The child protection system is failing to meet the needs of older children and must be reviewed urgently, an all-party committee of MPs has warned.
Fourteen to eighteen-year-olds are being put at risk because social workers and other professionals fail to recognise the signs of neglect and abuse in teenagers, the report by the Education Select Committee concluded.
The report calls for urgent changes to ensure that all children are treated as children until the age of 18 and that their interests are put first.
Graham Stuart MP, chair of the committee, said, “Our report is the culmination of a year-long inquiry. The recent revelations concerning the BBC and other institutions underline how important it is to get child protection right.
“Care for older children is not good enough. They are let down too often, frequently ignored or not listened to, can be pushed out of care too young and insufficiently prepared and supported. This has to change.”
The Committee found evidence that children are left too long in harmful situations. It called for better training for all front-line professionals in child development and the long-term consequences of neglect to encourage them to intervene earlier.
It also recommended that more must be done to raise awareness among children of the nature of abuse and to encourage young people to report abuse themselves.
They warned that child protection services could be damaged by local authority cuts and called on the Government to monitor the impact of the economic situation on child-safeguarding.
Graham Stuart said, “Whatever your view on the cuts it is essential that the children in our society most vulnerable to abuse and exploitation are not the ones to pay the price. These children must be first and foremost in the minds of councillors and ministers so that the welcome improvements we have seen over recent years are maintained and built upon.”
Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society said: “This is a very welcome and important report, which highlights that far too often children are treated as the problem and denied the protection they desperately need and deserve.
”It is crucial children’s needs come first at all times — regardless of how old they are, where they come from or what circumstances they face.”