HUNDREDS of child sex abuse cases could be held back if fresh funding is not found to help victims and survivors, campaigning MP Sarah Champion has warned.
The National Crime Agency revealed last week that the number of children groomed and abused in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013 was now believed to be up to 1,510 — more than 100 higher than the 1,400 estimated in the 2014 Jay report.
So far, the investigation team has identified 19,000 lines of inquiry and 18 suspects have been charged.
But Ms Champion (pictured) said the inquiry — which has an annual budget of £6.9 million could suffer if the 260 women who have so far spoken to NCA officers are not properly supported.
The MP, who launched a new website yesterday offering parents help on preventing child grooming, said in an interview with Politics Home there was enough funding for survivor support from the council and police and crime commissioner “for three or four months”.
But she added: “We reckon the investigation could go on for another ten years.”
She told the Advertiser: “Unless we can get additional funding, we will be relying on the support that can be given through charities.
“For all the money that has been spent on the NCA inquiry, and the fantastic work they are doing, unless we can support getting these women to court we wont see convictions.”
Ms Champion said she and senior council figures had spoken to Home Office minister Victoria Atkins to ask for £1.4 million of funding over four years to support victims and survivors.
On Monday, she raised a question in the House of Commons “to keep the pressure up” and was told by the minister that a request for funding was being considered.
But Ms Champion said afterwards that she was disappointed Ms Atkins failed to mention funding for adult survivors.
“That the Minister did not even mention adult survivors speaks volumes about the Government's complacent attitude towards the duty of care we owe them,” she said.
Ms Champion said survivors’ support could range from “having someone on the other end of the phone but it can also be having someone who can provide childcare so they can go to court”.
She added: “Some of these women have mental health issues or physical issues stemming from their abuse, and some of them have children so ensuring they are protected and supported is important, too.
“Up to age 18, there is a statutory duty to provide that support but after that it drops off and I’m trying to push the minister to provide that help.
“It is fantastic the funding is in place for the NCA and South Yorkshire Police’s investigations but all this depends on witnesses and survivors coming forward and testifying.
“Unless we can properly support them to do so we wont get the convictions everyone wants.”
The NCA confirmed many of victims and survivors were suffering from long-term effects of CSE, including mental health issues and drug and alcohol addiction.
Ms Champion said she was not surprised by the figure of 1,510 victims given by the NCA and pointed out that its inquiry only covered a 16-year period, adding: “We know it was going on before that and more recently.
“A lot of those people who were abused still dont understand that’s what happened to them, so not everybody is coming forward.”