Barnardo's Parliamentary reception during a speaker presentation

Barnardo's in Parliament

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. 

Lynn Perry posing with Barnardo's project workers

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.​​​

The summer months are bad. There’s two sides to it – not having the money, and having more time on their hands.

Barnardo’s practitioner, via our Invisible Children report

Barnardo’s President Natasha Kaplinsky OBE, Barnardo's CEO Lynn Perry, and Tim Loughton MP

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.

Barnardo's project worker explaining her service's work

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. 

The children mainly tell us that they want somewhere safe, warm, and where they can play music and spend time.

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.

A boy with headphones around his neck

No child should be left to cope alone after being exploited

We’re concerned that children could be more at risk of exploitation than ever this summer. The holidays can trap some children in harmful situations with no-one to turn to. With the cost-of-living crisis pushing families into poverty, we fear that even more children will be vulnerable to this type of abuse. 

Invisible Children report covers

Invisible Children

Read our latest report, Invisible Children, to understand the risk of the cost-of-living crisis and school holidays on child sexual and criminal exploitation.

a Barnardo's project mentor

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