The Government has finally answered the call to protect vulnerable children in danger of sexual exploitation.
It will, this week, publish a National Action Plan designed to make the issue a ‘top priority’ for every local authority.
The news comes amid a devastating report into the failures of police and care agencies to protect teenage girls who have been groomed, raped and sold by male gangs, most of whom are Asian.
The mother of one teenager from Leeds, who attempted suicide after a gang rape, said her daughter was the victim of a ‘broken system.’
‘Everyone failed her,’ she told The Times. ‘There was no sharing of information.
‘They (police) had the names and knew where they (abusers) worked yet the men who did this have never once been arrested or spoken to by the police.’
West Yorkshire Police vowed to look again at the case to see if ‘there is evidence that can help bring evil men to book’.
Children’s charity Barnardos has been calling on the Government to take action on child exploitation since January with its Cut Them Free campaign.
Other caregivers have also suggested that political sensitivities are to blame for a near paralysis of the systems designed to keep children safe.
There is a culture ‘which assumes that once a girl gets to 14 she’s beyond hope of intervention–it’s too late,’ a source told The Times.
Police and care agencies often say that they cannot take action against suspects without the victim’s co-operation.
However, a 2008 protocol established by the force and West Yorkshire’s five local authorities states: ‘Adults involved in child sexual exploitation . . . should be treated as child sex abusers and subjected to the full rigour of the criminal law.’
Children’s minister, Tim Loughton, suggested two weeks ago that the plan will call on councils to act with a ‘much greater urgency’ to identify victims of sexual exploitation while taking ‘robust action against those who commit these appalling crimes.’
As well as the gang rape case of the girl in Leeds, five new cases have been highlighted by The Times’ investigation.
No one has been prosecuted for sex exploitation in any of them. Only one of the girls in the six cases had been in care.
One was groomed by white students, but in all the other cases, the perpetrators were Asian, mostly of Pakistani origin.
This pattern of abuse at the hands of male Asian gangs in the West Yorkshire area has been highlighted before, but never formally acknowledged.
In January the Asian ringleaders of a gang in Derby, who brought a ‘reign of terror’ to a city’s streets, targeting and grooming young girls for horrific sexual abuse, were jailed.
Abid Saddique and Mohammed Liaqat were told they would serve a minimum of 11 years and eight years respectively before they could be considered for release.
A DfE spokesman refused to reveal the contents of the National Action Plan but said: ‘We are publishing an action plan this week and that will draw on work around the country to prevent sexual exploitation, identify those at risk and support victims.
‘It will address the challenge of securing prosecutions and the need for robust action against perpetrators.
‘Child sexual exploitation is an appalling form of child abuse and we are determined to do everything possible to stamp it out.’