Fight against child abuse 'threatened by cuts'

By Alex Stevenson

Vulnerable children facing abuse could be affected by spending cuts undermining child protection services, MPs have warned.

The Commons' education committee found it would be increasingly difficult to prevent the spending cuts imposed on local authorities by the coalition's austerity drive impacting on child safeguarding efforts.

Its report, published today, came after a series of revelations about the BBC and other institutions which MPs warned underlined "how important it is to get child protection right".

"Whatever your view on the cuts it is essential that the children in our society most vulnerable to abuse and exploitation are not the ones to pay the price," committee chair Graham Stuart said.

"These children must be first and foremost in the minds of councillors and ministers so that the welcome improvements we have seen over recent years are maintained and built upon."

MPs called for more children to be taken into care. They said the evidence showed "the balance of evidence is heavily in favour of care being considered as a viable, positive option at an earlier stage for many children" – and called on ministers to promote that view more widely.

Their report also warned that care for older children needs to be urgently reviewed. It said more needs to be done to raise awareness among children of the nature of abuse and how it might affect them.

Doing so could increase the number of self-referrals, it is hoped.

"Care for older children is not good enough," Stuart added.

"They are let down too often, frequently ignored or not listened to and can be pushed out of care too young and insufficiently prepared and supported. This has to change."

MPs also called on the Department for Education to take responsibility for all children, even those in cases of trafficked and asylum-seeking children.

"The most worrying thing about recent revelations relating to North Wales or Jimmy Savile is the myth that they couldn't happen again," shadow children's minister Lisa Nandy said.

"Today's report, and the horrific sexual abuse of teenage girls in Rochdale, shows that power relationships are still exploited and young people, particularly girls, are too often ignored or disbelieved when they report abuse.

"It underlines why the government is wrong to resist a public inquiry into recent allegations."