Daljeet Dagon, a CSE Programme Manager for Barnardo’s Scotland, gives an update on the fight against Child Sexual Exploitation in Scotland.
This week (26 October) Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA) and Barnardo’s Scotland launched the findings of the first ever nation-wide study on Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) carried out over the last two years. The findings tell us much about the experiences of children at risk of or experiencing sexual exploitation, and offers a better understanding of CSE; the way in which we should respond and support victims or those at risk of becoming victims.
Barnardo’s Scotland also launched a Policy paper, Policy Report: Sexual exploitation of children involved in the Children’s Hearings System, in which we offer 15 recommendations, based on the key findings from the joint research, for action by a variety of organisations across Scotland. The recommendations cover important subjects such as use of language, the gendered nature of CSE, the use of assessment tools and frameworks, the effectiveness of information-sharing, and our response to victims.
But what is very significant is that our recommendations are the same that we, and other organisations, have been making for decades now. They have featured in similar reports and strategies from several stakeholders over recent years.
Looking back over the last 30 years of Barnardo’s Scotland’s work in this area – a period in which we published our ground-breaking Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) report No Son of Mine which looked at the experiences of boys and young men, and our more recent Public Understandings of Child Sexual Exploitation in Scotland, research which highlighted important messages about CSE that the public don’t understand or recognise - it is important to reflect on the pace of change.
Much has improved in the way we understand and respond to CSE, but much still remains to be done. It is therefore disappointing and saddening to repeat that Child Sexual Exploitation remains a widespread form of abuse in Scotland, affecting children from all backgrounds in all parts of the country. The research partnership with the SCRA is further evidence of this and once again confirms that boys continue to not be seen as victims and their abuse is too often invisible to child protection services.
Participation work with children and young people who access Barnardo’s Scotland sexual exploitation services tell us that their experience of decision-making about them is often negative. They have expressed their frustration at having to repeat their story multiple times and explained how disempowering it is to learn of meetings and investigations that have taken place “behind your back”. They have reported that they are aware of victim-blaming attitudes within these systems and how the experience can cause deterioration in their wellbeing, which impacts on their relationships with trusted adults. In fact, some young people have explained how these processes have felt as coercive, traumatising and isolating as the exploitative situation they should be being protected from.
We do acknowledge that progress has been made on many fronts, largely through sector-wide collaboration and implementation of a national strategy, but we must maintain a focus on Child Sexual Exploitation and sustain our efforts in tackling this deeply harmful form of abuse and on ensuring better outcomes for all children and young people. The charity is calling for a commitment to further action, but to achieve this requires collective responsibility from the sector and leadership from Scottish Government.
As such, we ask that the recommendations outlined in our Policy paper are assigned to an appropriate national working group, with a multi-agency membership, which is empowered to deliver the work needed.
It is our hope that this project’s research findings and policy recommendations inject a renewed sense of urgency and focus on child sexual exploitation. We and SCRA look forward to further working with Government and other stakeholders to see our vision of a Scotland with stronger families; safer childhoods and brighter futures come to life.
Daljeet Dagon is CSE Programme Manager for Barnardo’s Scotland
Sexual exploitation of children involved in the Children’s Hearings System (Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration and Barnardo’s Scotland) was launched on Monday 26 October 2020.
Notes to Editors
Mon – Friday Katrina Slater – Barnardo’s Scotland; telephone: 0131 446 7022 or 0208 498 7555 (24 hr) email: [email protected]