£60k pilot aiming to rescue youths from County Lines

Vulnerable young people forced to sell drugs by County Lines criminals are being handed a lifeline to escape exploitation with the help of a £60,000 pilot scheme.

Simon Foster
Simon Foster

The new initiative, which is being launched by the region’s Violence Reduction Unit, will see four new on the road rescue workers and two outreach workers employed full-time.

They will help young people at point of arrest to move away from a life of violence and coercion by offering ongoing support to rebuild their lives, as well as putting safety plans put in place.

The rescue and outreach workers, who will be based with youth trust St Giles will begin work with the young person after they have been arrested for selling drugs in other parts of the country, known as County Lines.

This point of arrest is known to be one of the most effective moments to help those enticed by organised gangs.

Such groups are known to use a network of vulnerable young people to transport and deal drugs using mobile phone contact lists to take drug orders.

The new £60,000 trial is being funded by both the West Midlands Violence Reduction Unit and the Home Office until spring.

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, Simon Foster, said: “The exploitation and coercion of children by organised criminals to sell and move drugs around the country is abhorrent.

“Quite often these youngsters are nothing more than children who should be at school, but feel they have no choice but to do the dirty work of making money for drug dealers. Sadly, that work can land them in prison or, worse, dead.

“It also causes chaos in towns throughout the country that are seeing spikes in violence and drug dealing.

“That is why I’m fully supportive of this new initiative. Coupled with a robust police response against the drug dealers who perpetrate these crimes, this initiative will help us to reduce violence and protect vulnerable children from exploitation.”

St Giles Trust's Steve Clarke said: “Our team can offer them non-judgemental support that can act as a bridge between the young person and other services. We are looking forward to working in partnership with other providers to address this growing problem.”

West Midlands Violence Reduction director Clare Gollop said: "It can feel like there are few places to turn when you, or children or young people you care for, are being exploited in this way.

“In partnership with St Giles we aim to offer young people an off-ramp away from a situation that can rapidly become more dangerous.

“The unit also offers a range of other services for parents, carers and professionals to access when they have concerns.”

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