DOZENS of Wigan children at risk from sexual abuse are to be targeted by a pioneering new project.
The councils of Wigan and Rochdale have jointly won almost £1m in Government cash to fund the pilot scheme aimed at better identifying and protecting youngsters in danger from predators.
All children and young people have a basic, fundamental right to live their life free from the devastating consequences of child sexual exploitationEdward Timpson - Children and Families Minister
And the money comes as latest figures show that the number of Wigan children identified as being at risk from Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) has doubled in the last six months.
Rochdale has of course been much in the news with the exposure of sex abuse rings there. But every borough has its problems and in all 234 children have been identified thus far as being at risk across Greater Manchester, of which 42 live in Wigan borough.
The Wigan figure as recently as last September was 21 although the increase since is the result of more coming to light due to investigations rather than there being a sudden upsurge in abuse.
The council says it has not received the money because it has a particular problem but because it has a particularly good plan.
The partner authorities will use the money to work with local families affected by child sexual exploitation to design individual systems of support that can better meet their needs.
By focusing on early identification and prevention, the project aims to save children and young people from the pernicious effects of abuse, while changing the way the wider community and public services understand and response to child sexual exploitation.
Once established, the scheme will be rolled-out across Greater Manchester.
The cash award was part of a package of CSE-related measures announced by Prime Minister David Cameron this week.
Senior public officials and councillors who fail to protect children from sexual exploitation could face up to five years in jail under a new criminal offence being considered by the Government.
Subject to consultation, the crime of “wilful neglect” would be extended to cover children’s social care and education, with unlimited fines for individuals and organisations shown to have let children down.
A new national helpline would be established to help professionals blow the whistle on failings in care for children. And senior staff who leave councils after abuse scandals could see their pay-offs clawed back if it is shown they failed to protect children under their responsibility.
Announcing the new funding for Wigan and Rochdale at the No10 Child Sexual Exploitation Summit, Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson said: “All children and young people have a basic, fundamental right to live their life free from the devastating consequences of child sexual exploitation.
“This new scheme will play a vital role in shaping Wigan and Rochdale’s ability to prevent and protect young people from the very real risk of abuse. It will also help us build a more accurate picture of the size of the challenge we face nationwide.”
Coun Joanne Platt, Wigan Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: “Wigan and Rochdale Councils are extremely pleased and grateful to have been chosen to receive this funding from the government.”