William Eichler 27 October 2022

10,000 cases of child exploitation ‘tip of iceberg’, charity warns

10,000 cases of child exploitation ‘tip of iceberg’, charity warns  image
Image: HTWE/Shutterstock.com.

More than 10,000 cases of child criminal exploitation have been recorded by councils over the last year but this is just the ‘tip of the iceberg’, charity warns.

The new annual children in need statistics for the 2021/22 financial year revealed that child criminal exploitation was identified as a factor in 10,140 cases.

This marks the first time local authorities were required to record the number of cases in which child criminal exploitation was identified as a factor in assessments after children were referred to social care.

Sarah Wayman, head of policy and impact at The Children’s Society, welcomed the publication of social care figures on child criminal exploitation, with the charity’s research previously finding that data recorded by councils and police forces was patchy.

‘These statistics give a glimpse into the huge problems that exist. Behind them lie horrific stories of children groomed by criminals who use threats and violence to force them into crimes like carrying drugs in county lines operations,’ said Ms Wayman.

‘And yet, the figures do not reveal the whole picture as professionals are still failing to consistently identify and share information about risks facing young people. Young victims are too often treated as criminals and police may not routinely refer them to social services.’

Ms Wayman continued: ‘More needs to be done to protect children, including earlier identification of risks such as exploitation to commit crime, sexual abuse, mental ill-health and domestic abuse.

‘But this requires significant investment. Spending by councils on early support for families halved over the last decade following government cuts and they need urgent funding to turn this around. It’s vital that they receive, as an absolute minimum, the £2.6bn recommended by the recent children’s social care review to put in place early help before children and families come to harm and require even more expensive crisis support.

‘It would be a false economy for the Government to shy away from this investment amid pressure for public spending cuts. In the long run, it will cost taxpayers more and jeopardise children’s safety and futures.’

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