National child criminal exploitation strategy ‘urgent’
13 December 2022
Professor Andrew Ravenscroft of the School of Education and Communities has chaired a conference on child criminal exploitation, amidst concerns about rising numbers being exploited.
The Professor of Education and Social and Community Work and senior research advisor chaired 'The Combatting Child Criminal Exploitation Conference 2022: Developing a Multi-Agency Approach' conference, organised by Government Events and held online in November.
Professor Ravenscroft said that child criminal exploitation is already a severe problem in East London and throughout the UK and is almost certainly going to get worse. More digital recruiting and grooming methods have been developed during lockdown, and now, looming austerity, and the cost-of-living crises impacting poorer families will combine to have an even more severe effect.
This situation is arising in a context where, despite improved multi-agency responses and approaches, there is no national strategy, and no statutory definition of what child criminal exploitation is.
- 4,000 teenagers are being criminally exploited in London alone (Children’s Society)
- 38% of parents would not know what to do if their child had become involved in County Lines (Unseen)
- There were 12,720 children identified by children's social services as at risk due to involvement in gangs in 2020/21 (Commission on Young Lives)
- Online grooming crimes recorded by police jumped by around 70% since 2018 (NSPCC)
For the past ten years Professor Ravenscroft has worked with vulnerable children and young people, including on positive pathway projects, such as RadioActive101, where young people made radio shows to build skills and confidence. This also involved collaborations with students on employability placements from our Music Performance programme. He said,
During lockdown there was an evolutionary increase in online grooming of young people for criminal exploitation, using new ways of identifying and targeting young people online. The reality is that things will almost certainly get worse with forthcoming increased austerity, as there will be more poverty which is a driver, whilst agencies dealing with the problem remain seriously overstretched.
"Urgent action is needed to agree a statutory definition linked to statutory responses that support different agencies working together more coherently".
The children's charity Barnardo's have made three excellent recommendations in a report in October 2021:
- Introduce a statutory definition for child criminal exploitation, so that different agencies have a shared and common foundation to work from.
- Improve multi-agency responses through establishing a National Serious Violence Oversight Board, chaired by the Home Secretary.
- Invest in youth services, to provide diversionary activities, such as sports and music, along with mental health and wellbeing support and employment and careers guidance and support.
Acting on these would be invaluable positive steps amidst a worsening context.
This issue cuts across a number of our courses, including our BA (Hons) and MA courses in Social Work, along with our BA (Hons) in Youth Work and BA (Hons) in Psychosocial Community Work.
Contact us for press and interview requests