What is child criminal exploitation

Child criminal exploitation is when a young person is manipulated or pressured to take part in criminal activity. This can take many forms, including pressuring children into dealing drugs across the country (often called ‘county lines’), making children hide or deliver drugs, money or weapons, or forcing children to steal or harm others. It can include moving young people in or out of the country illegally (trafficking) or making them work against their will.

The impact on young people, their families and communities is significant. Young people may be drawn into a life of serious offending and violent crime, resulting in physical harm, trauma and imprisonment. England’s Children’s Commissioner has estimated that up to 27,000 children in England alone may be affiliated with criminal gangs and around 120,000 may be at risk of exploitation.

Jay Review of child criminal exploitation

Action for Children have launched a new review of child criminal exploitation, chaired by Professor Alexis Jay OBE. Professor Jay currently chairs the Centre for Excellence for Children's Care and Protection. The aim of this review is to:

  • Better understand how exploitation happens.
  • How services respond to it.
  • What support is available to young people who have been victims of exploitation.

We want to learn from what’s working well and understand what more can be done.

Action for Children deliver services around the country that help prevent vulnerable young people from becoming involved in criminal activity. Since 2012, our Serious Organised Crime Early Intervention Service has helped young people at risk in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Newcastle and Cardiff.

Hearing from children and experts

Professor Jay will be supported by Simon Bailey QPM, the former Chief Constable of Norfolk and member of the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel, and Charles Geekie KC, a barrister specialising in areas of the law relating to children, and an Action for Children Trustee.

In November, the panel will hear from experts across children’s services, education, local government, charities, academia and the police and youth justice systems.

We will also be working closely with young people to make sure that their experience is at the heart of the review.

A report published next spring will include recommendations for changes to national policy, legal frameworks and local practice.

If you would like to learn more, please contact Joe Lane, Head of Policy and Research on [email protected] or Martha Hampson, Policy Advisor on [email protected]