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NSPCC campaign sees Government agree to close legal loophole allowing sports coaches and faith leaders to have sex with 16 and 17 year olds in their care

THE Government is to make it illegal for sports coaches and faith leaders to have sex with 16 and 17 year olds in their care, after a prolonged campaign from the NSPCC. The Ministry of Justice has announced that the Positions of Trust law, which currently applies to roles like teachers and social workers, will be extended as part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to be unveiled in Parliament, on 9 March 2021. It has been hailed as a:- 'landmark step' for the protection of young people by the NSPCC who has campaigned for this as part of their Close the Loophole campaign. The children's charity gained widespread political and public support for its campaign to extend the legal protection for 16 and 17 year olds to prevent them being targeted by adults with power and influence over them.

Peter Wanless, NSPCC CEO, said:- "We are delighted that after relentless campaigning, the Government has finally listened to our calls and agreed to close this legal loophole. This landmark step sends a clear message that children and young people can return to the extracurricular activities they love without being at risk of grooming by the very adults they should look to for support and guidance. Thank you to everyone who stood up for children and threw their weight behind our campaign. With children set to return to activities in spring and summer, we will be looking at the details behind this announcement very closely."

Hannah was manipulated into engaging in a sexual relationship with her swim coach when she turned 16. In July 2020, she was supported by the NSPCC to write to the Ministry of Justice urging them to protect teenagers from predatory behaviour by those in a position of trust. In response to the announcement, she said:- "Closing the loophole in the law means a huge amount to me. Sports coaches get to know so much about you from such a young age, you grow and develop under their care. Children deserve to be protected from predatory adults when doing something they enjoy and the fact they currently aren't is a huge injustice. What happened to me put a strain on all my relationships and affected me deeply. No child should have to fend off the sexual advances of an adult they trust."

The NSPCC began campaigning to extend the law in 2017 after the football abuse scandal in 2016 highlighted how adults utilised their positions of Authority in sports settings to abuse children. In the past year, the Government faced mounting pressure from the charity, a 4,420 strong petition, the network of Council Safeguarding leads, national sporting bodies and Parliamentarians including Sarah Champion, Tracey Crouch and Dame Tanni Grey Thompson. Last week, Sarah Champion led an Adjournment Debate to make the case to the Government about why it was so important for them to close the loophole.

This International Women's Day, The Girls Network is saving the future of young women across Liverpool with its pioneering mentoring programme

A national mentoring charity, which supports young women from the least advantaged communities across England, is celebrating its success in saving the class of 2021 across Liverpool this International Women's Day, Monday, 8 March 2021. With both School closures and cancelled exams, many young people in and around Liverpool will feel that their future is hanging in the balance. However, The Girls Network, which has remained fully functional throughout the Pandemic, has mentored more young women than ever before after experiencing a 30% increase in applications in 2020.

As a result of its tireless efforts to reach young women in disadvantaged communities across Liverpool and nationally, it reports that 98% of the girls from Liverpool matched with a mentor have said that the mentoring programme has helped to increase their confidence and feel more positive about their future. While 81% also reported that mentoring has helped them to focus on virtual learning and encouraged them to knuckle down on their schoolwork. Mentee, Hollie from Archbishop Beck Catholic College in Liverpool said:- "I feel like The Girls Network has helped clear my mind about future life and bring out my individual personality as a student. I am so grateful for the help. I am like a new student, focusing on my revision a lot more as I feel more educated and informed on how to get where I want to be."

Another mentee, Laila, who was mentored throughout the Pandemic added:- "We are all in this Pandemic together and having a mentor, is having a friend you can talk to about how you're coping with these drastic changes. Working together with your mentor can help you to work around any issues and turn this situation into an opportunity."

Studies show the Pandemic has most negatively impacted women, young people, and those from the least advantaged communities, with teenage girls aged between 14 to 19 the hardest hit.  Amy Metcalfe, Senior Network Manager, in Merseyside, added:- "The programme across Liverpool has been a huge success over the past year, despite the Pandemic, and we've had more girls apply to join than ever before. It's so great to see the impact that mentoring can have on one individual and how it can help inspire and motivate them to realise that they can make their dreams a reality."

The Girls Network has remained fully functional during the Pandemic and quickly switched to virtual mentoring at the beginning of Lockdown last year. The charity was inundated with applications to join and managed to match more girls with mentors than ever before. The results were been hugely positive.

Over the past 12 months The Girls Network has matched and mentored over 1300 girls from disadvantaged communities across England, recorded almost 3000 hours of virtual mentoring, run 16 virtual workshops and seen engagement increase by 100%. Charly Young, CEO and Founder of The Girls Network said:- "Young people have had a really tough year. They have had to quickly adjust to virtual learning and life at home, without being able to spend time with their friends, and many have also felt worried and despondent about their future. We are really proud of how the programme has worked during the Pandemic and the impact it has had on the young women we have supported. We hope to see more mentors signing up to be involved in our programme so that we can continue to motivate and encourage young girls in the least advantaged communities to be ambitious for their futures, and to reach those ambitions"

The award winning charity is now asking for help to reach more girls, appealing for the public to Save the Class of 2021 this International Women's Day. On 1 March 2011, they are launching a provocative campaign playing on high School tropes with a dark edge: scribbled out 'Fearbook' photos show pupil Sarah L. voted:- 'most likely to fall through the gaps in the system' and Amber A. as:- 'least likely to have a foot in the door...' unless they are matched with a mentor.


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