My goal for the pillar of the office’s work on ‘Community’ is that, whether online or in their communities, they have safe places to play and grow up, and have confidence in the adults whose job it is to protect them.
Last year (2022-23), the office delivered a huge amount of work aimed at helping children feel safe, online and offline – and at shining a light on the areas where this is not happening. You can read more about that here.
This included our in-depth work on maintaining family relationships in youth custody, and children’s access to pornography, and most recently on strip searches of children by the police – the response to this piece of work in particular was enormous, with its shocking findings being picked up by MPs and Peers in Parliament as a subject of important debate. I’m grateful for these interventions which helped widen its reach, ensuring children’s experiences cannot be overlooked or ignored.
In the coming year, I am excited about the new work that we will deliver to help children feel safe and connected, as laid out in my Business Plan for 2023-24.
My priorities for this year are:
- Keeping children safe in their communities: I will continue my work investigating the interactions between the police and children, including exploring a model of policing that puts children’s views and experiences at its centre. All children deserve to have confidence in the adults who are there to keep them safe.
- Peer on peer abuse: I will shortly be publishing first-of-its-kind research into the nature of child-on-child sexual offences, which will also explore the links with pornography consumption. A key factor of this work will be to improve support in the criminal justice system for children who have experienced sexual harm and abuse.
- Children involved in the criminal justice system: My team and I will continue our work meeting children wherever they are, including visiting parts of the youth secure estate. I want to understand children’s experiences in the youth justice system and make sure that they are always treated, first and foremost, as children – not criminals.
- Youth work: My team and I will be exploring the state of youth work and other positive activities for children and young people. My aim is for children to have safe places to play and learn in their local communities.
- Online Safety Bill receiving Royal Assent: I will continue my efforts to see this important piece of legislation passed so that we can have confidence that children are kept safe online. This Bill has been a long time coming and I’m proud of the work my office and I have done to strengthen it for children.
- Victims and Prisoners Bill receiving Royal Assent: The additions made to this Bill mean that children who experience domestic abuse, and those born of rape, will now be defined as victims too – an important update which my office and I worked to support. I will continue to push for greater recognition of children who are victims through this key piece of legislation.
My aim for the year ahead is for children to feel their voices and views are being heard at the very top of policy making and in political debate.