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SPAC Nation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:28 pm on 8th January 2020.

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Photo of Steve Reed Steve Reed Shadow Minister (Education) (Children and Families) 9:28 pm, 8th January 2020

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that important point. I look forward to hearing what Ministers have to say about how we can work constructively and collectively to tackle many of the problems and horrors that are associated with this organisation.

As I was saying, SPAC Nation started in London. It seems to have spread right across the city, and it is expanding into other cities including Birmingham and Leicester. It has no fixed location—it does not have a home church—which makes it much harder for the authorities to track it. There is no home police unit keeping track of what it is doing. There is no local safeguarding board keeping track of the risks to young people. It holds its services in vast venues in many different boroughs and cities.

I have reported to the police and safeguarding authorities every single allegation that has been made to me, but I am deeply worried that more has not been done to stop this organisation from exploiting vulnerable young people. SPAC Nation claims to have up to 1,000 young people involved right now, and every one of those young people is at risk. It appears to have up to 15 trap houses scattered across London, and every young person inside those properties is at very serious risk. A teacher in north London told me that SPAC Nation had been recruiting schoolgirls outside the school gates. A youth worker in Croydon told me that it had been recruiting outside the youth centre. SPAC Nation is targeting young people so that it can exploit them, and it is imperative that the organisation is stopped.

I have some questions that I would like the Minister to answer this evening, if possible. Allegations about this organisation have been circulating widely in the black community and on social media for up to four years, so why has police intelligence failed to pick anything up? I was able to find out most of this information over a couple of days by speaking to people and googling on social media. If I can do that without the resources of the police, why has police intelligence failed to recognise what is happening to potentially thousands of vulnerable young kids across this city? What action can be taken immediately to stop this organisation recruiting any more vulnerable young people for abuse and exploitation in my constituency and beyond? Given what we have heard, and given what victims have told us, we surely cannot allow this organisation to continue targeting other young people for abuse and exploitation when we can take action to protect them.

What help can be given to young people involved in SPAC Nation now? That includes those living in trap houses who urgently need to get out before they are further criminalised, their family relationships destroyed and their future lives ruined. And why has no help been offered to potentially thousands of young people who have managed to get away from SPAC Nation but who are left burdened with huge debts and who have been criminalised, many of them homeless and many suffering trauma and mental ill health? We cannot simply leave these young people to suffer the consequences of abuse by an exploitative organisation.