The Home Office has provided funding for the charity St Giles to provide a support service for vulnerable children exploited through county lines.
The project aims to help 225 young people exit or reduce their county line activity over the next nine months. The Home office has provided the charity with £860,800 in funding for the service in 20/21, which forms part of the government’s wider investment of £25 million to tackle county lines.
Evan Jones, Head of Community Services at St Giles, said: “Many young people tell us that they see no way out of county lines. Our staff are living proof that positive change is possible. This funding will enable us to support hundreds of young people who are currently beyond our reach and end the misery and suffering that they and their families are experiencing. Whilst the consequences of county line involvement can be severe, there is light at the end of the tunnel if the right support is in place.”
St Giles, who established the first ever specialist county lines support services helping young people and their families, will help young people in London, Merseyside and the West Midlands. Working closely with local partners in these areas, caseworkers will offer intensive one-to-one support for each young person and the wider family if needed.
The charity’s work addresses concerns around the grooming and exploitation of young people into county lines and will help young people and their families take back control of their lives. Existing specialist services are already running at capacity and the indications from the frontline are that there is a substantial unmet need for more support.
New approaches to county lines interventions have been adopted over recent months, during the coronavirus pandemic. When face-to-face work directly with the young person has not been possible, caseworkers have focussed on providing family support to concerned parents to help build a positive family network and offer young people support online and over the phone.
This approach will continue for the first phase of the project until restrictions are further eased and face-to-face contact resumes.
St Giles’s existing county lines interventions adopt a peer-led ethos, using professionally trained people with direct first-hand experience of the issues the young people are now going through. Having lived these lives themselves, they can engage young people who may be highly resistant to offers of support and become role models of positive change.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “The exploitation of children is an abhorrent crime. I will use every measure we have to stop vulnerable children of all ages from being exploited by these ruthless county lines drug criminals.”
“St Giles deserve great credit for their intensive support for victims. Through the £25 million I have put in place to roll up this criminality, together we will help to end the abuse and misery faced by children exploited by these shameless gangs,” she added.
The lockdown has restricted county line activity and many young people supported by St Giles have taken it as an opportunity to exit county lines and re-engage with education and training. As restrictions further ease, caseworkers are concentrated on continuing this progress as a renewal of gang activity means negative influences start to increase.
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