Suffolk children are suffering FGM, trafficking, faith-linked abuse, sexual exploitation, radicalisation and gang risks

There have been 945 reports of child exploitation in Suffolk in one year. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/iSTO

There have been 945 reports of child exploitation in Suffolk in one year. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/iSTOCKPHOTO - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

More than one child is exploited in Suffolk every day, new figures have revealed, but a charity boss has warned this is “just the tip of the iceberg”.

Fiona Ellis, from Survivors in Transition. Picture: SU ANDERSON

Fiona Ellis, from Survivors in Transition. Picture: SU ANDERSON - Credit: Archant

Young people in the county are enduring atrocities such as female genital mutilation (FGM), trafficking, faith-linked abuse and radicalisation.

In the year ending January 2017 Suffolk County Council (SCC) recorded 945 incidents of child exploitation, involving 456 individuals from babies to 18-year-olds.

The information, based on reports to the authority’s Make a Change (MAC) team, shows the problem is worst in Ipswich and Lowestoft.

During this period professionals dealt with 470 cases relating to child sexual exploitation.


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Fiona Ellis, founder and operations director of Survivors in Transition (SiT), a charity which supports Suffolk adults who have suffered child sexual abuse, said: “Those figures don’t surprise me, they are probably conservative.

“The scale of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse is just growing and growing and growing.

Diana Porter, of Fresh Start - new beginnings. Picture: SU ANDERSON

Diana Porter, of Fresh Start - new beginnings. Picture: SU ANDERSON - Credit: Archant

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“This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the true scale of the issue, and that’s country-wide.”

Ms Ellis said SiT had helped people in their 70s and 80s who were still learning to cope with traumatic experiences from their childhood.

“For some people that is an issue that they carry throughout their lives in one aspect or another,” she added.

According to Ms Ellis, young people who go through the care system are often more vulnerable to exploitation.

The birth of the internet has brought new opportunities for children to come to harm as they are more accessible to abusers, she said.

Diana Porter, chief executive and founder of charity Fresh Start - new beginnings, which helps children in East Anglia who have been sexually assaulted, said the impact on victims was “horrific”.

Breakdown of Suffolk figures relating to child exploitation

Breakdown of Suffolk figures relating to child exploitation - Credit: Archant

She added: “Their emotional and psychological wellbeing is completely destroyed.

“They completely need building up, you will have children who are harming themselves, they might be cutting, overdosing, misusing drugs and alcohol to try and block out what’s happening. You will have children who will be prostituting themselves, and that’s a form of self harm.”

The charity helps more than 200 children a year who have mostly been hurt by a family member or close family friend.

The data shows girls are disproportionately affected by exploitation in Suffolk, accounting for 65% of the total number in that year.

There were 27 reports of FGM, which is a non-medical procedure where female genitals are deliberately cut, injured or changed.

Jodi Peck, FGM project coordinator at Suffolk Refugee Support, said the majority of cases in Suffolk involved girls who came from backgrounds where this practice was prevalent, mostly in the north-eastern region of Africa.

Jodi Peck, of Suffolk Refugee Support. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Jodi Peck, of Suffolk Refugee Support. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: sarah lucy brown

She said it usually happened to children from birth to the age of 15, depending on the traditions of their culture.

“For those who are older they are more likely to remember their experience, which will have long-term mental health implications,” Mrs Peck added.

“It can lead to death because of the kind of tools that are used, they might use very dirty instruments which will lead to infection.

“It can mean they are unable to have children. It can cause major pain during childbirth, periods and sex.”

FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985, and since 2003 anyone taking a child out of the UK to be cut faces 14 years in prison.

The Serious Crimes Act 2015 made it mandatory for any regulated professional in England and Wales – doctors, nurses, social workers and teachers – to tell police if they discover FGM had been carried out on a girl under 18.

Sue Cook, corporate director of health, wellbeing and childrens services at Suffolk County Council.

Sue Cook, corporate director of health, wellbeing and childrens services at Suffolk County Council. Picture: SU ANDERSON - Credit: Archant

Mrs Peck said this had led to greater awareness and in some cases had enabled workers to intervene before the act was carried out.

She added: “The reporting procedures are very structured and they are there to make sure children are safeguarded because at the end of the day it is child abuse.”

According the statistics, young people in Suffolk are under rising threat of gang activity, with MAC reports going from two in February 2016 to 23 in November 2016.

Sue Cook, SCC’s director for children and young people, said: “The authority recognises the growing difficulties for young people with drugs and gangs and we are working across borders to ensure an effective response and multi-agency strategies are in place to reduce these risks and address all forms of child exploitation.

“The Make a Change team works alongside statutory and voluntary agencies to provide specialist assessment and interventions to young people and their families.”

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