Parents unaware of the risks of child criminal exploitation this summer

More than half of parents are unconcerned about the risks of child criminal exploitation, with the number of children in danger increasing, as Covid restrictions ease.

An estimated 27,000 young people are involved in gangs across the UK who have not been identified by services and some 100,000 children are already slipping through gaps in social care and education and are in direct danger of being targeted by criminals. 1.

According to a new survey2,  53% of parents aren’t worried that their child could be exploited by criminals this summer.  For many parents, there was, however, a recognition of the dangers of communicating with people who could harm their child, with 50% concerned about who they communicate with on social media.

Exploitation of children is often used to facilitate county lines drug running, whereby vulnerable children and adults are groomed and coerced into trafficking and dealing drugs on behalf of criminal gangs, with initial contact frequently made through social media. Alongside drugs, other illegal economies such as human and sex trafficking are also implicated in county lines.

We have launched a campaign , ‘Keep Children Safe This Summer’, to raise awareness of this issue and ensure that support is there for those who could come to harm.

St Giles has been working with children and young people involved in county lines through long-established programmes to help young people exit gangs and serious violence. Our approach is to use professionally trained staff who have direct first-hand ‘lived experience’ of county lines and similar issues, using a mix of their professional skills and personal insights.

Last year St Giles staff helped 4,500 young people access positive opportunities around education, training and employment and decrease their risk of criminal exploitation. Of those, over a thousand – 1704 – were directly engaged with Chid Criminal Exploitation CCE services, a 53% increase on the previous year.

Junior Smart OBE, founder of the SOS Project at St Giles, which helps young people involved in gangs, county lines and serious violence, said:

“The survey results demonstrate just how much work we still have to do in raising awareness of around the risks of child criminal exploitation. Despite the perception that it only happens to children in deprived inner cities, children from all backgrounds are at risk.

We are seeing an increasing number of gangs targeting ever-younger recruits, even from primary schools. This issue cannot be underestimated and we all need to step up our efforts”.

“There are many ways that show a child is being exploited but can include having access to unexplained cash, suddenly wearing designer clothes or starting to use street language. We’ve set up a dedicated help page on our website3 so that parents or caregivers have got more information on the signs to spot.”

He continued:

“Our frontline staff are ideally placed to help and intervene based on insights from their own personal backgrounds and their current work helping the young people involved.”

Children make up less than 25% of the population but 100% of the future. We should all be concerned that their futures are at risk.”

St Giles carries out prevention work across England and Wales providing specialist services helping young people out of county lines and other forms of CCE.(Child Criminal Exploitation). Special guidance for parents and caregivers worried about exploitation is av

To pledge support for Keep Children Safe This Summer please click here. Please also follow our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages for updates on the campaign and further information and advice on how to stay safe.

St Giles carries out its work thanks to the support of voluntary donations alongside the Home Office, which has already invested £25million into tackling county lines exploitation across the UK.  The Mayor of London is also providing county lines interventions for young people across the capital through partnering with St Giles on a Rescue and Response service.

  1. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1001 parents with children aged 18 and under. Fieldwork was undertaken between 7th – 9th July 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB parents (aged 18+).
  2. ‘Still not safe’ The public response to youth violence: cco-still-not-safe.pdf (childrenscommissioner.gov.uk)
  3. Guidance for parents and carers is available here Help for parents and caregivers – St Giles (stgilestrust.org.uk)

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