A wide-ranging public information campaign to tackle child sexual exploitation is being launched by the Scottish Government later this year.
Children’s charities, police and young people are being consulted on the shape of the campaign to ensure it reaches those who are at risk of exploitation and makes a real measurable difference to tackling the issue.
On Wednesday, 25 February 2015, the Scottish Government will host a summit on protecting our children and young people. Ministers, local authorities and children’s charities will meet in Edinburgh to discuss how they can work together to ensure child protection policies are as robust as possible to keep our young people safe.
Local authorities across Scotland are attending the summit alongside police, health boards, Children in Scotland, Barnardo’s Scotland, WithScotland, the Care Inspectorate and the Scottish Ambulance Service.
The Scottish Government unveiled a national action plan on child sexual exploitation to the Scottish Parliament in November which was published alongside a report from Children in Scotland Chief Executive Jackie Brock into the working of the Scottish Child Protection System.
The summit was one of the key recommendations of the report to address the findings of recent Care Inspectorate reports and ensure roles and responsibilities are clear.
Education Secretary Angela Constance said:
The safety and wellbeing of children and young people is a priority for this Government and an issue we take extremely seriously. That’s why we work continuously with law enforcement, children’s charities, Parliament and others to protect children from abuse and target those who attempt to prey on them.
This week’s summit, our wide ranging national action plan and the commissioning of the Jackie Brock report are a few of a number of steps we are taking to protect our children. Our public information campaign to be launched this year will build on this activity to safeguard young people at risk before they become targets of this terrible crime.
Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham, Police Scotland lead for Public Protection said:
Protecting children and tackling all forms of child abuse is a priority for Police Scotland. It is a complex and challenging area of policing, often with different challenges in different areas. As Police Scotland, we bring a consistent approach to tackling offending against children in all its forms: child abuse or child sexual exploitation, and increasingly, online offending which can add an international dimension to our investigations.
Prevention has to be our focus going forward and we are committed to working collaboratively with our local partners, both statutory and non-statutory and within local communities, to identify where there is risk and to take a proactive, multi agency approach to protecting children and young people. More than anything we must listen to young people and build their confidence that they will be heard and that we will act.
Our new National Child Abuse Investigation Unit, which will be deployed into each of our 14 divisions when there are complex enquiries and as part of the local multi agency response to child protection, will enhance further our approach to supporting victims and bringing offenders to justice.
We must act now to ensure we offer the best protection to all of our children and young people. This summit is a welcome step in that direction.
Martin Crewe, Director of Barnardo’s Scotland, said:
We are pleased to be contributing to this important event which demonstrates a serious commitment to tackling the horrendous crime of child sexual exploitation. ”Barnardo’s Scotland has over 20 years experience of supporting exploited children and we know it is vital that all agencies work together to both support children and tackle the perpetrators of these vile crimes.