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Sexual Violence against Children and Vulnerable People

National Group Progress Report and Action Plan

The Sexual Violence Against Children and Vulnerable People National Group (SVACV) is a panel of experts and policy makers brought together by the Home Office to co-ordinate and implement the learning from recent inquiries into historic child sexual abuse and current sexual violence prevention issues.

The National Group has identified an ambitious programme of activity which builds upon the already extensive programme of work underway across Government to strengthen and enhance the response and protection to children and vulnerable people. It builds upon our strategies to end violence against women and girls, tackle gang and youth violence, review and reform our child protection and care systems and improve outcomes for vulnerable people within our health and care environments.

Significant progress has already been made through the Government’s national Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation Action Plan (2011). This has set firm foundations for the radical increase in the pace and profile of work, both within and outside Government, at a national and at a local level which is being taken forward to protect children from this horrendous form of child abuse.

More widely, the Department for Education’s extensive reforms of child protection, social work and care for looked after children, are putting the needs of individual children at the heart of the system. Earlier this year, the Department for Education (DFE) published revised statutory guidance, ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’, 2013 which sets out more clearly the statutory duties on different agencies in keeping children safe and promoting their welfare, and removes unnecessary bureaucracy to empower professionals to do their best for vulnerable children and their families.

The Department for Education is supporting the strengthening of Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) in holding local agencies to account for safeguarding children, while Ofsted has introduced new inspection arrangements for child protection.

Within health and adult social care, significant improvements are being driven by the Department of Health (DH). The NHS Trusts’ Savile investigations which are expected to be published later this year, and Kate Lampard’s independent overview report expected by March 2014, will set out the lessons arising for the health services from the Savile inquiries. Programmes such as ‘Transforming Care’, on the national response to events at Winterbourne View Hospital, and those that followed the independent public inquiry by Robert Francis QC into events at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust: ‘Treating People with Dignity, Compassion and Care’ as well as the Government’s initial response, ‘Patients First and Foremost’, set out a number of actions which together, will ensure a consistent culture of compassionate care, with the patient’s interest at its very heart. This will be followed by a further Government response to the public inquiry report in the Autumn. More widely, the Government is seeking to substantially strengthen adult safeguarding arrangements. Legislative proposals in the Care Bill are seeking to put Safeguarding Adults Boards on a statutory footing for the first time, and include specifying the responsibilities of Boards and sharing relevant information between partners.

The Group’s work also builds on the platform of reform already well underway across the police and CJS which not only seeks to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy and empower frontline officers, but which also seeks to place victims at the heart of the CJS.

The Government is committed to transforming the CJS into a modern public service that is digital, faster and right first time, transparent and responsive and shows care and consideration for victims and witnesses. Its ‘Transforming the CJS strategy and Action Plan’, published in June, identifies tackling violence against women and girls and child sexual abuse as a priority crime and commits to a range of measures to address it.

In addition, recognising the links between child sexual exploitation and children going missing, the Home Office continues to lead the national Missing Children and Adults Strategy which sets out three clear priorities to prevent, protect and provide support to missing children, adults and their families. Through its ‘Violence Against Women and Girls Action Plan’, ‘Ending Gangs and Youth Violence Action Plan’ and ‘Human Trafficking Strategy’, the Home Office is delivering a comprehensive range of targeted action to improve the identification, protection and support of vulnerable children and adults from these forms of abuse and exploitation. More widely, urgent work is underway within the Home Office to undertake a review of child protection policies across the Department to ensure our response recognises the specific vulnerabilities of children.