Criminal gangs are using new ways of exploiting children in the wake of coronavirus, a new report has warned.
The National Youth Agency (NYA) said that the closure of youth services during lockdown means that gangs are turning to online activity to groom new recruits.
The charity warns there could be an increase in gang activity and child criminal exploitation post-lockdown, as gangs are hiding in plain sight of those in authority.
The report calls for youth services to be classified as an essential service and youth workers given key worker status.
Leigh Middleton, chief executive of the NYA, said: 'More young people are in potentially unsafe environment with little or no contact and limited access to support services during lockdown.
'Young people still go missing and stay away from home, but often for shorter periods and are not reported missing. Some young people are not necessarily known by the police or other services, but most are likely to be known by youth workers.'