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Child sexual exploitation

Published: 24 Jan 2016 09:34

New campaign to tackle the problem.

A new multi media campaign to raise awareness of and prevent child sexual exploitation will be launched this week (Thursday).

The first of its kind in the UK, it will provide information for parents and young people about the risks of child sexual exploitation and action they can take to reduce the chances of it happening.

Ahead of the launch, Education Secretary Angela Constance will tomorrow (Monday) visit Police Scotland's Public Protection Unit at the Scottish Crime Campus to see how they tackle the problem.

The unit leads the force's approach in tackling and preventing all aspects of child abuse including child sexual exploitation. It is responsible for developing policy and investigations into sensitive and complex areas, including rape and human trafficking.

The Scottish Government pledged to develop an awareness raising campaign in the National Action Plan to Tackle Child Sexual Exploitation, published in November 2014.

Ms Constance said:

"Child sexual exploitation is a form of child abuse and some young people may not be aware that they are at risk of harm. It is happening to girls and boys in Scotland and can take many forms online and offline - through social media, chat rooms or mobile phones and in everyday life through inappropriate relationships or friendships.

"We want parents and young people to be aware of the risks and how they can get help or advice if they have concerns. It can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity and sexuality and those from secure loving homes as well as those more vulnerable.

"All children and young people have the right to be cared for and protected from harm and we all have a role in keeping young people safe. This campaign aims to make sure parents and young people are aware of the signs so they can help stop abuse before it happens.

"This Government takes child protection seriously. That's why I have committed to a programme of work to strengthen current practices. This will be brought to Parliament next month."

A ParentLine survey of parents in 2013 found that 50 per cent didn't set controls for internet connected devices used by their children. The most common reason given being that 'they didn't think they needed to'.

In 2014/15 ChildLine in Scotland provided 635 counselling sessions to children and young people worried about child sexual exploitation.

The initiative is being supported by a range of agencies dedicated to the protection and safety of children in Scotland including Barnardo's Scotland, NSPCC Scotland, ChildLine, Police Scotland and Children 1St..

Malcolm Graham, Assistant Chief Constable, Major Crime and Public Protection, said:

"Tackling and preventing crimes such as human trafficking, rape and child abuse including Child Sexual Exploitation requires a multi-agency approach, working in partnership to identify people who may be vulnerable, gathering intelligence to support investigations and ensuring victims have access to appropriate support.

"The Scottish Crime Campus co-locates Police Scotland with key partners and supports this multi-agency approach.

"Young people increasingly live their lives using new technologies, and we are constantly improving our collective ability to keep young people safe whilst online, whilst targeting those who wish to abuse through the internet.

"This visit gives the Cabinet Secretary a timely opportunity to meet the officers responsible for investigating these difficult and complex crimes, in advance of the launch of the Government's CSE campaign which Police Scotland will be fully supporting."