A charity worker spoke about young people's aspirations at a council meeting.
A 10-year-old boy from Bradford told youth workers he aspired to be a drug dealer, and had a worrying knowledge about Class A drugs – councillors have been told.
The shocking story was told by a local charity worker during a presentation to Council leaders into what is being done to tackle the exploitation of young people in Bradford.
Bradford Council’s Executive yesterday received an annual update on how vulnerable young people and adults in Bradford were being protected.
Discussing how children are often exploited by criminal gangs, one police officer said they have come across young teens who see drug dealing as a “viable career option” – and that there are plenty of gangs willing to exploit this.
The Council receives a report on safeguarding each year, and it deals with issues such as child sexual exploitation/grooming and the exploitation of adults with disabilities.
In the past year the issue of child criminal exploitation has exploded into the public eye.
It involves criminal gangs targeting vulnerable people and encouraging them to commit crimes on their behalf.
It is often called County Lines and, although it was rarely discussed a few years ago, is now a major focus of Bradford’s safeguarding teams.
Superintendent Alisa Newman from West Yorkshire Police told members: “Some young people see it as a viable opportunity for employment, as a ‘street pharmacist.’
“They might say ‘why not do that and make some money?’”
She said a huge amount of work was being done to recognise children and adults that might fall under the influence of criminal gangs.
And it also required the Council, police and other agencies to look at young people who have recently become adults – but may still become targets of gangs.
Locally charities like Barnardos and the YMCA were delivering projects to protect young people, to help them recognise the signs they were being exploited, and to break any cycles of criminal or harmful behaviour.
Leona Dinsdale from the YMCA told members of the intervention work being done in Bradford. She said: “We look at issues like vulnerability, self-esteem and internet safety.
“We have some young people who aspire to be drug dealers. We had one young man who had that aspiration. His family were involved in crime and that had normalised it for him.
“He was only 10 years old and he could tell me about what cannabis was, what cocaine was, what heroin was.
“Over an eight week course we managed to engage with him and by the end of the eight weeks he was able to recognise the importance of hard work and could better negotiate the world around him.
“A lot of the young people haven’t spoken about these kinds of things with other people before.”
Councillor Adrian Farley, portfolio holder for Children and Families, said: “Not all of this report makes for a pleasant read, but it is important we know what is going on.”
Supt. Newman said one project that was being run to deter children from a life of crime saw young people writing to family members in prison. She said: “We change the narrative. We work with a child who might have been pulled into a life of crime. Often the parent will write back from prison and tell them ‘don’t end up like me.’
“We speak to a lot of young people who know what County Lines is, but they don’t know how to say no, they don’t know how to stop. The work to tackle this is fundamental.”