Justice Minister Must Safeguard Vulnerable Children from Sexual Exploitation - McCann
Sinn Féin MLA Jennifer McCann has highlighted today the need for a comprehensive strategy to tackle the abuse of vulnerable young people missing from care. Speaking on a motion brought forward to the Assembly by Sinn Féin following the publishing of the Barnardos report ‘Not a World Away’, Ms McCann said:
“While any child can be a victim of sexual exploitation evidence based research acknowledges that children in care can be one of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged group in society
“There are various forms of sexual exploitation that have been identified which vulnerable children and young people face. Abuse through prostitution, the “party house” model, sexually exploitive relationships, internet exploitation and trafficking for the purpose of exploitation are all serious concerns.
“The circumstances which a child or young person finds themselves in can make them more vulnerable to predators, for instance family breakdown, being in care, running away from home or a care facility, drug or alcohol problems with either the young person or their parents, dropping out of school and social isolation.
“Children as young as 12 or 13 have been groomed and then sexually abused sometimes after been given drink or drugs. The long term effects that it has on those children and young people, can last well into adulthood.”
“53.3 per cent of young people in residential care were assessed to be at significant risk of sexual exploitation compared to 10.7 per cent of those living at home, 7.8 per cent of those in a kinship foster placement and 6.5 per cent of those in other forms of foster care.
“It is important that there is a targeted approach to identify those children that are at risk and vulnerable and support mechanisms put around them. There have been a number of good initatives both in legislative terms and in action plans that have been brought forward, but there are still gaps.
“I would ask that the Ministers in the Executive take on board the findings in the Barnardos report ‘Not a World Away’ and act to make any effort possible to protect our children and young people from this vile crime and ensure that those responsible are held to account through the courts.”