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Cooper backs relationship lessons


Yvette Cooper said a 'massive culture change' was needed to stop sexual abuse victims receiving blame

Yvette Cooper said a 'massive culture change' was needed to stop sexual abuse victims receiving blame

Yvette Cooper said a 'massive culture change' was needed to stop sexual abuse victims receiving blame

Children should receive co mpulsory relationship lessons in order to prevent violence against women, Yvette Cooper has said, in the wake of the Rotherham abuse scandal.

The shadow home secretary suggested the lessons should be included in the curriculum to help change attitudes, as she insisted a "massive culture change" was needed to stop sexual abuse victims from receiving blame.

She also accused the Government of refusing to carry out work in schools to change the attitudes of boys.

Speaking ahead of this weekend's Labour Party conference, Ms Cooper raised questions about the Home Office's commitment to an historic child sex abuse inquiry to be led by Fiona Woolf, lord mayor of the City of London.

And Labour wants to bring in female genital mutilation (FGM) protection orders to allow courts to prevent children thought to be at risk from being taken out of the country, according to the Labour front bencher.

Last month, Professor Alexis Jay's report revealed at least 1,400 children were sexually exploited in Rotherham - sparking criticism of the police, councillors and local authority officials.

Prof Jay outlined details of exploitation over a 16-year period with examples of girls who were raped, trafficked, threatened with extreme violence and ignored by the statutory authorities.

In a wide-ranging interview, Ms Cooper told The House magazine: " If you look at the Jay report and the descriptions of the attitudes of police officers and social services, there was this idea that if somehow girls were involved in sexual activity that they must have consented, that it must be their fault.

"We need a massive culture change on this.

"The reason we want mandatory reporting is also to have the law changed to kick start that culture change.

"But it's much wider, that's why it has to be about attitudes and sex and relationship education going right the way up through school."

Ms Cooper said the relationship lessons would be crucial to changing attitudes in order to " prevent violence in the next generation", adding: "The work in schools around boys' attitudes is incredibly important.

"It's shocking the Government has refused to do this.

"It's got to be about boys and men, not just seeing this as a problem for girls or a problem for women.

"It's about respect in relationships."

Turning to FGM, Ms Cooper said: " FGM is an horrific abuse of children.

"We need to send a clear message that it will not be tolerated in the UK - and that we will act to stop children being taken out of the country to be violently mutilated.

"Protection orders will give courts the vital power to stop children from travelling if there is evidence they may be at risk of FGM.

"But we must also do more to ensure all those who work with children and young people - health visitors, doctors, nurses and teachers - are given more support to identify future victims of FGM and intervene before it is too late."

She added: " The summer holidays have just come to an end and we know that some young victims will already have returned to Britain to live with the pain and mental trauma that follows this brutal abuse.

"We cannot turn our backs on these young women.

"Survivors should be supported and future victims must have much better protection. "

On the Government's inquiry into historic child sex abuse, Ms Cooper said: "(Home Secretary) Theresa May agreed to do this inquiry two months ago, this is just glacial progress on something where we know there are failings still.

"They've been very slow.

"We still don't have the full panel and we still don't have the terms of reference.

"We are concerned it has not got the momentum and support from the Home Office that it needs."

Labour also looks likely to toughen its rhetoric on migrants and welfare ahead of the general election, with both Ms Cooper and shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves referring to the need for a fair system.

Ms Cooper said the benefits of centuries of migration were recognised, adding on the need for a fair system: " That does mean dealing with issues around benefits, people who commit crimes being deported, speaking English and so on."

Ms Reeves said she did not think it was right for a migrant to "start claiming benefits on day one", adding no child benefit should be sent overseas.

She told The House magazine: " The vast majority of people who come to this country, they contribute and they pay more in taxes than they withdraw on benefits.

"But I don't think it's right that someone should be able to come to this country and be able to start claiming benefits on day one.

"Or that they should be able to claim child benefit for children who are living overseas.

"The welfare state wasn't built for them to be able to do that, and it's not affordable to do that.

"I don't think any child benefit should be sent overseas.

"But also it just jars with people's basic principles of fairness.

"I wouldn't expect to go to Spain or Poland to work and to be able to claim benefits for my family back in the UK.

"And I don't think it's right that other people should be able to come to this country and claim benefits for overseas.

"I think a number of months before you have any entitlement to the system, you should have to have paid into the system before you draw down on benefits.

"All countries in the European Union have their own welfare states and welfare is supposed to be an issue of national sovereignty, so we should be able to make decisions about how our welfare state works.

"As the European Union is expanded, you need to make sure we keep pace with other parts of European legislation as well."

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