Counting Lives Report

Sadly there is nothing new about children being exploited by criminals. And right now we are seeing countless young lives torn apart by horrific violence and abuse.

We hear from children being criminally exploited in many ways: forced to work in cannabis factories, coerced into moving drugs across the country, forced to shoplift, pickpocket or threaten violence against others. Children are being cynically exploited with the promise of money, drugs, status and affection. They’re being controlled using threats, violence and sexual abuse, leaving them traumatised and living in fear.

This report suggests that the criminals are winning, and professionals are struggling to keep up with the scale and context of criminal exploitation. The response from statutory agencies is too variable and often comes too late. Children are being too easily criminalised, and are not viewed as victims of exploitation. There is also a concerning lack of data and reporting about children at risk of criminal exploitation.

This report is a call to action for professionals to recognise child criminal exploitation and provide a coordinated safeguarding response.

Month of publication 
Year of publication 
Number of pages 
The Children's Society