The Home Office has updated its county lines guidance booklet and produced resources to help teachers and school staff to understand the issues of county lines better. The guidance is designed to supplement a school's existing safeguarding policies.
Across the country, young people and vulnerable adults are being exploited by gangs to move and sell drugs on their behalf in suburban areas, market towns and coastal regions. This criminal activity is known as 'county lines', as young people travel to different regions where they're unknown to the police and can, therefore, operate undetected. They can be as young as 10 years old and are often subjected to threats, violence, and sexual abuse by the gangs.
To safeguard vulnerable young people from being exploited by 'county line' gangs, the Home Office is working to increase awareness of the signs to spot potential victims among professionals, including teachers and school staff who work with children and young people. These professionals are best placed to spot potential victims and are encouraged to report any concerns to their safeguarding lead.
The signs to spot are as follows:
- Persistently going missing from school or home, or being found out-of-area
- Unexplained acquisition of money, clothes or mobile phones
- Excessive receipt of texts or phone calls
- Relationships with controlling, older individuals or gang association
- Leaving home or care without explanation
- Suspicion of self-harm, physical assault or unexplained injuries
- Parental concerns
- A significant decline in school performance
- Self-harm or significant changes in emotional well-being.
First published 07 October 2018