St Giles calls for more support for children at risk of child criminal exploitation

St Giles are calling for more help for young people who are missing out from vital services to keep them safe and prevent key groups from falling through the gaps.

The call comes as our SOS Project, which offers direct intensive help for young people caught up in criminal exploitation, reaches its 15th Anniversary milestone.

Record levels of funding from central Government and the Mayor of London’s office have been dedicated towards tackling county line exploitation in recent years and – thanks to this and the work of charities like us – hundreds of young people have been able to get their lives back on track as a result.

However, insights from our frontline workers have identified emerging needs which we believe will become entrenched problems if not addressed in the near future. These include:

  • More support for criminally exploited girls and young women especially those who are presenting in health settings such as hospitals with injuries and self-harming
  • An urgent need for specialist mental health support services to address PTSD and other mental health needs experienced by young people caught up in criminal exploitation
  • An increased level of youth support services for young people from disadvantaged communities who are disproportionately affected by the fallout of the pandemic.
  • More help for parents and caregivers affected by child criminal exploitation and a recognition that they can be the best support structure that a young person can get.

St Giles offers direct, intensive help for young people caught up in criminal exploitation – issues around weapons crime, serious violence and county lines – by working with those at risk through prevention and awareness raising – tackling issues before they can really take hold.

The St Giles SOS project was founded by Junior Smart in 2006 and was one of the first organisations to spot when young people were being exploited through county lines.

In the last financial year (20/21) we helped 1,704 children and young people who were vulnerable to child criminal exploitation. We estimate each young person is given over 200 hours of intense support to help them to remain safe exit.

SOS Founder Junior Smart said:

We invest hours of effort in our young people. We know that change for our young people is not easy. It takes many, many hours and resources to create just the spark in someone for them to realise that an exit from their lifestyle is possible. They then need ongoing and intensive support to ensure they don’t slip back into old habits

He continued:

This has only been possible though our incredible caseworkers who work so passionately and intensely with every client. Real work in this field can never be 9 to 5 Monday to Friday, real work means being on hand, working out of hours and being flexible to your approach and outcomes”.

The project has earnt special praise from Professor Simon Harding, Professor in Criminology at the Research Centre for Cybercrime and Security at UWL. Speaking at a St Giles webinar on Wednesday 6 October he said:

Junior and the SOS Project bridge the gap between communities and the Government. The project and those who work on it step into the void and bring enormous value. Junior brings knowledge and empathy in ways that other people can’t.”

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