AUTHORITIES are doing more to protect vulnerable children than "at any point in the past", Greater Manchester's deputy mayor claims.

Bev Hughes was responding to a report by The Children's Society which revealed that children as young as seven were victims of criminal gangs.

Ms Hughes said everyone in society has "a part to play to protect the most vulnerable".

“Here in Greater Manchester we have recognised for some time the risks posed by the exploitation of children and other vulnerable people," she said.

"Agencies across the city region are successfully working together in a coordinated and systematic way to disrupt criminal gangs and we are having real success.

"From training hundreds of frontline workers across Greater Manchester to recognise the signs of child exploitation and what they should do about it, to having multi-agency teams working together to crack down on this form of child abuse, to the successful prosecution of these wicked gangs that destroy lives, we are recognised nationally as a centre of best practice that is making a real difference on the ground."

She added: "We will continue our relentless drive to protect our children from exploitation and I would like to thank the Children’s Society for shining a light on this terrible issue.”

Find a copy of the Counting Lives report here: