Vulnerable and exploited: A plan that will save thousands of children

Thousands of young people are being exploited by gangs and criminals. The final report of Anne Longfield’s year-long Commission on Young Lives has set out how we can address this, but it requires a change of priorities from ministers


Recently, I visited a community project on a housing estate where residents told me they were being terrorised by a gang who were delivering a “county line” to an area about 80 miles away.

The boys were all around 14-years-old, wore balaclavas and were dishing out acts of violence and torching vehicles. All had been excluded from school and all had been sent to a local pupil referral unit with a very poor reputation, which none of them seemed to attend.

Families were living in fear, and everyone seemed to be just waiting for tragedy to occur.

This shocking situation is not unique. There are primary school children involved in drug-running and gang activity, teenagers being chased in broad daylight by other young people waving machetes, homes where the children involved in the drugs trade are the main breadwinners, and communities where organised criminals seek out and groom very vulnerable children who have fallen through the gaps, including in the education system, almost with impunity.

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