A children’s charity that advocates for young people’s legal rights has called on the government to help stop children being manipulated by criminal gangs, when they are expelled from school.
Just for Kids has highlighted how vulnerable children are being excluded from schools for behaviours resulting from criminal exploitation and are then left defenceless to grooming by drug gangs and criminals.
The Prisons Inspectorate says that more than 8 out of 10 children in the youth justice system have been excluded from school at some point in their lives. Evidence from Just for Kids shows that a large majority of those children have fallen victim to child criminal exploitation and have been primed for criminal activity such as ‘county lines’ drug trafficking.
The charity said that without the protection of mainstream school, and in the absence of parental support, these children are particularly vulnerable to being enslaved by criminal gangs. In some cases, it warned, criminal exploiters purposefully engineer a young person’s exclusion to make them easier to control and track.
The charity advises that the point of exclusion is often a tipping point for when children can fall victim to exploitation, at precisely the time they need to be protected from harm.
The charity also urged schools to play a bigger role in safeguarding children who are victims of criminal exploitation. They called on schools to do more to protect those children, as opposed to excluding them from schooling and leaving them vulnerable to mistreatment at the hands of criminal gangs.
They are also warnings of a potential spike in exclusions as children return to school this September, and struggle to reintegrate after months at home experiencing trauma or lack of parental support.
The news comes as police forces across the UK have reported more and more children have been exploited by drug gangs throughout the COVID-19 lockdown period.
A spokesperson at Just for Kids said that excluding vulnerable children makes them easy targets for ‘those who seek to coerce and criminally exploit them’.
‘The abuse, violence and emotional trauma associated with childhood criminal exploitation destroys children’s lives.
‘The government must act urgently to introduce safeguards to ensure the welfare of these children is protected, and the influence of their exploiters prevented, so they can move past their experiences and get the education they deserve.’
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