Safeguarding: Funding injection to rescue children as young as nine from county lines gangs

With more than 5,400 children aged nine to 16 having been arrested for drug offences since 2018, it is hoped that a £5m injection will help support services to rescue young people from the grips of county lines gangs.

The investment will help services to expand their reach and impact in four priority areas where county lines activity is particularly prevalent – London, the West Midlands, Merseyside, and Greater Manchester.

The money has come from the Home Office and will fund targeted support over the next three years, including rescue services which will bring young people home safely if they are identified outside of their home towns.

County lines describes drug gangs in large cities expanding their reach to small towns. Often the gangs exploit vulnerable individuals to transport substances and mobile phone “lines” are used to communicate drug orders.

Children aged from 15 to 17 usually make up the bulk of the vulnerable people involved, but gangs often approach victims before the age of 11 in order to build relationships and trust. The grooming techniques are similar to those we see in cases of sexual exploitation (see Headteacher Update, 2019).

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