Family Lives responds to: Services fail to protect children from sexual exploitation in gangs

“Involvement in gangs can impact not only on the mental health of the young people chaotically involved but also their families and carers.  Our free 24/7 Helpline regularly hears from parents who have a diagnosed mental health problem, such as depression or anxiety and who are calling for advice and support regarding their child’s erratic anti-social behaviour. Over a recent two year period, of 83,469 calls to the charity related to child behaviour, 62% of callers were seeking advice about their child’s verbal aggression and 31% of calls concerned physical aggression - Worryingly, 88% of the calls concerned aggression within the home environment. Schools must continue to play a leading role in teaching children and young people about consent and unacceptable sexual behaviour, and should work with parents and adult carers to ensure that these messages are delivered and reinforced.

Family Lives has worked with over 7000 pupils through its TeenBoundaries schools project which sets up safe and non-judgemental spaces for difficult issues – such as aggression and sexual exploitation- to be discussed, free from embarrassment and fear of repercussions.  A recent Family Lives poll found that most people felt that all parents would benefit from some form of parenting support or advice. We know that the majority of parents seek some form of antenatal support and we believe that there should be a greater emphasis on learning how to parent after your children have been born. Whilst we recognise the importance of the early years, there must surely be a commitment to supporting the parents of teenagers, as a family may suddenly find that as their child reaches their teens the relationship has changed and they need a whole new set of parenting skills. Whatever the reasons, it is clear that some intervention is needed to support that family to repair relationships and take responsibility. Family Lives encourages people to take up parenting support, information and advice and we hope that we can have a sensible debate that avoids blaming parents, but recognises that when children have gone off the rails and parental responsibility and respect and relationships are in tatters, support is needed to help that parent regain their confidence and their authority to parent.”

Jeremy Todd, Family Lives Chief Executive

As a charity, we offer free –at the point of delivery- services to parents in an effort to improve the lives of children. Visit www.familylives.org.uk