The children's charity Barnardo's has published a hard-hitting report on sexual grooming which calls on the government to appointment a minister with responsibility for protecting children.
The report outlines what is known about the scale and nature of sexual exploitation across the UK and points to some worrying new trends identified by Barnardo's 22 specialist services. Emphasising that child sexual exploitation is a child protection issue, the report calls for the secretary of state for education to appoint a minister to take forward a national action plan to tackle crime against children.
The researchers found children as young as 13 are being sexually exploited and trafficked across the country and warns they are being left vulnerable by a lack of knowledge about the problem that stretches from frontline professionals to top-level government.
Barnardo's chief executive, Anne Marie Carrie, said that society needs to acknowledge that child sexual exploitation can exist in every community. "The sooner we open our eyes to this incomprehensible abuse, the sooner we can begin to tackle the problem and ensure that we intervene early," she said.
"We are calling on the public to urge government to take radical action and appoint a minister who will take responsibility and bring forward a plan to deliver a step change in policy and practice. Until government takes the lead to protect children fully, they will remain at too great a risk from all the horrors of sexual exploitation."
The British Association of Social Workers has urged Barnardo's to submit its report to the Professor Munro, who has been carrying out a review of the child protection system since last summer.