Specialist county lines support pilot offered cost savings to public services
Effective county lines support from charities St Giles Trust and Missing People saved Kent Police an estimated £271,253 over six months, according to an evaluation into a pilot county lines intervention project. The Home Office funded Kent County Lines pilot was delivered between September 2017 and March 2018 in Margate, Thanet and Dover. It provided specialist casework support delivered by St Giles Trust to help those affected make a safe and sustained exit from county lines activity and a helpline delivered by Missing People to offer additional advice and support. During the six month pilot, 38 children were helped and their families were supported and several made a successful exit from county lines – one young man supported by the project has recently gained 5 GCSEs.
Missing children episodes in Dover reduced from 123 over six months to 49 in four months and in Thanet from 16 per month to 5. Kent Police concluded that this offered a cost saving to them of £271,253 in police time alone. This figure does not take account other potential savings in terms of court time, youth offending teams and other agencies. A key finding from the evaluation is the effectiveness of using former service users professionally trained through St Giles Trust to offer the casework. It stated that the independence and first-hand experiences of using caseworkers who have direct experience of drugs and the criminal justice system meant young people could relate to their caseworker and disclose information to them that they would not share with anyone else. In some instances, this led to vital safeguarding outcomes, such as emergency rehousing for a family who would have been at immediate risk had the caseworker not been able to alert the authorities to the situation.
The Kent pilot was developed with the expectation that the young people would be young Londoners travelling to Kent. Instead, 85% of the young people were locals who had been recruited into county line activity demonstrating a change of tactics from the people running the lines.
Many of these young people were already heavily entrenched, travelling to various areas of the country and had high levels of need around drug and alcohol misuse. They required “dedication and tenacity – to keep working to engage children… who are completely disengaged and often hostile to statutory services.”(p16)
The helpline provided through Missing People was found to offer essential, easily accessible over the phone support and advice, particularly to parents. Professionals identified support for parents and wider family as a key element in helping young people exit county lines. The caseworking service provided through St Giles Trust also provided face to face support for families in Kent. The evaluation identifies “an urgent need for sustainable and specialist casework” (p4) to help young people make a long-term and successful exit from county lines activity. The pilot reached capacity by the end of 2017 demonstrating an unmet need for the service. Since the end of the pilot, Kent’s Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott has allocated £45,000 from his budget to see the casework element continue until April 2019.
Evan Jones, Head of Community Services at St Giles Trust, said: “County line involvement is destroying families across the country. We were extremely grateful to be involved in the Kent County Lines pilot and would like to thank all the partners involved. It built on St Giles Trust’s existing gangs intervention work which had given us a real insight into the issue of county lines and a good sense of which approach would work. Thanks to Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott, we are able to continue our work in Kent. We hope other areas will follow suit so we can work together to tackle county lines, help young people and their families out of their trauma and show them that there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
Kent PCC Mr Scott said: ‘Cowardly county lines dealers think nothing of using young people to do their dirty work peddling drugs. Kent Police has rightly been bringing those responsible to justice; but the St Giles Trust has been doing equally fantastic work safeguarding vulnerable young people in our communities, reducing instances of them going missing and offering positive alternatives to a life of substance abuse and crime. I am delighted to be able to support their interventions for a further six months and I very much hope a longer-term funding solution can be found.’
The evaluation was carried out by Jo Hudek from JH Consulting. She said: “The specialist support delivered by St Giles Trust shows what can be achieved with some of the most vulnerable, exploited and damaged children who have been drawn into county lines activity, with what is a relatively small investment that pays dividends. The lived experience, skills and dedication of the St Giles caseworkers, working in partnership with public service staff who want to gain an understanding of this pernicious and really damaging phenomenon has meant that children have been able to move away from activity that puts their lives at extreme and sometimes mortal risk and become positive teenagers again. It’s clear that this specialist county lines service is needed in many other parts of the country where county lines are destroying lives.”
Alongside the evaluation is a scoping report which offers a snapshot into the national picture of county lines and how it is currently being addressed across the country. 1/ The evaluation took place during the period of the project’s delivery and was carried out by JH Consulting. It took the form of:
• In depth discussions with the caseworking team and phone support team, 4 young people and 9 mothers receiving casework support, 3 mothers and 4 professionals using the helpline service
• Direct written feedback from 3 young people and one carer receiving casework support
• Group and individual discussions with partner agencies such as police, social services and youth offending services
• Examination of case notes, soft outcome trackers, monitoring data and other information.
2/ The Home Office also commissioned national scoping research intended to gain a great understanding of how young people’s involvement in county lines is being tackled in other areas and identify gaps to help inform a national response.