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Monday, October 4, 1999 Published at 16:23 GMT 17:23 UK


Aliyah: The key recommendations

Child prostitutes should be treated as abuse victims, say experts

Harrow council has been criticised over the death of 13-year-old Aliyah Ismail, a child prostitute who had run away from local authority care just before she was due to be placed in secure accommodation.

Aliyah had been moved 68 times in her short life and had been in five different care placements alone in 1998, the year she died.

The inquiry into her death lists 18 recommendations. BBC News Online looks at the main findings.

Wider implications

The report by Harrow Area Child Protection Committee says: "This case raises a number of fundamental questions, not least about the appropriateness of depriving a young person of their liberty, when, in fact, they are the victim of crime and abuse through childhood prostitution.

"There are no easy answers to such dilemmas, particularly as secure accommodation can never be a long-term solution.

"However, in this case it is acknowledged that the local authority's response was not sufficiently robust or timely, and that there are lessons to be learnt."

The 18 recommendations cover all 10 agencies involved in Aliyah's care, including the police, probation services, the local health authority and the council.

But the report says there are four key messages which emerge. They are:

  • The need for child care agencies to listen to children's allegations of abuse and to improve staff's hearing and listening skills
  • The need for closer inter-agency working on cases
  • The creation of suitable strategies for managing older children who are beyond the control of their parents, such as secure accommodation, particularly for girls over 12
  • The urgent need for a way of analysing all information on a child in care so there is a clear plan on how they should be looked after

Other recommendations cover issues such as childhood prostitution.

The report calls on the government to urgently activate recommendations in a consultation paper on child prostitution.

For example, it says all child care agencies should treat child prostitutes as victims of abuse, provide appropriate training on how to deal with child prostitution cases and cooperate across boundaries to ensure adults involved in child prostitution are prosecuted.

Constantly on the move

Another recommendation covers sensitivity to cultural and religious identity. Aliyah was part Palestinian Jordanian.

The report also identifies the need for "more robust methods" for monitoring and protecting children who irregularly attend school and often go abroad.

Aliyah had lived abroad with her father on several occasions, including two periods in 1997.

The report also acknowledges the role cuts in social services' budgets have on child protection.

It says there should be "available resources and finance" to implement the recommendations "within a realistic timescale".

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