Readers’ letters - March 25

Protesters demonstrate against cuts to disability benefits outside the Houses of Parliament in London. See letter
Protesters demonstrate against cuts to disability benefits outside the Houses of Parliament in London. See letter

Exploitation can affect all

High-profile child sexual exploitation cases (CSE) like those in Rotherham and Rochdale have led many people to assume that all victims are white British girls. But this is not always the case.

Worryingly, this stereotype, highlighted in our report called It’s Not On The Radar, means that some front-line workers may be missing children affected by CSE. We found that a better understanding of the diversity of CSE victims in England is essential to tackling this vile form of child abuse. Professionals must cast their net wider to identify all children who have been sexually exploited, or who are at risk.

Children, young people and parents also need to be aware that not every CSE case is like the ones they see in the media, where most of the perpetrators are males and the victims white girls. Evidence in Barnardo’s new report shows CSE affects children regardless of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, faith, disability, background or upbringing.

For example, research in and outside of the UK shows children and young people with a disability are three times more likely to be abused than those without, while one in five of the children we help are boys. In addition young people questioning their sexuality and searching for advice may be more vulnerable to being groomed online.

Professionals need to receive training to help them identify children who have experienced or are at risk of CSE. This should include:

n Recognising learning disabilities and that a young person’s biological age may be different to their developmental age and therefore at odds with their experience of relationships.

n Identifying boys having sex with older men or women. We need to change the prevalent attitude that boys should be grateful, rather than see it for the child abuse that it is.

n Not focusing on just one ethnic community.

n Realising that girls can be sexually exploited by older females, under the guise of friendship.

Additionally, it’s critical that school lessons focus on sex and healthy relationships. This should include information on all types of relationships, not just heterosexual. Assumptions must not be made when trying to identify sexual exploitation as each victim has their own vulnerabilities.

Javed Khan,

Barnardo’s Chief Executive


Getting more 
off welfare

Last weekend, Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, took the honourable decision to resign over what can only be described as immoral cuts to the Personal Independence Payments made to some of the most disadvantaged members of our society. In the North West, we see many councils with over 2,000 PIP claimants, and in some local authority areas the number is near 3,000. IDS didn’t have to resign, he could have sat back and kept hold of his job but he chose to take action because these people should not have to face the brunt of the government’s austerity programme. We are members of different parties but I understand and agree with his position. It’s also worth noting that IDS has always stated that in order to get the welfare bill down we’ll have to get more people off welfare. You cannot achieve this if you do not control who is allowed to claim welfare. Currently, we see EU migrants migrating to the UK and, within six months, being able to claim welfare without making any prior contributions. Only once we’ve regained control of both our borders and our welfare system can we start to get more people ‘off welfare’.

Steven Woolfe