Written Question on Internet: Safety

Written Questions are submitted by MPs or Lords to receive information from a Department.

See more on: "Internet: Safety"
Date Title Questioner
1 Sep 2020, 11:55 a.m. Mary Kelly Foy (Labour - City of Durham) Mary Kelly Foy (Labour - City of Durham)

Question to the Home Office:

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, how many children and young people have been identified as victims of child sexual abuse since the Online Harms White Paper was published in April 2019; and what steps her Department is taking to protect vulnerable children from sexual abuse and exploitation online while the Government produces its full response to the Online Harms White Paper consultation.

Answered by Victoria Atkins - Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)

Online child sexual exploitation and abuse is an abhorrent crime, and the Home Office works closely with technology companies, law enforcement and NGOs to tackle and prevent this crime as a top priority.

In the year from April 2019 to March 2020, the NCA and UK policing identified 793 victims within indecent images of children, compared with 552 in the previous fiscal year. The NCA and policing continue to undertake work to identify children within indecent images as part of their daily activity.

Additionally, in the year from April 2019 to March 2020, the NCA and UK policing made approximately 7,200 arrests and safeguarded and protected around 8,300 children in relation to online child sexual abuse. Many of the children who were safeguarded or protected will have been victims of child sexual abuse.

The Online Harms White Paper set out plans to introduce a statutory duty of care on companies to address a range of harms on their platforms and services, including online child sexual exploitation and abuse. Ahead of legislation coming into force and an independent regulator being operational, Government will publish an interim code of practice on child sexual exploitation and abuse, setting out steps that companies can take now to prevent and tackle this crime. This interim code will be published in the Autumn, alongside the full government response to the Online Harms White Paper consultation.

The Government is committed to tackling online child sexual exploitation and abuse and recognises many parents may feel concerned about the activities and content their children are accessing. Guidance has been published for parents and children outlining resources to help keep children safe from different risks online, including online grooming, and where to go to receive support and advice - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-keeping-children-safe-online/coronavirus-covid-19-support-for-parents-and-carers-to-keep-children-safe-online.

In May, the Government pledged more than £76 million extra funding to support the most vulnerable in society during the pandemic. The funding has been made available for charities to support survivors of abuse, including child sexual abuse.

Recognising the impact of the current situation upon harms such as child sexual abuse the Prime Minister hosted the government’s first Hidden Harms virtual summit in May. It was attended by over 70 representatives from across government, the NHS, law enforcement, charities and frontline services, as well as survivors of hidden harms. The summit was an opportunity to share emerging best practice at the local and national level and identify areas to go further over the coming months.

Home Office Ministers have met with the Internet Watch Foundation, children’s charities, the tech industry and other parties to understand the online threat to children during the pandemic. They also wrote to industry partners to ensure that countering online child sexual exploitation and abuse remains a priority during the pandemic.

The Government is continuing to engage with technology companies around the Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, a framework of principles launched by the Five Country Ministerial partners in March. In collaboration with UK, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and United States governments, our partners in the technology industry have developed a new campaign to help keep children safe online during COVID-19. This launched on 17 April, with parents and carers directed to online safety resources on GOV.UK, and children directed to Childline.

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