23/11/2011 05:16 GMT

Children Being Sexually Abused 'In Far Greater Numbers Than Was Ever Imagined', Minister Tim Loughton To Say

Children’s minister Tim Loughton will warn kids are being sexually abused “in far greater numbers than was ever imagined” in a speech launching the government’s plan to tackle grooming on Wednesday morning.

In an admission that the current system is failing, Loughton will say: "Too many local areas have failed to uncover the true extent of child sexual exploitation in their communities and failed to properly support victims and their families."

The Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation Action Plan will bring different agencies and support organisations such as the Crown Prosecution Service and police together to try and combat children being groomed for sex.

Police will also receive specialised training to help them recognise the signs of sexual exploitation.

Barnardo’s chief executive Anne Marie Carrie welcomed the plan saying: “We cannot underestimate the scale of this sickening abuse and the damage it is doing to thousands of girls and boys across the UK.

“At Barnardo’s we hear so many heartbreaking stories which are every parent’s worst nightmare. I hope today marks a new beginning, so fewer of these nightmares become reality and the pernicious individuals behind this exploitation are brought to justice.

“The Government’s action plan to tackle child sexual exploitation will lay down the gauntlet for the criminal justice system to bring more prosecutions of this type of sex offender – but we need urgent action for the innocents who are groomed and exploited for sex.”

Sharon, a former victim of sex exploitation who has turned her life around, will also speak on Wednesday

“Although it’s been over a decade since I was abused, I look at my daughter now and I find it frightening that it’s still happening," she said.

“The most vulnerable children are being spotted by these guys and exploited – if they can spot them, why can’t the authorities and the police? They need to be smarter.”

Child sexual exploitation is defined by any situation where a child or young person receives something in exchange for performing sexual favours.