Funding fears on child exploitation
Budget cuts could lead to tackling the sexual exploitation of children being downgraded as a priority, Barnardo's has warned.
The children's charity's report found its specialist services delivered a third fewer school sessions on child sexual exploitation across the UK in 2010/11 compared with the previous year.
Little is happening to protect victims in many communities around the country and in some areas budget cuts may lead to the issue being downgraded, the charity added.
Acknowledgement and recognition of the issue "remains very patchy" and the trend is "worrying", it said.
But the number of children being helped by Barnardo's after being sexually exploited is up more than 8% to 1,190, the figures showed.
Most of these cases of grooming were in private, rather than on the street, nearly half of these children had gone missing from home, and one in six had been trafficked and moved from town to town.
Anne Marie Carrie, chief executive of Barnardo's, said: "The number of children we work with rose, yet we are still not seeing the urgency of action we would expect for such an horrific crime.
"We have been campaigning for more help for these vulnerable girls and boys for a year now and we will not let it slide. Too many children from all walks of life can so quickly be caught up in a world of drugs, violence and sex - this is a sickening slur on our society and we must do all we can to end it."
Enver Solomon, policy director at the Children's Society, said the findings echoed their own experiences and research. "Our recent report Still Running 3 reveals that a child runs from home or care every five minutes, putting themselves at great risk of being sexually exploited. We must address this problem as a matter of urgency. Too many children, as young as 11 and 12, are being sexually exploited in the shadows of society."
Children's minister Tim Loughton said: "We've given local authorities total freedom for the £2 billion annual early intervention grant to target the most vulnerable children and families. It's a false economy not to step in early to prevent problems escalating and leaving children open to abuse."