Children and vulnerable adults are being used by drug dealers across the country to courier drugs and money. I suspect many of you have heard about this
in the news recently. As foster carers we are more likely to come in to contact with this as we are caring for the most vulnerable children in society.
What is ‘County Lines’?
Children as young as 12 are being put in danger by criminals who are taking advantage of how vulnerable these young people are. Criminal exploitation is
also known as ‘County Lines’ and is when gangs and organised crime networks exploit children to sell drugs. Often children are made to travel across
counties, and they use dedicated mobile phone ‘lines’ to supply drugs.
How many young people are affected by ‘County Lines’?
No one really knows how many young people across the country are being forced to take part, but The Children’s Commissioner estimates there are at least
46,000 children in England who are involved in gang activity. It is estimated that around 4,000 teenagers in London alone are being exploited through
child criminal exploitation, or ‘county lines’.
Tragically the young people exploited through ‘county lines’ can often be seen by professionals as criminals. However, we want these vulnerable children
to be recognised as victims of trafficking and exploitation. We want them to receive the support they need to deal with the trauma they have been through.
How are children being exploited?
Gangs are deliberately targeting vulnerable children – those who are homeless, living in care homes or trapped in poverty. These children are unsafe, unloved,
or unable to cope, and the gangs take advantage of this. These gangs groom, threaten or trick children into trafficking their drugs for them. They
might threaten a young person physically, or they might threaten the young person’s family members. The gangs might also offer something in return
for the young person’s cooperation – it could be money, food, alcohol, clothes and jewellery, or improved status – but the giving of these gifts will
usually be manipulated so that the child feels they are in debt to their exploiter. They become trapped in county lines and the young people involved
feel as if they have no choice but to continue doing what the gangs want.
Reproduced with thanks to the Children’s Society
Find out more about The Children’s Society’s work to tackle County Lines.