Shock at child sex abuse 'failures'
Key agencies involved in child protection have failed to put in place "basic processes" to stop sexual abuse, a report has found.
A study by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop) found two-thirds of Local Safeguarding Children Boards are not meeting national guidelines.
Ceop head Peter Davies said he was "shocked, surprised and disappointed" at the lack of action.
Mr Davies said of some Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs): "They do not appear to have set up the basic processes that are expected in the national guidelines to tackle child sexual exploitation."
The study focused on "localised grooming" that takes place in person, for example on the street, rather than via the internet. The report is based on testimonies from victims, police and child protection workers, as well as a review of existing research.
Mr Davies said: "This is a horrific kind of crime. It involves systematic, premeditated rape of children and needs to be understood in those stark terms. It needs to be brought out of the dark."
The study found that victims had trouble engaging with police and were "hugely reluctant" to give evidence against their "ruthless" abusers in court.
Mr Davies said: "They did not expect to be believed, they did not expect to be supported."
Children's charities called for action to provide a clearer picture of the scale of the problem. John Grounds, director of the NSPCC's Child Protection Consultancy, said: "This is an important piece of work as it has underlined some vital issues around the street grooming of children.
"Worryingly it is virtually a hidden problem - as this report highlights - there is very little data to give a clear picture of how extensive it is. We would like to see better and more consistent data collection and improved training for professionals working in this field."