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01 December 2023

Organised child sex abuse "a growing problem"

By Reuters

Child trafficking in Britain is on the rise, with children as young as 10 being sexually exploited by organised gangs, according to a report by a children's charity on Monday.

Barnardo's said sexual exploitation of children was a "hidden" issue and called on the government to appoint a minister to tackle the growing problem of children being groomed by street gangs.

"In every one of our services we have found children that have been passed from man to man, home to home and city to city," Barnardo's Chief Executive Anne Marie Carrie told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"Children are being used, abused and thrown away for profit and organised crime," she said.

The report, entitled "Puppet on a String," comes as the UK's child protection agency investigates on-street grooming after two British men were jailed in Derby earlier this month for grooming and abusing several teenage girls.

Carrie said the charity is working with more than 1,000 children who have been sexually exploited. The average age of children using the service has fallen to 13 from 15.

Grooming using the internet and mobile technology is on the rise and there is an urgent need to improve the data on the scale and nature of the issue, the charity said.

The Department of Education said child sexual exploitation was an appalling crime and it was committed to action.

"This is a complex problem and we are determined to tackle it effectively by working collaboratively right across vernment and with national and local agencies," it said in a statement.