Public officials who fail to protect children could face up to five years in jail under new measures set to be announced by David Cameron today.
The proposals - due to be announced by the prime minister at a summit in Downing Street later – will extend the offence of ‘wilful neglect’, meaning that teachers, social workers and councillors will now be accountable for failing to prevent child sexual exploitation.
Other measures include fines for organisations and individuals and the establishment of a national helpline for professionals to report colleagues.
The Government is also set to announce that child sexual exploitation will be upgraded to a “national threat”, and that police forces will have a duty to develop a strategy to tackle abuse.
New measures follow reports from Professor Alexis Jay and troubled families director Louise Casey, which both found that Rotherham officials had failed to protect at least 1,400 girls from child sexual exploitation.
Speaking on the Today programme, Professor Jay said it was right to hold senior public officials accountable for failing to protect children in their communities.
“I certainly support the view that the most senior people, including those responsible politically, should have much clearer and direct accountability for what has happened on their watch," she said.
"I appreciate what is being done to the extent that it makes it unambiguous that this area of child sexual exploitation is to become a clear priority and regarded correctly as a crime of the most serious nature.”
The summit coincides with the release of a report into child sexual exploitation in Oxfordshire, which according to The Guardian, is expected to reveal more than 300 young people have been sexually exploited over the past 15 years.