Telford, like many other towns across the country, has experienced high rates of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE).
Figures, from the House of Commons Library, show that child sex offences within the Telford & Wrekin local authority stood at a rate of 19.7 cases per 10,000 heads of population in 2016-17. This figure is below other higher-profile places, such as Rotherham and Blackpool, but still around two and a half times the national average.
These sort of crimes have gone on in Telford, and in other towns, for decades, and since my election, in 2015, I have repeatedly called for more action on the issue by:
- Supporting an independent inquiry into CSE in England and Wales
- Calling on the Government to carry out a ‘Rotherham-style’ inquiry into CSE in Telford
- Raising the issue during Westminster Hall debates at Parliament
- Questioning the Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, on the issue of CSE during an Education Select Committee evidence session
- Discussing the early release of Telford child sex-gang leader, Mubarek Ali, and the treatment of child sexual abuse victims with the then-Justice Secretary, David Lidington
- Asking the Prime Minister, Theresa May, if she will look into why offenders jailed for CSE are being released so far ahead of their sentences, and why victims are not informed of the impending release of offenders.
- Welcoming the Government’s review of the Parole Board and Victim Contact Scheme, and urging the Justice Secretary, David Gauke MP, to consider the case of Mubarek Ali within the scope of this review
I also very much welcome the Government's new funding package, worth £13 million, to help victims of abuse, and its plans to improve communications between local authorities and vulnerable people.
This new resource, the "Trusted Relationships Fund", will be open to local authorities, such as Telford and Wrekin, as well as police, nurses and others, in order to help them work with local partners to improve the way professionals, including social workers, youth workers, police and voluntary sector practitioners, work together to support vulnerable young people.
It’s important to stress, however, that this funding is not a silver bullet.
We still have a long way to go, and I will continue to shine a light on this issue, and push for tougher penalties for perpetrators and improved support for victims, in my role at Parliament.