Around 46,000 children in England are believed to be involved in gangs, a report has found.
They are among hundreds of thousands of children who are vulnerable or living in high-risk family situations, according to the Children’s Commissioner.
Figures collated from a number of government departments and agencies shows 580,000 children are so vulnerable they require help from the state, while every year 1,200 youths are identified as victims of modern slavery.
Meanwhile, there are more than 15,000 children with parents who have alcohol issues and almost 12,000 with parents being treated for drug problems.
Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield described the figures as “shocking and very significant”, adding they were “just the tip of the iceberg”.
She told Sky News: “We know that most vulnerable children don’t come into contact with the authorities. And they are simply not known.
So ask anyone – in government, in policy or experts in children’s services – how many vulnerable children there are and they won’t be able to tell you.”
The report by the Children’s Commissioner also reveals that in England:
:: 119,000 children are homeless or living in insecure or unstable housing
:: There are 160,000 children temporarily or permanently excluded from school
:: Local authorities say 200,000 youths have experienced trauma and abuse
:: 170,000 children are estimated to do unpaid caring for family members
Jennifer Blake, a former gang leader who now counsels young people, told Sky News the Government often misunderstands children’s problems.
She said: “The system has never worked, the resources have never gone to the right place.
“It’s frustrating when we see the rise in youth violence, (children) want to turn one way but the door is closed on them.
“They say we’ve got to help ourselves but unfortunately it’s the wrong way…where they end up killing each other.”
Minister for Children and Families Robert Goodwill said the Government would “look carefully” at the figures.
He added: “We recognise the scale of this challenge – and, while the number of children in need has remained relatively static since 2010, there is always more to do.”