It is certainly a really complex issue and something that we have thought really hard about and discussed in great detail with other children-sector organisations. Ultimately, we agree with the Government’s decision to go for the 16 age limit. We talked in detail to frontline practitioners, such as Sally and others, and to our safeguarding experts, and the final decision we made was that because abuse of someone under 16 is child abuse, we did not want to muddy the waters. We wanted to keep it absolutely clear that under 16 it is child abuse. Also, the age of consent is 16, so that is another factor to consider.
We do recognise, though, the need for support for children and young people in romantic relationships under 16 where abuse happens, and we warmly welcome the recommendation from the Joint Committee around the need for a Government review to look at those relationships. One thing we would stress is that the experience from when the age limit in the definition was lowered from 18 to 16 showed that adult responses are not necessarily the right ones, so a different model could be needed for 16 and 17-year-olds. We would ask that that review consider 16 and 17-year-olds as well. Sally has extensive experience of what services work for young people and how they need to be different.