Government progress reports on how it is implementing the recommendations of the 2014 Marshall Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE), show little evidence that children in Northern Ireland are better protected from sexual exploitation.
Koulla Yiasouma, Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People said,
"I see little evidence from government reports that our children are more protected against sexual exploitation today, than they were two years ago when the Independent Inquiry into CSE produced its findings."
In November 2014, the Marshall Inquiry set out recommendations across the areas of health and social care, education, policing and justice, which if fully implemented, would make sure Northern Ireland responded more effectively to CSE.
"I recognise the tireless work of many professionals and families in protecting children and young people from CSE. Practitioners have told us that some improvements are being made, that there is an increased awareness of CSE, with professionals working better together to address this issue. However, I see no concrete evidence of this impact from official government reports.
"These reports are supposed to give us all confidence that CSE is being addressed effectively. We need to see clear evidence that government action is leading to real change in how well we are protecting young people, supporting those who work with them, and disrupting and pursuing those who seek to abuse and exploit them.”
Friday 18th November marks European Day on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation; it also marks exactly 2 years since Kathleen Marshall made recommendations to our Government to address CSE.
"There are too many examples of actions being marked as complete, and Government saying it has addressed CSE by writing guidance, agreeing principles, planning reviews and having meetings. There is not enough evidence to show if this is making a difference, with better trained and supported staff on the ground and young people who feel cared for and safe.
"Worryingly the Department of Health’s latest progress report has no detail about a CSE strategy which was due out for consultation in June 2016. We have no information on whether a strategy is even being developed according to this report.”
The Commissioner concluded, "The progress that has been reported for something that, two years ago, was described as 'a significant and growing threat to the welfare of children and young people', is far from good enough.
"There needs to be a proper assessment of how learning from the Inquiry is making a difference to those affected by, and at risk of, CSE. There needs to be more transparency, and I call on Government to publish clear evidence of the impact its actions are having on the lives of vulnerable children and young people. A form of independent oversight or review to monitor implementation should be put in place to provide this assurance.”
If you have been affected or are worried about someone who may be affected by the issues in this report please contact NSPCC on 0800 389 1701 or Barnardo’s Safe Choices NI on 02890 658 511. A dedicated and trained person will be able to help you.
Notes to Editors
- Please refer to ‘Guidance for media reporting on child abuse and neglect’ – (NSPCC) before reporting on this issue.
- For more information or to bid for an interview, please contact Patrice Morris, Communications Officer at Patrice@niccy.org , 028 9031 1616, mobile - 07917 544 177.
- The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Northern Ireland was initiated by the then Ministers for Health, Justice and Education in 2013 and published its report on 18th November 2014. The three Ministers made a commitment to develop action plans in order to implement the Inquiry recommendations and Departments have produced implementation plans and progress reports following this. The Inquiry was established following the police investigation Operation Owl, into cases of CSE involving twenty two ‘looked after’ children. At the same time the Health Minister directed the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland to undertake a thematic review into these cases which was published in December 2015.
- You can access ‘Child Sexual Exploitation in Northern Ireland - Report of the Independent Inquiry’ by Kathleen Marshall here.
- You can read each Department’s Progress Reports here. Education – September 2015, August 2016. Health – September 2015, July 2016. Justice – October 2015, June 2016.
- Reported Progress - see some examples of Departmental Reported Progress on Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE).
- The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child recognises that children as rights-holders have special rights to protection from abuse, exploitation and trafficking and to be supported in their recovery from abuse. In June 2016, following examination of the UK and devolved governments, the UN Committee stated that in Northern Ireland the recommendations of the Independent Inquiry must be implemented.
- The Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People was established in 2003 by the Assembly and Parliament to: “safeguard and promote the rights and best interests of children and young people”.