Children's Society calls for national strategy on child criminal exploitation

By agency reporter
September 21, 2020

New figures for the second quarter of 2020 show children accounted for 346 out of 409 referrals to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) – the system for identifying victims of modern slavery – which related to concerns about criminal exploitation through so-called county lines drug trafficking operations. The overall number of county lines referrals for all age groups more than doubled from 199 to 409.

Iryna Pona, Policy Manager at The Children’s Society, said: “We saw through our frontline services how criminals continued to cynically groom and exploit vulnerable children to traffic drugs during lockdown.

“They adapted their methods where necessary and took advantage of a situation in which many children were out of view of teachers, social workers and youth workers – meaning that even these shocking figures may be just the tip of the iceberg. Our research has also found that awareness of the NRM among professionals is patchy.

“Even when children are assessed to be victims of child criminal exploitation, the support they receive remains inconsistent and often insufficient and too many children are not identified until exploitation is deeply engrained in their lives.

“It’s vital that all vulnerable children who are not yet in school, or in the event of future school closures, have access to a named trusted professional who can help ensure they are getting the support they need and identify any risks they may be facing.

“The Government should introduce a national strategy to tackle child criminal exploitation, define it in law and help end the postcode lottery when it comes to identifying children at risk of exploitation and offering support early.”

* View the Home Office figures here

* The Children's Society https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/

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