Hidden in Plain Sight: Gangs and Exploitation – A Youth Work Response to COVID-19 – National Youth Agency (May 2020)

Summary: National Youth Agency have published a report that looks at the scale and response to gang activity and exploitation during COVID-19.




The National Youth Agency have published hidden in plain sight: gangs and exploitation – a youth work response to COVID-19. The report looks at the scale of and response to gang associated activity, the exploitation of children and young people through lockdown and the impact of COVID-19.

The report found the following emerging issues:

  • youth workers in some areas report that gangs are also using lockdown as cover for a ‘recruitment drive’ from among children and young people with vulnerabilities heightened through lockdown, including through the use of social media and cyber grooming.
  • Gangs are active in grooming vulnerable children and young people outdoors in unsafe environments who have nowhere else to go. Many children and young people are still going out during lockdown when they are at risk from domestic abuse or strained family relationships at home or are simply bored, as they do not see going out as such a risk to their health.
  • For other children and young people, lockdown has given them a reason to step back from gang activity, but in some cases, diversionary projects have stopped or the lack of a youth worker to talk to has restricted opportunities to exit gangs safely. However, in some areas, local gang activity and violence has continued or is being stoked up through social media, with fears of a surge in gang violence post-lockdown