The shocking truth about child sex trafficking in the midlands

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More than one in three children supported by Barnardo’s in the midlands have been sexually exploited and internally trafficked for sex.

Figures released today, Monday, show that 35 per cent (19 out of 55) young people supported by Barnardo’s Birmingham Space project in September 2012 had been trafficked from one area or town to another, compared with a national average of 26 per cent.

This represents an increase on figures from 2011, when nine out of 38 young people (24 per cent) supported by the project had been trafficked.

The UK’s largest children’s charity is calling on the Department for Education and the Home Office to do more to protect young people from being internally trafficked for sex. 

The number of sexually exploited children known to Barnardo’s across the UK rose by 22 per cent to 1,452 last year and 37 per cent during the past three years. 

Taking a snapshot of those children worked with during September 2012, the number of young people known by Barnardo’s to be trafficked within the country rose by 84 per cent, from 76 to 140 children year on year. That equates to one in four in the UK, up from one in six in 2011.

Assistant director for Barnardo’s Midlands Marian Webb said: “We are shocked at the rise in the number of children in our region reporting they have been moved around the country by abusers. 

“Domestic trafficking of children for sex is a sophisticated type of exploitation, a sinister form of organised violation through networks of criminals. 

“Nobody currently knows the full extent of these crimes because of their hidden nature, but what we do know is that every time we open a new service for victims it quickly becomes fully subscribed. 

“If we are to save children from suffering for years at the hands of their abusers, more must be done by the authorities to identify victims of child sexual exploitation who are being internally trafficked and to stop this activity earlier on.” 

The warning comes as Barnardo’s Cut them free campaign enters its third year. 

The charity surveyed 23 of its specialist services, an annual report it compiles each year. Barnardo’s service data also revealed: 

· 302 service users in the UK – 55 per cent of the snapshot of children who were sexually exploited – had been missing at some point

· Five services, in the south west, Midlands, north east, Northern Ireland and Scotland, noted a rise in online grooming and exploitation

· Three services, in the north east, south east and Northern Ireland, noted an increase in the number of younger children they helped, with children as young as seven meeting strangers on the internet.

 Barnardo’s is calling for: 

· The UK Government and the devolved administrations to protect victims and other children from being trafficked for sex.

· Local multi-agency bodies with responsibility for safeguarding children in the UK to commit to monitoring the risk and the incidence of children being internally trafficked for sexual exploitation and for police to use the full range of law enforcement and disruption tactics to arrest and deter the abusers.

· The Department for Education and the Home Office to do more to deliver on the National Action Plan’s commitment to tackling child sexual exploitation in England – ensuring that local authorities and police forces monitor the risk and the reality of this horrific abuse.

· Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales to tackle domestic trafficking of children for sexual exploitation, ensuring that the police are fulfilling their responsibilities.