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09 September 2021

Former Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield today launched a commission to halt the ‘conveyor belt’ of vulnerable children falling into the hands of gangs and criminals

London Youth welcomes the launch of a major year-long independent commission to develop a new national system to stop the conveyor belt of vulnerable teenagers becoming involved in knife crime, serious violence, criminal gangs and the justice system.

The ‘Commission on Young Lives’ will devise a new and achievable national system of support, focused on preventing crisis and improving opportunities of vulnerable children at risk of getting into trouble with the law. It will look at how better to strengthen families, support children to stay in school, improve mental health support for children, protect children at risk and prevent children in care from becoming involved in violence, criminalisation and the wider criminal justice system.

The Commission comes amid concerns that the Covid pandemic provided new opportunities for the criminal exploitation of children who are vulnerable as a result of greater exposure to domestic violence, parental mental health problems and addiction issues during lockdown. Even before Covid hit in March 2020, almost 15,000 children had been referred to social services where gangs were a factor in their assessment in the previous year, a rise of 4,000 in twelve months.

Rosemary Watt-Wyness, CEO of London Youth commented:

“We warmly welcome the launch today of the former Child Commissioner, Anne Longfield’s, “Commission on Young Lives” which will be an important contribution to the national debate on improving the life outcomes for young children and teenagers.  It is sadly a significant concern that Covid has dealt a strong hand to the gangs and criminals who exploit vulnerable children who were already at risk. Our member organisations have seen a huge surge in demand for wellbeing support and their youth worker provision, already under acute pressure pre-pandemic, is under further stress: these same organisations create those safe spaces and trusted relationships that our nation’s young people increasingly rely on to avoid falling off the radar and into danger.

 It is alarming to see in the accompanying polling from today’s launch that London has the highest rate –  across all regions – of parents who believe that Government should address youth violence as a priority focus: half of all those surveyed.  And also to note that a similar percentage nationally would expect youth violence to be integral to Government’s support to level-up. We set out our position on London’s unique structural and racial inequalities in response to the PM’s statement on Levelling-up here

 As one of the lead partners in the work of the London’s Violence Reduction Unit, (VRU), we look forward to contributing to the work of the Commission, and continue to work with the VRU and other partners to deliver Rise Up, a youth practitioner leadership programme to make positive change for vulnerable young people in communities affected by violence”.

For more information, contact Clare MacNamara, London Youth Policy Manager at clare.macnamara@londonyouth.org

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