Children and young people need education around the issues of crime and victimisation, and what to do if they experience these, in the same way as they are taught about sex, alcohol and drugs – according to a new report produced by Victim Support in collaboration with the University of Bedfordshire.
Released today (Tuesday 9 December), the study into crimes against children and young people in England and Wales was carried out by charity Victim Support with Dr Helen Beckett and Dr Camille Warrington, from the University, for the All Party Parliamentary Group for Victims and Witnesses of Crime.
The study found that less than one in five crimes experienced by children and young people are reported to the police meaning that many are left dealing with their experiences of crime without the necessary support and redress.
Dr Beckett, Deputy Director of the University of Bedfordshire’s International Centre: Researching Child Sexual Exploitation, Violence and Trafficking, worked on the report with Dr Warrington, Young People's Participation Development Officer.
She said: “One of the most stark findings from this report is the levels of crime and victimisation that young people are putting up with in their day-to-day lives.
“There are many different reasons for this. Partly because they see it happen around them, so they believe it is part and parcel of growing up – it’s what they expect. But another part is that adults aren’t intervening and saying ‘no this isn’t right, you should expect more than this’.”
Ten to 18 year olds are most likely to be victims than at any other time of life, but are least likely to report it.
Many of the young people who took part in the study said they don’t report crime to the police because they do not trust them; and would only tell a parent, teacher, carer or social worker if they had an established, trusting relationship.
Some also do not report as they think the police will not resolve the case; will not believe them; may discriminate due to age, race or background; or treat them as a criminal not a victim. They felt officers were attentive if they were viewed as a suspect, but lacked responsiveness if they were the victim. Those interviewed also worried reporting crime will create problems for them, especially if they knew the perpetrator.
Karen Froggatt, the director overseeing Victim Support's specialist work with child crime victims and witnesses said: "Children and young people need to be given the confidence to talk to professionals - including the police - about what's happened to them.
“The police have to improve the way they treat children and young people. Other professionals must also be equipped to support young crime victims who, for whatever reason, feel they cannot go to the police.”
The report recommends that teachers, social workers and medical staff get training to empower and support young crime victims appropriately, and for every school to have a commitment to keep their pupils safe.
The police also need further training in how to engage with young people.
Victim Support says it is critical that support and advice for children and young people is created in consultation with them to make sure it is effective with the use of a smart phone app.
For further information, including evidence, about the report visit www.victimsupport.org.uk
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