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Vera Baird Supports Calls to Tackle Child Sexual Exploitation

18th February 2015

High quality relationships and sex education must become part of the national curriculum to tackle Child Sexual Exploitation, Vera Baird has said.

The Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner has long supported the education of schoolchildren about the problem of violence against women and girls, saying young people needed to understand what was and was not a healthy relationship.

Now she has put her weight behind the Office of the Children’s Commissioner report ‘If it’s not better, it’s not the end’ which said there were still many child victims and children at risk of becoming victims of child sexual exploitation who have not been identified by authorities.

Despite heightened awareness of child sexual exploitation following national high profile investigations and improved compliance with statutory guidance, the report said there were still issues with sharing information across agencies and getting strategic level decisions to progress to frontline practice.

Young people had consistently told the Inquiry they wanted high quality relationships and sex education.

Deputy Children’s Commissioner for England and chair of the Inquiry Sue Berelowitz said: “Once again we are calling for age-appropriate relationships and sex education to be made a statutory component of the curriculum. Young people need to understand what are and what are not healthy relationships.”

The Commissioner Vera Baird said: “It’s important every opportunity is taken to help educate children about this important issue which we know adversely affects too many lives in the north east and across the country.

“By educating our young people from an early age we can make sure children fully understand that non-violent relationships are healthy and normal.

“Importantly it also clearly shows how anyone who causes harm, whether physical or through coercive and controlling behaviour, is behaving in a totally unacceptable way in our society.

“This is a vital lesson for all our young people to grasp so we can help them maintain positive relationships throughout their lives.”

The Commissioner also supported Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper’s concerns about too many cases not filtering down to the frontline.

“Children who are victims of sexual exploitation are extremely vulnerable and if and when they decide to seek help to safety we need to ensure they are listened to and given the protection they need,” Mrs Baird said.

“I am strongly committed to culture change, particularly amongst young people, to ensure early intervention to change attitudes and a zero tolerance approach to violence and this forms part of the Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy we have developed in the north east.

“Making personal, social and health education a statutory provision in schools can help to tackle the issue of child sexual exploitation.”