Lindsay Dalton, CEO, Anne Longfield, Ex Children’s Commissioner and Alison Low, Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, West Yorkshire
Pace appeared on BBC Politics North this weekend, alongside two Pace supported parents who bravely shared their experiences for a special programme about county lines.
Parents highlighted the devastating impact criminal exploitation has on families, the lack of support they received from services and the desperate need for change. We heard from a parent whose child suffered as a result of the debt her son owed to a criminal gang and the additional dangers he was exposed to by being placed in unsupported accommodation.
Housing was also a critical issue for the second parent we hear from who shared her experience of being forced to relocate her family miles away from her friends, relations and support network in order to keep her son safe.
CEO, Lindsay Dalton called for a national strategy to better protect children who are being criminally exploited. The strategy must include:
- A criminal definition of child criminal exploitation which enables police to convict offenders
- For it to be a criminal offence to force, coerce or manipulate children into concealing drugs in their bodies
- For significant changes to the way the National Referral Mechanism is used, so criminally exploited children are not required to declare themselves a victim in order to be afforded protection from prosecution
- An end to the placement of criminally exploited children in unsupported accommodation
- A clause in housing law to give families fleeing from exploitation the right to relocate to a different housing authority by giving them automatic priority for homelessness assistance (similar to victims of domestic abuse)
- A holistic approach to supporting exploited children and their families which focuses on safeguarding not criminalising young people.
- Training for all front-line professionals who work alongside young people and national awareness raising for parents and carers in their local communities.