UK Government publishes new national strategy to tackle all forms of child sexual abuse

A child on her computer.

Today, the Government of the United Kingdom published a national Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy with new legislations and enhanced technology to find offenders and protect more survivors.

“The Strategy is the first of its kind and outlines our long-term ambition for tackling all forms of child sexual abuse by driving action across every part of the government and internationally to disrupt and prevent offending, both online and offline,” said Rebecca Kirby, the Director Tackling Slavery and Exploitation at the United Kingdom Home Office.

The Strategy includes three main pillars, including tackling all forms of child sexual abuse and bringing offenders to justice, preventing offending and re-offending, and protecting children and young people and supporting all survivors. The overlapping nature of these objectives reinforces one another, recognising the complex, interconnected nature of this crime and the whole-system response it requires.

I will not tolerate these crimes, whether they take place at home, in communities or online. I am absolutely clear that those who abuse children remotely from across the world should not be treated with any less seriousness than those who abuse children in person.

Priti Patel, the Secretary of State for the Home Department

The Strategy will result in real-world impact, including:

  • Supporting survivors through the court process with a new and revised Victim’s Code; 
  • Introducing a ground-breaking new Online Safety Bill to ensure technology companies are held to account; 
  • Providing funding for local areas to improve their response to exploitation through the Home Office Prevention Programme;
  • Investing and implementing the use of the United Kingdom’s Child Abuse Image Database inside law enforcement offices;
  • Developing specialist child-centred support for survivors;
  • Raising awareness through communication and engagement with parents and the wider public;
  • And much more.

In addition, the Strategy has a palpable international dimension, as it recommits the United Kingdom to working across the world to prevent child sexual abuse and tackling transnational child sex offending; and combining international cooperation with common global standards, such as the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse. In addition, the Strategy sets out its collaboration with the End Violence Partnership, and how the United Kingdom will continue working through relevant UK-based international aid programmes to help improve child protection in key at-risk countries.

I welcome and congratulate the UK Government for publishing an ambitious and first-of-its-kind national strategy to protect children from all forms of sexual abuse. We look forward to collaborating with the UK Government and international partners to prevent, disrupt and respond to child sexual abuse wherever it happens — online, offline, in the UK and around the world.

Dr Howard Taylor, the Executive Director of End Violence

The Strategy also touches on essential considerations for the COVID-19 context, and the heightened risk of abuse, exploitation and violence children are now facing.

“The public expects the government to do all it can to prevent child sexual abuse, particularly during this difficult period, and we are delivering on this promise by publishing our Strategy,” said Safeguarding Minister Victoria Atkins in a statement issued by the Home Office.

This Strategy works alongside the UK Strategy: Safeguarding Against Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and Sexual Harassment within the Aid Sector to support work across the world.

Read the Strategy in full.

Photo: UNICEF/UNI320494/Elias