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UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 182-iii
HOUSE OF COMMONS
TAKEN BEFORE THE
Home Affairs Committee
Tuesday 23 October 2012
Jon Brown, Sue Minto and Michelle Lee-Izu
Evidence heard in Public Questions 186 - 214
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
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Taken before the Home Affairs Committee
on Tuesday 23 October 2012
Keith Vaz (Chair)
Mr James Clappison
Mr David Winnick
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Jon Brown, Head of Strategy and Development, Sexual Abuse, NSPCC, Sue Minto, Head of ChildLine, NSPCC, and Michelle Lee-Izu, Director of Barnardo’s South East, gave evidence.
Q186 Chair: Mr Brown, Ms Lee-Izu and Ms Minto, thank you very much for coming, and thank you for waiting patiently outside. I am sorry we are running a little late.
You have probably been following the Committee’s inquiry into child grooming and you are aware of the evidence that we have received so far. I think the Committee was astonished to hear how widespread this matter was. We took evidence from the Deputy Children’s Commissioner before the recess, and she basically told the Committee that this was going on in every town and village in the whole of the United Kingdom, which I think was a shock to some of us, who believed that this was not the case. How widespread is it? Ms Minto.
Sue Minto: Certainly from ChildLine’s point of view, you will have the figures that in 2011-12 we received over 15,000 contacts from children and young people who were talking to us about sexual abuse. Grooming has its place across all types of sexual abuse, and we would say that that clearly is the tip of the iceberg and these are children who predominantly are not feeling like they can talk in their locality or within their network about it.
Chair: Mr Brown.
Jon Brown: Child sexual exploitation and child sexual abuse-and I think I would say that child sexual exploitation is a part of a wider problem of child sexual abuse within the UK-is a widespread problem, and undoubtedly the great majority of child sexual abuse and child sexual exploitation goes unreported. It goes undisclosed, sometimes for the totality of the victim’s life, and sometimes it gets disclosed, as we have heard recently, many, many, many decades later. So I think we are looking at the visible peak of a much larger problem, and certainly from our research-prevalence research that the NSPCC has undertaken and other comparable research as well-it is estimated that between 60% and 90% of all child sexual abuse goes unreported, so we are looking at a major problem. We shouldn’t be hysterical about this. We need to take a very considered evidence-based look at the scale of the problem and the scope of the problem and how it can best be prevented. It can be prevented, but I think we need to recognise that we are dealing with a much larger problem than most people consider to be the case.
Q187 Chair: From a Barnardo’s point of view, Ms Lee-Izu, do you think it is as widespread as Mr Brown and Ms Minto have indicated?
Michelle Lee-Izu: Yes. We have set up specialised services, then we have very quickly seen ourselves identifying higher numbers of young people than we might have originally anticipated, and very quickly our services do become quite stretched in terms of resources. Sometimes even when we have done a piece of research, the research has not always identified the numbers of young people because it is a hidden problem, so it is once you start working directly with those young people and work with them at their level and understand that they then start to disclose the abuse. I would agree with Mr Brown that there are times that it does take quite a considerable amount of time to get young people to the point where they disclose that abuse.
Q188 Chair: You may or may not have seen the evidence given to us last week by the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire. I think the whole Committee was very surprised to know that in the whole of this year, nobody had been prosecuted for grooming, bearing in mind there has been a lot of publicity, especially in The Times and other newspapers, about what has been happening in South Yorkshire. A figure of zero was a surprise to this Committee. Why do you think there is a problem? It is clearly out there, it is happening and it is widespread, as we have heard. It is unreported in some circumstances, but, Ms Minto, why are there so few prosecutions? What is going wrong with getting to the bottom of the people responsible?
Sue Minto: Certainly from ChildLine’s point of view, there is a real naivety, if not an ignorance, around grooming and around the impact that it has on children and young people, and I think that the system-the child protection system and the criminal system-is still set up to expect children and young people to talk in a very coherent way about their experiences, and that isn’t going to happen. When you consider the impact issues, particularly around embarrassment and shame, which is a really key issue for children and young people who, because of the very nature of the grooming, are feeling very responsible, the way that they will then describe what has happened, and their role in it, if you like, really doesn’t fit very well with the way that our system responds. Certainly from ChildLine’s point of view, as I said earlier, a huge number of the children that contact us are not talking to anybody in their locality.
Chair: Mr Brown.
Jon Brown: Grooming of children for child sexual exploitation and child sexual abuse is part of a bigger picture in relation to the dynamics of child sexual abuse. As well as grooming, it involves planning, it involves targeting the children, it involves the sexual abuse itself and then it involves further planning of subsequent abuse, and abusers of course don’t only groom the child themselves; they are responsible for grooming the child’s immediate network, for convincing the parents and the carers of the child or the young person and their friends that they are in some way benign, they are in some way wanting to form a genuine friendship with the child or the young person, or they are in some way wanting to genuinely help them out. They are also responsible for grooming their wider environment as well. So I think because of that it is perfectly plausible, and in fact we do see professional networks getting groomed and hoodwinked into thinking that the girls and the young women are in some way complicit-are in some way agreeing to this abuse happening. Teenage girls, whether they be 12, 13, 14 or 15, cannot consent to sexual abuse, to sexual activity, as indeed boys cannot either. I think that is the hurdle we still need to get over with some professionals. I think we are getting there, but we are still looking at quite a piecemeal picture across the UK. There has been some really good practice in some local authority areas now in terms of ensuring that professionals, through the local Safeguarding Children Board, have a much better understanding in relation to the dynamics of sexual abuse, how they can get hoodwinked and how key professionals like social workers and police officers can get tricked into thinking that. So I think that is part of the problem.
I think in terms of dealing with an increasing number of prosecutions, we do need more education and information at kind of quite a basic level to ensure that those responsible for securing prosecutions and those responsible for dispensing justice have a good, clear understanding in relation to the dynamics of it all.
Q189 Chair: You say that, but some of it is common sense. I put the example to the Chief Constable of a case that came to this Committee of a young 12-year-old girl with a 22-year-old man in a car with a bottle of vodka, and her images were on the young man’s phone, but nobody was prosecuted. So you are right, there does need to be more training, but a lot of this is just common sense. It is seeing people in very unusual circumstances, without jumping to conclusions on seeing people together. I mean, that is fairly obvious, isn’t it?
Jon Brown: Absolutely, and that is a completely unacceptable situation and we have certainly seen that replicate itself.
I guess the other point I would make is that I think over the last few years, the child protection focus has probably not been on girls and young women vulnerable to child sexual exploitation; it has been elsewhere as a result of other tragedies, other concerns, the killing of Peter Connelly and other babies as well, and I think that has focused some of the key elements of the child protection system on to babies and younger children and not on to the particular vulnerabilities that teenagers and young people have. So I think that is a problem. We need to ensure that the child protection system is robust enough to cope and to have a clear view in relation to all the risks that are out there and not have a tunnel vision on to one particular area of concern at the moment.
Q190 Chair: Ms Lee-Izu, do you agree?
Michelle Lee-Izu: Yes. We have seen some improvement in terms of police activity, but we still feel that the prosecution rates are too low. I would agree with my colleagues from NSPCC that often the young person is not believed, frequently not seen as a reliable witness by the CPS, and the young person, if they are the main witness, finds it very difficult sometimes to be able to talk about the issues that they have been the subject of, because they are of such a sensitive nature, and the young people feel quite embarrassed. At times the young person really doesn’t realise or understand at that stage the level of the abuse they have been through, so they may not make a willing witness.
Barnardo’s believes that policing could really be improved by better awareness among front-line officers in particular, but that there are senior officers with responsibility for tackling the abuse and really appointing specialist officers to investigate cases and engage with the victims. The victims really do need to be supported through the process, because they do find it traumatic, and obviously we wouldn’t want to doubly abuse young people by the process they have to go through. Obviously, the person who is perpetrating the abuse has a right for that case to be thoroughly heard.
Chair: Very helpful. David Winnick has a supplementary.
Q191 Mr Winnick: If the sexual abuse of children has not had a particularly high profile-the very opposite is the position at the moment, for reasons that we are all very familiar with-do you feel that the current publicity, which will no doubt continue for some time over the allegations made about someone who has died, will help or hinder the work carried out by organisations such as yourself? Mr Brown.
Jon Brown: Thank you. My view is that the unfolding tragedy that we have seen in relation to the Savile case will bring some good, I think for a number of reasons. It will focus public attention on the reality of child sexual abuse, how difficult it is for victims of child sexual abuse to talk about it, to disclose, and how long that can take. There are all sorts of mirrors, I think, to some of the cases we have seen of child sexual exploitation a lot more recently.
Sue Minto: For me, I think about it from the position of children and young people who are watching it unfold, and certainly I have had experience of children who are saying, "How come these children weren’t believed?" or, "How come this wasn’t uncovered?" So I think for me we really have to do something that says to our children and young people, "You really must speak out, and we are here, we will listen and we will do something."
Q192 Nicola Blackwood: I just want to take you back for a moment to your comments about consent and attitudes to consent among police officers, and obviously I accept all those points, but I also wondered if we could talk a little bit about the attitude within the courts and CPS, because some of the comment that I have received from police officers is that they often have cases that they have assembled thrown back at them by the CPS because witnesses, victims of child sexual exploitation, are not credible witnesses, that they might have consented, and that the attitude towards them by juries and others would be very negative. I just wondered how that could be resolved or what your views are on that issue, because that is the other issue that is creating a problem for the prosecutors.
Michelle Lee-Izu: I think that one is supporting the children and young people who are going through the process. The other is to use some of the methodology that we know has been used in other court cases in terms of giving young people more protection, and training as well for people working in the court system and the CPS to try to understand some of the issues.
Nicola Blackwood: Did you have a comment, Mr Brown?
Jon Brown: Certainly; thank you. The NSPCC has been working with child witnesses, with young witnesses, for approximately 15 years, and I think during that time we have identified a fairly good body of practice evidence in terms of what works and what facilitates children to give the best-quality evidence, particularly in cases of child sexual abuse-child abuse generally, but particularly in cases of child sexual abuse-and I think preparation, ensuring that the child knows what to expect, ensuring that they are supported through the process and ensuring that where appropriate they are able to give evidence via remote video-link and those sorts of thing are absolutely critical. We are currently working with Victim Support to try to ensure that that level of practice is disseminated right across the UK. So we think that is absolutely critical. A child or a young person in a court facing their perpetrator is going to be, generally speaking, extremely compromised in terms of the quality of the evidence that they are able to give, because that grooming process continues in court. One look at the child from that offender can significantly affect their ability to answer a question. So I think the practice that we have developed over 15 years, and really ensuring that that is embedded throughout the criminal justice system, should be a key way forward in terms of the quality of evidence that children can give and upping the level of successful prosecutions.
Q193 Nicola Blackwood: But if that sort of practice has been developed over 15 years, then why aren’t there more prosecutions now? For example, I spoke to one officer recently and she said, "I have been through the court process with a child witness. The child witness was cross-examined by multiple barristers, because there were multiple perpetrators, and I would not put my own child through what that child was put through on the stand, because quite frankly it was making her relive the nightmare all over again." If we are not protecting those child witnesses through our court system now, when we have 15 years of experience like that, then what is it that we need to be doing differently in order to make sure that we can get these prosecutions?
Jon Brown: I think our view would be that those practice models need to be rolled out and need to be disseminated on a consistent basis right across the country, because they have not been at the moment. So, for example, we have developed in the South-West of England some really good practice based around Exeter Crown Court, just for example. But I think it has been slow progress, and we would have liked to see much faster progress and the development of that kind of practice right across the country at a much faster rate.
Q194 Nicola Blackwood: What is the barrier to progress?
Jon Brown: At the NSPCC we think the barrier is about, in a sense, in relation to the criminal justice system itself, the adversarial system, the perceived need for the child-for all witnesses, including children-to be there in court facing the accused, and sometimes I do think the criminal justice system is blind to the reality of that, particularly in cases of child abuse and particularly child sexual abuse, so I think there is further work to be done with those responsible for the criminal justice system to ensure that there is a better understanding of the specific impacts on children giving evidence under those circumstances.
Q195 Nicola Blackwood: Have you provided the Committee in writing with the work and practices that you found particularly helpful for child witnesses?
Jon Brown: Yes, we have.
Chair: Ms Lee-Izu, you indicated you wanted to say something.
Michelle Lee-Izu: Yes. No, that is fine. We could also present some information in writing on the Ministry of Justice witness intermediary scheme as well. The other thing that we would like to see more of is more expert witnesses being used in these cases so that the children themselves don’t have to give the evidence, but an expert witness could.
Nicola Blackwood: Okay, thanks.
Q196 Steve McCabe: The NSPCC report that their London-based staff say that perpetrators and victims come from all ages, all backgrounds and male and female. I just wondered, is that the same in your experience of other projects throughout the country?
Sue Minto: Certainly it would be a mistake to assume that only men abuse or only certain ethnic groups abuse, and that is when we really do miss children that are being abused. The majority of children are abused by men, but women abuse as well, boys get abused, and so I think that it would be very dangerous to try to put it into any kind of category. I think we have all heard about this tip of the iceberg and how concerning it is, and how difficult it is for children and young people to speak out, so we have to have our eyes open much more than they already are.
Jon Brown: Yes, our experience is that the great majority of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by white men. If you look at the totality of child sexual abuse committed within the family, within the extended family and indeed outside of the family, the great majority is committed by white men. However, as my colleague says, it is also important to remember that approximately a third of all sexual offences against children are perpetrated by under-18s, so it is important to remember that factor, and also, as far as we know from our research within the UK and looking at international research, child sexual abuse is perpetrated across all communities and across all socio-economic groups as well. We are also aware of the recent cases of child sexual exploitation within the north of England and the particular predominance in terms of arrests and prosecutions there of men particularly from British Pakistani backgrounds, so we are aware of that and we wouldn’t want to ignore it. We think that there does need to be a better understanding in terms of how that has happened, the focus on that, and indeed, the NSPCC are setting up a round-table event early in December in Manchester, hosted by Manchester Police, to have a focused discussion and look at that very issue on perpetrators of child sexual exploitation, to begin to get a bit more of a rational evidence-based analysis of the issue.
Steve McCabe: Thank you. Do you have anything to add?
Michelle Lee-Izu: We would agree that the ethnicity of the young people we are working with is variable in terms of those that are abused, but also across our core of services; although we don’t collate the data around the men who perpetrate the abuse, there are variable ethnicities. I think what we would echo is we would be really concerned that young people and those caring for children and young people would somehow assume that the perpetrators were only from one race or culture, because we think that leaves children and young people much more vulnerable.
Q197 Steve McCabe: Okay, fine. So, can I just clarify this? In all your experience across all your projects, you are coming across victims of all ethnicities and perpetrators and the bit of work in Manchester will be interesting, but that is an additional thing?
Jon Brown: Indeed.
Q198 Mr Clappison: Can I just take you back to what you said about the judicial approach to this and system of justice? Mr Brown, you mentioned a very understandable problem of young witnesses having to confront their accused in court. I am a bit rusty on this, but I thought there was more provision these days for evidence to be given by video-links. Do you think that is being sufficiently used and is it a success?
Jon Brown: Indeed, there is that provision, and I would say that is due in large part to the work of the NSPCC-
Mr Clappison: Yes, absolutely.
Jon Brown: And the support work over the last 15 years. There is that provision there, but it is not uniform across all courts in the country at the moment. I would return to the point I was making a few minutes ago about certainly some courts and the belief within the criminal justice system of the need for all victims to be facing the accused in court.
Q199 Mr Clappison: I think their evidence needs to be tested, but not necessarily facing their victim.
Jon Brown: That would be exactly our view, and we would certainly advocate particularly in cases of child sexual abuse for remote video-link and we want to see a situation where that is routinely in all courts across the country.
Q200 Mr Clappison: Do you get the opportunity to meet senior judicial figures and members of the legal profession to discuss your concerns with them and how things could be improved?
Jon Brown: We do through the local court user forums and that sort of thing, and also at a national level as well. We have met with the judiciary and expressed our concerns. I think it would be right to say that we experience a diversity of view from many judges who are entirely sympathetic and entirely recognise the need for witnesses of child sexual abuse to be protected, to be prepared for the giving of evidence and also to give evidence by remote video-link. However that is not the case across the judiciary as a whole as one might expect, and we still think there is further work to do to work with the judiciary and others within the criminal justice process to ensure that recognition of the importance of properly preparing and protecting child witnesses is fully embedded in the system.
Q201 Mr Winnick: Mr Brown, your two colleagues have said that sexual abuse is common among all social groups. I understood that to be what you said.
Jon Brown: Indeed.
Q202 Mr Winnick: Do you feel that more could be done by secondary schools-or indeed primary schools, but I put the emphasis perhaps on secondary schools-in alerting pupils to the dangers of sexual exploitation and urging that when it does occur it should be reported?
Jon Brown: Indeed. In the NSPCC we think there are three key ways that child sexual abuse can be dealt with effectively, and these three strands need to be operated at the same time. Deterrents, giving a really clear message to the perpetrator in terms of appropriate prison sentences; treatment for the victims and, where appropriate, for the abusers as well if it is going to reduce their risk; and, thirdly and importantly, primary prevention, because at the NSPCC we do see the problem of child sexual abuse as a public health problem that needs to be dealt with through those three approaches. Primary prevention, we think, involves work in schools, work in primary schools with children and work in secondary schools through the PSHE part of the curriculum. We think it is absolutely critical and we do think that teachers need additional support, additional training themselves, to feel confident in addressing these sorts of issue, issues with children and ensuring that they are able to have a much better understanding in terms of how they can be targeted, how they can be groomed and what they can do themselves to ensure that they are more resilient to that as well. My colleague from ChildLine could speak very eloquently about the school service that ChildLine provides as well, which assists in that prevention approach as well.
Q203 Mr Winnick: Could the mass media be used? Could the Government take out advertisements, particularly on the television channels, warning of the sentences which are likely to be given by the court if convicted of sexual abuse?
Jon Brown: Indeed, and we would see that as a key part of primary prevention.
Q204 Mr Winnick: Have you been urging this?
Jon Brown: We are very supportive of that approach and there are organisations-and a particular organisation, Stop it Now! UK, that focuses on sexual abuse prevention, and we certainly work very closely with Stop it Now! in terms of some of the activities that they take in relation to the prevention of abuse, and indeed, as you point out, the need for key evidence-based messages about the reality of child sexual abuse and how it can be best prevented to get out there more in the mass media, not in an hysterical way, but obviously in a way that the public can understand, can be clear about, and can improve the ability of parents to be more resilient to being groomed in relation to child sexual abuse and sexual exploitation, and indeed their children as well. We think that is critical way forward really, in terms of the prevention of this problem.
Q205 Mr Winnick: One of the points which has arisen from the controversy over the allegations made against Mr Savile is that the people concerned, who are now very much adults, say that at the time they took the view they simply would not be believed. Leaving aside where celebrities are involved or were involved, in ordinary circumstances it is quite likely, is it not, that someone who is 12 or 14 would have the feeling, justified or otherwise, that if she reports-and usually it is, presumably, more she than he, but whatever-they simply will not be believed?
Sue Minto: I think no matter how much you might advertise about deterrents, the difficulty is that children and young people are not speaking out, and we know that from ChildLine because we know how many children and young people talk to us and they have not told anyone else. They have not told anyone else because they cannot find the words; they do not understand it themselves; they have tried and they do not get believed; or they think that somebody must know, should be able to tell so how come they cannot see it? Sometimes they think that their family do know and they are not doing anything about it because they know it is happening and they think other people know it is happening. We have also heard about the fact that we have these situations where children and their cases are not coming to court because the children are not being seen as credible witnesses. We have a problem even when we have children and young people who are disclosing the abuse that they have had and we still have a system that expects these children and young people to talk in a very adult way about what their experiences are and to be crossexamined in a very adult way. Part of the problem is that sexual abuse and grooming and impact issues are just not understood well enough, and the impacts that they have on children and the way the children will describe their experiences.
Q206 Chair: Understood by whom?
Sue Minto: By most of us.
Chair: The agencies, the public, everybody?
Sue Minto: You will have children who will go into court and then will try to answer and they will maybe contradict themselves and straightaway you have a prosecution that is saying, "There you go, you see." That is because we have an absolute ignorance about the impact issues for these children and young people.
Q207 Mr Winnick: How can that be dealt with if the children will contradict themselves and you have very skilled lawyers for the defence, in some cases very highly-paid lawyers, who will use every form of contradiction in court to help the accused?
Sue Minto: There has to be an understanding that that is not a child contradicting themselves and lying or making something up. That is absolutely what you should expect when they have been through the sorts of experience that they have been through, and grooming is a really key point; the way in which abusers will groom children and the emotive methods that they will use as well as the physical threats. Children do not know whether they are coming or going. My own experience has been that some of the most horrendous situations of abuse are the ones that, even if they get to court, juries do not want to believe those things happen to children; none of it is palatable.
Mr Winnick: I think you wanted to comment. Come in, please.
Michelle Lee-Izu: Yes, I would agree with my colleagues. I am just more interested to go back to your original point really, around the early-intervention stuff and the awareness-raising, because obviously there is the point when you get to court and how tough that is, but I would agree with you that the work in schools and the awareness-raising for children and young people is critical. We work with 6,000 young people in schools at the moment across our services, and that assists young people to understand healthy relationships and also it gives a chance to talk to those young people who may well become the perpetrators very early on, about what healthy relationships are and how to respect each other. We have developed a number of tools for work directly with young people and with teachers and with professionals that assists both us professionals and the young people to know that they will be believed and understood at that stage. I do think, as well as the sharp end around the prosecutions, the awareness-raising-we have seen less work than we would like to see around-would really assist.
Mr Winnick: Thank you very much indeed. It is very important.
Q208 Chair: Can I just ask some specific questions? Mr Brown, you are on record as talking about 35,000 illegal images of children found each day on the internet, and you refer to them as crime scenes. What could the internet providers be doing more in order to stop this happening? We have evidence next week from CEOP-I am sure you deal with them very closely-but if these images appear every day, somebody needs to do something about it. What do you think the internet providers ought to be doing to try to get these images off the internet?
Jon Brown: Yes, the NSPCC does indeed work closely with CEOP, and we have a team embedded there with the CEOP team. The issue of child abuse imagery on the internet has grown exponentially. The problem has grown exponentially over the last few years in particular. In terms of what can be done about it, I think a lot is being done, and the Internet Watch Foundation and CEOP and Interpol are extremely proactive working with the UK Government.
Q209 Chair: Should not the internet providers themselves be doing more, because they after all provide the ability to put these images out on the internet? We have all these various other organisations, but at the end of the day there has to be responsibility, does there not?
Jon Brown: Indeed. I think the internet service providers certainly have taken great strides over recent years to be more responsible to ensure that when they are aware of child abuse imagery on any sites that are hosted by them that they take that imagery down as soon as possible. I think the challenge is with peer-to-peer networks-with what is termed "the hidden internet"-and new techniques that abusers are using all the time to get round internet service providers and to share child abuse imagery between themselves without going through internet service providers. That is the next challenge that we are on to, I think, and that law enforcement is on to. There is more, I think, that ISPs can still do.
Q210 Chair: Ms Lee-Izu, this morning there was a report from the Chief Inspector of Prisons about Cedars, where G4S was accused of using force against a pregnant woman in the detention centre that Barnardo’s are involved in. Would you like to update the Committee on anything that might be relevant to that? Are you sighted about what the Chief Inspector has said?
Michelle Lee-Izu: Yes, we are aware of what the Chief Inspector said. We would rather submit something separate to you if that is possible, please?
Chair: But you know about the case and you have an explanation as to what has been going on?
Michelle Lee-Izu: Yes, yes.
Q211 Chair: Ms Minto, we have here in front of the Committee the three biggest brand names in terms of child protection: ChildLine, which has done some extraordinary work, set up by Esther Rantzen over 20 years ago, extraordinary work; the NSPCC, which is one of the most respected organisations, I think, in the world; and Barnardo’s, which has done some wonderful work with children. Can you tell the Committee, in conclusion, do you think child grooming is on the increase or on the decrease as far as this country is concerned? Sue Minto.
Sue Minto: You just talked about the internet, and I think that the internet has provided huge opportunities for abusers to groom young people and our young people live in a world now where it is 24/7, this whole social networking, and the pressure and the risks as well as the opportunities for them are there 24/7. We have a lot of contact coming through to ChildLine about whether it is bullying or whether they have sent text messages or imaging that they wished they had not done. They have been tricked into something, they talked to someone, and they trust that this person is who they say they are. In that respect, it has opened up a whole arena, and for children and young people the pressure and the risk are immense.
Chair: Mr Brown, on the increase, on the decrease, being contained?
Jon Brown: I think setting aside for one moment the issue of online abuse, which is a huge challenge-and we recognise that and certainly we are seeing an exponential increase there undoubtedly, if one refers to offline child abuse and grooming-I think huge steps are being taken. It is difficult to say whether it is on the increase or not. Certainly awareness has increased, and that is a good thing. We need to see that awareness followed by increased prosecutions, and importantly the increased availability of treatment for victims as well. There are about 55,000 places for treatment at any one time for children who have been abused that are not available. That is a huge tragedy, and I think if we can increase availability of treatment for victims and increase training and awareness-raising for key professionals involved in this, that is going to continue to make inroads into the problem, and there is the separate challenge of online child abuse imagery, which I think requires a concerted effort as well.
Chair: Ms Lee-Izu?
Michelle Lee-Izu: It is difficult to say if it is on the increase when you have historical cases, obviously, that are only just coming to light, but definitely the numbers of young people we are working with in terms of child sexual exploitation is increasing year on year. Our numbers are going up and prevalence, as colleagues have said, around internet and technology abuse is increasing, as well as the methodology.
Q212 Chair: For the record-it is raised by Mr Winnick-none of your organisations have been approached by anybody concerning the Savile revelations? No victims have approached either ChildLine or NSPCC or Barnardo’s as far as you are aware?
Jon Brown: Yes. Absolutely.
Michelle Lee-Izu: Yes.
Chair: They have?
Jon Brown: Through our helpline we have had victims in relation to Savile, and it has brought a significant increase in terms of other people wanting to talk about their own experiences of child abuse as well through to our helpline.
Q213 Chair: Are these victims of Jimmy Savile or new victims that have come forward?
Jon Brown: My understanding is both. We have had people contact our helpline who have directly experienced victimisation by Savile and other related instances, and indeed unrelated incidents, all of which, of course, have been passed on to the police.
Chair: Ms Minto?
Sue Minto: We have not seen such an increase in terms of children and young people coming through to ChildLine. We have had some calls from adults and those children that have come through to us predominantly seem to be concerned with this whole notion of, "How can it happen and people not know?"
Q214 Chair: Thank you very much. We are most grateful. This inquiry is continuing and we are taking more evidence. If there is anything that we have missed out today, we are very keen to hear from you, because we know you have enormous experience and expertise in these matters. I am most grateful to you for coming today. Thank you very much. That concludes the session.
Michelle Lee-Izu: Thank you for the opportunity.
Jon Brown: Thank you.