Barnardo’s: Two thirds of girls in care vulnerable to sexual abuse…

This is a story that broke during the week, that I simply didn’t have time to note. It’s the startling insight from research conducted by Barnardos that up to 2/3 of girls in care are at risk of abuse. Startling not just because of the enormous scale of the suspected abuse, but that there seems little evidence of much of it making its way into the criminal justice system.

The Not A World Away report notes that…

Those most frequently identified within the research were abuse through prostitution (most involving third-party organisation and gain), less obvious transactional exploitation in the context of party houses, and sexually exploitative relationships. Internet exploitation and trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation were also  identified as issues of concern although less frequently.

Recommendationsinclude the development of  strategic framework:

1.  When established, the SBNI should, as part of its work plan, consider the issue of child sexual exploitation and the effectiveness of current responses to it.
2.  DHSSPS should revise existing Safeguarding and Child Protection Guidance to explicitly reference the complex nature and impact of sexual exploitation. This should be supported by the development of detailed inter-agency procedural to happen.
3.  The HSC Board should progress the development of a targeted and fully resourced action plan on sexual exploitation that includes, but is not limited to, consideration of the following issues:

  • data collection and monitoring professional competency and capacity
  • best-practice models for responding to sexual exploitation, including the merits of a co-located inter-agency model of response
  • regional implementation of the sexual exploitation risk assessment tool
  • resourcing of a regional specialist support service.

4.  The HSC Board should consider how best to coordinate and prioritise the provision of specialist (Tier 3) drug
and alcohol counselling services to young people who display signs  of drug and alcohol abuse which may make them vulnerable to sexual exploitation, in particular to children living in residential care.
5.  The Public Health Agency should develop a campaign to raise public awareness of the sexual exploitation of children and young people.
6.  The NI Policing Board should incorporate child protection (including sexual exploitation) as a priority in forthcoming Policing Plans, in reflection of the critical importance of this area of work.

Since the figures are so conspicously high, it would be good to see how Northern Ireland compares with other parts of the UK and Ireland. Is this a typical rate of vulnerability? Or is Northern Ireland a special case? If it’s the latter, then whatever good policy instruments are put, then there has to be a question raised over whether there’s a willingness to tackle this problem.

Probably the most important thing to take from the Barnardo’s report is that these are only interim recommendations.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Mick, I will partly blame Slugger for this, but I have become a sceptic of reports and the language used, which might be emotive in an issue like this but I like facts without the wooly areas. What I mean is there is a vast difference between 2/3 girls in care suffer sexual abuse, and 2/3 girls in care are at risk of sexual abuse. Possibly the definition of “at risk” in this context is more serious than than we normally use it but it makes it very hard to gage the problem.

  • Cynic2

    Just where are all these hoards of teenage prostitutes? Are we tripping across them in the street?

  • What is alarming, and noted by Mick, is that if Barnardos have the concrete evidence to provide in a detailed report – and more that one or two persons to offer to Newsline to drive the story home – then to what extent have they involved the PSNI in an investigation. Struggle to see how protocol, guidelines and regulation or training could possibly address the issue more than putting pressure on the pervs who are at the centre of organised criminal activity. So Barnardos, how long has this been going on and have you provided full co-operation to the PSNI? Is this report exasperation at the inability of the police and courts to effectively engage and address this scandal?

  • Harry Flashman

    If true, and like the others I am extremely sceptical of these shock-horror reports by NGO’s and charities whose usual proposed solution is more “resources”- ie money – for them, it rather proves that sexual abuse of minors in care and the covering up of such by those responsible didn’t begin and end with the Catholic church.

  • Drumlins Rock

    so Harry, your extremely sceptical of the report, but it still proves something you believe…

  • Neil


    agreed. This paragraph:

    Those most frequently identified within the research were abuse through prostitution (most involving third-party organisation and gain), less obvious transactional exploitation in the context of party houses, and sexually exploitative relationships.

    tells us that the combined risk of abuse to young girls is coming from prostitution, ‘party houses’ (whatever they are) and exploitative relationships. But without breaking the three categories down further it’s hard to know how alarmed we should be.

    One would be mightily concerned at the thought of hundreds of girls being forced in prostitution. Certainly that would be more concerning than, say, 16 year old girls entering into ill advised sexual relationships with, say a 17 year old boy.

    It’s concerning but the language used suggests either a degree of obfuscation, or it’s so badly written that we’ve lumped consensual sexual relationships with repeated forced rape (as in forced prostitution). Not to be in the least bit glib about this but there’s a significant difference between the two.

  • Harry Flashman

    Drumlin you perhaps missed the qualifying two words at the very start of my post “If true…”

  • Ní Dhuibhir

    The language of risk in social services is a particular ‘thing’, and putting figures on the likelihood that a particular social process might happen is always going to look a bit silly, but unfortunately I don’t see much to doubt in the overall thrust of this report.

    It doesn’t suggest we are ‘tripping over teenage prostitutes in the street’ – given our tiny population, NI only has a small number of children in care overall (about 2,500, including those being fostered etc), and a small number of prostitutes overall. The overlap between these two groups can be wildly disproportionate compared to the rate of prostitution in the general population without the relatively frequent rape of children in state care for profit coming to the attention of the vast majority of Ordinary Decent People.

    The term ‘sexual exploitation’ might seem like an awkward conflation of rape, prostitution, and abusive relationships, but in real life these things are hard to disentangle, even for the people involved, never mind statisticians.

    I suspect that part of the difficulty we have in naming and defining this particular problem is that our culture expects ‘normal’ men to seek sex from women in ways that involve some degree of exploitation – the immortal Quagmire of Family Guy fame speaks for an awful lot of people when he declares that the most attractive thing about a woman is ‘vulnerability’! If these were teenage boys, the public reaction to, say, a 30 year old man shagging them would be much more clear cut.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Neil, trying to read through the full report (or parts of it at least) and the problems seems genuine and real, but the headline grabbing figure has did it a dis-service. The definitions seem very broad and as you say take the focus of the most serious offences.

  • Cynic2

    How many of the abusers are also children / young people?

    An abusive relationship is with someone about their own age is terrible – but a totally different problem to grooming or exploitation in prostitution

  • Ní Dhuibhir

    Oh, and as for the lack of criminal justice cases, this is not at all surprising. Look at the figures for prosecutions of sexual offences generally, and then consider whether a traumatised teenager with the assortment of mental health, substance abuse and behavioural problems that are so common among so-called Looked After Children looks like a ‘credible witness’ to a system that acts as if only certified asexual saints can be raped.

  • Cynic2

    Its not the criminal justice system. It’s juries that decide and will look at the victim and think ‘i don’t believe her’. Sex workers face just the same problem

  • aquifer

    This looks like a powerful argument for getting more children adopted early and out of the residential care system.

  • Munsterview

    First off at any given time over a hundred under-age teens are ‘missing’ from Southern designated Care Establishments. This was the position in the height of the Celtic Tiger Era and sadly it has got far, far worse with curtailed resources. There is no priority given to attempting to locate these ‘at risk’ children by the Care Authorities or Gardai.

    Even more frightening and disgusting in the South and again I would imagine there is a Northern Ireland and UK parallel. The various Health Boards squander millions of euros fighting High and other Court cases, often arising needlessly from Managers arrogance or Care Worker incompetence. No expense is spared in Court with Barristers, Senior Council etc cover up and protect Managerial or Social Worker wrong doing or incompetence.

    Put simply the average cost of one of these High Court Cases squander funds that would allow competent care for ten to twenty children.

    This whole area needs a root and branch investigation, the whole Care System is inadequate, incompetent and incredible wasteful of financial resources.

    Some of the biggest incompetents and wasters in every sense of the word retire early on generous severance and pension payments only to come back into the system the following Monday morning retained as ‘Consultants’ and even more arrogant, unaccountable and better financially rewarded.

    I am currently involved in one Southern Case where the child is still under school age years and there have been few months that have not involved a one or more court cases for that child’s entire life. In the last, recent High Court appearance The Presiding Justice castigated and lacerated the concerned Health Board’s handling of the case to date. The child was conveyed out of the unvetted carers and into the relatives care the infant should always have been in and never removed from.

    The Health Board neglected to carry out a simple genetic paternity test and they placed the child with presumed relatives who consequently, it transpired after a number of months, were totally unrelated. The ‘damage limitation’ and cover up then started.

    The child’s actual relatives had two goals, first get the child back with family and second, hold the system accountable. While the focus was on the child’s relatives custody fight, The Health Board knew that would be the priority, so they made sure the child’s return to it’s relatives was a protracted as possible with every conceivable obstacle thrown in the relatives way. Holding the inetivable Ministerial investigation at arm’s length and deferring it as long as possible took priority over all other aspects of the case.

    This case aside from costing the relatives of the child over a years earnings to peruse, resulted in a net squandering of resources that should have been used for fifty to seventy needed children.

    I will not dwell on organized child prostitution and other such matters, while the squander mania of finances to cover Superior and other Court actions arising from Manger’s arrogance and Care Workers incompetence, it is utterly useless, in my quarter of a century of experience there has been absolutely no change, or at least ones for the better, the first priority of the Southern Irish Health Boards and the English Social Services that I also have some Court experience of in the UK, is always to protect ‘The Services’ first, last and always.

    The children that are supposed to be the raison d’être for these ‘Services’ existence always come a poor second or even third or fourth priority once these same Services are put under threat arising from these services being held accountable for breach of their own rules and regulations, or for other unlawful wrongdoing.

    While there is toleration of this process, debate on ‘Children’s Rights’ or ‘Care System’ deficiencies remain academic and as useless as so many aspects of these same services generally are.

    Any further comment in this regard is superfluous !

  • Munsterview

    This relevant article is currently running in Henry Makow’s Canadian site. Henry made more than a few bob along the way from his own intelligence and genius. He has put significant personal financial resources into highlighting and exposing certain evils in society.

    Of these he has been indefatigable in speaking out against and in the exposing of all forms of child abuse. My own information in regard to these Islands would certainly indicate similar networks as Henry referred to in North America, also exist here. Individuals and those networked have also exploited the availability of children from ‘Care Institutions’ North and South of the Border, these things are a matter of public record.

    Anyone who thinks that such child abuse and prostitution is not going on this very night on this Island is not living in the real world!

  • abucs

    There was a 2004 US study by Carol Shakeshaft, professor of educational administration at Hofstra University, in Hempstead, New York.

    It is titled “Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature,” which investigates the mistreatment of US students ranging from sexual comments to rape and was commissioned by the US Department of Education.

    It found that nearly 9.6 % of state students were the target of sexual abuse by school employees. It estimated that 4.5 million students are sexually assaulted in US state schools by employees (57% by teachers) during a usual kindergarten to high school rotation.

    It’s not a pleasant thing but unfortunately it seems to be widespread.

  • Munsterview

    This article was posted at 10.30 am, on last Friday morning, it has bee sitting there for the weekend and despite the horrific subject matter, the article has just generated seventeen posts counting this one. That was from a total of nine posters, my self included.

    The fact that this appalling topic did not even generate a double digit response over the weekend says all there is to say about the reason for the indifference of the authorities and why nothing really changes. The sustained public pressure or interest just is not there !

    While there is the occasional and repeating Media hype to generate headlines highlighting the conditions of some individual child who has exposed the inadequacies of the systems on this island, it is very much a back burner issue.

    The sad fact and appalling statistic is that for every person that expressed their concern here on this issue this weekend, probably another ten or more adults engaged in sexual activities with children who had already come to the notice of the Care Authorities in this Island and who should be safe under a State Care protection system.

    There are sites and networks catering for this ‘child sex’ market on the net. A concerned adult relative of an abused child seeking to track down this information is far more likely to come to the notice of the Authorities and find themselves in court than the actual offenders ever are likely to be.

    This is because one particular University is funded through a specialized department to monitor and probe this area and they do so with Gardai agreement and also co-operate with a specialized garda section. The public is closed out from and prevented form any legitimate exploration of this arena by this vested interest ‘insider’ group.

    Since this University group need to have Gardai and Department Of Justice ‘blind eye’ tolerance to have illegal images on children engaged in sexual activity on their computers, one can hazard a guess at just how independent this ‘Research Group’ is in highlighting any Gardai or Dep Of Justice shortcomings that are uncovered.

    Over twenty years ago as part of an affidavit in the High Court I claimed that the Gardai were victimizing me under the RTA for among other reasons that I was attempting to expose a paedophile network operating in Cork. The then Cork Chief Superintendent denied in rebutting affidavit that they were targeting me or that any such Paedophile network existed.

    A short time later the then Cork Examiner newspaper at my instigation and after years of submissions, did a double page article each day for three days and broke the story that they had been researching for months. They exposed the activities of a City and Countywide Paedophile network Their information was surprisingly easy to come by and the newspaper revelations caused a storm of public concern.

    In his first public comment A Cork Garda Superintendent admitted that they, the Gardai knew that such a ring “existed for some years” Cork like most major cities has had paedophile rings not only for decades but for centuries.

    Needless to say the Gardai affadavit High Court Perjury was not adressed!

    The first ‘Official’ response was that a ‘do gooder’ voluntary organization set up a ‘counseling group’ for pedophiles and got public funding for their activity. Any specialist or aware person working in this field would have been absolutely horrified at this prospect. They would de facto have been helping pedophiles to network. It took a threat of taking the Health Board concerned to the High Court the following day on this issue to have this funding cancelled.

    For the record I also proved my contention against to the Gardai re RTA prosecution abuse and among other reliefs I had one four year period and another two year period in my life, six years in all where the Gardai could not summons me under the Road Traffic Act save by High Court Permission which the Gardai never applied for since they would have to justify their activity and their abuse of the RTA system would have been exposed.

    Just another example of some of the price Southern Republicans such as myself have paid over the years for standing up to the State and exposing system abuses. However I am not looking for any shoulder to cry on in this regard, like my other Republican Comerades, North and South I made my choice and I paid the price.

    That situation is ongoing and I would not have it any other way!

  • Alias

    Does this mean that the State should break off diplomatic relations with itself?

  • Munsterview

    Some work to change the system and highlight injustice and incompetence, most just observe, even if that, and tolerate the process failure. Then there is smart arse brigade minority who should know better, but are always there and unable to pass up the opportunity for a glib comment on a tragic situation !