Protecting children has to be a major priority across government, says Yvette Cooper
Yvette Cooper, Shadow Home Secretary, has announced Labour's plans for a new strategy on tackling child abuse in a speech at NSPCC offices in London this morning.
She committed a Labour government to introducing a new cross-departmental national strategy on tackling child abuse that will focus on prevention, earlier intervention, stronger deterrence, and firm pursuit of offenders. It will also include measures to tackle the growing crisis of online abuse.
Her speech highlighted Labour's view that opportunity for prevention and positive vision has been lost as cross government support for children has collapsed since the Department for Children, Schools and Families was replaced by the Department for Education, and that the Home Office are failing to provide adequate leadership or support for the police.
More support, stronger prevention and extra powers needed
The Shadow Home Secretary argued for a revolution in the approach to dealing with child abuse, which includes:
- more support for children and adult survivors
- stronger prevention measures including compulsory sex and relationship education to teach about respect and consent
- stronger partnership working and requirements on professionals to report abuse, and
- stronger powers for the police to stop abusers.
She also warned that 1,000 officers should not be cut from policing next year, as resources for child protection are badly needed.
Yvette Cooper, Shadow Home Secretary, said:
"We need a sea change in our attitudes, a revolution in our systems of protecting children. No more drift, no more fudge, no more excuses. Child abuse is a terrible abuse of power – an abuse of the power adults have over children, to groom them, exploit them, harm them and silence them.
"It has to become a major priority with leadership from across government – with more support for children, stronger prevention, stronger protection, and stronger pursuit of criminals to bring them to justice.
"We will set up a new child protection unit between the Home Office and Department for Education, also drawing on Health, Communities and Local Government and Justice to drive changes needed."
Peter Wanless, NSPCC CEO, said:
"It's absolutely right that an effective national strategy with follow through is needed if we are to make serious inroads into ending the sexual abuse of children.
"Sexual abuse damages far too many lives and remains a blight on society. Early intervention is key to giving children immediate protection from harm as well as saving them from problems that may mar later life – depression, crime, drug-taking.
"NSPCC services have offered direct support to nearly 3000 victims of sexual abuse. But this is barely scratching the surface when you consider there are more than twenty 20 times that number of other young victims denied therapy because this country currently lacks similar services essential to help them re-build their lives.
"Of course there must be justice for those who have borne the scars of abuse for years but we mustn't lose sight of the fact that many children are suffering now. And while we grow ever more aware of the once unimaginable scale of child cruelty in all its forms this has to be matched by positive action which puts this problem at the top of every political agenda."