Today (4 July 2023) St Giles SOS Project Founder, Junior Smart, gave evidence at an Education Select Committee Evidence Session examining child criminal exploitation.
In this excerpt from his evidence, Junior explains the link between the cost-of-living crisis and child criminal exploitation.
“What happens when young people have limited availability of choice – especially now with the cost-of-living crisis?
Young people say to me:
“I hear what you are saying Junior but if I’m doing what I’m doing my Mum doesn’t have to worry about where the rent is going to come from, Mum doesn’t have to cry, there will be less arguments in the house because there will be more food on the table, I can provide.”
That’s very uncompromising.I think for many people it’s quite easy to say that this problem doesn’t exist.We can vilify the parents and say to them that the reason you are in this situation is because you are not doing enough. I put it to you – there are some people who are not starting on the same starting line as everyone else, they are miles behind.
For example, there is a lady I’m working with who has violence in her community and she wants to move in order to keep her son safe. However, she has got rent arrears and that means we have to deal with that first.She actually has to be six months out of arrears before she can consider bidding on another property with another council.That’s six months and we’ve got to get her access to that money which is going to come from having to work longer, which means there will be less parental presence in the house. This is just one example, and this is the reality of the families we are working with.It’s not isolated to a small minority of the population. This is an increasing majority.”
At St Giles, we have been providing support to children and families affected by child criminal exploitation for over a decade, using people with direct, first-hand experience of it to provide the support.
Rising levels of poverty brought about by the cost-of-living crisis has increased levels of vulnerability amongst children and families as they struggle to make ends meet.
Over the past two years, our teams have helped 608 children and young people make a safe and sustained exit from child criminal exploitation. Nearly 300,000 children, parents and professionals have been reached through schools-based preventative sessions designed to equip children with the tools to stay safe and provide parents and professionals with the knowledge to spot dangers signs.
The Education Select Committee evidence session can be watched in full here.
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