To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what steps she is taking to protect children and young people from child sexual abuse at home and online during the covid-19 outbreak.
8 June 2020
We are acutely aware that the necessary guidelines about social distancing and self-isolation may leave the victims of hidden crime, such as child sexual abuse, feeling especially vulnerable. For some children, home is not the safe-haven it should be, and more time spent online means children may be at increased risk of online harms.
We have responded swiftly to the risks posed by COVID-19, working closely with Law Enforcement, the UK Intelligence Community, safeguarding partners and the third sector to assess the threat and ensure they have the resources they need to tackle offending and provide the greatest protection for vulnerable children.
We are further working across government and agencies to ensure that teachers, parents and carers have access to the support they need to help keep children safe online. As part of this the National Crime Agency have launched the #OnlineSafetyAtHome campaign, the Department for Education has published interim safeguarding guidance for schools and colleges encouraging them to disseminate advice on online safety and we have published guidance for parents and carers on gov.uk.
As part of this the Government made £1.6 million available immediately for the NSPCC to expand and promote its national helpline for adults. We also worked across government, with the NCA and industry to ensure that teachers, parents and carers have access to the support they need to help keep children safe online.
On 21st May, the Prime Minister hosted a virtual summit focused on ‘hidden harms’, including child sexual abuse. The virtual summit brought key decision makers together to share insight, best practice and agree an approach for tackling these crimes as we move towards easing lockdown measures.
Ahead of the summit, the Home Secretary announced that £9.86 million is being allocated to the National Crime Agency to improve its ability to tackle perpetrators seeking to offend against children via the Dark Web. An additional £3.36 million is being committed to further improve our understanding and tackle all aspects of the child sexual abuse threat. We will also launch a £2.8 million transformation fund to promote and embed best practice in Child Sexual Abuse victim support.
Following the Summit, we have sought to engage stakeholders within communities who could support in identifying vulnerable children, by delivering communications that highlight how to spot the signs of abuse and neglect, as well as where to report concerns. The aim is to improve our collective ability to detect and respond to a range harms, including at home.
The Home Office will distribute £7.8 million in emergency support for charities helping vulnerable children who have been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. We are working closely with other government departments to identify an approach for disbursing the proportion of the £360 million charities funding allocated directly from government departments to vulnerable children’s charities, with the aim to implement the approach as soon as possible.