Growing number of violent and sexual offences against children in Suffolk

Recorded violence and sexual offences against children increased by 35% in Suffolk over the last two years  Picture: GETTY/ISTOCKPHOTO

Recorded violence and sexual offences against children increased by 35% in Suffolk over the last two years Picture: GETTY/ISTOCKPHOTO

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Violence and sexual offences against children have gone up by more than a third in two years across Suffolk, according to a report into safeguarding young people.

Figures showed the number of sexual offences recorded against victims aged under 18 went from 877 in 2016/17 to 1,189 in 2018/19.

While offences against victims of all ages increased 14.5% year-on-year, the number recorded against children went up 21.3% from 980 in 2017/18.

An annual report from Suffolk's Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) said the increase reflected a number of factors, including the prevalence of 'sexting' between teenagers, which, by definition of age, would be classed as a sexual offence.

Meanwhile, violence against children increased at the same rate over two years - from 2,642 to 3,573 recorded offences - although last saw the rise slow to 5.5% and a slight fall in injuries resulting from violence - from 1,167 to 1,149.

Research by the NSPCC found a record 164 child sexual offences were logged with an online element by police in Suffolk last year, compared to just 37 in 2015/16.

The charity has called for an independent regulator to enforce a legal duty of care on technology companies to keep users safe online.

A spokesperson said: "The growing number of recorded sex offences against children highlights the importance of empowering young people to recognise abuse and give them the confidence to report it.

"It's vital that compulsory sex and relationship education extensively covers consent and healthy relationships to ensure young people know what constitutes sexual abuse, and that it is never the fault of the victim."

In the 2017/18 school year the NSPCC's 'Speak Out Stay Safe' service taught 21,575 pupils at 123 Suffolk primary schools how to recognise and report abuse.

According to research, more than a third of all sexual offences against children are committed by peers under the age of 18.

From 2020, compulsory relationships and sex education curriculum will be introduced in schools across England.

The NSPCC's schools service coordinator for Suffolk, Katy Cole, said the government had so far pledged a 70p per student for the first year, despite its own analysis concluding at least £33million would be required for the initial roll-out.

-Suffolk multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) receives and processes all referrals for children without an allocated social worker.

From October, legislation for local authorities to have LSCBs will be replaced with new Suffolk Safeguarding Partnership Arrangements.

LSCB chairman Anthony Douglas said a main area of focus in the last year had been development of the new arrangements - in response to legislation changes - with a shift in responsibility for children's safeguarding to the three statutory partners of the health service, police and county council.

A separate report said the most enduring challenge for Children and Young People Services was the emerging threat of exploitation, with children requiring comprehensive multi-agency responses for increasingly complex experiences.

Despite continued demand, the report said practitioners and managers progressed work in a timely and effective manner.

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