‘Significant increase’ in number of children being exploited by criminals in Redbridge, new report shows

The number of children in Redbridge being exploited by criminals has increased significantly. Pictur

The number of children in Redbridge being exploited by criminals has increased significantly. Picture: Chris Radburn/PA Images - Credit: PA WIRE

Boys aged 10-15 in Redbridge are most likely to be exploited by criminals operating in the borough and forced to deal drugs, buy weapons or join gangs, a new council report reveals.

The number of children who are being exploited by criminals in the borough is increasing, Redbridge Council confirmed.

"Redbridge children who are criminally exploited are being identified and receiving support and intervention," the report says. "According to our data, the number of children involved is increasing."

Between April 2019 and March 2020, the number of children identified as being criminally exploited, which includes being forced to work on cannabis farms or act as money mules, is expected to hit 276.

The number of children identified last year was 149 - meaning the council is expecting an 85pc increase in the number of criminally exploited children in the borough in the space of a year.

The number of assessments made by the council's Child Protection, Early Intervention and Community Social Work service also jumped from 98 between April 2018 and March 2019 to an estimated 174 between April 2019 and March 2020.

"This shows that there has been a significant increase in the number of children being identified, those receiving an assessment and those where there is significant concern," the report says.

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"Our data also tells us that while the majority of children and young people continues to be male, the age group most affected is moving from those over 16 to those aged 10-15."

Children and young people who are identified as being vulnerable or criminally exploited are subject to screening and assessment processes, the council report says.

There is a particular focus on identifying children in Year 6 - those aged 10-11 - as this is recognised as a key age to "effect a lasting change in deterring children from gang affiliation and youth crime".

"Staff are trained to recognise the signs of criminal exploitation and apply risk assessment and threshold tools to ensure the most appropriate level of service is offered," the report says.

Redbridge Council estimates that it saved £617,000 last year through its Family Interventions Team by preventing young people from being taken into local authority care.

Moving forward, the council is working on a number of projects which aim to support young people at risk of offending and getting involved in gangs.

Projects include family therapy, a youth club offering fitness training and music production courses, and Box Up Crime, a youth organisation launched in Ilford this year to give children and young people a way out of crime and gangs.