There were 38 offences involving adults in positions of trust who have sexual contact with children in their care across the Thames Valley since 2011, official data shows.
But the NSPCC fears the true extent of abuse is much worse, because the law doesn’t apply to youth work roles such as sports coaches and leaders of religious groups.
There has been a 57% increase in recorded Abuse of Position offences in England and Wales where professionals such as teachers or care staff have sexual contact with 16 or 17-year-old children they work with. In total, 1,290 offences have been recorded since 2011-12.
Across the Thames Valley Police Force area there have been 38 recorded offences since 2011-12.
The NSPCC’s #TrustToLead campaign is calling for laws on Position of Trust to be extended, to better protect children in sport and other youth activities.
A legal loophole means adults with regular and intense contact with children in sport and other activities are able to groom them from a young age, and abuse that trusting relationship to have sexual contact as soon as the child turns 16.
This was what happened to Lee* who was befriended by youth leader, Adam* at his church group when he was 15. Adam began texting Lee and asking to spend time together outside of the group.
Lee said: “Adam started by sitting closer to me on the sofa, trailing his finger on to mine. Things which I thought were weird but not big enough to react to.”
Things escalated to kissing and sexual contact when Lee turned 16.
He added: “I was so confused but knew what he was doing was wrong. I wanted it to stop but part of me was afraid to speak out because I didn’t want to get him in trouble.”
NSPCC Head of Policy Almudena Lara said: “Safeguarding in children’s clubs should not end suddenly at 16. The NSPCC has been told of a number of cases where in sports and other youth work settings, leaders have used their position to groom children, and then take advantage of them as soon as they turn 16.
“It is baffling that sports coaches and other youth workers are not deemed to be in a position of trust, given the significant responsibility, influence and authority that adults in these roles have over the children they are there to look after.
“Sadly, we know that this trust can be abused and it is therefore vital that this legal definition is widened to include sports coaches and other youth workers, bolstering protection for teenagers at risk of grooming once they pass the age of consent.”