Ten thousand children and young people are now being exploited by ‘County Lines’ drugs gangs and forced to sell heroin and crack cocaine, according to the National Crime Agency.
I have been campaigning since 2015 to raise awareness of the use of vulnerable children in County Lines, which is the new grooming scandal.
We need to change attitudes. These young people are victims of grooming in the same way as those who were sexually exploited in places like Rotherham and Rochdale.
For years those girls were blamed for their own sexual exploitation and called prostitutes. Attitudes towards them changed and now we must stop blaming children and young people who are groomed by gangs and caught up in the brutal word of County Lines.
The Howard League for Penal Reform invited me to their ‘Policing the community’ conference, earlier this week, on the criminalisation of children in care where I presented the APPG’s research on children in out of borough placements and their vulnerability to being targeted by criminal gangs.
You can view my presentation here.
The Royal College of Psychiatrist’s invited me to speak at their ‘Stolen childhoods—gangs and grooming’ conference in London. While there I raised the importance of including young people in the co-designing of services that will later support exploited children.
For those interested my presentation is available here.