The number of young people identified as being at risk of sexual exploitation in Solihull has more than doubled in just over a year, according to latest figures.
Sixty 11 to 18-year-olds were identified as at risk of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) as of November 1 last year – an increase from 26 in May 2013, according to a council report.
The Solihull Council report into tackling CSE in Solihull has warned the figure could be even higher, however, as the figures only reflect ‘known cases.’
Statutory guidance describes the sexual exploitation of children and young people under 18 as: “Exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where young people (or a third person or persons) receive ‘something’ (e.g. food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts, money) as a result of them performing, and/or another or others performing on them, sexual activities.
“Child sexual exploitation can occur through the use of technology without the child’s immediate recognition; for example being persuaded to post sexual images on the Internet/mobile phones without immediate payment or gain.”
The Children’s Society has identified 167 young people (16 and 17 year-olds) who are considered ‘at risk’ from cruelty, including sexual exploitation.
The charity is calling for a change in law to protect vulnerable young people.
The Children’s Society is campaigning for the updating of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 to increase the age at which a child can be a victim of cruelty from 15 to 17 when the Serious Crime Bill is debated this year.
Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society, said: “It is nonsensical and unacceptable that adults cannot be prosecuted for behaviour against children aged 16 or 17 that would be considered cruelty if the victim was 15. If MPs are serious about stopping child cruelty – including child sexual exploitation – they must act to close this legal loophole when it is debated in Parliament in the New Year.”
The Barnardos charity started working with Solihull Council in June last year to work on tackling CSE in the borough. The project has seen ‘a significant step in improving the local response, and in particular information sharing.’
Plans are also in place to include a parent support worker and community engagement officer.