Home Office announces £40m for projects to tackle child abuse

By Joe Lepper

| 16 February 2017

A £40m package of measures to help tackle sexual abuse and child trafficking has been announced by the Home Office.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd says she is determined to bring child abusers to justice. Picture: Home Office

The package includes an additional £20m for the National Crime Agency to target online child sexual exploitation (CSE), while a further £2.2m is being handed to organisations working to protect children at risk of trafficking through the government's Child Trafficking Protection Fund.

The government said the £20m committed to the NCA until 2020 will allow it to "maintain its enhanced investigative capabilities". The Child Trafficking Protection Fund money will go to seven charities for projects protecting vulnerable children in the UK and overseas who are at risk of trafficking.

The Home Office has also officially announced the launch of the National Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse, which will be backed with £7.5m of funding up to 2020. As revealed by CYP Now last month, children's charity Barnardo's has been appointed as the lead organisation running the centre.

It will be working with a number of partner organisations including the Local Government Association, the Association of Directors of Children's Services, Action for Children, the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, NHS England and Wales, the College of Policing, and seven universities.

The centre will aim to bring together social care, health and justice professionals and academics to gather and share evidence of successful schemes in preventing abuse and CSE. Its launch comes more than 18 months after it was first proposed in March 2015 as part of the government's child sexual exploitation plan.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: "Children should be able to grow up free from the horrors of sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking. Something that should go without saying, but sadly that's not the case.

"Since 2010, the government has done more than any other to tackle these horrific offences.

"We have increased support for victims of sexual abuse, invested in training and technology to improve law enforcement's response to abuse both on and offline, and brought in a tougher inspection regime to ensure all frontline professions are meeting their child protection duties.

"But there is more to do, the measures I am announcing today will further improve our ability to protect children, and under my watch I am determined to bring those that would try to steal their childhood to justice."

Barnardo's chief executive Javed Khan said the centre of expertise will allow a deeper understanding of sexual abuse so that more children can be protected and helped to recover.

"We will use our collective experience and expertise to develop a greater understanding of what works in the fight against child sexual abuse and to improve responses," he said.

Barnardo's has also been named as the provider of an independent child trafficking advocate programme in three early adopter sites in Wales, Hampshire and Greater Manchester, ahead of a national rollout, which is not expected to take place until 2019 at the earliest.

Will Kerr, director of the National Crime Agency's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre command said its extra funding would enable it to strengthen and enhance its victim identification and child protection adviser capabilities, to target the most serious child sexual exploitation offenders.

"Using the previous government funding we have been able to nearly double the number of dedicated officers working to tackle CSE to more than 300, opened a new hub in the north west to specifically undertake CSE operations and more than tripled the overall organisational effort against CSE," he said.

The Local Government Association's children and young people board chair Richard Watts welcomed the funding package.

But he added: "It is important the government recognises the wider funding pressures facing social workers and others trying to deliver services for vulnerable children, with councils facing a £1.9bn funding gap in children's services by 2020.

"While funding individual programmes of work is positive, a co-ordinated long-term strategy and funding to protect all children is vital."

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