findings were depressingly familiar with systematic failure to protect vulnerable children, perpetrators too powerful to touch and the disbelief of public bodies to act.
Although there seems to be inquiry after inquiry into historic child sex abuse the failings seem to come down to the same points. Victims are often not believed or taken seriously and numerous public sector organisations fail to joint up the dots. With them all holding a key piece of information which is often not shared or escalated leading to vulnerable children not being protected from the very harm these institutions should be keeping them safe from. While we can never truly eliminate this type of evil, we can ensure the failure to prevent it from happening does not continue. We owe it to those children who suffered to learn the right lessons.
I have asked the police to review what is happening in Avon and Somerset in light of the Rotherham report. I have asked them to involve all partners, including the Children Safeguarding Boards and Barnardos. It is essential that we take a holistic view from all the agencies rather than just thinking from one particular viewpoint. I want the police to look at the Rotherham report in detail so that they can consider any lessons that they need to learn. We cannot be complacent. It is critical that we protect our children and young people.
In Rotherham the only real support for victims came from a voluntary project who were working with some of the abused children. While the focus must be preventing our children and teenagers from grooming and abuse in the first place, making sure they have access to the right support services is also vital. Providing support to help them cope and recover from the trauma of abuse is essential if they are to re-build their lives. This week I announced my intentions to offer a range of support services for victims, particularly young people and those who are most vulnerable. For the first time I am looking at introducing new emotional support services and a more enhanced advocacy services for victims. It is part of a range of measures I will be introducing over the coming months to give victims a greater voice and better support to recover from the effects of crime.
Hearing from residents is really important to me and next week I will be hosting a public forum in Bristol at the Trinity Arts Centre. The last time I was in the area I was out with Bristol’s Commander Chief Superintendent Jon Reilly looking for an alternative police station for when Trinity Road police station closes. I am sure residents will have some more suggestions at next Wednesday’s meeting at 7pm. If you would like to attend please call 01275 816377.