A service providing specialist advice and support to children's professionals tackling child sexual exploitation (CSE) incidents is to be launched by the government later this month.
The Child Sexual Exploitation Response Unit is to be funded by the government but run independently by NWG Network, a charity that specialises in supporting sexually exploited children and young people.
It will be funded through a £1.24m grant from the Department for Education until 2018/19, and has also received support from the Local Government Association (LGA).
Edward Timpson, minister for vulnerable children and families, said the response unit is needed to help ensure children that have suffered CSE and their families receive specialist support quickly.
Writing in the latest edition of CYP Now, Timpson said: "We've seen how the sexual exploitation of children in Rotherham, Oxford and Birmingham has blighted lives and torn families apart. The consequences are devastating for children when action is not taken quickly enough to make sure help is given as soon as a need is identified.
"This response unit will ensure specialist support is made available to people working in children's safeguarding across the country, enabling them to provide a strong and robust first response to children and families who are victims of CSE.
"We announced our intention to form this response unit in the policy paper Putting Children First in July, and I am delighted that it will become fully operational this month."
The response unit is staffed by a team of specialists who offer tailored help to local areas, supporting them to respond appropriately to CSE. The team will be supported by a register of professionals who can be seconded from their current jobs to support an area with a specific issue.
A helpline, online knowledge portal, and training courses will also be provided to ensure staff on the ground are equipped to deal with emerging issues.
NWG Network, formerly The National Working Group for Sexually Exploited Children and Young People, has a network of more than 12,000 practitioners who disseminate information to professionals working in services to tackle CSE and trafficking. Sheila Taylor has been chief executive since 2011.
Richard Watts, chair of the LGA's children and young people board, backed the move, and said the association had been working closely with the unit to ensure it learns from the best local practice.
"Tackling CSE remains a high priority for local authorities, and the response unit should provide another source of valuable independent support for individual councils and their partners," Watts said.
"Local authorities are continuing to struggle with huge increases in demand for child protection services alongside significant and ongoing funding cuts, so it is vital that this support is targeted effectively to help those areas in greatest need."
Timpson also confirmed that the government will repeat in 2017 its "Together we can tackle child abuse" national campaign after this year's campaign saw 110 councils sign up to running local awareness-raising initiatives to encourage the public to report suspected child abuse and neglect.
To read the Special Report on child sexual abuse and exploitation see the latest edition of CYP Now or click here
Story courtesy of CYP Now