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27,000 children identify as gang members in England

YOUTH VIOLENCE: A new report from this children's commissioner has found that 27,000 children identify as gang members in England

AROUND 27,000 children in England say they are members of a gang, a new report has revealed.

The study, which surveyed children aged between 10 and 17, also found that 313,000 children said they know someone that they would define as a gang member and 34,000 of those said they had experienced violent crime.

Children’s commissioner Anne Longfield, who carried out the study, said: “I’m worried that the mistakes that led to serious safeguarding failings in relation to child sexual exploitation in towns and cities up and down the country are being repeated. These are vulnerable children who are being targeted with ruthless violence.”

The report has identified children who are either in gangs or at a high risk of becoming involved in a gang and who have experienced violence in the past 12 months as the group that authorities should be most concerned with.

PICTURED: Children's commissioner Anne Longfield

It is reported that just 6,650 child gang members or those with close links to gangs are known to children’s services or youth offending teams.

Responding to the report, charity St Giles Trust, which helps disadvantaged people, said it was very pleased that the report recognises that the age of young people being exploited is decreasing and that victims are becoming increasingly vulnerable.

St Giles Trust chief executive Rob Owen said: “The level of grooming and abuse of children by gangs is extremely alarming. Intensive interventions are urgently needed at very early ages. We are talking primary school age - in our experience the abuse and grip of gangs starts at about the age of 10 or 11. These children are currently falling through the gaps and credible services like those provided by St Giles Trust need to be dramatically scaled up if we are to avert a ticking time bomb.”

In a statement, the government said: "We have proposed a new statutory duty on partners across education, social services and health to work together to tackle violence as part of a public health approach, and are providing £220m to support children and young people at risk of becoming involved in violence and gangs."

The report defines a street gang as “a group of young people who hang around together and have a specific territory, method of identification e.g. a name, have rules or a leader and who may commit crimes together.

Among its key recommendations for the government are for it to be clear that child criminal exploitation is a national priority and devote a greater focus to early years within the serious violence strategy.

The report’s release comes after several young men were fatally stabbed in the capital within days of each other.

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