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Christian charity says breakdown in family pushes kids to gangs

by Eno Adeogun

Michael Smith MBE from Christian group Word for Weapons which tackles gang culture, commented following a report that revealed more than half a million children in England are so vulnerable they've needed state help.

It is the first time the children's commissioner has estimated the figure of at-risk children.

Speaking during News Hour, Smith explained the link between young people joining gangs and their family-life: "They will be lured into a false sense of security thinking that their peers on the street and gang members will offer them the sort of love, compassion, friendship - whole family network that they are not getting at home."

He also said churhes should be held to account: "A lot of the church members and a lot of the churches are more concerned with matters of security in their church or things getting stolen."

Yui Mok/PA Wire

The commissioner has described the figures - which also reveal 1,200 youths are identified every year as victims of modern slavery and 119,000 children are homeless or living in insecure housing - as "shocking".

John Cameron from the NSPCC said more money is needed to reach out to those at risk.

Explaining why things may have got worse for young people, Smith told Premier: "In the generations and the time when people didn't have very much, they relied on their neighbours, they relied on their friends, they relied on their aunties and uncles and the family network to look after, to supervise and to coach and guide young people and they were kept as a community."

The government said it will look carefully at the stats but the commissioner is also warning that these statistics could just be the tip of the iceberg - as many children don't contact authorities.

Listen to Michael Smith MBE speaking with Premier's Eno Adeogun:

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