The Chancellor’s spending plans were packed with headline-grabbing news but one announcement particularly caught my eye.
Sajid Javid announced, as part of the spending plans for the Home Office, that an additional £30 million would be made available to tackle online child sexual exploitation – which is commonly referred to as CSE.
Safe and Sound is the only local charity dedicated to supporting children and young people across Derbyshire who are victims of or at risk of CSE.
We obviously welcome this news and look forward to working with our partners in the criminal justice system to ensure that prevention and detection of online CSE is stepped up in this county.
In his speech, the Chancellor recognised that the internet is changing how criminals operate and break the law in a number of ways and I am relieved that he has put CSE high on the agenda as part of the wider policing priorities.
No doubt this announcement is in response shocking rise in online grooming which is the first stage in predators’ manipulation and control of their young victims.
Figures show that there has been almost a 50% increase in offences of sexual communication with a child and a 200% rise in recorded offences using Instagram to target and abuse children.
At Safe and Sound, we too have also seen a dramatic rise in online grooming by male and female perpetrators across Derbyshire.
Online grooming is when someone builds a relationship with a young person and then tricks, pressurises or even blackmails them into doing something sexual.
This could be as having explicit online conversations, sending naked images or videos, doing something on webcam or tricking them into meeting up.
Safe and Sound’s specialist support team help young girls and boys from all walks of life to realise that these online ‘friends’ are in fact manipulative predators and we help them to break contact and stay safe in future.
We work with young people and their families to ensure privacy settings are correctly set up, that they keep online devices – particularly those with webcams – in the living room or family spaces and highlight the risks of sharing information online.
Therefore, whilst we welcome the additional funding in tackling online CSE, we must all be aware of the dangers faced by young people online and to report concerns.
Please visit our website for more information and how we and other organisations can help: www.safeandsoundgroup.org.uk
Tracy Harrison, Chief Executive of specialist Child Exploitation charity Safe and Sound