Last week Cheltenham’s MP, Alex Chalk, attended a parliamentary event on The Children’s Society’s Seriously Awkward campaign. The campaign aims to secure better support for 16 and 17 year olds facing sexual exploitation, mental health problems, poverty and neglect.
The event provided an opportunity to hear from practitioners working directly to protect children and young people at risk of sexual exploitation and learn more about The Children’s Society’s work on the Policing and Crime Bill.
Within the Bill, The Children’s Society is calling for police to be given tougher powers to stop adults sexually exploiting older teenagers. The charity also wants all child victims of sexual abuse to receive the appropriate mental health support.
One of the key powers currently available to police to disrupt and prevent sexual exploitation and grooming is the Child Abduction Warning Notice, a court order that warns an adult to stay away from a young person or property, and can help build a prosecution case against a suspect.
But Warning Notices can currently only be used to protect children under 16 and a small number of 16 and 17 year olds in the care of the local authority. This means many vulnerable 16 and 17 year old children are left to fend for themselves. The Children’s Society is calling for police to be empowered to use the Notices in cases involving vulnerable 16 and 17 year old children too.
The charity is also calling for improvements in mental health support for young victims of sexual abuse who, without proper help, can experience long-term emotional and psychological damage associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.
Speaking after the event, Alex commented that ‘vulnerable older teenagers need to get the right support and protection to keep them safe, healthy and happy. That’s why I’m supporting The Children’s Society’s Seriously Awkward campaign.’