29 Jan 2019

Responding to the new National Crime Agency report into exploitation of children through county lines drug trafficking, Iryna Pona, Policy Manager at The Children’s Society, said: “These shocking findings sadly come as no surprise to our practitioners, who encounter the cynical grooming of children as young as 11 by gangs to traffic drugs across the country.

“After being promised cash, drugs and a glamorous lifestyle, they are terrified into following orders and we have sadly supported children who have been stabbed, raped and tortured, with their activities monitored through mobile phone livestreaming and tracking.

“While children in care or growing up in poverty are often targeted, these perpetrators prey upon any sign of vulnerability, and this exploitation can affect any child in any community, causing unimaginable trauma.

“The progress outlined in this report in disrupting these gangs is welcome, but much more needs to be done to protect these children.

“Professionals must get better at spotting the signs that children are being exploited and ensuring they get early help, including an assessment to see if they are at risk of being groomed every time they are reported missing from home or care.  We would urge the Government to hurry up and introduce its promised missing persons database, which will ensure information about the risks to children found far from home can be shared across police borders.

“Too many children exploited through county lines are still not being referred to the National Referral Mechanism - the system used to identify victims of modern slavery and human trafficking – and failing to get help from an independent advocate to ensure they are supported as victims and not criminals.  Without that recognition, more vulnerable children will continue to be failed.”

You can read more about the report here.

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For more information, please contact Senior Media Officer Rob Devey on 07814 525918 or rob.devey@childrenssociety.org.uk. For out-of-hours enquiries please call 07810 796 508.