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London Safeguarding Children Board: Child Protection Procedures 5th Edition London SCB Powered by tri.x Powered by tri.x
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12. Safeguarding Children affected by Gang Activity / Serious Youth Violence

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Contents

12.1

Introduction

12.2

Definition of a Gang

12.3

Community and Family Circumstances

12.5

Professional Response

12.5

Agency Responses

12.6

Violent Extremism


12.1

Introduction

 

12.1.1

There are a number of areas in which young people are put at risk by gang activity, both through participation in and as victims of gang violence which can bein relation to their peers or to a gang-involved adult in their household.

12.1.2

A child who is affected by gang activity or serious youth violence may have suffered, or may be likely to suffer, significant harm through physical, sexual and emotional abuse. See Responding to Concerns of Abuse and Neglect Procedure.

Significant harm is defined in Responding to Concerns of Abuse and Neglect Procedure, Concept of significant harm as a situation where a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, a degree of physical, sexual and / or emotional harm (through abuse or neglect), which is so harmful that there needs to be compulsory intervention by child protection services.


12.2

Definition of a Gang

 

12.2.1

Groups of children often gather together in public places to socialise, and peer association is an essential feature of most children's transition to adulthood. Groups of children can be disorderly and/or anti-social without engaging in criminal activity.

12.2.2

Defining a gang is difficult, however it can be broadly described as a relatively durable, predominantly street-based group of children who see themselves (and are seen by others) as a discernible group for whom crime and violence is integral to the group's identity.

12.2.3

Children may be involved in more than one 'gang', with some cross-border movement, and may not stay in a 'gang' for significant periods of time. Children rarely use the term 'gang', instead they used terms such as 'family', 'breddrin', 'crews', 'cuz' (cousins), 'my boys' or simply 'the people I grew up with'.

12.2.4

Definitions may need to be highly specific to particular areas or neighbourhoods if they are to be useful. Furthermore, professionals should not seek to apply this or any other definition of a gang too rigorously; if a child or others think s/he is involved with or affected by 'a gang', then a professional should act accordingly.

12.2.5

Violence is a way for gang members to gain recognition and respect by asserting their power and authority in the street, with a large proportion of street crime perpetrated against members of other gangs or the relatives of gang members.

12.2.6

Youth violence, serious or otherwise, may be a function of gang activity. However, it could equally represent the behaviour of a child acting individually in response to his or her particular history and circumstances.

12.2.7

The Metropolitan Police Service defines serious youth violence as is 'any offence of most serious violence or weapon enabled crime, where the victim is aged 1-19' i.e. murder, manslaughter, rape, wounding with intent and causing grievous bodily harm. 'Youth violence' is defined in the same way, but also includes assault with injury offences.

12.2.8

The factors which influence a child's propensity to initiate violence include:

  • Parenting which is cold / uncaring, non-nurturing and neglectful;
  • Parenting which includes harsh disciplining;
  • Maltreatment, such as physical or sexual abuse in childhood (abuse by adults and peers within and outside of the family); and/or
  • Trauma such as domestic violence or involvement in or witnessing conflict violence (see also Safeguarding children abused through domestic violence).

12.2.9

One factor which influences a child's propensity to imitate violence is:

  • Parenting which is permissive and neglectful, resulting in a lack of guidance and creating ineffectiveness and poor self-control for a child. The child is then not equipped to resist an environment or group which instigates violence.

12.3

Community and Family Circumstances

 

12.3.1

Circumstances which can foster the emergence of gangs include:

  • Areas with a high level of social and economic exclusion and mobility (which weakens the ties of kinship and friendship and the established mechanisms of informal control and social support);
  • Areas made up of predominantly social housing, and especially where it is high rise / high density social housing. There is a perfect correlation in London with 'gang neighbourhoods' and being amongst the 20% most deprived government lower level super output areas (based on the Indices of Multiple Deprivation 2007);
  • Areas with poor performing schools - in terms of leadership, positive ethos, managing behaviour and partnership working;
  • Lack of access to pro-social activities (e.g. youth service) and to vocational training and opportunities;
  • Communities who have experienced war situations prior to arrival in the UK;
  • Areas with a high level of gang activity / peer pressure and intimidation, particularly if the family is denying this or is in fear of the gangs; and
  • Family members involved in gang activity and criminality.

12.3.2

Many parents are aware of the widespread perception that the gang problem is ultimately a product of poor parenting and that the solution lies in assuming responsibility for their children. However, they feel unable either to control or to protect their children.


Weapons

12.3.3

Fear and a need for self-protection is a key motivation for children to carry a weapon - it affords a child a feeling of power. Neighbourhoods with high levels of deprivation and social exclusion generally have the highest rates of gun and knife crime. Children are more likely to carry knives and other weapons than guns.

12.3.4

Professionals working with children who may have reason to be fearful in their neighbourhood or school / FE college should be alert to the possibility that a child may carry a weapon. See Managing work with Families where there are obstacles and resistance Procedure. Keeping professionals safe and Managing work with Families where there are obstacles and resistance Procedure Management responsibility, and Roles and Responsibilities Procedure, Screening and searching pupils for weapons in schools.


Girls and sexual exploitation

12.3.5

There is evidence of a high incidence of rape of girls who are involved with gangs. Some senior gang members pass their girlfriends around to lower ranking members and sometimes to the whole group at the same time.  Very few rapes by gang members are reported,

12.3.6

Gang members often groom girls at school using drugs and alcohol, which act as disinhibitors and also create dependency, and encourage / coerce them to recruit other girls through school / social networks.

12.3.7

See also Safeguarding Children from Sexual Exploitation; and safeguarding trafficked and sexually exploited children.


12.5

Professional Response

 

12.5.1

See also Children Harming Others Procedure and Risk management of known offenders Procedure.

12.5.2

Professionals should always take what the child tells them seriously. They should assess this together with the child's presenting behaviours in the context of whatever information they know or can gather from the child about the risk factors described in the risk assessment framework for children affected by gangs and serious youth violence.

12.5.3

Potentially a child involved with a gang or with serious violence could be both a victim and a perpetrator. This requires professionals to assess and support his/her welfare and well-being needs at the same time as assessing and responding in a criminal justice capacity.

12.5.4

Local authorities are recommended to nominate a local professional who can develop specialist knowledge in relation to gangs and serious youth violence to act as an adviser to other professionals in cases where there are concerns that a child is/could be affected by gangs and/or serious youth violence.

12.5.5

If a professional is concerned that a child is at risk of harm as a victim or a perpetrator of serious youth violence, gang-related or not, the professional should:

  • Wherever possible, consult with their agency's designated safeguarding children professional, their manager and, if available, the local multi-agency gang intelligence forum and/or professional with specialist knowledge in relation to gangs;
  • Consider Children Harming Others Procedure; and
  • If the threshold is met for significant harm, then a referral must be made to LA children's social care, in line with the Referral and Assessment Procedure.


Looked after children

12.5.6

Looked after children are particularly vulnerable to being affected by gangs and serious youth violence as they may have low self-esteem, low resilience, attachment issues and the fact that they are often isolated from family and friends. Looked after children say that bullies, gangs and the risk of serious youth violence are the worst thing about where they live.


12.5

Agency Responses

 

12.5.1

LA children's social care professionals need to be alert to the possibility that a child referred to them or a child they are already working with may, in addition to any of the child's other presenting issues, be or become vulnerable to / involved with, a gang or serious youth violence.

12.5.2

A high proportion of gang-involved children are known to YOTs and a recent UK study findings were that almost two thirds of a sample of active gang members interviewed had been permanently excluded from school.

12.5.3

The police, especially safer neighbourhood policing teams, should be aware of siblings or other children living in households which are affected by gang activity and/or serious youth violence, including parents as adult gang members, and should share this information internally with child abuse investigation teams and externally with LA children's social care at the earliest opportunity.

12.5.4

If the police give an Osman Warning - [The Osman v United Kingdom case (1998) placed a positive obligation on the authorities to take preventive measures to protect an individual whose life is at risk from the criminal acts of another individual e.g. where a gang member threatens to kill another gang member] - to a child they should inform LA children's social care at the earliest opportunity.

12.5.5

Schools affected by gang issues and potential or actual serious youth violence will need to work in partnership with the police (the Safer Neighbourhoods Policing Team), YOTs and LA children's social care. Safer school partnerships can be an effective forum for this multi-agency working.

12.5.6

Community groups / third sector agencies can be well placed to know the profile and location of local gang activity and potential or actual serious youth violence through their community links.

12.5.7

See also: Safeguarding Children and young People who may be affected by Gang Activity (DCSF, 2010).


12.6

Violent Extremism

 

12.6.1

Particularly from their teenage years onwards children can be vulnerable to getting involved with radical groups through direct contact with members or, increasingly, through the internet. This can put the child at risk of being drawn in to criminal activity and has the potential to cause significant harm.


Prevention

12.6.2

Channel forms part of the cross-Government Prevent Strategy to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting violent extremism. Channel is the mechanism for making referrals and accessing support for children (and adults) at risk of violent extremism. Channel guidance states that if a referred individual is under the age of 18 the Channel co-ordinator must liaise with the common assessment framework (CAF) co-ordinator or LA children's social care service (the latter should be represented on the Prevent partnership and multi-agency Channel panel) to agree how best to manage the case.

12.6.3

Following initial discussion a decision needs to be made on how to progress the case (e.g. as a safeguarding issue, under Channel, CAF, or another support process) and establish how this will be reviewed. This decision can be taken on a case by case basis or a decision can be made by all local partners to use one particular system for the referral of all children.

12.6.4

If an area does not have Channel, local areas should incorporate referrals of children within local CAF and safeguarding procedures i.e. in line with the Referral and Assessment Procedure.

12.6.5

See the Prevent Strategy at www.dcsf.gov.uk/violentextremism. Also the Channel guidance.

There is a toolkit for schools available at Learning together to be safe: A toolkit to help schools contribute to the prevention of violent extremism

12.6.6

Local strategic partnerships, children's trusts or equivalent and crime and disorder partnerships, advised by LSCBs, should have an agreed processes in place for safeguarding children vulnerable to gangs, serious youth violence and violent extremism. Local safeguarding strategies should:

  • Promote awareness of the relationship between 'good enough' parenting and aggression in children; and
  • Promote early years service-led parenting support;
  • Promote capacity-building in the community for parental self-help groups to educate and support 'good enough' parenting; and
  • Promote targeted youth support, re-engagement and participation.