We welcome today’s announcement by the Mayor of London highlighting that over half of young people supported by the MOPAC commissioned Rescue and Response project have been helped to exit or reduce their county lines activity. We are proud to have played a part in achieving this success through working in partnership with Abianda, Safer London Foundation, the London Boroughs involved and the Mayor’s Office.
Despite this success, demand for county lines support continues to grow. We welcome recent investment in county lines support services but are calling for this to be sustained over time. This is particularly crucial over the coming years when we are faced with the fallout of the pandemic and those who are most vulnerable are likely to be disproportionately affected.
There is a genuine risk of a sharp growth in county lines exploitation as poverty and unemployment takes hold. We are also concerned that the risk of school exclusions will increase due to recent measures brought in to stop the potential spread of Covid making more children vulnerable to exploitation. The threat of recession may also increase demand for drugs.
Preventing these consequences will require early intervention and targeted support for individuals.
St Giles has been working on Rescue and Response since its start in 2018 as one of the service delivery partners with responsibility for supporting vulnerable young people from London exploited through county lines activity.
Our role is to engage young people referred to us and provide intensive, non-judgmental support at a time in their lives when they are often at their most vulnerable. Most are traumatised by the exploitation they have experienced in county lines and scared of opening up to professionals. St Giles’s approach uses caseworkers who have similar experiences and backgrounds to the young people. This helps to establish credibility and understanding, encouraging the young people to engage and open up.
Evan Jones, Head of Child Criminal Exploitation at St Giles, said:
Our own experiences of working with young people affected by county lines has shown the school exclusions, family breakdown and poverty all play a role in increasing vulnerability to exploitation.
Our first dedicated county lines support service in Kent helped over 80% of the young people referred to it either exit or reduce their county lines activity in the first year of delivery (click here for the evaluation). All of these young people had been excluded from mainstream education.
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