The Commission on Young Lives has published a report calling for a new partnership with families to divert vulnerable teenagers away from serious violence, county lines and exploitation.
The report warns that thousands of teenagers are being put at risk as services, stretched even further by Covid, are unable to help them. The report highlights a decade of cuts in services and falling support for those families living in poverty and/or homes where there is domestic violence, serious mental health illness or addiction issues.
it warns that there remains a dearth of effective joined up family-focused support for teens at risk of extrafamilial harm and argues many families in need of help to avert or deal with crisis are instead facing a blizzard of bureaucracy and assessment or, in some cases, just a brick wall.
Anne Longfield, Chair of the Commission on Young Lives, said:
"The conveyor belt of vulnerable children available to county lines, gangs, and abusers will continue to roll on while families are left without help beyond a blizzard of bureaucracy and assessment forms, and where they feel services are being done to them rather than with them.
"I am increasingly struck by the number of middle-class parents who are discovering what many disadvantaged families have known for years: organised criminals have a ruthless business model, and the decade-long breakdown in help and support, combined with the impact of Covid, is exposing their teenage children to serious violence and exploitation. They don't know where to turn to when it happens and feel abandoned and ignored.
"Families are our biggest asset in the fight against criminal exploitation, but they can't do it on their own. The massive reduction in funding for Sure Start centres was a huge historic mistake that not only resulted in many children and families paying a heavy price, but which also proved to be a false economy. Family Hub plans are welcome but are not ambitious enough.
"Government's ambition must be for a new partnership with families that provides statutory services, and charitable groups with the armoury they need to fight back. We need to tackle child poverty by reintroducing a Child Poverty Unit at the heart of government and we need to stand up for families by implementing David Cameron's "family test".
"If we help and support parents, we make it harder for children to be groomed, coerced, exploited and harmed. Those who seek to exploit children know it and policymakers and services need to catch up fast."
Read the full report here