Response unit to tackle children vulnerable to gangs

The Home Office has announced a national response unit to help local councils prevent gangs exploiting vulnerable children. 

Aug 30, 2018
By Serena Lander

The unit – announced on August 28 by Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi – will teach local areas to support children who go missing from home or care and are vulnerable to exploitation from a range of criminal threats.  

The new unit, which will launch in 2019 and run until 2022, will address child sexual exploitation in conjunction with other crimes, such as gang and drug activity, which often exploit vulnerable children. 

Over a third (35 per cent) of police forces reported evidence of child sexual exploitation in relation to county lines, a drug trafficking model, according to statistics by the National Crime Agency.  

It follows the Home Office’s announcement that it is awarding £13m through the Trusted Relationships Fund to local authorities across England to help young people foster trusted relationships with role models, such as police officers. <link> 

The response unit, which will be funded by the Department for Education, will: provide advice and direct authorities to resources; create an online forum for professionals; provide additional staff with experience in tackling areas of exploitation; and assess an area’s needs, strengths and weaknesses in responding to exploitation threats. 

Ms Zahawi said: “Exploitation of children in any form is an abhorrent crime and it is deeply saddening that vulnerable children and young people are prey to criminals. 

“They are often at risk of multiple threats outside of their family lives, such as child sexual exploitation, gangs and county lines, and the new national unit will help local areas protect them from these threats and get the right support so they have the chance to succeed in life.” 

Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, Victoria Atkins, said: “This Government is committed to protecting children from all forms of exploitation and abuse, be it from county lines, gang activity or sexual abuse. 

“This new unit, along with our £13million Trusted Relationships Fund and the Serious Violence Strategy, will provide vital support to children and help steer them away from destructive harms.” 

The NPCC said it was unable to provide a specific comment but a spokesperson said “we support the Serious Violence Strategy and its focus on early intervention like this”. 

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