Young kids with learning disabilities face additional barriers to protection and support which puts them more at risk for sexual exploitation, finds a new study.
A new report 'Unprotected, Overprotected' revealed that significant numbers of vulnerable children are not being adequately protected from sexual exploitation because of the false perception that they do not need sex and relationships education or accessible information about how to keep safe online and in the community.
The research, which was commissioned by Comic Relief and undertaken by Barnardo's, The Children's Society, British Institute of Learning Disabilities (BILD), Paradigm Research and Coventry University, calls on UK governments to take immediate action.
It highlights the need for more training for professionals and services to work together to prevent, identify and provide effective support for these children. Support for parents and awareness in the community is also crucial for making sure that children with learning disabilities are kept safe from sexual exploitation.
Martin Crewe, director of Barnardo's Scotland, said, "This report highlights that children and young people with learning disabilities are particularly vulnerable to child sexual exploitation."
"A lack of awareness of the needs of these vulnerable children is playing into the hands of perpetrators of sexual exploitation. Professionals working with children must get training to recognize the risks faced by children with learning disabilities and help them to stay safe," he added.
Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children's Society, said, "As is all too clear from our work with young people, children with learning disabilities are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation. They need to be given the knowledge that will help them protect themselves. To understand when they are under threat and what a good relationship is. It is vital that they get the sex and relationship education they need to help keep them safe."
Chris Creegan, chief executive of Scottish Consortium for Learning Disability (SCLD), added: "We need a commitment to cross policy working to ensure that all citizens of Scotland who have learning disabilities live longer, healthier lives. Protection from exploitation is fundamental to that commitment."