Article is written by Anthony Peltier
Cost of living increases will result in more young children being criminally exploited.
As we head into a 28% increase in gas prices and 19% increase in electricity prices, low-income households will spend a larger proportion than average on energy and food. This will mean ‘groomers’ will target vulnerable children from families trying to make ends meet.
In late 2019, criminal exploitation was the most prevalent type of exploitation among children with 2,544 children identified as potential victims. 93% of these children were boys – an increase in the proportion of boys identified as potential victims of criminal exploitation at the beginning of 2019.
Across all exploitation types, 78% of children identified as potential victims were boys – again, an increase in the number of male victims compared to figures for early 2019. Increased understanding of child criminal exploitation is likely to be a significant driver for the higher number of UK national boys identified. This is due to professionals and institutions now recognising young males involved in supplying drugs and other criminal activities as victims rather than treating them as offenders.
Criminal exploitation is child abuse where children and young people are manipulated and coerced into committing crimes. These include:
· Children as young as eight years old being used to carrying drugs strapped to their bodies.
· Children being used to carry loaded weapons
· Children being forced to work in cannabis factories
· Children being used to move drugs and money across the country
· Children being forced to shoplift and pickpocket
· Children forced to bully other young peoplr
How would you know if your child is being criminally exploited?
- Frequently absent from school and performing badly
- Going missing from home, staying out late and travelling for unexplained reasons
- In a relationship or hanging out with someone older than them
- Being angry, aggressive or violent
- Being isolated or withdrawn
- Having unexplained money and buying new things
- Wearing clothes or accessories in gang colours or getting tattoos
- Using new slang words
- Spending more time on social media and being secretive about time online
- Making more calls or sending more texts, possibly on a new phone or phones
- Self-harming and feeling emotionally unwell
- Taking drugs and abusing alcohol
- Committing petty crimes like shoplifting or vandalism
- Unexplained injuries and refusing to seek medical help
- Carrying weapons or having a dangerous breed of dog.
Safeguarding children is the responsibility of every adult in society.
Parents: if you see your child bring something home, you have not bought them, question!
School teachers: if you feel something is not right with a pupil in your class because you understand the signs of exploitation, report it!
Headteachers: continually ensure your staff are fully trained about the causes of child vulnerability (Safeguarding Concerns)
Police Officers: work with schools to identify the children who are victims of crime or perceived criminals.
Social services: listen to the people who know the victims of abuse and begin the referral process.
School Police Officers and teachers: collaborate to teach children how to stay safe from all the causes of child abuse.
Government: ensure the resources exist to allow all departments to keep children safe.
A multi-agency approach is needed to ensure we safeguard children from all forms of abuse.