Barnardo’s have released deeply concerning figures showing child-on-child abuse as having the potential to become the next major child protection issue in the UK.

The evidence was revealed through Freedom of Information Act requests, and findings show that allegations of children committing sexual offences against other children have risen by 78 per cent in England and Wales during the last four years.

There were 32,452 recorded reports of alleged child-on-child sexual offences between 2013 and 2016, which averages out to 22 reports per day. With seven of the forty-three police forces in England and Wales not responding to the request for information, Barnardo’s points out that the true number may be even higher.

Over 9,000 of these allegations were made in 2016. This is an increase of nearly 4,000 compared to figures in 2013. The Child Protection Lead at the National Police Chiefs Council suggests that this dramatic increase in figures could be related to a rise in awareness of unacceptable sexual behaviour and greater confidence in victims approaching the police to report concerns.

“When dealing with harmful sexual behaviour, young offenders should be treated as children first and offenders second,” a Barnardo’s spokesperson said. There was no information given on the nature of the alleged offences – these could range in severity from rape to sexting incidents. Barnardo’s also provided no detail on how many of these offences were brought to trail, or how many of the perpetrators were convicted.

The findings, however, have raised calls for the government to make sex education compulsory in all schools – an issue that is being heavily spotlighted in current news stories amidst resistance from many MPs to implement the bill.