Families of children being criminally exploited, including through county lines, are being failed, forgotten and ignored by services, new research by Missing People shows.

Schools, local authorities, the police and social workers urgently need training about warning signs that someone is being criminally exploited so that the growing problem can be tackled.

Families felt their concerns were not taken seriously or were ignored, and they did not have access to specialist support. Any help offered was not appropriate or came too late, the exploratory report, All Of Us Were Broken, found.

One parent told researchers:

“Having a child being criminally exploited has been an absolute nightmare on all levels. Something drastically needs to change in how agencies are responding to exploitation. This report could not have come quick enough.

“Our children and young people are victims, not criminals.”

Missing People is calling for:

· Training on key warning signs of exploitation

· An improved response to ensure children are safeguarded from criminal exploitation

· Better use of Return Home Interviews to identify warning signs

· The Home Office should ensure a national, joined-up approach to support

· More effective working across administrative boundaries

· Effective use of the National Referral Mechanism for victims of child criminal exploitation.

Jane Hunter, Senior Research and Impact Manager at Missing People, said:

“While the understanding of and response to child criminal exploitation and county lines is improving, our research shows that there is still a long way to go.

“Families spoke of the life-changing impacts of exploitation on their children and themselves, and the many, many missed opportunities to intervene and provide support. Families felt, and in some cases continue to feel isolation, fear, judgement and helplessness. We hope that this research can provide a driver to ensure that families and children are much better supported in the future, and do not have to face the devastation of exploitation alone.”

For the link to the research report, All of Us Were Broken please click here.