County lines is when gangs and organised crime networks exploit children to sell drugs

Teenage boy in front of red door looking sad

Our services

We run a number of services across the country that help young people who are being exploited, or are at risk of being exploited, through 'county lines', a name commonly used for child criminal exploitation.

  • Our National Disrupting Exploitation Programme, works across Greater Manchester, London and Birmingham to tackle and disrupt child exploitation, including child criminal exploitation through county lines.
  • Working with Research in Practice and the Department of Education, we're also developing and delivering the Tackling Child Exploitation Support Programme (TCE). This aims to support local areas to develop an effective strategic response to child exploitation and threats from outside the family home, including child sexual exploitation and child criminal exploitation, such as county lines drug trafficking.
  • Our STRIDE service in London supports boys criminally exploited in relation to county lines.
  • In Manchester, our Safer Streets service supports young people who are missing and are often also victims of criminal exploitation.
  • Our child sexual exploitation services also support girls and young women who have been criminally exploited, as these issues often overlap.

We listen to young people, giving them a safe space where they can talk to someone without being judged. Often it’s the first time in their life they will have had someone they can talk to about anything they want.  

We support vulnerable young people by helping them to understand what’s happened to them, giving them advice and guidance, and exploring their plans for the future. We’re there for them step by step, for as long as they need us.

We act to make sure children exploited through 'county lines' get the help they need. We work with the police and children’s social services to ensure the young person gets the support they need.

Creating resources

As part of our efforts to stop young people being exploited through county lines, we have we have developed a toolkit for professionals working with young people affected by criminal exploitation. This toolkit both raises professionals’ awareness of the issue of 'county lines', and gives them the necessary skills and information to protect young people from it.

download our toolkit

We also offer training and awareness raising sessions and workshops across England and Wales. These workshops are suitable for anyone who comes into contact with young people.

If you're a parent worried about your child being criminally exploited, you can read our guidance.

Our campaigning

To tackle the issue of 'county lines', we are working with politicians, local government, the police and other charities. There are no simple answers, so it’s important to work together to develop solutions.

Along with Missing People, we are providing support to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on young runaways and missing children and adults. In December 2017 the APPG held an event in parliament to raise awareness of children and young people who go missing because they are exploited by gangs, and to look at examples of practice tackling the ‘county lines’ phenomena. This APPG aims to raise awareness among politicians, police forces and children’s charities across the UK.

We’re working to encourage local government officials, the charity and voluntary sector, MPs and the police to work together. By doing this we want to ensure that children and young people get the help they need when they become victims of criminal exploitation, and prevent this exploitation from happening in the first place.

find out more about what county lines is