Stockport Express Column – February

We were all horrified that groups of men sexually exploited children and young girls from Rochdale and Stockport.

The sexual exploitation of children was brought sharply to public notice by the Rochdale court case but of course child sexual exploitation can take many forms, including online grooming.

Tony Lloyd, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester, has asked me to see what improvements have been made in safeguarding children from sexual exploitation since the Rochdale victims first came forward and what more needs to be done in Greater Manchester.

I have had an interest in child protection all my working life and I am the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults.

I would like to hear the views and experiences of victims, young people, parents and families, schools, faith and church groups and the wider community in Greater Manchester.

One of the key issues in the Rochdale case was that the victims and their families were not listened to and were faced with some very negative attitudes from the very agencies they went to for help.

They were not treated as vulnerable children. What was happening to them was seen as a result of choices they had made, when in fact they were being intimidated, coerced and raped on a daily basis.

Because their behaviour was seen as a “life style choice” the girls were not given the protection they should have expected from organisations with a responsibility to safeguard them.

Of course, protecting vulnerable children is also the responsibility of the wider community and that is why hearing people’s views on the very important issue of child sexual exploitation is vital. Please let me know your thoughts. Contact me atcoffeya@parliament.uk or by letter to Ann Coffey MP, House of Commons, Westminster, SW1A OAA.

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