Children first: the child protection system in England - Education Committee Contents

3  Older children

Vulnerability of older children

73. Under section 11 of the Children Act 2004 local authorities have a statutory duty to "safeguard and promote the welfare of children in need" at all ages up to 18 years old. Within this age range Ofsted has identified the two most vulnerable groups as being babies under one year old and, perhaps surprisingly, older children aged 14 and upwards.[94] Ofsted notes that of 471 serious case reviews conducted between April 2007 and March 2011, 111 (24%) were of children aged 14 or older.[95] Drawing on these reviews, it concluded that "There is less commonality of experience for older children within the child protection system [...] the complexity and range of risk factors facing teenagers, as highlighted in the evaluations, included: alienation from families; school difficulties; accommodation problems; abuse by adults; unemployment; drug and alcohol misuse; emotional and mental health difficulties; domestic abuse in the home; reactions to bereavement; and risks linked to adults' misuse of the internet".[96]

74. Ofsted's findings are supported by other research into the prevalence of abuse amongst young people. For example, the NSPCC found that there were as many entries concerning 10 to 15-year-olds in the Child Protection Register in England (now replaced by child protection plans) as there were concerning 1 to 4- year-olds and 5 to 9-year-olds.[97]

75. In many cases older children may have lived with abuse and neglect for their entire lives. Women's Aid pointed out that "older young people are likely to display a wide range of effects of abuse and neglect" and cited the research findings of Brandon et al that "long-term neglect and abuse had led to self-harm and suicide attempts in older young people the subject of serious case reviews".[98] There is also widespread evidence that young people in abusive situation can often accept their situation as normal. The Railway Children charity investigated the lives of 100 young people who had been on the streets for four weeks or more in 2009 and found amongst many "there was a sense of [...] 'this is how it is' [...] Some had very few expectations or ideas that life could or should be different".[99] Academic research confirmed that "adolescents do not always understand that neglectful behaviour is happening, because they accept it as the norm".[100] Professor Ward told us "In studies we did of children in the care system, in abusive placements, quite often the children came up with really astonishing remarks that made it evident that they had not understood that they were being treated very badly".[101]

76. The NSPCC expressed concern that

the child protection system is geared towards meeting the needs of younger children meaning that older young people may not be having their needs met.[102]

Research by The Children's Society found that referring professionals "perceived children's social care services as being less likely to take action in cases involving older young people, particularly for young people aged 15 years and over. Issues around defining and prosecuting cases of neglect and emotional abuse were highlighted as the most problematic in terms of identifying whether or not they would meet local authority thresholds".[103] Its submission concluded that:

  • Young people are not being identified as at risk by professionals and are often perceived as more resilient or able to cope with situations compared to younger children;
  • Young people are less likely to receive a children protection response from Children's Social Care, they are more likely to receive an assessment through a 'child in need' referral or through the Common Assessment Framework (CAF).
  • There is a lack of specialist early intervention services for vulnerable teenagers.
  • Universal services have a vital role in identifying young people in need of additional support, however there is a lack of training and awareness amongst professionals of the specific needs of older young people.
  • There are differences in response between and within different Children's Social Care services to young people aged 11-17 years old who have been maltreated.[104]

77. Survey research in 2004 of the assessment procedures of 24 local authorities found that the age of the young person was one of two factors (along with reason for referral) associated with the likelihood of cases progressing from referral to initial assessment. The likelihood was lower for referrals relating to young people aged 15 and over.[105] A study conducted by York University found that it took much longer for adolescents to get an assessment and a child protection inquiry.[106]

78. Railway Children argued that teenagers approaching their 16th birthday are particularly vulnerable: "we are concerned about the safeguarding of adolescents in particular. Anecdotally we hear of teenagers approaching their 16th birthday being left in risky home situations, due to local authorities not wanting to take them into care as they will then need to be responsible for them until they are 21".[107] Academic research bears out the concerns about the low number of older children taken into care. A paper by Professor June Thoburn shows that, internationally, the UK takes a smaller proportion of 15-16 year olds into care compared to other countries.[108] Although definitions of care vary, this suggests that the system in England may be reluctant to consider care at this age. We heard from some of the children we met that children's services had seemed to turn a blind eye to their needs, and/or made inadequate provision.

79. Ofsted noted that "young people who need protection and who are aged between 16 and 18 can experience the particular vulnerability of not receiving appropriate services because they fall between adult and children's services".[109] It pointed out that older children are often in contact with a wider range of agencies than younger ones (for whom it is mainly health): "children's social care, health, the police and education, practitioners from the Connexions service, the Youth Offending service, the Probation service, drug and alcohol misuse services, leaving care services, housing, and CAMHS may all be involved. Commonly, young people 'bounced' around the system, with no one agency taking overall responsibility for their welfare or holding a comprehensive understanding of their needs".[110] If care is not considered as an option before 18, these young people often do not meet the definition of adult social care of 'vulnerable adults' once they turn 18 and local authorities have no responsibility for them.

Professionals' perceptions of older children

80. The NSPCC told us that "there is evidence to suggest that social services often prioritise provision to younger children because they consider older children to be more resilient and more able to cope with the effects of abuse".[111] Enver Solomon of the Children's Society quoted a professional who said "We can't rush out to a 16 year old who's perhaps sofa-surfing and perhaps experimenting with drugs and getting into crime, you know that's a big worry, but we can't prioritise that when we're working with 0 to 5 year olds in, you know, some pretty dire situations."[112] The Society's work showed that "11 to 17-year-olds were seen as more competent to deal with maltreatment, including being able to escape the situation and seek help".[113] Sue Woolmore, Chair of the Independent LSCB Chairs' Network, agreed that adolescents were "often seen as being more self-reliant, more resilient", with the result that neglect of this age group tended to be neglected.[114] A point made by many witnesses, including young people informally, was that practitioners tend to assume that children are making choices relevant to their chronological age, when in fact they are functioning at a younger emotional or developmental age. BASW expressed concern that this tendency "leaves some young people without the adult care and protection they need".[115]

81. The Children's Society identified "a common professional view that the effects of maltreatment are less severe for older young people than for younger children".[116] The Society points out that this view "is not [...] well supported by the limited research evidence that exists on this topic" and calls for what evidence there is to be "more effectively disseminated to practitioners and commissioners" and for "its implications for training, practice and service provision [to be] fully considered".[117]

82. It is apparent from the experience of those who have worked in and with the system, and of young people who have had contact with it, that practitioners currently have insufficient training in the specific issues surrounding older children and their need for protection. Both the College of Social Work, in outlining curricula, and individual institutions delivering social work training must ensure that teaching delivers an understanding of the effect of maltreatment on older children, their ability to cope with it and the long-term implications for their future well-being.


83. Older children in need often present as 'badly behaved': whether in trouble with the criminal justice system, abusing drugs or alcohol, going missing, truanting, self-harming, or in other ways. We heard that this can mask their vulnerability, and lead professionals to 'blame' or judge the children. Andy McCullough of the Railway Children told us that "by the time you get to 14 or 15 [...] you have lost trust in the adults around you, because you have been let down on a number of occasions. Your behaviour, and how you act out that trauma, becomes the focus, rather than what has caused that trauma".[118] Enver Solomon of the Children's Society elaborated:

Older children in particular are very reluctant to disclose and share information, and their behaviours that are a response to being in a risky situation are often misunderstood as them acting out and misbehaving, rather than them being at risk. Their behaviours are labelled as risky, rather than a consequence of being at risk.[119]

Often behavioural issues can be a response to being in a risky situation; it is a 'cry for help'. In particular, the Children's Society recommended that "running away must be recognised as an early indication that a child is at risk".[120]

84. The picture with families can also be more complex, with parents sometimes seeking the removal of an older child with behavioural problems. The Office of the Children's Commissioner points out that this situation creates "a very different context from that where there is commitment to keeping a child", requiring a different kind of response.[121] The number of older children subject to voluntary care orders under section 20, as opposed to compulsory care orders, bears this out. One large study found that 57% of those first admitted to the care system when aged 11 or over were voluntarily accommodated, compared to 21% of those aged 10 or under.[122] However, Professor Biehal cited research which showed that in many cases where parents asked for their adolescents to be taken into care because of behavioural problems, "ongoing or past abuse and neglect was occurring".[123] She commented that "Something was being presented as a behaviour problem that had underlying histories of abuse and neglect [...] emotional abuse, and domestic violence as part of the pattern, but it had not been recognised", leading to an inappropriate response on the part of children's social care.[124]

85. Professor Munro suggested that, in addition to expertise amongst social workers, there is an important role for managers in supportively questioning the assessment of their front-line professionals in relation to 'badly-behaving' teenagers:

handling the fact that they are behaving badly and deserve our understanding and help requires maturity and people being supported to work that way. If they come back from an interview with a young boy and they are obviously irritated by him, their supervisors should challenge them about that and say, "Okay. He is irritating; he is a teenager, but so what? What's happening to him? What is his home life like?" To me, it comes back to expertise and being able to work knowing that people have good and bad in them.[125]

86. Judging the behaviour rather than the background of the child can also be a feature of state agencies in their dealings with groups of older children in particular circumstances. For example, trafficked children found in criminal contexts (such as cannabis factories or the sex trade) may still be treated by the authorities as perpetrators of crime first and victims of abuse second. The same applies to trafficked and refugee children who are treated as immigration offenders first, and abused children second. Judith Dennis of the Refugee Council told us that "we have the situation that lots of social workers believe they cannot care for a separated, unaccompanied child with insecure immigration status until they have claimed asylum".[126] She described this as "ludicrous" and points out that it puts the children at risk of exploitation or homelessness.

87. Enver Solomon of the Children's Society was "very clear" that "this is not about making excuses for behaviour. This is about addressing a young person's behaviour that is putting them in dangerous situations and potentially causing harm to others and ensuring that it is addressed in the most effective way".[127] What may seem to be 'bad' behaviour amongst older children, in particular going missing, truanting and self-harm, may often—though not always—mask underlying problems and be a symptom that a child is at risk. With adolescents, who can be challenging to work with, the role of social work and other managers in being a critical friend and challenging the initial judgements of their front-line professionals can be vital in digging beneath the presenting behaviour. Practitioners of all disciplines, including social workers, the police, GPs and others, must demonstrate greater awareness of the fact that older children may also be vulnerable and be a 'child in need'. The Government and LSCBs should remind practitioners of their statutory duty to assess the needs of those children and to offer support.

Care options

88. Our visits to Barnsley and to North Tyneside highlighted that older children placed in foster care often experience a series of placements. A few are adopted but, as was pointed out to us by the Government's Adviser on Adoption, Martin Narey, adoption is seldom considered as an option for older children, and for children who were unlikely to be adopted, "special guardianship is frequently a better option".[128] A further option is care in a children's home. There have been serious concerns raised recently about this range of options and its impact upon children. A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report found that "many older children with complex needs are placed in poor quality and unsuitable care placements"[129] and that older children who are in care are often placed in residential homes as a placement of "last resort".[130] The Deputy Children's Commissioner has also noted that "most of those in residential care are aged 12 and over with the peak age range being 14 to 16 years old."[131] She went on to observe that "placement in residential care often occurs either following multiple placement breakdowns, or following a child's late arrival into care with longstanding unrecognised problems."[132]

89. From our discussions with young people, we heard first-hand experience of older children being placed in hostels or similar accommodation where the level of support they needed because of their vulnerability could not be provided. This was a particular problem where the age of the young person was in dispute.[133] The Deputy Children's Commissioner has expressed "grave concern" about children aged 16 and over being housed in foyer, bed and breakfast and hostel accommodation which places them at significant risk.[134] She recommended that regulations should proscribe any child in care or leaving care from being placed in bed and breakfast accommodation.[135]

90. The Children's Society provided evidence on the particular problems of older children leaving care. In the year ending 31 March 2011 63% of those leaving care did so on their 18th birthday.[136] 36% of those leaving care were aged 16 and 17. In a recent report published by the Children's Rights Director, Roger Morgan, nearly half of care leavers surveyed felt they left care too early (46%) and were not prepared well enough to leave (49%).[137] This was reflected in our conversations with young people and residential support staff during our visit to Barnsley which suggested that once young people reach the age of 16 they are likely to seek independent accommodation. Many of the staff felt this to be a poor choice for the young people, who needed a greater degree of support and challenge, but that poor pathway and transition planning often left them with little support. The Children's Society argued that the leaving care age should always be 18 to match the age at which children cease to be "looked-after" and to come into alignment with the new age of compulsory schooling.[138] They also believed that children should be allowed to stay in care up to the age of 21, if they wish.

91. Once they have left care, there is a need to ensure that these children are assisted in finding suitable accommodation. Statutory guidance to local authorities on securing sufficient accommodation for looked-after children puts duties on local authorities (i) to review the situation systematically in relation to securing accommodation which meets the needs of looked-after children and care leavers, and (ii) to commission a range of provision to meet the needs of care leavers, including arrangements for young people to remain with their foster carers and other supported accommodation.[139] The Children's Society claimed that "many" local authorities are not good at commissioning such accommodation and associated support services.[140] It called for better implementation and monitoring of the guidance.[141]

92. We are clear that more effort must be made to establish the best care options for older children. Children's homes may be the most appropriate and effective solution in some cases but all looked-after children are particularly vulnerable at the moment they leave the children's social care system. We recommend that Ofsted monitor and report as a standard part of all inspections on the quality and suitability of the provision made by local authorities for older children, taking into account the views of the children themselves. It is essential that as much attention is paid to the care options provided for vulnerable young people as to those provided for younger children.

93. We are particularly concerned about the position of care-leavers and the accommodation and range of support provided for them. The impact on their life chances is highly significant and this area needs further detailed examination.

Specialised forms of abuse

94. Evidence to our inquiry highlighted the extent to which older children may be particularly vulnerable to a wider range of 'specialised' forms of abuse. Phillip Noyes of the NSPCC pointed out that "The child protection system over the years has really been more geared to dealing with abuse that happens at home within families. Young people are experiencing a range of abuse [...] out of home as well."[142] This can contribute to the "misfit" between what the system can offer and the particular needs of children in specific situations. In our inquiry, we examined in detail some of these forms of abuse or vulnerability and we comment on certain aspects below. We also draw some general conclusions from this evidence.


95. The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (the 'Palermo Protocol') describes trafficking as:

the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.[143]

96. Latest figures from the Inter-Departmental Ministerial Group on Human Trafficking indicate that in 2011, 234 children were trafficked into the UK, from over 30 countries. This is based on the number of referrals to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). The real number of victims of trafficking is likely to be far higher, since it is a hidden crime whose victims are often afraid or unable to come forward for fear of reprisals or because of their immigration status. Child trafficking victims are brought to the UK for many purposes, including sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, benefit fraud, cannabis farming, street begging, theft and shoplifting. There is a greater number of female than male victims (133 to 101 in 2011), and whilst their age varies, the most common age is 16-17 years old.[144] Over 80% of known victims in 2011 were between 12 and 17 years old.

97. A number of criminal offences relate to trafficking: for example, it is illegal to traffic, or to conspire to traffic, a person into or within the UK for sexual exploitation. There are also related immigration offences, including assisting unlawful immigration and facilitating entry by asylum seekers. Traffickers can also be prosecuted for constituent offences, such as rape, kidnapping, false imprisonment and threats to kill.[145]

98. The organisation End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT UK) told us that "child trafficking is a child protection concern of the highest order. It is not, as the government often frames it, an immigration issue---it is child abuse requiring complex child abuse investigations".[146] ECPAT called for the NRM to be reviewed and for NRM responsibility for children to be transferred from UKBA to the Department for Education.[147] ECPAT's Colin Walker argued that "the officials who run the National Referral Mechanism are immigration officials" who "do not have expertise in child protection", with the result that "we think there are a significant number of children who are not identified as being trafficked".[148] He received support from Jim Gamble, former head of CEOP, who agreed that the NRM was "an administrative process linked probably more closely to immigration than to child protection".[149] Mr Gamble also criticised the way in which the NRM criminalised victims of trafficking, who should be helped by a children's services specialist, not assessed by immigration officials. He recommended that the system be overhauled so that decision-making was removed from the UK Border Agency.[150]

99. Other organisations went further and suggested that "child trafficking and the care of all separated migrant children should come under the remit of the Children's Minister in the Department for Education, ensuring that primacy is given to children's safety and welfare over their immigration status".[151] The Children's Society, NSPCC and Barnardo's all agreed that the Department for Education should take lead responsibility for trafficked children within Government.[152] We discuss this proposal later in this section (see paragraphs 135 and 136).

100. Children's charities gave evidence that trafficked children found in criminal settings can sometimes be treated as criminal perpetrators first, rather than victims of abuse. ECPAT described an endemic tendency amongst agencies to view trafficked children with suspicion:

ECPAT UK's research has unearthed a 'culture of disbelief' across statutory agencies when initially dealing with child trafficking cases. An all too hasty willingness to see the child as 'lying to get asylum benefits' has led to poor quality decision making. [153]

Their Deputy Director told us "what needs to happen, in the case of child victims of trafficking, is that their vulnerabilities, as a potential victim of trafficking, need to be identified first".[154] Peter Davies of ACPO and CEOP accepted that "police services and police officers [...] tend to categorise people and if someone is in the offender category, it is sometimes hard to categorise them at the same time as a victim".[155] He assured us that CEOP and the Serious Organised Crime Agency's Human Trafficking Centre were working together to develop better practice on this.[156]

101. Children who are trafficked into the UK can be travelling alone or with an unrelated adult. For immigration purposes, the Government classifies children who arrive into the UK as "accompanied" and "unaccompanied" children. This classification can be crucial in determining a child's protection plan. ECPAT and others prefer to use the term "separated children" to describe children who either enter the country alone or without an adult who has parental responsibility. ECPAT advocates a system of guardianship for separated children who have been trafficked:

A system of guardianship for children who have been trafficked would ensure that they have the one person they can trust, who can act in their best interest and assist the child navigate through the welfare, criminal, legal and immigration systems […] They have no family in the UK, but also no-one with 'parental responsibility', a legal concept enshrined in British law. This means that children have to instruct their own solicitors".[157]

Similar guardianship systems have been in operation in the Netherlands for some time and have been trialled in Scotland. The proposal to introduce this in England was also supported by the Refugee Council,[158] and the recent APPG joint inquiry recommended that a legal advocate with parental responsibility should be appointed for all unaccompanied migrant children.[159]

102. ECPAT also raised concerns about the "extremely high numbers of suspected and known trafficked children who have gone missing from Local Authority care and are never found". It suggested that "Local Authorities should have a duty to disclose and escalate the details of children missing, suspected as being trafficked, beyond just the local missing persons procedures".[160] The Government's human trafficking strategy, published in July 2011, concluded that the number of children who go missing from local authority care in England and Wales "is still too high".[161]

103. The issues raised by trafficked children, and possible changes to the guardianship system, require far more detailed attention than we have been able to give in the course of this inquiry. We share ECPAT's concerns about the number of children going missing once identified by the authorities and the likely numbers of those who are not discovered in the first place. The Government must act faster and more effectively work with others to address this.

104. We are also concerned by the treatment of children found in criminal settings. The police and the UKBA have a focus on detecting crime and implementing immigration policy which can lead to the criminalisation of abused and vulnerable children found in these situations. Such children must always be treated as victims—and children—first and not just as criminals. Training and guidance should be given to police and UKBA front-line staff to this effect.


105. The Refugee Children's Consortium highlighted a similar problem in relation to refugee and asylum-seeking children in being seen as "migrants first rather than children". The Consortium argued that "decisions taken about their lives are frequently not conducive to their well-being and best interests, and often leave them at risk of serious, irreparable harm".[162] A BBC investigation in 2010 reported that at least four children a week seeking asylum were going missing from the care of local authorities. A total of 330 children aged between nine and 17 vanished between April 2008 and August 2009.[163]

106. Asylum-seeking children aged 15-18 can be particularly vulnerable and are often subject to age disputes. On average, each year 28% of those who present as separated children claiming asylum have their age challenged by the UK Border Agency: 1,200 children each year for the last 5 years. The RCC argues that children are often wrongly identified as adults: in 2010 the Refugee Council supported 38 children in immigration detention who had been wrongly judged to be adults by the local authority or immigration officers.[164] It told us that "despite the fact that the Government has committed to ending child detention, the RCC is concerned that children whose ages have been disputed will continue to be detained until the process of age assessments is overhauled". It called for a presumption in favour of refugee and asylum-seekers who claim to be children at the initial screening stage.[165]

107. In oral evidence Judith Dennis of the Refugee Council called for independent assessment centres and for those doing age assessments to be separate from those responsible for the young person.[166] She also recommended more training for social workers to augment their assessment skills with "specialist information about the countries the children have come from and the experiences they might have had".[167] Ms Dennis pointed out that the impact upon the child of not being believed might be as significant as the impact upon the level of support provided.[168] This was reinforced by the discussions we had with young people who had been in this situation.

108. Just after our final evidence session in this inquiry, we took evidence on the specific issue of destitution amongst asylum-seeking and migrant children.[169] This followed a report by the Children's Society on the situation of such children in the UK, which raised issues about the support they received both before and after the age of 18. The evidence given strongly argued that there is tension or even conflict between legislation to protect children and immigration legislation. This argument was backed by a recent research report by the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society at the University of Oxford which notes that "this tension fundamentally shapes the everyday lives of irregular migrant children in Britain and the experiences of front-line service providers in the fulfilment of their duties."[170]

109. Ministers from both the DfE and the Home Office denied that there was tension between the child protection and immigration policies. Sarah Teather MP, then Minister for Children and Families, told us "The rights are very clear; in terms of safeguarding and education, children have inviolable rights."[171] Damian Green MP, then Minister for Immigration, agreed that since the coming into force of the Children Act 2009 "the the rights and interests of children are centrally embedded in what the UKBA does".[172] Mr Green referred to the Children's Society report as "clearly a collection of what are very emotive stories", and told us firmly that "Destitution is very explicitly not used as a tool" to persuade asylum-seekers to leave the UK.[173] We were not persuaded by the denials from either Minister. Children's charities and others have raised legitimate concerns about the correlation between Government policies on immigration and the incidence of destitution amongst asylum-seeking and migrant children. It would be outrageous if destitution were to be used as a weapon against children because of their immigration status. We call on the Government to review the impact of immigration policy upon child protection and children's rights to ensure that this is not the case.


110. Domestic violence is defined by the Home Office as "any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality". Most domestic violence is perpetrated by men against their female partners and ex-partners. However, domestic violence can also be carried out within same sex relationships and by women against men.

111. Children under 18 may be the secondary victims of domestic violence (for example, witnessing the abuse of a parent, or suffering a lack of appropriate parental care where a carer is being abused). They can also be the primary victim or perpetrator of intimate partner violence in a teen relationship. In general, abuse between teenagers is not seen as a child protection issue; yet research conducted by the NSPCC and the University of Bristol suggests that of a general adolescent population, one in six girls who had been in a relationship reported experiencing severe control, exploitation or violence from their partner. In a related study of disadvantaged young people, many young women accepted violence as a normal, although unwanted, aspect of being in a relationship.[174]

112. The National Association of Head Teachers highlighted managing the risks presented by members of the student body as "particularly challenging for schools and colleges".[175] These risks included pupils named on the sex offenders register and those convicted of other crimes which presented challenges to peer-to-peer safeguarding, as well as risks associated with gang membership and recruitment activities. The Office of the Children's Commissioner also drew our attention to evidence underlining the difficulties of dealing with abuse between teenagers:

Evidence from the NSPCC on young partner violence; from studies of gang related violence; the emerging evidence concerning sexual exploitation and evidence from the Department of Health national taskforce on Violence against Women and Children, all indicate the need for a tailored response to the specific needs of young people where they may be both victim and perpetrator.[176]

113. Teen relationship abuse is not currently categorised as domestic violence as they are under 18 years old.[177] Joanna Sharpen of AVA pointed out that different local and central government departments use different definitions with the result that "It might be that social services sees something as domestic violence, but the housing department does not".[178] AVA considered that the 15-18 year old age group in particular fell through the gaps.[179]

114. We are concerned that abuse between teenagers is an overlooked issue in the child protection system. There is a need for the issue to be recognised and for strategies to be developed to deal with the complications involved in assisting victims and perpetrators out of the abusive situation. We welcome the current Government plan to extend the definition of domestic abuse to under 18s and to include "coercive control". Teenagers in such situations need appropriate support from all those with whom they come into contact. We consider that training for social workers must include specific input on these issues. We also recognise that abuse between teenagers is most likely to be dealt with by schools and youth workers who need training and guidance to be confident in their role. Finally, there is a need for greater willingness to take action on the part of the authorities. There is research evidence that those who have experienced abusive relationships are more likely to have children who also experience abuse. This makes it all the more important to stop the cycle as effectively and as quickly as possible.


115. Child sexual exploitation is defined by the DfE as:

a form of child abuse ("child" being defined as anyone under 18 years of age). It is complex and can manifest itself in different ways [...] essentially it involves children and young people receiving something—for example, accommodation, drugs, gifts, or affection—as a result of them performing sexual activities, or having others perform sexual activities on them. It can occur without physical contact, when children are groomed to post sexual images of themselves on the internet.

In all cases those exploiting the child or young person have power over them, perhaps by virtue of their age or physical strength. Exploitative relationships are characterised in the main by the child's limited availability of choice, compounding their vulnerability. This inequality can take many forms but the most obvious include fear, deception, coercion and violence.[180]

116. Child sexual exploitation has moved rapidly up the child protection policy agenda. In 2011 the Department for Education published a Ministerial Action Plan on Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation. The subject hit the headlines again during the course of our inquiry with the judgement in the case of eight men in Rochdale, convicted for grooming and sexually exploiting vulnerable young women, including one girl who was in the care system. This case led to the Minister asking the Deputy Children's Commissioner, Sue Berelowitz, to bring forward the timetable of her major investigation into the issue and to the publication of her interim report in June 2012. In discussing her findings with the Home Affairs Committee, Ms Berelowitz declared:

what I am uncovering is that the sexual exploitation of children is happening all over the country. As one police officer who was a lead in a very big investigation in a very lovely, leafy, rural part of the country said to me, there is not a town, village or hamlet in which children are not being sexually exploited.[181]

117. In evidence to us Barnardo's outlined four characteristics of sexual exploitation:

  • Sexual exploitation is more organised, with networks moving or trafficking children specifically to be abused
  • Grooming using the internet and mobile technology is becoming increasingly more common
  • Younger children are increasingly at risk
  • Peer exploitation is becoming more common

Barnardo's commented that "the scale of sexual exploitation is far greater than currently calculated and there remains a worrying lack of data which can provide an accurate picture of the scale and nature of sexual exploitation. Practitioners often do not identify it and young people themselves frequently do not recognise themselves as abused".[182]

118. Also during the course of our inquiry, the NSPCC published a report on the recent phenomenon of "sexting". This highlighted the extent to which, for young people, this was "an experience that is pressurised yet voluntary—they choose to participate but they cannot choose to say 'no'". The researchers argued that "because sexting is not just an individual practice but also a group, networked phenomenon, its effects are not limited to the actors engaged in some specific practice but permeates and influences the entire teen network in multiple ways".[183] We welcome the NSPCC report and the work it is conducting in this area. The issue of sexting should be taken very seriously because of the enormous harm that can be done to its victims. This is equally true of all abuse relating to mobile technology, social media and the internet. As CEOP argued in its evidence to us, "professionals working in social care need to be better equipped to routinely address children's behaviour online and show children ways that they can protect themselves from unwanted contact as well as get help".[184] It argued that questions about internet use should form part of the core assessment process for social workers.[185]

119. The speed of change in technology and in the level of access by children of increasingly young ages points to the need to ensure that guidance and training for all professionals working with children is constantly updated to address the associated risks. We commend the work undertaken by CEOP in this field. Child sexual exploitation not involving technology, however, also remains a huge issue as we have seen in recent cases. We welcome the recent ministerial attention paid to this form of abuse and the evident resolve to tackle the issues raised.


120. According to the FCO Forced Marriage Unit (FMU):

A forced marriage is a marriage where one or both people do not (or in the case of some people with learning or physical disabilities, cannot) consent to the marriage and pressure or abuse is used. [...] The pressure put on people to marry against their will can be physical (including threats, actual physical violence and sexual violence) or emotional and psychological (for example, when someone is made to feel like they're bringing shame on their family. Financial abuse (taking your wages or not giving you any money) can also be a factor.[186]

121. In 2010 the FMU received over 1,735 calls to its helpline concerning suspected forced marriage, 86% relating to women. Karma Nirvana, the main charity working with victims, which runs the national forced marriage helpline, has received over 10,000 calls relating to forced marriage over the past two years, More than 3,000 calls were from children and young people under 18.[187]

122. Karma Nirvana notes that FMU guidance states that siblings of children forced into marriage are often in danger as "there is a risk that if one child has failed to honour a family's commitment to a marriage, another child may have to substitute to maintain the family's honour".[188] Consequently, the child protection system may need to intervene earlier with siblings of victims.

123. Forced marriage is currently a civil, but not a criminal, offence. Like domestic violence, it can be prosecuted for its constituent behaviours, including kidnap, false imprisonment, assault, threats to kill and sexual assault. Karma Nirvana considered that "The Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 has been of great assistance in providing legal remedies including Forced Marriage Protection Orders to British born subjects."[189] However, the group was concerned that "in terms of monitoring the compliance with orders and sanctions for non-compliance; this has been less effective", especially as regards children and young people who are returned to their families.

124. The Government has recently announced plans to make forced marriage a criminal offence. We welcome the Government's plans to increase protection of children against forced marriage, and the recent efforts made to highlight the issue. We urge the Government to increase awareness of the availability and use of Forced Marriage Protection Orders and to take steps to improve the monitoring of compliance with such orders.


125. Ritual abuse related to accusations of witchcraft and spirit possession occurs in England amongst some communities of African origin. Some child deaths have included elements of ritual abuse, including that of Victoria Climbié and of a headless torso discovered in the Thames.[190] The latest high profile case involving Kristy Bamu and the conviction of his relatives has reignited publicity around the issue. This type of abuse is often linked to a faith setting (church or mosque). Accusations of witchcraft may be made by the church (for example, the pastor) who also professes the solution, usually in the form of a deliverance or exorcism. Once a child has been identified as a witch, often by family members or by a faith leader, different forms of abuse may occur, including:

  • Psychological and emotional abuse
  • Physical abuse to beat the devil out, including stamping, kicking, punching and starving
  • Neglect and isolation from others
  • Sexual abuse, including as a result of neglect or lack of protection
  • (Often violent) exorcism rites carried out by a faith leader

126. ECPAT reported in October 2011 that over the last four years, at least 400 African children have been abducted and trafficked into the UK, some for the purpose of 'juju' blood rituals. Testimonies from some of the children have described how witch-doctors extracted their blood by force for use in ritual healings.[191] Other estimates about the extent of ritual abuse in the UK are sketchy. Research for the then Department for Children, Schools and Families in 2006 reviewed 74 cases of child abuse which were suspected of connection to spirit possession and witchcraft between 2000 and 2005, and found clear-cut evidence of ritual abuse in 38 of those cases (concerning 47 children). Children and Families Across Borders (CFAB) gave evidence that when a victim of ritual abuse is identified, it is likely that other children exposed to the same informal faith setting may also be at risk.[192]

127. Another form of abuse to which some girls of African origin may be vulnerable is female genital mutilation (FGM, also called female circumcision and genital cutting). It is estimated that approximately 100-140 million African women have undergone FGM worldwide and each year, a further three million girls are estimated to be at risk of the practice in Africa alone.[193] National FGM campaigning organisation FORWARD UK estimate that 24,000 girls under 15 are at risk each year in England and Wales. The most common age at which it occurs is between four and ten, although it appears to be falling.

128. Since 2004 FGM has been a criminal offence. It is illegal for FGM to be performed, and it is also an offence for UK nationals or permanent UK residents to carry out, or aid, abet, counsel or procure the carrying out of FGM abroad on a UK national or permanent UK resident, even in countries where the practice is legal. Despite this, CFAB expressed concern about a "significant absence of professional expertise in social work and related professions" with regard to trafficking, witchcraft/ritual abuse and female genital mutilation.[194] It recommended that the content of the social work curriculum be overhauled to reflect these issues, and that responsibility for the curriculum be passed to the College of Social Work. The Government has already acted to address some of these issues in the recent publication of its National action plan to tackle child abuse linked to faith or belief.[195] The plan includes actions to encourage initial social work training providers and providers of CPD to cover culture and faith safeguarding issues in their courses, as well as to raise levels of understanding and awareness more widely.


129. In addition to the specific policy recommendations in response to these particular forms of abuse set out above, there are a number of general lessons to be drawn from the evidence about specialised abuses. We are struck by the number of submissions which noted that some forms of abuse, including forced marriage, ritual abuse, female genital mutilation, honour-based violence, and trafficking, are often only secondarily cast as child abuse: they are primarily seen as problems of integration, community or immigration. Casting them as something other than child abuse can mean that child victims are stigmatised or even criminalised and not afforded the protection that the system should offer them. It may also mean that the agencies who take the lead in supporting these children are not the appropriate ones: for instance, trafficked children may be first dealt with by immigration officials and police, rather than by children's services.

130. There can also be complications in dealing with these forms of abuse within the child protection system, in that the abuses and their victims may require responses which differ from standard child protection processes. For example, Karma Nirvana told us that "honour-based violence and forced marriage are fundamentally different to other child protection issues, particularly in respect of working with parents".[196] It gives the example of "cases where professionals have informed parents of their child's concerns, attempted to mediate and shared information in such a way that has placed children at increased risk of harm".[197] Similarly, ECPAT considered that "current child protection procedures, which have been developed in response to other forms of child abuse, do not necessarily meet the specific circumstances of child victims of trafficking, especially when the child has no family or no responsible adult in the UK". It notes that "the initial and core assessment process is often highly dependent on what the child says but child victims of trafficking are likely to need far longer than this to disclose the details and extent of their previous abuse".[198] ECPAT Deputy Director explained that

A lot of our child protection systems are geared up towards identifying child abuse and having a range of different adults and support networks around that can provide evidence as to whether or not that child has suffered abuse—teachers, police forces, social workers, family members, etc. When a child victim of trafficking comes into this country, there is no one.[199]

131. Lessons from case reviews and court cases suggest that teenagers are often not believed when they first seek help (particularly by police), perhaps in part because those they approach are unsympathetic or lack an understanding of that form of abuse. A commonly cited problem with these more specific (and recent for the UK) forms of abuse is that, often, front-line professionals may not have been adequately trained to recognise and respond appropriately to them. For instance, Karma Nirvana told the Committee that "a lack of knowledge and training is a significant factor in the failure to identify children and young people at risk of honour-based violence and forced marriage".[200] AVA similarly states that "we believe that VAWG [violence against women and girls] training needs to be a core module in all initial training for relevant professional courses as well as continuing professional development".[201]

132. Social workers and other professionals cannot be expected to be experts in all types of abuse, especially those which they are less likely to encounter. Nor is it enough to rely on a short session during their initial training which might easily be forgotten if sufficient time elapses before they have to put that training into effect. Guidance is available from support organisations and specialised sources such as the Forced Marriage Unit, but Kathy Rowe of Karma Nirvana reported that their roadshows "indicate that a large number of professionals are not aware of that guidance".[202] The current statutory guidance on Working Together contains detailed prescriptions on recognising and working with victims of specialised forms of abuse. Emma Grove, a teacher at a London primary school, explained how education professionals were "very reliant on" Working Together or local documentation when faced with "things that you do not necessarily come across quite so often".[203] However, the pages on specialised forms of abuse have been excised from the draft revised Working Together which means there will no longer be a single handbook to be consulted by professionals as necessary.

133. Whilst initial social work training should include an awareness of all types of abuse, there is clearly a place for more specialised training during a social worker's career and for professionals in other disciplines, perhaps organised in conjunction with the expert groups in these areas. We recommend that the College of Social Work take a leading role in co-ordinating and promoting awareness of CPD training in specialised forms of abuse and in encouraging other disciplines to participate in relevant courses. For more general use, if the guidance on specialised forms of abuse is to be deleted from Working Together, the Government needs to make clear where such guidance will be found in future and how it will be updated and signposted to social workers and other professionals.

134. We are also concerned that professionals faced with a specific type of abuse with which they are not familiar should have an identifiable source of expertise to consult in person. Local authorities should nominate a specialised child abuse practitioner to lead on such matters. Where an authority has a low incidence of a particular form of child abuse, they should be able to draw on the expertise of nominated practitioners in other authorities.

135. Policy responsibility for human trafficking, ritual abuse and domestic violence lie with the Home Office; forced marriage straddles the Home and Foreign Offices, but child protection is overseen by the Department for Education. Karma Nirvana calls for "all issues relating to children to be dealt with by one government department", noting that "despite best endeavours, cross-government department working is not as effective as it could be".[204] As we have seen, there have been similar representations with regard to trafficked and asylum-seeking children (see paragraph 99).

136. The Minister told us that "I am not interested in the niceties of which Minister has this added to his brief or not. I am interested in, practically, how we can make it work".[205] We agree that the primary aim within Government must be effectiveness but we are not convinced that the system at the moment enables vulnerable children to be treated as children first. Other agencies, such as those involved in immigration and crime, cannot reasonably be expected to put the interests of the child before their statutory responsibilities on their own initiative. We therefore recommend that the Department for Education be given explicit overall responsibility for the welfare of all children, including those who have been trafficked or who are seeking asylum.

Help-seeking by older children


137. Witnesses agreed that older children are often reluctant to disclose and share information about abuse or neglect.[206] There are several possible causes for this including: having lived with abuse for a long time, mistrust of authorities, embarrassment or shame, fear of what is going to happen, loss of control, and concern that the family will be separated (especially siblings from each other).[207] Two major factors are not recognising that they are being abused,[208] and fearing that they will not be believed, or actually not being believed.[209]

138. We discussed with our witnesses the difficulty of the lack of awareness amongst older children that they are being neglected or abused, and that their family experience is not 'normal'. Several organisations pointed to the commendable work done in schools and elsewhere to raise awareness amongst children about certain forms of abuse, such as bullying or partner violence, and of what is acceptable and not acceptable. This is clearly an important contribution to protecting these children. Other witnesses suggested that the mainstream media, such as popular television dramas, have a part to play in awareness-raising. For example, Professor Munro considered that "soap operas can be very good in having a story line that gets it across to people [...] there is a real need for stories and perhaps videos being made that schools can use to help people understand what is abnormal".[210]

139. Several of the older children at our seminar told us that they had not been believed or had been turned away. As with fear of the potential impact on disclosure upon themselves and their families, this leads to a lack of trust in the system to make the best decisions for their future. The Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) told us: "We know that building a trusting relationship with a professional is an important factor in whether a young person makes a disclosure".[211] For this reason, the ADCS was concerned that "the reduction in youth services in response to considerable budget pressures reduces the contact professionals will have with young people who are at risk of abuse or neglect and supporting them".[212] This concern was echoed by other witnesses.

140. We conclude that there is considerable work to be done by central and local agencies in raising awareness amongst children of the nature of abuse and how it might affect them. This is particularly so in the fast-moving world of the internet and mobile technology abuse. There is also work to be done in sending the message that child protection services are available and are appropriate for their needs and that the child will be listened to. We recognise the important part played by youth services in building relationships with young people and appreciate the concern that cuts in youth services may jeopardise the route by which some young people may seek help. We recommend that local authorities monitor the situation with regard to youth services and report to the Government on the impact of cuts in the provision of such services upon safeguarding. We also recommend that LSCBs work together to establish best practice in raising awareness of and ensuring a better response to child abuse amongst older children through the co-ordination of the efforts of all the agencies in their local area.


141. Sue Minto told us that where children who contact ChildLine had spoken to someone else beforehand, they "have predominantly spoken to mum; following that it will be a teacher; following that it will be a friend", with health professionals, boyfriends and fathers further down the list.[213] The fourth most common situation was that they had spoken to no-one, which means that a significant proportion do not seek help from or disclose to anyone.[214] Research by the Children's Society reached a different conclusion: that young people "are more likely to disclose to their peers than either family members or to those people whom they perceive to be in a position of authority".[215] From this, the Children's Society argued that "peer-led safeguarding forums in schools, or peer safeguarding mentors in secondary schools or colleges could play a really significant role".[216] This is supported by research by the NSPCC amongst 18 to 24 year olds who had been sexually abused into how the abuse had been stopped:

Only 4% said that it stopped because of people like us. They did not want to touch us with a bargepole. For the rest, it stopped because the perpetrator went away, they individually had stopped it, someone that they loved or trusted had stopped it for them, or it had not stopped. I think that if we are looking at how young people who have been abused—there are lots of them—who have not told anybody, and if they did, they told their friends, we need to think of a new kind of help that gets them friends and peers to talk to, which helps them decide when it is appropriate to talk and when not.[217]

Professor Munro also spoke of the value of peer support. She commended the BeatBullying website, in particular, for its chat room which offers peer mentoring.[218]

142. The Children's Society was clear that such peer-led support "could work alongside the child protection leads in schools and feed their views into Local Safeguarding Children's Boards" and not work in isolation.[219] We recommend that local authorities encourage schools and other universal settings to provide more peer-led support, such as peer safeguarding forums and peer mentors. They should seek to learn and apply lessons learnt from the apparent success of the schemes described to us by The Children's Society.


143. Older children do not often refer themselves to children's social care, and when they do, it is often hard to access services. The Children's Commissioner reported that "advocacy organisations have told us that they encounter reluctance on the part of children's services to self-referrals by young people who wish to be accommodated as a result of family problems [...] those who do ask for help are likely to be in desperate need of support".[220] The young people at our event also discussed the difficulties in getting help:

A lack of awareness about how to find support, and what support was available, was also noted by several young people. One said the experience was nerve-wracking and scary, partly because of feeling guilty about needing help, but also because they hadn't realised that there was anyone out there who could help. Another also said the experience was scary, because they didn't understand what was going to happen: processes needed to be clearly explained to young people seeking help. These issues led to the process being described as 'stressful' by another participant. One young person noted that it was easy to make a complaint about another person but there was no easy 'route' to get help itself.[221]

144. The need for clear, simple information on the process was supported by the Children's Society who told us that "Most of the young people we spoke to for our recent research were confused about what had happened to them at different stages of the safeguarding process and why and what different professionals' roles are".[222] Their policy director told us: "There is a real need to encourage self-referral. That needs to be done through better information, reaching out to people and them having the confidence that systems are there to work for them and in their interests, as well as addressing all the other factors".[223]

145. We are concerned by the evidence we received that it was difficult for older children to refer themselves to children's social care, should they wish to do so. Local authorities' websites and information literature often contain instructions on what to do for members of the public/professionals 'concerned about a child'. There would be scope for authorities to add something similar addressed to children/young people who are concerned about themselves. We recommend that the Government encourage local authorities to include on their website information aimed at older children on how to make a self-referral. This information should also clearly set out what children can expect once the referral has been made in order to remove the sense of loss of control and uncertainty that children needing support may experience.


146. Independent advocates are currently made available to looked-after children making complaints and to those aged 16 or over who are judged to lack capacity or who are sectioned under the mental health legislation. There is guidance to say that other looked after children should be made aware of advocacy services. In addition the national minimum standards for local authorities recommend that children in foster and residential care are offered advocacy support through the national minimum standards and those in secure training centres should also be offered advocacy through the rules for secure training centres.

147. The children we met in the course of our inquiry told us that they really valued independent advocates: someone who was firmly on their side and could help them navigate the child protection system. The Children's Society suggested that every child in the child protection system should have the right to access an independent advocate who can support them to be heard.[224] This echoes a recommendation made by our predecessor committee in 2009 that "advocacy services should be routinely available for all looked after children whenever decisions about their care are being made, not just when they wish to make a complaint".[225]

148. Whilst we recognise the value of advocacy for children, we do not believe that the provision of advocates to all children coming into contact with the child protection system would necessarily be workable or desirable. There is a range of good advocacy options currently available to children locally, including local Children in Care Councils and services provided by non-statutory organisations. We believe that it would be better to make best use of these services before introducing a more radical and expensive measure. Local authorities have a duty to make a public 'pledge' of what looked-after children in their area are entitled to. We recommend that local authorities include in their 'pledge' a requirement for all social workers and carers to ensure that children know about and have access to their local Children in Care Council and other advocacy support in their area.


149. ChildLine has seen an increase in contacts from 16 to 18 year olds from 23% of all contacts last year, to 31% this year.[226] Demand for its online services has also grown: the NSPCC who are responsible for ChildLine pointed out that "young people are incredibly receptive to talking not at the face-to-face level, but over the internet using online services".[227] Research conducted by ChildLine found that 16 to 18 year olds claim that they would not contact ChildLine, but as the head of the helpline pointed out, "the evidence that 16 to 18 year olds are contacting us makes it obvious that we are relevant and accessible to them".[228]

150. Given that confidentiality is very important to older children,[229] the ability of ChildLine to offer this is an important part of its success. Occasionally, however, where ChildLine considers a child who has contacted them online to be at risk of immediate harm, the organisation has to take steps to identify the child. Currently CEOP offers the NSPCC technical support to locate children's physical whereabouts from their IP addresses, but demand for ChildLine services is growing, and CEOP's capacity is limited.

151. We discussed this issue with witnesses from both ChildLine and CEOP and were pleased to hear that discussions were underway between CEOP and the NSPCC about providing greater technical support to ChildLine in identifying children in immediate danger.[230] Peter Davies of CEOP suggested several ways forward under current legislation and also indicated that legislation could be changed "to enable more selected organisations to resolve internet identities in certain circumstances".[231] If the current discussions with CEOP do not resolve the limitations in the technical support available to ChildLine on a permanent or sustainable basis, then we recommend that the Government consult the police and ChildLine on possible legislative solutions to their difficulties in identifying those at risk of immediate harm.

152. We heard calls for a national point of contact for children seeking advice or help. These came particularly from the young people who attended our event on 17 April. The NSPCC also suggested that there was a need for "A nationwide single point of contact to report children at risk of abuse and give advice to those with concerns about a child, available 24/7 [...] to encourage concerned individuals to make a disclosure about a child at risk of abuse and to ensure agencies are able to take appropriate action".[232]

153. Other witnesses suggested that ChildLine already offered the kind of service being sought, and suggested that there would be scope for extending ChildLine and marketing its existence more widely. Peter Davies (representing CEOP and ACPO) was "ambivalent" about the advantages of a single number and suggested that "the better way to deal with the present situation is to do more awareness and make sure that more people use the opportunities that are already there for them".[233] Dame Moira Gibb pointed out that having a single point of contact would not in itself solve all difficulties: "it is always the next stage that is important: what you do with that and how you connect single points of contact to service delivery".[234] She was concerned that this could be "just another layer of complexity in a complex system".[235] Dr Shade Alu agreed that there was a need "to strengthen the advice that professionals can get" and "to keep it as simple as possible" for children.[236]

154. Joe Ferns from the Samaritans suggested that there should be an Harmonised European Short Code number (116) for child abuse.[237] This would allow the creation of a single number for use throughout Europe.[238] We are not convinced by this concept, particularly given the well-established helplines already available in the UK and would prefer to see effort being put into supporting them still further.

155. Evidence suggests that ChildLine performs its function well, is a 'trusted brand' and is used by children of all ages, including 16-18s; and that there is not a need for another such service. It could be improved still further: for example, the head of ChildLine spoke of "the need to be more accessible to children with disabilities" and "children who are particularly mobile, maybe Traveller children".[239] We note that the Minister was very supportive of ChildLine and sympathetic towards any possible need for expansion.[240] We recommend that ChildLine be assisted and enabled by the Government to market its existence and services more widely, especially to older children. ChildLine should also review how it could improve its services for particular groups of children. We would expect the Government to look favourably upon financing or otherwise aiding any proposals which would improve the effectiveness of ChildLine in reaching these groups.


156. Overall, our inquiry has revealed a worrying picture with regard to the protection and support of older children. This is characterised by a lack of services for adolescents, a failure to look beyond behavioural problems, a lack of recognition of the signs of neglect and abuse in teenagers, and a lack of understanding about the long-term impact on them. The Children's Commissioner's summarised the views of many witnesses:

We have a number of concerns about the identification of need and provision of early help, particularly in respect of older children and teenagers. There is evidence that the system is reactive rather than proactive and that young people have a number of barriers to overcome if they are to access services. There are serious doubts that the child protection system as it is currently structured is appropriate and accessible to young people and we suggest that, alongside the improvements proposed by the Munro Review, there should be further consideration given as to how services might be shaped for the older age group.[241]

Sue Minto of ChildLine volunteered provision for 16 to 18 year olds as "a massive gap", adding "There is a huge challenge about working with them differently: we cannot shoehorn them into our existing child protection system [...] it does not work to hold child protection conferences and consider taking them into local authority care".[242]

157. The recent review into the Rochdale case of sexual exploitation of young teenage girls and the revelations about the late Sir Jimmy Saville have forcefully reminded us that older children making allegations of abuse are often not believed and are dismissed by those in authority because of pre-conceptions about their own behaviour or about the standing of the alleged perpetrator. It is clear that the system as a whole is still failing this particular age group in key ways. We recommend that the Government urgently review the support offered by the child protection system to older children and consult on proposals for re-shaping services to meet the needs of this very vulnerable group.

94   Ev 213 Back

95   Ibid Back

96   ibid Back

97   NSPCC, Child protection research briefing: neglect. See also figures cited earlier on the prevalence of child abuse and neglect amongst 11-24 year olds. Back

98   Ev w179, citing Brandon, M., Belderson, P., Warren, C., Howe, D., Gardner, R., Dodsworth, J. and Black, J., (2008), Analysing child deaths and serious injury through abuse and neglect: what can we learn? A Biennial analysis of serious case reviews 2003-2005, Nottingham, DCSF Back

99   Ev 206 Back

100   Q97 [Professor Ward, quoting research by Mike Stein on neglected adolescents] Back

101   Q97 [Professor Ward] Back

102   Ev 217 Back

103   Ev w169 Back

104   Ev w67 Back

105   Ev 221, citing Cleaver and Walker (2004) Back

106   Q94 [Professor Biehal] Back

107   Ev 221 Back

108   Thoburn, J., Globalisation and Child Welfare: Some lessons from a cross-national study of children in out-of-home care, Social Work Monographs, UEA Norwich, first published 2007  Back

109   Ev 213 Back

110   Ev 213-4 Back

111   Ev 217 Back

112   Q442 Back

113   Ibid Back

114   Q588 Back

115   Supplementary Evidence from BASW Back

116   Ev 188 Back

117   Ibid Back

118   Q322 Back

119   Q416 {Enver Solomon] Back

120   Ev w167 Back

121   Ev w151  Back

122   The Pursuit of Permanence: A Study of the English Care System, Ian Sinclair et al, London: Jessica Kingsley, p38 Back

123   Q94 [Professor Biehal] Back

124   Ibid Back

125   Q718 Back

126   Q308 Back

127   Q444 Back

128   Q352 Back

129   The APPG for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults and the APPG for Looked After Children and Care Leavers (2012), Report from the Joint Inquiry into Children who go missing from Care, p9 Back

130   Ibid, p22 Back

131   Office of the Children's Commissioner (2012), Briefing for the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Education, on the emerging findings of the Office of the Children's Commissioner's Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Gangs and Groups, with a special focus on children in care, p8 (hereafter DCC report) Back

132   Ibid Back

133   See Annex 6 Back

134   DCC report. p9 and p42 Back

135   Ibid, p11 Back

136   DfE: Children looked After by Local Authorities in England (including adoption and care leavers) - year ending 31 March 2011  Back

137   Young people's views on leaving care. Reported by the Children's Rights Director for England, March 2012 Back

138   Supplementary evidence from The Children's Society Back

139   Quoted in Supplementary evidence from The Children's Society Back

140   Supplementary evidence from The Children's Society Back

141   Q461 Back

142   Q451 Back

143   United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime Back

144   First Annual Report of the Inter-Departmental Ministerial Group on Human Trafficking, Cm 8241, October 2012 Back

145   Crown Prosecution Service, Human Trafficking and Smuggling: Legal Guidance.  Back

146   Ev 171 [ECPAT] Back

147   Qq266; 243-44; Q36 Back

148   Qq 243, 233 [Colin Walker] Back

149   Q35 [Jim Gamble] Back

150   Qq35-6 Back

151   Ev 186, p.3 Back

152   Ecpat and Q261; Qq449-50 Back

153   Ev 172 Back

154   Q266 Back

155   Q609 Back

156   Q609 Back

157   Ev 173 Back

158   Q308 Back

159   Report from APPG Inquiry into children missing from care, p19 Back

160   Ev 173 Back

161 , p.24 Back

162   Ev 186 Back

163   BBC News, Asylum-seeking children are going missing from care, 21 January 2010:  Back

164   Ev 187 Back

165   Ibid Back

166   Q320, Q328 Back

167   Q328 Back

168   Q331 Back

169   Oral evidence taken before the Education Committee, 4 July 2012, HC 149-i Back

170   ESRC Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), University of Oxford (May 2012), "No way out, no way in: irregular migrant children and families in the UK" Back

171   HC 149-i, Q55 Back

172   HC 149-i, Q106 Back

173   HC 149-i, Qq108, 109 Back

174   Barter,C., McCarry, M., Berridge, D. and Evans, K. (2009) Partner Exploitation and Violence in Teenage Intimate Relationships. London: NSPCC; Wood, M., Barter, C. and Berridge, D. (2011) 'Standing on My Own Two Feet': Disadvantaged Teenagers, Intimate Partner Violence and Coercive Control. London: NSPCC Back

175   Ev w199 Back

176   Ev w150 Back

177   Q272 Back

178   Q272 Back

179   Ev 214 Back

180   Tackling Sexual Exploitation Action Plan (DfE 2011) Back

181   Evidence taken before the Home Affairs Committee, Tuesday 12 June, HC182-i, Q134 Back

182   Ev180 Back

183   NSPCC, A qualitative study of children, young people and 'sexting', May 2012  Back

184   Ev w130 Back

185   Ibid Back

186  Back

187   Ev 168 Back

188   Ev 169 Back

189   Ev 168  Back

190   AFRUCA, Faith Based Child Abuse in London and What is witchcraft abuse? Available via:  Back

191   See, for instance, BBC News, 12 October 2011, African children trafficked to UK for blood rituals Back

192   Ev w3-4 Back

193   Information from FORWARD UK Back

194   Ev w3  Back

195   DfE (2012), National action plan to tackle child abuse linked to faith or belief Back

196   Ev 168 Back

197   Ibid Back

198   Ev 172 Back

199   Q244 Back

200   Ev 168 Back

201   Ev 191 Back

202   Q282 [Kathy Rowe] Back

203   Q152 Back

204   Ev 170 Back

205   Q832 [Tim Loughton] Back

206   Q416 Enver Solomon; Ev w222 Back

207   Action for Children research; See also Ev w151; Q206 [Sue Minto]  Back

208   Q97 [Professor Ward]; Ev w222 Back

209   Ev w222 Back

210   Q723 Back

211   Ev 200  Back

212   Ev w201 Back

213   Q206 [Sue Minto] Back

214   Ibid Back

215   Q418 Back

216   Ibid Back

217   Q444 [Phillip Noyes] Back

218   Q724 Back

219   Supplementary evidence from The Children's Society Back

220   Ev w153 Back

221   See Annex 6 Back

222   Supplementary evidence from The Children's Society Back

223   Q454 [Enver Solomon] Back

224   Supplementary evidence from The Children's Society Back

225   Third Report from the Children, Schools and Families Committee, Session 2008-09, HC 111-i, para 143 Back

226   Q220 Back

227   Q451 [Phillip Noyes] Back

228   Q220 ff Back

229   Q453 Back

230   Q615 [Peter Davies] Back

231   Qq613-6 Back

232   Ev 217 Back

233   Q624 Back

234   Q655 Back

235   Q655 Back

236   Q653 Back

237   Q226 Back

238   Q625 Back

239   Q199 [Sue Minto] Back

240   Q864 [Tim Loughton] Back

241   Ev w150 [Office of the Children's Commissioner] Back

242   Qq227-8 [Sue Minto] Back

previous page contents next page

© Parliamentary copyright 2012
Prepared 7 November 2012