Wales

Organised child sex abuse 'growing problem' in Wales

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Image caption Barnardo's Cymru says a 'sophisticated grooming process' is used on vulnerable youngsters in Wales

Children trafficked in Wales are being moved around the country and across the UK, says children's charity Barnardo's.

They are moved along the M4 corridor in south Wales and the A55 in north Wales to places including London, Bristol, Birmingham and Liverpool, it says.

Meanwhile, an AM says nearly 30 children in Wales' social services system have been identified as victims of organised child sexual abuse.

Funding for a post to track the issue in Wales has been approved.

Barnado's says children as young as 10 are being trafficked in the UK

The charity says it is working with more than 1,000 abused children who are moved around British towns and cities.

Dr Sam Clutton, lead policy officer for child sexual exploitation at Barnardo's Cymru, said a "sophisticated grooming process" saw young people being tricked by abusers.

She told BBC Radio Wales: "We know that this is becoming more organised and more tied into organised crime.

"We are basically talking about children being tricked and duped into going, initially maybe, to a party as part of the grooming process and... just being transported to being sold for sex by adults."

She said the charity had trained 3,000 professionals on the issue in Wales in the past five years, with Gwent Police becoming a "pocket of good practice".

She said: "We have come a long way in the last five years in Wales from a point where we didn't acknowledge that child sexual exploitation was a Welsh issue but we have still got a long way to go.

"We need everybody to be aware of this issue, to be alert to it, so we can start noticing things earlier and start assisting these very vulnerable children and young people."

"Certainly the latest evidence we've got in Wales [is] we're looking at an average age 14 for girls and a little bit older for boys in relation to this issue."

Across the UK, Barnardo's is calling for a minister to be appointed to ensure the issue of children being sexually exploited and trafficked into the sex industry is addressed.

Guidance

In Wales, the charity says the issue is progressing along different lines. It has welcomed new guidance to key practitioners in Wales such as teachers, health professionals, social workers, the police, to tackle sexual exploitation.

Deputy Social Services Minister Gwenda Thomas has commissioned a review within six months of the guidance being published to examine how it is being applied by Local Safeguarding Children Boards.

Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) consist of representatives from councils, health boards, social services and the police, who work together to prevent the mistreatment of children.

They were set up as part of the UK government's 2003 Every Child Matters strategy alongside the formal response to the report into the death of Victoria ClimbiƩ.

Joyce Watson AM, who chairs the cross-party working group on trafficking, said the working group's own report identified nearly 30 children in Wales' social services system as victims of organised child sexual abuse.

'Worrying'

Ms Watson said: "The fact is trafficking knows no boundaries.

"Once people are trafficked in the UK, they are then re-trafficked time and time again and each time that they are trafficked money changes hands, so they really are a commodity to those people that control them.

"It is particularly worrying when you see that has happened in the care sector in Wales, or anywhere else for that matter."

She said Local Government Minister Carl Sargeant had put money towards a post of "trafficking co-ordinator" to keep across the issue in Wales.

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