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Sexual exploitation and child trafficking

Whose Child Now?  

Barnardo’s report "Whose Child Now?" revisits the issue of child sexual exploitation 11 years on from our first report in 1998, ‘Whose Daughter Next?’ It describes some of the key issues for children affected by sexual exploitation and looks at some of the links between this form of abuse, children who go missing and child trafficking within the UK.

Download Whose Child Now (PDF)

Child trafficking within the UK for sexual exploitation

Through our work to support children and young people who are sexually exploited Barnardo’s has become aware of some forms of exploitation that appear more organised and planned than others, often involving more that one abuser.

We know that some young people are moved away from their home town to other locations, for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Although the nature of the information is often anecdotal, more cases continue to come to light amongst the young people we support, throughout the UK.

The UK Action Plan on Tackling Human Trafficking recognises this as a form of child trafficking and Barnardo’s believes that there is a need to develop better strategic responses to this issue which is identified in some cases as serious organised crime.

The ‘costs’ of sexual exploitation

With the assistance of Pro Bono Economics Barnardo’s is working on a report exposing the high costs of sexual exploitation to society and the serious consequences for the children and young people who are victims of it. The financial costs include:

  • policing
  • secure accommodation
  • high level support services - including health and children’s services and youth offending services

There are also hidden costs to young people and society in general, especially:

  • increased risks to physical and emotional wellbeing
  • poor long term outcomes
  • lost opportunities for education and employment and the chance to make full contribution to society
  • increased risk of violent crime

These high costs are in part due to the failure to identify young people at risk of sexual exploitation and intervene at an early stage. It is still too often the case that intervention takes the form of a crisis response.

Intervention coming too late is coupled with low rates of prosecution and conviction of offenders and while this failure to bring the perpetrators of sexual exploitation to account persists, the perception that young people are the key protagonists rather than the victims of this activity will continue.

Barnardo’s report will focus on a ‘change the blame’ theme. It will aim to influence and change practice amongst Local Safeguarding Children Boards, local service planners and providers, the police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) as well as raise public awareness.

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