A damning report from Anne Longfield, chair of the Commission on Young Lives, said the care system in place to support vulnerable teenagers is 'infuriatingly inadequate'

A damning report from Anne Longfield, chair of the Commission on Young Lives, said the care system in place to support vulnerable teenagers is ‘infuriatingly inadequate’

County lines drug gangs are being allowed to prey upon vulnerable children by the ‘unfit-for-purpose’ social system. Gangsters have even been tipped off from councils about when they see young people who live in unregulated areas.

The damning report from the Commission on Young Lives said the care system in place to support vulnerable teenagers is ‘infuriatingly inadequate’ and has been designed with younger children in mind.

According to the report, some children in care have a higher risk of experiencing instability due to multiple placements and social worker changes. In other cases, they may be moved to ‘completely inappropriate’ housing.

Many teenagers experiencing crisis in their lives are moved out of the community, away from support networks and sometimes into areas where there is high crime. 

According to it, criminal gangs may be alerted by local authorities when teens are placed in unregulated accommodation. The gangs then attempt to seize control of the housing in order to sell drugs. This is known as “cuckooing”. 

Anne Longfield, chair of the the Commission for Young Lives, referred to the horrific killings of Star Hobson and Arthur Labinjo-Hughes as the ‘tragic consequences’ of a child protection system ‘stretched to its absolute limit’.  

Today, Ms. Longfield spoke out about how the report revealed that people within the social services system helped criminal gangs to exploit children.

According to her, the BBC Today Programme reported that she was concerned that certain provisions might be run by organized crime.

“This is impossible when you consider a system designed to protect children.

“This is the child profile that has increased in risk in the last few decades and we now have a situation in which a quarter or more of the children in care are 16- or 17-year-olds.

“But, it just doesn’t seem like the system was designed for younger children.”

Ms Longfield today spoke about the report's finding that criminal gangs with a view to exploiting children have been aided by people working within the social care system. File pic

Today, Ms. Longfield spoke out about how the report revealed that people in the social services system helped criminal gangs to exploit children. File pic 

Ms. Longfield was also the former commissioner for children and describes an ‘epidemic if harmful exploitation’ of young people in Britain.

Elle added that it affected tens to thousands of young people. It brings misery and destroys lives, as well as their chances of success.

“This was fueled by many gangs, county lines, people who seek to exploit young adults, who can be ruthless and agile and will do whatever it takes. They are also very skilled at finding vulnerable children.

“What we looked at was a social-care system that protects people. However, we found the data missing and no mechanisms to help children identify themselves or coordinate their assistance.

“There’s not enough intervention to protect the children and their families from the abusers. 

This report showed that young people were most at risk from excessive reliance on small numbers of housing places and failure to spot children at greatest risk early enough.

The study also revealed that care populations are getting older. Data analysis by Nuffield Family Justice Observatory showed that 16-year olds entered care in an increase of 285% between 2011/12 to 2019/20.

Since March 2021, the total number of people in care now includes 23% who are 16 or 17 years old.

According to the report, these increasing numbers of older children within the system are a result of ‘failure of prevention.

There were 80.885 children living in England’s care at the end of March 2021. This was a 11% increase on last year.

Along with the FOI data from London boroughs, the commission also released FOI data. This shows that many children have been placed in semi-independent housing outside their local borough.

Star Hobson

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes

Ms. Longfield spoke out about the terrible killings of Star Hobson and Arthur Labinjo–Hughes as the “tragic consequences” of child protection systems that are’stretched beyond their absolute limits’

There were at most 1,932 London-based children living in semi independent accommodation in 2021. At the same time, there was at least 4,340 London borough children who spent their entire time in placements outside their local area.

FOI data shows more children were taken in care of boys than girls in London Boroughs. Additionally, 1,341 care recipients were older than 12, and 655 of them were 16 years or older. These numbers indicate the rising number of older care receivers.

The study found that criminal gangs targeted vulnerable teens operate a “serious, ruthless” business. Children are given responsibility by the gang, and then they are’systematically robbed. This leaves them with no escape options and in debt to criminals.

The report stated that Rotherham’s child victims must be viewed differently for both boys and girls of all ages who are exploited or abused by organized criminal gangs.

It also stated that the report is concerned about ‘racial biases within the system that put Black boys at danger of harm’.

Black children have a higher likelihood of being in care than the share of the younger population. However, the proportion of children adopted by black families in care fell 50% between 2015-2019.

This report contains a number of recommendations. It calls on the Government for the establishment of a Vulnerable Youthagers At risk ministerial taskforce. The Department for Education is also advised to establish a Teenager in Care support package, including funding for new children’s homes in the local communities.    

A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘We recognise many vulnerable young people face new and growing risks, which is why we are providing targeted support through our specialist alternative provision and SAFE taskforces, backed by £45 million, to keep these young people engaged in their education and to prevent them becoming involved in criminal activity.

“While we continue to review children’s social services, we urgently need to reform the system in order address the growing pressures. This includes by introducing national standards and new oversight from Ofsted for supported accommodation, and maintaining and increasing the number of places in these homes backed by £259 million.’