- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Category: Feature
by Matt Withers, Western Mailb (Jan 18 2011)
DOZENS of children trafficked into the country for sex abuse have been found across Wales over the past year, charity Barnardo’s Cymru revealed yesterday.
The group said it had worked intensively with 32 sexually exploited young people in eight of the 22 local authority areas in Wales over the past 12 months.
It comes as the charity yesterday called on the UK Government to appoint a minister specifically to put together and implement an action plan to tackle the crime.
The Children’s Commissioner for Wales has previously requested that a similar all-Wales action plan be included in the business of the Wales National Safeguarding Forum.
Yvonne Rodgers, director of Barnardo’s Cymru, said: “We don’t know the true extent of this problem, but in Wales we are certain we are only working with a fraction of the children and young people who are sexually exploited or at risk.
“And, however hidden the issue is from the public eye, we know that thousands of young people across the UK are affected.”
No national official records are kept on the number of children exploited in this way. However, research carried out by Barnardo’s in Wales between 2006 and 2008 across three local authorities looked at 1,487 cases of children and young people in contact with social services and youth offending services.
Of those cases 129 (or 9%) of children and young people were going missing – often identified as a key risk factor for child sexual exploitation.
Barnardo’s said many were moved along the M4 corridor in South Wales and the A55 in North Wales to places including London, Bristol, Birmingham and Liverpool. Few children are thought to be only trafficked once.
Most will leave their home country – sometimes with the parents paying, in the belief that they were giving their children the option of a better life – but find themselves trafficked from place to place in the UK, as traffickers fear being caught.
Barnardo’s said the average age of the children being forced into prostitution had fallen from 15 to 13, with some as young as 10 being abused.
They are being trafficked from a number of countries, with many in Wales thought to hail from China.
Labour AM Joyce Watson, who chairs the cross-party working group on trafficking, said the most important thing to begin tackling the crime is for people to actually believe it was going on.
She said: “It is important that people believe it and the people who are dealing with trafficking believe it, because that is the biggest issue here. No-one believed, in the same way, until Esther Rantzen set up Childline, that an element of British society, namely parents, could abuse their children.
“There might then be an awareness and thinking about it, because you’re not going to do anything without intelligence. People need intelligence, social services need intelligence.
“People need to start believing it and then report their suspicions.
“The other message is that you really have to treat these children as children first,” she said.
“Because they are children and they have had the most torrid time.
“They have been subjected to brutality – we’re talking rape – in a way we can’t even begin to imagine and hopefully none of us will ever, ever have to suffer.
“They have seen things no child should ever, ever see,” she added.
One of the things that Barnardo’s has called for on a UK level is an improvement in prosecution procedures to increase the number of cases leading to a conviction, particularly in supporting child victims to act as witnesses.
Barnardo’s Cymru have said this is one area where Wales could benefit, as justice is not devolved.
Read More http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2011/01/18/barnardo-s-calls-for-action-on-child-sex-trafficking-91466-28003800/#ixzz1BNCnTwYt