The Government is facing a call to review youth services to protect the country’s most marginalised children. Railway Children, a charity which works with young runaways wants clarification of the role of local councils in protecting the young people.
It is using National Family Week to press for a national review of youth services after research it carried out late last year found that many children who were at risk found gang membership was the closest they could get to a sense of family and protection. It wants the review to clarify the responsibilities of local authorities in protecting marginalised and hard to reach children.
The organisation’s chief executive, Terina Keene, said its study had highlighted a specific need for youth work to be carried out by trained professionals on the streets in order to reach vulnerable children in time. Often, she said, children realised too late the levels of violence to which they were opening themselves. Society had to offer the young people the right choices to escape from danger rather than stereotyping all children who were involved in gangs.
“Local authorities have a duty to protect children from crime and from the fear of crime. For this to work, the study recommends a stronger understanding of the causes behind gang involvement, as well as a commitment by key agencies, including children’s services and the police, to use this awareness to better protect and minimise the vulnerability of children at risk,” she said.