Public services must do more to tackle childhood vulnerability

The Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent, Jeff Cuthbert, is calling on public services in Wales to develop new ways of preventing and reducing child criminality and exploitation.

The call comes following a new report published by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent that found recurring triggers in a group of local children identified through offending data.

These triggers included trauma within the home, such as witnessing or experiencing domestic abuse, and challenges within education, including the struggle to transition between primary and secondary school, and school exclusion.

The report, ‘Understanding The Triggers’, identifies a series of improvements that public services in Wales can make to tackle these issues at the earliest opportunity and reduce the risk of children becoming vulnerable to criminal exploitation.

Jeff Cuthbert said: “Understanding the Triggers makes an important contribution to our collective understanding of child criminal and sexual exploitation in Wales by providing an evidence base to steer action and improve outcomes for vulnerable children.

“The report’s findings are stark and demonstrate the devastating impact criminality and exploitation has on children’s lives. In Wales we have already made significant strides in tackling these challenges, but we can and must go further.

“I believe we now have a real opportunity to reflect on current practices and consider new ways of preventing and reducing child criminality and exploitation. I am confident that we will seize this opportunity and build upon our work to improve the life outcomes for our most vulnerable children in Wales.”

The report was produced as part of a multi-agency research project carried out by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent in partnership with Newport City Council, Gwent Police and the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board.

Deputy Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman said: “‘We know that for some children life can have challenges that leave them vulnerable to exploitation from criminals or start them on a path that leads to crime.

“This report highlights these challenges and talks about what police and other public services can do to help achieve the best outcomes for children and their families. To do this, it is important that public services work together to act at the earliest opportunity so that we can identify and protect children at risk of harm. Gwent Police is committed to putting the needs of children at the heart of what we do. We will continue to work with our partners and make sure that we are there to support children when they need us most.”

The Deputy Minister and Chief Whip, Jane Hutt, said:

“The ‘Understanding the Triggers’ report deals in a very positive way with real issues relating to childhood vulnerability. The All Wales Practice Guides lay out procedure for identifying and safeguarding children right across Wales who have experienced trauma and are at risk of harm, and protecting them from exploitation. This is a vital part of improving outcomes for vulnerable children, and reducing the risk of child criminality.

“The Welsh Government is funding a number of projects delivered by partners, which promote positive engagement for young people at risk of offending. These include the Youth Justice Blueprint, and Children and Communities Grant, which are helping to address the needs of some of the most vulnerable children in our communities. We have also commissioned training for those working with children and young people who have experienced domestic abuse.

“I welcome the recommendation for all agencies to work together to support children who have suffered traumatic experiences. People who work with children on a day to day basis are best placed to identify the signs of risk and prevent our most vulnerable children from being exploited.”

Councillor Jane Mudd, Leader of Newport City Council, said: “Protecting vulnerable children from becoming victims of sexual and criminal predators and preventing young people from being drawn into crime is the responsibility of us all. It has to be at the heart of what all organisations do and we have to work together to break the circle.

“That is why this report is so valuable as it will assist us to take the most decisive and meaningful action to stop young lives, families and communities being devastated by heartless criminals. The council is committed to further improving service responses to safeguard those children at most risk of harm and is already implementing the report’s findings.”