I welcome the Real Voices report by Ann Coffey MP. The report has clearly been based on extensive engagement with children and young people, including those who’ve been affected by child sexual exploitation (CSE). It has also looked at those agencies who provide services to support them, such as Oldham’s innovative Keeping Our Girls Safe (KOGS) project.
Child sexual exploitation happens across the country and in all communities. It is unacceptable and must be stopped. It’s crucial that victims reporting abuse are taken seriously, that they are believed and thorough investigations are undertaken by police and their partner organisations to bring the perpetrators of such horrific crimes to justice.
Local services do have significant challenges in the context of £938m cuts from Greater Manchester’s local authority budgets and cuts to the GMP budget. We must look at innovative ways of working across agencies, sharing information and pooling budgets to ensure that combating child sexual exploitation is prioritised.
Tackling violence and sexual exploitation including CSE is a top priority for me and I’ve been liaising with schools, colleges and other agencies to see how we can work together to safeguard our children and young people.
One of the issues identified in the Real Voices report is that the sexualisation of children, even of primary school age, is becoming a social norm.
We all have a role to address this and I will be writing to all head teachers in Oldham East and Saddleworth schools to ask them to commit to Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education, including age appropriate relationship and sex education.