New project will save at-risk children from the clutches of criminal gangs in South Yorkshire towns
A new £2.8m project will work to pluck vulnerable youngsters from the jaws of criminal gangs across three South Yorkshire towns over the next two years with the expectation that councils will continue to share the knowhow they develop beyond that date.
Doncaster, Rotherham and Barnsley are all involved in the project, which is being launched with a £703,000 grant secured from the Government by the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings.
Each of the three authorities is matching that figure from their own existing resources, to create a scheme designed to step in and help children and young people at risk of getting drawn into criminal gangs where they could be exploited by hardened offenders.
The work will be led by Doncaster Children’s Services Trust but will use a travelling team of staff who will work across the county.
It is expected different areas will need different approaches, to work effectively against localised problems and members of Barnsley Council’s ruling Cabinet – who have endorsed the authority’s involvement – have been told staff would be expected to be working in the borough at least two evenings each week.
Child criminal exploitation is now an acknowledged problem, with gangs luring children to engage in activities such as drug distribution through so-called county lines arrangements, where narcotics are trafficked from big cities to smaller communities.
A report to Cabinet members said: “The project will target young people ‘on the cusp of or experiencing CCE’ – not those who may already be involved in the Youth Justice system.
“In order to address this, a coordinated response is required between agencies to both disrupt and effectively support young people who are experiencing CCE or whom may be on the periphery of criminal exploitation.”
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Funding for the project will last until March 2020 and it is expected to involve different public agencies – an acknowledgement that police enforcement alone cannot solve the problem.
Police intelligence will be used to guide the work of staff operating in areas where youngsters are known to be at high risk from exploitation by criminals.
That will be backed up by police work against the adult offenders attempting to take advantage of vulnerable youngsters
The report stated: “Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham are each providing in-kind match funding through their own resources and existing services to support successful implementation of the CCE initiative.”
“There is no prescription on the financial value of in-kind contributions or match funding.
“There is no specific requirement on the three local authorities to maintain or mainstream the team or funding beyond March 2020. However, there is the expectation that the arrangement would create opportunities and embed collaborative working amongst professionals across the three local authorities,” councillors heard.