Home Office publishes updated guidance to help frontline workers identify and protect victims of county lines gangs
County lines refers to a model used by criminal gangs, whereby urban gangs supply drugs to suburban areas and market and coastal towns. You can read more about County Lines here. These gangs frequently exploit children and vulnerable adults to courier drugs and money. Some vulnerable adults have their homes taken over by the gangs (cuckooing) using force or coercion.
To support frontline staff – particularly those who work with children, young people and vulnerable adults – in identifying potential victims of this type of criminal exploitation, the Home Office has updated its County Lines guidance. It sets out the signs to look for in potential victims, and what action staff should take so that potential victims get the support and help they need. The document supplements an organisation’s existing safeguarding policies.
Any practitioner working with a vulnerable person who they think may be at risk of county lines exploitation should follow their local safeguarding guidance and share this information with local authority social care services. If you believe a person is in immediate risk of harm, you should contact the police. The guidance is available here
Alongside the guidance, there are resources to help staff recognise the signs to look out for, that could indicate that someone is a victim. Staff should report their concerns to their safeguarding lead.
The Home Office is also raising awareness of county lines across a range of non-statutory sectors. These are the: private security sector, licensed taxi and private hire, bus and coach companies, train operating companies, and the housing sector (initially private landlords and letting agents, with materials for the social housing sector currently in development). Resources with tailored messaging have been developed for each sector.