The Home Office’s new Tackling Child Sex Abuse Strategy could help put the UK ahead of the world in tackling abuse, but a Government which is big on promises and poor on delivery must not miss this opportunity, says Liberal Democrat Councillor Sam Al-Hamdani.
He raised concerns that much of the strategy can only be delivered with spending decisions that have been put off by the current Conservative Government, as well as new legislation which has been repeatedly delayed.
The 91-page strategy details the extent to which the police, social care, intelligence agencies and government must work together to make an impact on abuse, and bring offenders to justice. It specifically targets online spaces, and focuses on providing adequate safeguarding for children and young people, as well as support for victims.
Liberal Democrat Councillor Sam Al-Hamdani said: “This report is an important step in changing the national response to child sex abuse. It is vital that local teams and approaches work and have a single agreed approach which fits with national strategies and funding. The Home Office-sponsored Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse is reporting on a series of areas which will feed into this response, and I am glad that Oldham Council has backed our demand to implement any of the relevant recommendations from those reports that are necessary in our Borough.”
However, the strategy also delegates spending decisions to the next spending review, which will mainly be about – understandably – the UK’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The strategy itself highlights a number of issues, such as skills gaps among practitioners, and delays in the criminal justice system, which cannot be improved without dedicated funding increases.
Councillor Al-Hamdani continued: “This Government has repeatedly said that it is going to deliver ‘world-beating’ services. I judge them on their actions, not their words.
“The Strategy calls for better coordination between international policing agencies – the Government has failed to get an agreement in place to allow us to work with European police. It has failed to bring forward the Online Harms Bill – although at least that is now expected later this year.”
The Liberal Democrats in Oldham have repeatedly highlighted loopholes in the UK’s current legislation, and put forward an agenda for change, including recent successful motions on a domestic abuse register, on the NSPCC’s Closing the Loophole campaign, and on street harassment.
Councillor Al-Hamdani concluded: “There are many good things in this report that we need to see rolled out across the UK, and in Oldham itself. We cannot let improvements in services that strive to keep our children safe be derailed by further delays in legislation, a lack of dedicated funding, or by a Government that seems to believe in words, not deeds.”