The Prime Minister hosted a hidden harms summit from Downing Street on May 21, focussing on how to tackle crimes, such as domestic abuse, sexual abuse, child sexual abuse and modern slavery, which may have been impacted by the coronavirus lockdown.
Following an initial opening session chaired by the Prime Minister, experts and representatives from law enforcement, the criminal justice system, charities, local government and the private sector attended three separate sessions, each chaired by different government ministers:
- The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, chaired a session on law enforcement, ensuring that the UK remains a world leader in protecting victims and bringing perpetrators to justice.
- The Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland chaired a session on how to support victims and survivors of hidden harm crimes, and how coronavirus will affect the long-term support of victims.
- The Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, chaired a session on identifying children and adults at risks of hidden harms, and how the voluntary and private sector could help spot the signs of those at risk.
Ahead of the summit, the Government made a number of announcements on ways it would be tackling hidden harms, which were discussed further at the summit.
- The government announced a codeword scheme for victims of domestic abuse will be launched. The scheme, championed by the independent Victims and Domestic Abuse commissioners, as well as a number of domestic abuse charities, will mean that victims will be able to signal to staff in participating outlets, such as supermarkets and pharmacies, that they need immediate support.
- The Home Office is currently working with partners, including charities and the business sector, such as the National Pharmacy Association and British Retail Consortium, on the scheme, with more details to be announced in due course.
- Cumbria, South Wales and Sussex Constabularies are piloting new approaches to tackling domestic abuse, including methods for better identifying those posing the highest risk of offending and multiagency approaches to prevent re-offending. Forces will be working with the College of Policing to evaluate the effectiveness of these approaches with a view to wider dissemination across forces as appropriate.
Tackling Child Sexual abuse
- The Home Secretary announced that £9.86 million is being allocated to the National Crime Agency to improve its ability to tackle perpetrators seeking to offend against children via the Dark Web, leaving no stone unturned in pursuing the most dangerous and sophisticated offenders.
- An additional £3.36 million is being committed to further improve our understanding and tackle all aspects of the child sexual abuse threat. This will:
- develop an ambitious project to co-ordinate data, intelligence and tasking to tackle overlapping forms of exploitation, which will strengthen our whole-system approach to vulnerability;
- improve intelligence gathering and analytical capability of the Regional Organised Crime Units and using that intelligence to deliver a Prevention Programme to target local activity on exploitation; and
- support the work of the Vulnerability Knowledge Practice Programme in collating data, insight and best practice on these threats, ensuring a coordinated, effective and evidence-based response from policing;
- A further £2.8 million transformation fund was also announced in order to promote and embed best practice in Child Sexual Abuse victim support. This fund will improve the quality of support available for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and encourage collaboration between commissioners, providers, and communities over the next two years.
- £3.7m this year for the cross-cutting Trusted Relationships Fund, to sustain local authority-led projects in 11 areas in England working with adolescents at risk of sexual and criminal exploitation and peer-on-peer abuse.
- £1.4 million funding for the police through the Modern Slavery and Organised Immigration Crime Programme to increase prosecutions for modern slavery offenders and to mobilise forces to crackdown on organised immigration crime.
What funding and support has been provided?
In addition to the above announcements, the government has already announced a wide range of support for vulnerable people.This includes £76m of emergency funding to support survivors of domestic abuse, sexual violence and vulnerable children as well as victims of modern slavery as part of the government’s £750 million package of support for charities.
Further measures include:
- The Home Secretary launched a new public awareness campaign on 11 April highlighting that if anyone is at risk of, or experiencing, domestic abuse, they are still able leave and seek refuge. The campaign, under the hashtag #YouAreNotAlone, will create a community around those affected by domestic abuse and reassure victims that support remains available
- The Home Secretary also announced £2 million of funding to immediately bolster domestic abuse helplines and online support. The Home Office has also partnered with Fujitsu to offer tech support to smaller charities.
- We recently published updated guidance for those in danger of domestic abuse and their children during coronavirus.
Child Sexual Abuse
- We have produced detailed guidance for parents and carers on how they can keep children safe online
- The Department for Education has published interim safeguarding advice with the primary focus to support schools and colleges to keep children safe. The guidance asks schools and colleges to support parents and carers to keep children safe online and signpost them to information and advice such as NCA’s Thinkuknow resources, Internet Matters and Parent Info.
- The government has provided the NSPCC with an extra £1.6 million to expand and promote their helpline for adults to report safeguarding concerns.
- The Security minister has written to tech firms on countering online child sexual exploitation and abuse during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Last year the government pledged an additional £30m for law enforcement to help tackle child sexual abuse.
- Individuals supported through the Modern Slavery Victim Care Contract are allowed to continue to stay in government funded safe accommodation for three months while still receiving the support they need.
- We have produced guidance for both First Responders and frontline staff with advice on what to do if they encounter a potential victim of modern slavery while ensuring the safety of victims, First Responders and support staff.