Sajid Javid
The economic impact of the lockdown will pale by comparison to the "perfect storm" leaving vulnerable children "isolating alongside their abusers", Sajid Javid has warned.

Writing for The Telegraph, the former Home Secretary said the current restrictions appeared to be facilitating a "surge" in sexual abuse of children which he predicted would be reflected in figures later this year.

Mr Javid is to lead a new "no holds barred" investigation into child sexual abuse in Britain, along with the Centre for Social Justice think tank. Mr Javid said the inquiry would not be impeded by "cultural and political sensitivities" after the men convicted in recent high-profile cases were disproportionately of Pakistani, Kashmiri, Bangladeshi and Bengali heritage.

His intervention follows repeated warnings by children's charities about the increased risks of child abuse while children are being kept at home during the lockdown.

Last month The Telegraph disclosed that the number of vulnerable children "out of contact" as a result of the lockdown was causing alarm among ministers studying the cost of measures designed to halt the spread of coronavirus.

Ministers fear that the "usual oversight" available to youngsters at risk of abuse has been absent, with as many as nine in ten vulnerable children kept at home, rather than taking up places available to them at local schools.

Mr Javid said: "Children are less likely to be abused in person by an unknown predator at school than they are to be assaulted by their own family members, friends or acquaintances - often in their own home. Images and videos from sexual assaults such as these are often shared online for the gratification of others.

"For these children, lockdown is the perfect storm. Left to isolate alongside their abuser, these young people will suffer damage so severe and long lasting as to make our concerns about the economy seem insignificant by comparison.

"The surge in child sexual abuse happening right now won't be reflected in statistics until later this year."

Mr Javid, who was Home Secretary until his appointment as Chancellor last summer, states that the scale of child sexual abuse in Britain weight "the most heavily on me" of any of the aspects of his role, including terrorism.

The inquiry led by Mr Javid will examine the extent of the "epidemic" of sex crimes against children in Britain, as well as the "general characteristics" of offenders and victims. He will issue recommendations on how to tackle the problem.

Mr Javid said: "The seriousness of this crime demands that difficult questions are asked. It is a statement of fact - as well as a source of great sadness and anger for me - that in recent high-profile cases, the men convicted have been disproportionately of Pakistani, Kashmiri, Bangladeshi and Bengali heritage.

"In weighing the significance of this, our investigation will not allow cultural or political sensitivities get in the way of understanding the problem, nor will it limit our understanding of who the perpetrators are and how this crime often goes undetected."