Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Criticism of the Report of the Children`s Commissioner

According to the BBC website, the Office of the Children`s Commissioner for England in its report, after a two year inquiry, has said that shocking sexual violence has been carried out by children against other children, and that bullying and sexist attitudes exist across the country. The police and social services need to get better at identifying children at risk in order to protect them.
"There is, however, a long way to go before the appalling reality of sexual violence and exploitation committed by children and young people is believed."
"Research conducted by Bedfordshire University into sexual violence in gangs suggested two-thirds of young people questioned (65%) knew of young women who had been pressurised or coerced into sexual activity."

The problem here is that this is hearsay evidence. Young people have been questioned and encouraged to talk about someone else. Before the `appalling  reality` can be believed, it would take harder evidence than this.

Continue reading the main story

 A year ago the commissioner defended the interim report into the extent of child sexual exploitation (CSE) in England in an article which appeared in, Wednesday 21 November 2012. Unnamed sources were critical.
The report revealed that 16,500 children were at high risk of sexual exploitation and 2,409 had been sexually exploited in a 14-month period. It met with immediate criticism following its publication on Tuesday – with unnamed sources questioning the reliability of the numbers, while others accused it of failing to address a particular problem of the targeting of white girls by networks of British Pakistani men.
But the report's authors insist the figures are robust. The figure of children at risk comes solely from four government sources: 100% of police forces responded, along with 88% of local authority children's services and 66% of Primary Care Trusts. Centrally held figures were also used. However, only 21 of 39 police constabulary areas responded to appeals for information while there was less data on perpetrators.
Agencies were asked for details of children displaying any of 11 indicators that are commonly reported – including running away, drug or alcohol misuse and criminality. If children displayed three of these indicators they were deemed at "high risk" of being sexually exploited. A similar method was used for the figure of children who had been sexually exploited.
Of course, running away, drug or alcohol misuse and criminality might not be indicating child sexual exploitation at all which means the very high figures of children at risk quoted in the report are not 100% reliable. Any conclusions built on this unreliable data cannot be depended upon either.

A commentator on the Guardian article had this to say:
I don't mean to spoil the party but this report is flawed. As an academic criminologist with a particular interest in research methodology I can't make sense of it. The methodology section in particular is so full of holes it leaks like a sieve. Before anyone starts, yes I fully acknowledge that child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a significant problem, yes it needs to be tackled, but I can't see how this report either sheds any light on the issue or more importantly provides any means to deal with it. It has spread the issue so thinly that it will make it impossible for professionals to identify and deal with REAL CSE where it occurs. In particular: the 16000 abuse cases is an estimate extrapolated from other estimates (provided by police and other agencies) it has no basis in reality; the 2,400 'real' cases identified were derived from data provided by CEOPS - with no discussion or elaboration on how these were obtained; the actual number of abuse victims on which the report is based is 20. So to my mind, and any social scientist worth their salt, the authors have breached the cardinal rule of scientifically based and empirically grounded social science research: They have generalised from a convenience sample of 20 actual victims to the entire country.  
It has to be questioned why the BBC ran with this flawed report and attempted to stir up a moral panic about children sexually abusing children and why others played the racist card. No doubt examining the recommendations in the report will give a clue to what this report was really about.

Here is a blog post which questions the bias in reporting from a racist and class perspective:  White men jailed for abuse

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