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Criminal Care? · 30 Mar 2020

Victims not criminals: protecting children living in residential care from criminal exploitation

It’s hard to get much in the news right now, given the coronavirus pandemic gripping nations across the globe, but today we publish our latest briefing, the product of more than eighteen months of work and extensive research with several hundred people with knowledge of the children’s residential care sector and/or child criminal exploitation. Even in these worrying times, I can recommend it is worth reading.

The briefing looks at how people involved in crime, including those operating ‘county lines’, are taking advantage of failings in children’s social care and central government oversight to exploit and abuse children in residential care.

We argue that focus now needs to be placed on safeguarding these children from exploitation and abuse by gangs and criminal networks. At the moment, children suffering criminal exploitation are more likely to be criminalised than recognised as victims and helped. This is plain wrong.

Criminals are taking advantage of failings in children’s social care

What is required is a multi-agency approach, in much the way we now see organisations across government scrambling to combat COVID-19. Trusting relationships and shared responsibility between children’s homes, social workers and the police is essential to preventing criminalisation and safeguarding children.

My colleague Claire will be blogging more about our briefing over the coming weeks. In the meantime, you can read this coverage which trailed our concerns in yesterday’s Observer.

Andrew Neilson


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