It is just over a week to go until Christmas and I’ve been busy meeting with some of the excellent community groups and charities in my constituency who support people all year around, but whose support is particularly important at this time of year.
Yesterday I helped serve lunch to pensioners on the Kingswood Estate as I have done for the last seven years and am looking forward to several carol concerts in the constituency next week.
I hope that every reader has a very happy Christmas and New Year, but it is unfortunately the case that some of our children and young people will face a difficult festive season. The revelations of abuse of young footballers at clubs across the country has once again brought to our attention the exploitation of far too many young people by adults that they should have been able to trust.
Amongst the most devastating revelations in recent years, has been the abuse of vulnerable children in the care of local authorities, by those whose job it was to protect them. Many years ago there was significant abuse at Southwark’s Hollies children’s home in Sidcup and on the Lambeth side of my constituency it is known that hundreds of children suffered horrific abuse at Council-run children’s homes including Shirley Oaks in Croydon. I am clear that the voices of the victims and survivors of abuse must be heard, that perpetrators who are still alive should be brought to justice and that government and our wider society must learn the lessons and take proactive steps to minimise the risk of any young person enduring such dreadful experiences again.
We know that there is still much work to do. It is very disappointing to read the report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary on the poor performance of the Metropolitan Police in dealing with the safeguarding of children and young people. I will be pressing the new Commissioner to ensure that the positive words from the Met are backed up with concrete actions and I’m glad that Sadiq Khan is taking action that Boris Johnson failed to take and has recently set out plans for the Met which establish tackling abuse as a key priority.
Let’s make sure that as we gather with family and friends this Christmas, we think about the most vulnerable children living in our communities. If you are concerned about a child you can contact Southwark’s duty social worker on 020 7525 1921, the police on 999 or 101.