Four members of the Stop it Now! UK Advisory Council made the call in a letter to the Prime Minister.
Signed by the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, Children England, the National Association for People Abused as Children (NAPAC) and Action for Children, the letter says the Jimmy Savile scandal has demonstrated that local strategies to prevent abuse are not working, and that the government needs to adopt a co-ordinated approach to the issue.
“We need a comprehensive strategy and action plan which can identify and address the gaps in prevention to stop children being abused and support children and young people after abuse has happened,” the letter said.
The signatories criticised the government’s record on preventing all forms of child abuse, and called for a cross-departmental approach to dealing with the problem.
“Successive government departments have developed strategies to tackle sexual abuse, but these have consistently failed to impact effectively on the magnitude of this problem,” the letter said. “There needs to be co-ordinated action across a range of departments.”
Kathy Evans, deputy chief executive of Children England, said the government must do more to prevent child abuse, as opposed to the current system that focuses on investigating and responding to the issue.
“That means actively equipping and supporting the vital roles of neighbours, friends and communities in keeping children safe, as well as taking seriously the effective identification, prevention and treatment of perpetrators,” said Evans.
A Downing Street spokesman said the Prime Minister had received the letter and would respond in due course.
“The government is currently implementing a major programme of reform of the child protection system in England to ensure that effective action is taken to address all forms of child abuse, including sexual abuse,” he said.
“This includes action to improve frontline practice including assessment and early help, a strong approach to learning lessons where things go wrong and new rigorous inspection arrangements.
“There is more work that we need to do, but the fact that more and more abusers are now going to court, being found guilty and locked away for years sends out a strong message that abusers will be punished harshly.”
The signatories are all members of the Stop it Now! UK Advisory Council, which campaigns to prevent sexual abuse and was founded by the Lucy Faithfull Foundation.
The council’s helpline reported a record number of calls yesterday, which comes amid a 43 per cent increase in the number of calls over the past two years, from 3,513 in 2009/10 to 5,034 in 2011/12.
“This helpline data, coupled with the current unprecedented public debate about child sexual abuse, reminds us all that abused children do not typically report abuse,” said Donald Findlater, director of Stop it Now! UK and Ireland.
“It is surely for all adults to play their part in keeping children safe – knowing the signs to look out for, talking through any concerns they have and, crucially, taking action to help protect a child.”