Child Gangs… the risks

Whilst this might be an uncomfortable subject for many – the truth is that in a recent report by the Children’s Commissioner – Anne Longfield – there are 27,000 children in a gang environment within the UK, but only 6,500 have been identified as being so.

 

This report investigates what it means to be a child gang member in England. It estimates how many children in England are in gangs, and looks at the risks factors which make it more likely for a child to end up being groomed for gang membership. Finally, it questions whether those responsible for safeguarding children are responding adequately to the rise in gang violence and how children can better be kept safe. Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England in her opening comments say ‘I have been shocked to discover that many of those responsible for the protection of children in their local areas seem to have no idea where to start, despite hundreds of thousands of children being at risk’. In her introduction Anne Longfield highlights the finding of a serious case review:

The Serious Case Review into the death of 14-year-old “Chris” tells a tragic story of a damaged childhood1: domestic violence in the home, years in temporary accommodation, serious problems in primary school leading to exclusion from secondary school and grooming by criminal gangs. It describes how by the age of 13, Chris was ordering a Rambo knife and bullet-proof vest from the internet for protection, telling his Mum he was being pressured into selling drugs. In September 2017, he was shot at close range in a playground in East London, and he died later in hospital.

The review into his death makes clear that a system designed to keep vulnerable children like “Chris” safe had failed. This report shows there are thousands of children just like him, putting themselves in the same kind of danger. If we are to turn around their life chances and tackle the scourge of serious violence, county lines drug running and gang activity, we need to know more about who these children are and why they are members of gangs – and how we can keep them safe.

This report investigates what it means to be a child gang member in England. It estimates how many children in England are in gangs, and looks at the risks factors which make it more likely for a child to end up being groomed for gang membership. Finally, it questions whether those responsible for safeguarding children are responding adequately to the rise in gang violence and how children can better be kept safe.  I have been shocked to discover that many of those responsible for the protection of children in their local areas seem to have no idea where to start, despite hundreds of thousands of children being at risk. In this, I draw parallels with CSE a decade ago – before children being sexually exploited were recognised as victims and not perpetrators, and the adults supposed to protect them stopped turning a blind eye to widescale abuse.

Our research presented here estimates there are 27,000 children in England who identify as a gang member, only a fraction of whom are known to children’s services. Their experiences vary widely. For some, being in a gang entails little more than putting a hashtag on social media. For others it can be far more serious and dangerous. Many of the children who identify as gang members feel they have no choice or no better options. Some are groomed and exploited by gangs but never identify as members. Often it is these children, described to me once as ‘collateral’, who are the most vulnerable and at risk.

What our research shows is the vulnerability in these children’s lives.

You can download and read the report here – https://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/CCO-Gangs.pdf

If you are one of the Fostering Foundation Carers and are concerned that one of the young adults in your care could be in a gang or on the outskirts of one then please get in touch with us directly and we will talk through all the ways to manage and help in anyway we can.

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