The UK’s children’s commissioner Anne Longfield has highlighted that children should be taught how to avoid being pressured into joining gangs, when they are in school.
During an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live's Sunday Breakfast programme, children’s commissioner Anne Longfield stated that children should be taught in school how to avoid being coerced into joining gangs, or exploited by older criminals.
She argued that teachers could utilise Personal, Social, Health and Economics Education (PSHE) lessons to help children realise when they are being targeted by gangs. Her statement comes following a report by the Met Police claiming children are being targeted by criminals to act as money mules.
In particular, Ms Longfield said that young people looking for “a sense of belonging, fast money, or glamour” are at the greatest risk.
Currently, across the UK, 46,000 children are involved in gangs, according to research by the children’s commissioner.
Often, criminals lure vulnerable children with apparent money-making opportunities on social media, and then transfer money through their accounts to disguise the sources of illegal funds. This means children are being persuaded to hand over access to their bank accounts to criminals for money laundering purposes.
As reported by the BBC, the children’s commissioner said that those as young as ten were being recruited into gangs that could be very violent, intimidating and sexually abusive, especially towards girls. Other children were being used to transport drugs.
Simon Dukes, chief executive of the fraud prevention organisation Cifas, commented: "Criminals, of course, prey on the most vulnerable and they're preying on younger people because of their lack of knowledge, in particular about what is effectively, money laundering.
"Anecdotally, I'm told that middle-class children are often being targeted as well because they are less likely to be stopped. Children who are easier to intimidate, vulnerable in some way and often being bullied, those that are easier to control, are being picked on."
The government told the UK earlier this year that PSHE would be made compulsory in all state schools. However, it is currently consulting on what to include in the curriculum, but there is no timetable for its introduction.
The children’s commissioner believes the PSHE curriculum should have life skills lessons that include information on the risk of becoming involved in gangs, an understanding of how gangs target children, and helping children to build resilience to resist them.
She said: "Life-skills is something that the government has committed itself to do. Most schools at the moment do provide life skill[s] lessons but they're often inconsistent and often they don't tackle some of these issues that are much harder to tackle."
Ms Longfield has also called on police forces to work together to provide more accurate data on the number of children targeted by gangs.