10.2.4 Significant Harm and Statutory Intervention
Last updated 12/11/2018
Significant Harm and Statutory Intervention
Where there is concern that a child is at risk of or has suffered significant harm as a consequence of gang related activity then a Safeguarding Referral should be made to the MASH using the online form.
The concept of significant harm should be considered as outlined in The Children Act 1989. However, the Home Office has outlined ‘harm’ within a gang context in their supplementary guidance “Safeguarding Children and Young People” who may be affected by gang activity.
The key definitions are as follows:
- Not involved in gangs but living in an area where gangs are active, which can have a negative impact on their ability to be safe, healthy, enjoy and achieve, make positive contribution and achieve economic wellbeing
- Not involved in gangs, but at risk of becoming victims of gang activity
- Not involved in gangs but at risk of becoming drawn in, for example, siblings or children of known gang members
- Gang involved and at risk of harm through their gang related activities (e.g. drug supply, weapon use, sexual exploitation and risk of attack from own rival gang members)
If it is identified that any of the above applies to a young person then a Safeguarding referral should be made to the MASH.
Visit/Letter of Concern
Merseyside Police or Sefton Children’s Social Care will visit the home of, or issue a letter of concern to, a child and their parent/guardian advising them that they are at risk of harm due to their behaviour.
In order to be eligible the person must be a child and either:
- A (suspected) gang member
- A gang associate
- At risk from serious and organised crime
- At risk of criminal exploitation
If it is determined that a child is to be issued with a letter of concern the best practice approach is for this to done through a joint visit from the Police and Sefton Children’s Social Care.
If the child / young person is believed to be involved with Child Sexual Exploitation, this will be addressed by the Sefton SCP Child Sexual Exploitation Pathway.
Gang injunctions are a legislative power created by the Policing and Crime Act 2009 which enable the police and local authorities to apply for an injunction against an individual age 14 -17 years old to prevent gang-related violence.
The objectives of the injunctions are to:
- prevent acts of serious violence occurring
- break down gang culture
- Prevent young people’s behaviour escalating
- Provide an opportunity for local agencies to engage with at risk young people and develop effective strategies for them to exit the lifestyle.
One element of the injunction is to enable agencies to implement Positive Requirements as part of the order. This could include engagement with education, employment or other services deemed appropriate dependant on the young person’s needs assessment. When a young person receives or is considered for an Injunction, a referral should be made to Children’s Services and any other agencies working with the young person informed not only to advise of the risk but to enable agencies to contribute to a support plan.
Threat to Life Warnings
If a child receives a Threat to Life warning and is not open to Children’s Social Care, MASH will convene a meeting to make decisions whether this is a child at risk or a child in need. That decision will determine the level of assistance required. If the child has an allocated social worker the responsible manager will organise a multi-agency meeting to ensure there is a safety plan in place for the young person.
Police Protection Powers
Section 46(1) of the Children Act 1989 enables a police officer, who has reasonable cause to believe that a child would be likely to suffer significant harm, to place the child under Police Protection and remove them to a place of safety. A Designated Officer, inspector rank or above will need to authorise the use of police protection powers and where possible consult with Children’s Services as part of the decision making process. Where a young person is involved or at risk of harm due to criminal exploitation concerns consultation should take place with the MASH regarding appropriate places of safety for the young person to be taken to. This will enable an assessment of the young person’s gang affiliation, age and holistic needs to be considered when identifying an appropriate place of safety wherever possible, the child or young person’s home will be the place of safety. In exceptional circumstances the police station may be deemed the appropriate place of safety.
Child Criminal Exploitation is unique in comparison to Child Sexual Exploitation where the children make up 99.9% victims. Generally the criminally exploited have committed crimes which will still have to be investigated and then dealt with as a suspect. Although safeguarding and protection are important it comes with the caveat that Police are duty bound to investigate criminal offences where committed.
Media and Internet Risks
A significant development in gang culture has been the use of social networking. The numerous social networks allow gang members and their associates the opportunity to declare ‘cyber-war’ on each other, providing a vehicle which fuels inter-gang rivalry. This allows gang members to access forums, whereby, their violent crimes and sexual assaults continue to cause pain and suffering to their victims.
Sefton LSCB have engaged in wider work to promote e-safety in schools and colleges and to develop awareness amongst children and parents. Sexual exploitation and control of children can be threatened and steered through the internet by posting sexual pictures and video clips of females in particular.
Exploitation by Gangs
Both males and females can be exploited by gang members criminally, sexually and/or violently. In Sefton the experience of practitioners has found that females are very rarely granted ‘gang member’ status and are more likely to be pressurised into associating with gang members through intimidation and pressure or their perception that it will give them status. There are many examples of females being given money or possessions which are initially considered gifts but essentially become debts which must be honoured by being exploited for sex, forced to carry weapons and/or drugs and to look after money.
Once a child or young person is involved in gang activity it can be very difficult for them to exit due to the knowledge they may have obtained about criminal activities. This makes them a threat to the gang or them being perceived as belonging to a gang or gang member. This is particularly so if their family member belongs to a gang. The individual may be isolated by both male and female peers and often there is more than one perpetrator involved. In addition to this, there may be a sense of shame from the knowledge that they have been associated with criminal activity and poor self-worth which results in a low number of reports about exploitation.
If it is identified that a child or young person has been exploited in any way or is the perpetrator of the exploitation this should trigger an automatic referral to the MASH.