All children deserve to be safe this summer
In July 2023, Barnardo's held its annual summer reception in Parliament to raise our concern that the cost-of-living crisis is causing more children to be at risk of exploitation with the launch of our latest report, Invisible Children.
During the school holidays, some children spend more time without adult supervision and can become "invisible" to professionals and services. Following new research, Barnardo's are concerned this could increase the risk of child sexual exploitation (CSE) and child criminal exploitation (CCE).
On top of this, already-limited services to protect and safeguard child victims of exploitation are being stretched, meaning that many child victims are going without critically needed support.
Barnardo’s practitioner, via our Invisible Children report
During the reception, attendees including Parliamentarians, Barnardo's celebrity supporters, and young people talked through the key findings of our recent report, Invisible Children, which highlights the risk of the cost-of-living crisis and school holidays on child sexual and criminal exploitation.
Speakers also raised their concerns about on- and offline harms and emphasised the need to strengthen legislation like the Online Safety Bill through cross party and cross sector collaboration.
Throughout the evening, attendees agreed on the importance of working together to provide safe places and spaces for children and young people during the school holidays through more investment in youth services across the country.
A Barnardo’s practitioner, via our Invisible Children report
What needs to happen next?
In our report, Invisible Children, we outline our recommendations to reduce and respond to child sexual exploitation and child criminal exploitation, including:
- Urging all governments across the UK to invest in and expand the provision of specific support services for victims of child sexual exploitation and child criminal exploitation. The UK Government should use the Victims and Prisoners Bill to place a duty on the relevant authorities to commission sufficient and specific support for children who are victims of crime, including abuse and exploitation.
- Calling on the UK Government to strengthen protections from online child criminal exploitation within the Online Safety Bill.
- Calling for all governments to invest in and expand the provision of support for children and young people to help protect them and prevent exploitation. This should include increased investment in youth services; expanding access to the Holiday Food and Activities Programme to all families in receipt of Universal Credit; and ensuring that Mental Health Support Teams in schools have funding to continue supporting children across holiday periods.