The Government’s response to child sexual exploitation in Northern Ireland is fragmented, the Children’s Commissioner has said.
Despite improvements, some recommendations from an independent inquiry have yet to be implemented.
Commissioner Koulla Yiasouma said: “It is time to remind all those in government that this is about some of our most exploited and vulnerable children, whose lives do not always fit into the neat boxes of government departments.
“There needs to be clear action to prevent and protect from abuse, prosecute the abusers and support those children who have been abused recover.”
She noted improvements since last year’s publication of the report of the Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Exploitation led by Professor Kathleen Marshall.
The commissioner added: “However, I am concerned that a number of the recommendations have yet to be put in place and that the plans are fragmented.”
She is hosting a seminar today involving agencies from health, education and policing. Professor Marshall is among the speakers.
“I believe that there can be no further delay - we must strengthen the systems and services for these children.
“And, we must listen to children, we must make sure they have trusted and meaningful support.
“This seminar is an opportunity to review how far we have come and make sure that we have the right mechanisms in place that confirm all actions takes actually make our children safer.”
Professor Marshall’s report said between 100 and 145 children are at significant risk of exploitation, but most people consulted by the inquiry said what is known is likely to be the tip of the iceberg.
A Health Department spokeswoman said implementation of the Marshall recommendations was ongoing and good progress was being made, with completion expected by November 2017.
“The Marshall recommendations were made for individual government departments and their agencies and, consequently, are being progressed by individual departments and their agencies. Some recommendations require either cross-departmental or cross-agency approaches. Where it is required, departments and agencies are working together to implement the Marshall recommendations.
“In response to previous comments by the Children’s Commissioner, a composite implementation plan has been produced and it will be supported by a composite progress report, reflecting the activities across a number of government Departments. All plans and reports will be published.”