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Children’s Commissioner report on the criminal exploitation...

Responding to a report by the Children’s Commissioner on the criminal exploitation of children Jenny Coles, Chair of the ADCS Families, Communities and Young People Policy Committee, said:

“Local authorities are committed to protecting children from all forms of grooming and exploitation, criminal, sexual or otherwise, and we take our safeguarding duties extremely seriously. Identifying children at risk or involved with gangs is challenging and is a multi-agency endeavour.

“There are lots of reasons why children might feel the pressure to join gangs though every child is an individual and their unique context is important to recognise. The impact of austerity, cuts to youth services and the availability of early support and positive activities for young people within their communities cannot be understated, neither can the cuts to community policing. Add to this, a rising number of children living in poverty and being excluded from school it’s easy to see how children can become vulnerable to exploitation by gangs. As the report notes, once a child becomes involved with a gang it’s very difficult for them to leave which is why prevention and early action is key, as is learning from the experiences of children and their families. Despite our desire to help children at an earlier stage the sustainability of early help services is a growing concern for local authorities due to increasing levels of need in our communities. Investment through the Troubled Families Programme is vital and underpins the early help offer in many local areas but this is set to end soon. This investment has facilitated better joint working and co-location with other professionals as well as the ability to fund much needed family support workers - we need assurances about funding for the programme beyond 2020.

“We continue to work closely with our partners to keep children safe and to identify, disrupt and prosecute these networks, but our understanding of this area continues to evolve. The Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel’s first national review is on the theme of criminal exploitation, this will be helpful in terms of furthering the sectors understanding and practice responses, as will the new criminal exploitation response unit. Crucially, local partners, including local authorities, the police and schools, need access to resources to develop effective local responses and to keep children safe from harm.”

ENDS



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