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Children’s Commissioner calls for improved safeguarding of children in gangs

Study published on children in England who are gang members

Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England, has published an in-depth study looking at children in England who are members of gangs.

The report was published to coincide with a summit bringing together Police and Crime Commissioners, senior police officers and chairs of local safeguarding boards, to hold these agencies to account and ask how they plan to keep children involved in gangs safe.

The report, Keeping kids safe: Improving safeguarding responses to gang violence and criminal exploitation, estimates there are 27,000 children in England who identify as a gang member, only a fraction of whom are known to children's services. Some of these children may only identify loosely with a gang and may not be involved in crime or serious violence: more concerning is the estimated 34,000 children who know gang members who have experienced serious violence in the last year.

The research looks into the characteristics of children involved in gangs. Compared to other children known to social services or other child offenders, those with gang associations are:

The report also shows how a number of early warning signs of gang-based violence have been on the rise in recent years:

As part of the research, twenty-five Local Safeguarding Children Boards in 'high-risk' areas were asked about their response to gang violence and criminal exploitation, including their estimates of the numbers of children in gangs or at risk of being drawn into gangs. The responses showed many areas had no information on the levels of gang activity and risk among children in their area, and that it was often the areas with the highest levels of gang violence that had the least information. Most areas had identified only a handful of children whom they believed to be in gangs or at risks of gangs, and only one had an estimate of the actual scale of child gang membership.

The report also suggests safeguarding boards are frequently failing to investigate properly child deaths where gang violence was a factor. As a result, there is little evidence that they can ensure lessons are learnt in terms of protecting other children.

While there are now many government initiatives to tackle serious violence, there is still too much fragmentation across Whitehall. The Children's Commissioner makes a number of recommendations in today's report:

To read the report, click here. For the response of the Association of Directors of Children's Services, click here.