I want to focus on new clause 6 as well. Although we all know how falling police numbers are impacting on crime in our communities, we also need to look at other things, including cuts to children’s services. I have heard directly from parents who are most affected by social workers no longer having the time to build proper relationships with families, or not having had the right training so they do not recognise when a child is being groomed by criminals in a gang and instead blame the family and criminalise the child.
I am happy to see that this issue is being dealt with through training, as recognised in the new protocol against criminalising children this month. However, I am concerned, yet again, about whether any additional resources will be available to fund the big programme of training we desperately need and to monitor its implementation. The fact is that when public services are underfunded, that makes it easier for the county lines gangs to exploit local children, and that exploitation breeds violence. I seek further measures that would ensure that the police and courts focus on the true perpetrators of county lines violence—those who control the gangs and reap the profits. The Minister talked about the reported arrest of 500 groomed children or young adults, but, with all due respect, that will not change the nature of the county lines infiltration into our communities. Only by arresting the groomers—those who are reaping the massive financial rewards at the top of the tree—will the game be changed.
We need to support youth workers who prevent grooming and violence by working with children of all ages, all year round. We need training for every professional who works with young people, from the police to social workers to teachers, so that they understand the threat of gang grooming and the tactics that groomers use. We need a third-party reporting system that young people will actually use; they will not do so at the moment because they believe that the police can get information without anyone being put in danger. We have to make public authorities responsible for protecting people who are at risk because they have done the bravest of things and given information to the authorities. We need to support them and their families with a path to a secure future. We need to take stronger action against incitement online. We need to support communities after the trauma of a young death.
This Bill is a start, but it ain’t the panacea that my community so desperately needs. We need further legislation from this Government to tackle the real issues that are afflicting our communities.