Scotland

Plans to tackle child sex abuse in Scotland announced

A child on a swing Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Charities have called for an action plan on tackling child exploitation and abuse

A national action plan to tackle child sex abuse has been announced by the Scottish government, amid a warning the problem is widespread.

Education Secretary Mike Russell said a public awareness campaign formed part of a strategy to tackle the issue with "ruthless determination".

Concerns were raised after systematic child sexual exploitation was uncovered in Rotherham.

Several children's charities called for a Scottish plan on the issue.

Meanwhile, Mr Russell said the government was still considering whether to hold a further inquiry into historic child sex abuse, and would reach a decision by Christmas.

The action plan came after a report by the Care Inspectorate watchdog in Scotland warned agencies against complacency.

In September, it was revealed 1,400 children had been abused in Rotherham in South Yorkshire between 1997 and 2013.

'Never forget'

Mr Russell told parliament the national plan would see guidance issued to night-time workers, like taxi drivers and hotel staff, to help spot cases of child sexual exploitation.

And he said further work would ensure a consistent approach across Scotland to support those trying to tackle the problem.

At the same time, Mr Russell said he was acting on the recommendations of a report from Children in Scotland Chief Executive Jackie Brock.

This will see key workers involved in child protection brought together before the end of the year to ensure their responsibilities were clear.

"Some dreadful things happened in Scotland over many years to children who deserved so much better from those in positions of trust," said Mr Russell.

He added: "We must never forget what took place. We need to have an awareness of it that means it can never be repeated.

"We need to prosecute those who are guilty so they can never reoffend and we need to place in permanence the truth about who was accountable so that others never fail again."

The action plan was announced as children's charity Barnardo's said determined perpetrators would abuse a large number of children.

Helpline calls

Its director Martin Crewe, said: "We are certain that there is widespread child abuse, but what we don't know is the exact nature and prevalence of it."

But he added: "I don't think that the exact nature of Rotherham is happening in Scotland now."

Police have also insisted systematic sexual abuse of children on the scale exposed in Rotherham was "absolutely not" happening in Scotland - but said there had been a large number of child rapes and hundreds of convictions for child sexual exploitation in the last year.

In January, the NSPCC children's charity highlighted a rise in sexual abuse cases in Scotland involving children under the age of 13.

Police Scotland, which is setting up a child abuse investigation unit, welcomed the government's national plan.

Related Topics

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites