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Wednesday, 5 December, 2001, 15:12 GMT
Charity's child prostitution call
Child prostitution
New guidelines will be issued to beat child prostitution
Politicians have been urged to do more to combat the problem of child prostitution in Scotland.

An estimated 300 children work as prostitutes across the country.

The children's charity Barnado's Scotland says they should be treated as victims of abuse rather than criminals.

And it has called for wholesale changes in the way the problem is tackled, with more research and adequate funding.

Sheila Ramsay
Sheila Ramsay wants to see the law enforced

The Scottish Executive is currently drawing up guidelines to tackle the problem of child prostitution.

Representatives from the police, social work, health services and children's charities will be invited to take part in the new National Working Party on Child Prostitution and Runaways.

The group will start by consulting with child protection services in local council areas early in the New Year.

However, Barnardo's Scotland presented its own recommendations to MSPs at a reception on Wednesday.

Spokeswoman Sheila Ramsay said: "If we are truly to address the issue of young runaways and child abuse through prostitution, we need to know the extent of the problem.

"We need answers to a number of important questions in order to inform an effective national framework.

Children's commissioner

"We also need to ensure that such a framework is sufficiently resourced."

The charity wants those young people abused by prostitution to be referred to the Reporter to the Children's Panel.

It also wants to see an end to young people being charged with soliciting.

The executive has pledged to establish a children's commissioner through a Bill which is currently going through the Scottish Parliament.

Ministers are also expected to back an education committee recommendation which would give him or her the power to consult abused children on an informal level to help the fight against child prostitution.

Official figures from the executive show that there were 2,050 young people on child protection registers in Scotland last year.

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BBC Scotland's Duncam Kirkhope reports
"It has been suggested that there are 300 children working as prostitues in Scotland"
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