Recently I chaired a cross-party inquiry with Barnardo’s which looked into harmful sexual behaviour amongst children and what can be done to help protect children and increase awareness of issues surrounding the online safety of young people.
A critical point that was highlighted was the importance of education; of young people but also of adults, care givers and those with a duty of care for children at risk of exposure to potentially harmful sexual or violent material.
Whilst the increasing ease of access to technology and the internet is a good thing, it brings with it a need to be more aware of what can be accessed, especially with the increasing normalisation of unsuitable images and websites. These issues may be of particular concern as children have more time to access the internet during the summer holidays.
Organisations such as Barnardo’s, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, has been continuously dedicated to protecting and supporting vulnerable children, and together we are calling on the Government to bring forward a strategy to increase awareness of the risks of violent or sexual material among children.
However, it is not just the safety of young people we need to have greater awareness of; it is increasingly important that we promote the welfare of older people too.
Earlier this year, I was delighted to host the launch of a report by the Sussex Elders’ Commission, in partnership with the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne, in Parliament.
The report was the product of conversations with thousands of older residents of Sussex, and was the first opportunity of its kind for individuals to voice their concerns on issues including scams, cybercrime and financial coercion as well as the implications of isolation and digital exclusion.
I am very pleased that there will be a debate in the House of Commons in September on scamming and its effects on vulnerable individuals. I look forward to voicing the concerns of Sussex’s older residents, and I hope many MPs will be there to raise awareness of the risks posed to older people, just as Barnardo’s has for young people.