By a Newsnet reporter
Sandra White MSP has welcomed an announcement by the Scottish Government that it has commissioned research into the scale and scope of child sex exploitation in Scotland.
The SNP MSP for Glasgow Kelvin was responding to an announcement by Children’s Minister Aileen Campbell who told the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee today that the government wished to identify how many children were affected by the issue and that research would provide a “clearer indication of the areas we need to focus on”.
Ms Campbell was responding to MSPs’ questions on a petition from Barnardo’s Scotland.
The study, to be carried out by internationally respected researchers at the University of Bedford, is expected to report its findings in June this year.
The petition from Barnado’s Scotland calls on the Scottish Government to review and update the existing guidlines, dating from 2003, to help tackle the problem more effectively and to commission research so the nature and scope of child sexual exploitation in Scotland can be better understood.
This will aid the development of strategies and policies to combat child sexual exploitation, which Barnardo’s Scotland defines as being when someone under the age of 18 is involved in sexual activity for which money or payment-in-kind is given either to the young person themselves or to a third party.
Ms White, who is a member of the Petitions Committee, said:
“We know that the sexual exploitation of children is going on in Scotland but we don’t necessarily know how many are affected by it at any one time, where they are or how they are coming into contact with the adults who exploit them. I’m very pleased, therefore, that the Scottish Government is to undertake this important research.
“We need to know the true scale and prevalence of this form of child abuse if we are to be able to properly support the victims of it and prevent others from being put at risk. There are indications that child sexual exploitation is on the increase, but the police and other public agencies need the full story if they are to be able to tackle this issue effectively.
“No one should be in any doubt that vulnerable children and young people who are exploited for sexual purposes or forced into prostitution are victims of abuse. They need the support and protection of society. Research is the key to understanding the full scale of this problem and to getting in place the measures we need to prevent more children becoming victims.”