Recently, I spoke to Hallam FM about Sam Baker, who was fifteen when he was murdered in Sheffield. Sam had been through a huge amount of tragedy in his young life and was known to every conceivable authority, but the system failed him.
The truth is that nine years of Tory cuts to public services have undermined or removed the structures that used to provide a safety net for young people. Our overstretched services are unable to provide the specialist support that children in particular desperately need.
Nowhere is the government’s failure to protect young people clearer than in cases of ‘county lines’ gangs that prey on vulnerable young people in order to sell drugs. Tory cuts have seen the fabric of society ripped away, leaving a generation of young people very vulnerable to being exploited. Children who are homeless, in care, or are excluded from school are easy targets for gangs and services that might protect them have been taken away.
The government needs to give the police the resources they need to tackle the scourge of these gangs, but we also need to put money into preventative services that can prevent children being drawn into crime. I’ve been lobbying South Yorkshire Police and CAMHS to make sure this is put in place locally, and community groups like De Hood and Arbourthorne Action Group are doing fantastic work to tackle violent crime, but the government also needs to act urgently to prevent more tragic deaths.