LISA NANDY MP - Abuse is much more prevalent than you think

THE shocking child abuse scandal involving Jimmy Savile has dominated the media recently prompting many constituents to write to me asking how something this shocking could have been allowed to happen and go unreported for so long.

As the shadow Minister responsible for child protection, I am also deeply concerned about what needs to be done to stop something similar from happening again.

Many commentators believe that a scandal like this one could not happen now but the truth is, despite huge advances in the laws and institutions that protect children over the last 20 years, child abuse is still much more prevalent than most people think.

There are 50,000 children at risk of abuse in the UK at the moment and 17,000 sexual crimes were committed against children in the last year alone.

The Savile scandal follows a recent, horrifying case in the North West where a number of young girls were found to have been systematically abused by older men for many years.

Child abuse often involves abuse of power and the victims are too often ignored when they try to report it.

Both the Savile scandal and this recent case in Rochdale illustrate that we are still not good enough at listening to children and acting on their concerns.

Ed Miliband has rightly called for an independent inquiry into the Savile case to help us understand how so many public institutions, including the BBC and the NHS, could have failed to protect children so badly.

But with 60 sexual offences committed against children every day, it is clear that agencies like the police and social services alone cannot have sole responsibility for keeping children safe. Every member of the public needs to be alert to child safety and report concerns they have about children in their own local area.

Sadly child abuse happens in every community, including in our own town. Last year nearly 2,800 children were referred to social services in Wigan and almost 300 were subject to a child protection inquiry. Yet, charities also believe that the majority of child abuse cases still go unreported.

The NSPCC runs a free, 24 hour helpline staffed by trained councillors for people who are worried about child abuse.

If you have concerns about a child you can call them confidentially on 0808 800 5000 and help to make sure that more children don’t have to suffer in silence.