SOCIAL care chief Tony Rodgers has pointed out the vast majority of victims of child sexual exploitation live at home with their parents and the problem of abuse needs to be tackled by society as a whole.
The Health and Social Care Board’s Assistant Director of Social Care and Children said safeguarding young people, including those in care, was the number one priority.
Mr Rodgers said: “There is an effective multi-agency approach in place and social care professionals have been working with the Police, the Safeguarding Board, and the voluntary sector, including Barnardo’s and the NSPCC to ensure there are robust arrangements in place to protect children.
“Research confirms that there are some groups who are particularly vulnerable, and this would certainly include children who are in the care system. However, it would be wrong to believe that they are the only group of children at risk.
“Learning from England indicates that children in care are very much a minority in terms of the overall numbers of children who are victims of child sexual exploitation, and that the majority of children affected live at home with their parents. The dangers lie in society and require society to tackle it as a whole.”
He made the comments as details emerged of a far reaching investigation into child sex abuse affecting children in care.
HSCB said all key agencies in Northern Ireland were working together to identify and respond to cases of child sexual exploitation.
A team of social workers are part of an ongoing police investigation focussed on preventing child sexual exploitation, protecting young people affected by it and prosecuting offenders.
Information leaflets for children, parents and professionals have been developed and a bespoke helpline run by NSPCC has been set up to offer further information and advice.
Mr Rodgers added: “Protecting our children and young people and keeping them safe is everyone’s business. Young people rarely disclose that this is happening to them, the onus therefore is on those working with them to be aware of the signs and know what to do when they have concerns.
“If a child or young person is in immediate danger call 999 or contact the PSNI on 0845 600 8000.
“If you have specific concerns about child sexual exploitation or want further information about this call 0800 389 1701. This is a helpline staffed by the NSPCC providing 24 hour confidential advice and support to allow us to take protective action to safeguard children.”