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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

System exposes Scots children to harm


New laws needed to stop the exploitation of children.

A review of the criminal exploitation of children has found the system for dealing with it is not fit for purpose.

The review, commissioned by Action for Children, found that a UK-wide strategy was lacking, resulting in serious and preventable harm to Scottish children and young people.

It examined the growing issue which official statistics suggest affects tens of thousands of children across the UK, although this is expected to be an underestimation.

Around 70 organisations and individuals, including children’s commissioners from all four nations, contributed to the Review, along with young people and families with lived experience.

The review heard there is currently no agreed legal definition of the criminal exploitation of children, which describes a complex type of child abuse where a young person is manipulated or pressured into criminal activity.

It also heard the scale and depth of the devastation caused to young people, families and communities in Scotland, including how the cost-of-living crisis had exacerbated all forms of exploitation, youth violence and vulnerability, with one witness describing poverty “in itself acting as a grooming process”.

In response to the evidence heard the review made three key recommendations, including calling for a new specific statutory offence of criminally exploiting children.

Followings its publication the charity Action for Children will work with the Scottish Government and policy makers on developing and implementing the series of recommendations including a legal definition, a new statutory offence in Scots law and a four nations strategy.

The charity is the leading expert in Scotland on early intervention for criminally exploited children having delivered its services since 2013, and now delivering them across Dundee, Inverclyde, Glasgow, Edinburgh and the Highlands. 

As part of this work, they sit on the Scotland’s Serious Organised Crime Taskforce and chair its work aimed at diverting people from becoming involved in serious organised crime.

Fiona Steel (pictured), national director for Scotland at Action for Children, said: “Exploiters are efficient at identifying, recruiting and exploiting vulnerable young people, and are often far better at spotting them than the authorities.

“This review has confirmed the system is failing and letting down some of Scotland’s most vulnerable children.

“This is an urgent crisis with devastating impacts which needs a four nations approach. Today we are calling on the Scottish Government and all political parties to develop and implement action to prevent the criminal exploitation of children, including a new specific offence in Scots law of criminally exploiting children.”



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