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Action plan to tackle child sexual abuse applauded

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​Strategy to protect vulnerable children against sexual abuse widely welcomed

Children’s charities and campaigners have praised moves for the creation of a Scottish Government action plan to protect young people at risk of abuse.

The national action plan was unveiled as education secretary Michael Russell made a statement on child protection to the Scottish Parliament.

Among the new strategy’s recommendations are plans to increase frontline practitioners’ understanding of sexual exploitation, guidance for taxi-drivers, hotel workers and others in the ‘night-time’ economy to help identity and report suspicions, protocols for local authorities to be used as best practice and the establishment of a steering group to advise on key issues and areas for support.

Updated annually, the action plan was published alongside a report from Children in Scotland chief executive Jackie Brock into the working of the Scottish child protection system.

Commissioned by Scottish ministers, her recommendations include bringing together child protection committee chairs and chief officers of community planning partnerships as well as health and social care partnerships to address the findings of recent Care Inspectorate reports.

We must not lose sight of the fact that most children are sexually abused by someone they know

The Scottish Government will convene that summit before the end of this year.

Alison Todd, chief executive of Children 1st, said every agency and organisation working with vulnerable children and young people must now focus on what they can bring to the table in terms of skills, knowledge and experience to better protect them from the risk of harm.

“We must not lose sight of the fact that most children are sexually abused by someone they know, often close to home and in the communities where they live,” she said.

“This action plan will work best when implemented within a broader strategy of preventing and addressing all forms of sexual abuse of children.”

Russell stopped short of announcing a national inquiry into historic child abuse but said he would make an announcement on the issue before Christmas.

“I give my assurance that we will reach a decision on whether a further public inquiry will be convened by Christmas,” he said.

“I will listen closely to views on all sides of the debate, to ensure whatever we decide is well-informed and meaningful – rather than unduly raising expectations about what an inquiry may or may not deliver for survivors.”

Alan Miller, the Scottish human rights commissioner, said the move was a “step in the right direction.”

“The state has a duty to protect people from abuse and to fulfil their rights to justice and remedies,” he said.

“In our view, a national inquiry is an important mechanism for providing accountability for past abuses, learning lessons from the past and preventing future abuses.

“We look forward to the question of a national inquiry being resolved in full discussion with survivors of abuse.”