The Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Violence Reduction Alliance (VRA) has today launched its new local Violence Reduction Strategy which sets out how partners will work together to help prevent and reduce …
Identify reasons for young people running away from home and provide support to them and their families.
Their services help to prevent child exploitation, raise awareness of exploitation amongst young people and provide training for professionals, parents and carers.
Following a missing episode Catch22 will complete a return home interview, screening, assessments and interventions with young people to help them recognise and reflect upon the causes, signs and symptoms of child exploitation (including sexual and criminal exploitation) so they can better identify if this is happening to them.
The Violence Reduction Alliance (VRA) supports Catch22 with their Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE) Education and Support Service which includes a Navigator Programme, tailored one-to-one support to children and families and targeted delivery of an Evidence-Based Education Programme to those at risk of being exploited.
The Navigator Programme aims to identify and support children at the most ‘reachable moment’ following arrest on suspicion of a crime or as victim of a violent offence.
The Navigator programme has helped to identify a number of young people in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent who were either at risk or had been victim of exploitation and intervened to safely get them out of dangerous situations.
Tailored One-to-One Support
Catch22 offer tailored one-to-one support via two avenues.
Through direct one-to-one support, Catch22 help build awareness for children and families referred to Catch22 around issues related to CCE and promote positive diversion using a solution focused approach.
Alternatively, Catch22 upskill another professional, who the child has an existing and meaningful relationship with, to enable them to incorporate CCE work into their own support package.
Evidence-Based Education Programme
The Evidence-Based Education Programme is delivered in schools or professional settings through targeted group work, training sessions or assemblies to build awareness around vulnerabilities, grooming methods, and signs and indicators of exploitation and county lines.
Advice for parents and carers
What is ‘County Lines’?
County Lines is a form of criminal exploitation where urban gangs persuade, coerce or force children, young people and vulnerable adults to store drugs and money and/or transport then to suburban areas, market torn and coastal towns (Home Office, 2018).
Organised criminal groups (OCGs) use phone lines to move and supply drugs, they exploit vulnerable people, including children and those with mental health or addiction issues, by recruiting them to distribute their drugs.
County Lines can happen in any part of the UK and is a form of child abuse. Other forms of criminal exploitation include child sexual exploitation, trafficking, gang and knife crime. Find out about work the VRA is supporting to help prevent and reduce child exploitation here.
Phrases that young people may use to refer to county lines include:
- ‘running a line’
- going OT/out there’
- ‘going cunch’
- ‘going country’
These all refer to going out of town to deliver drugs, money or other illegal packages such as, weapons.
Signs a child may be being exploited
- Skipping school
- Staying out late or overnight
- Unexplained gifts or new possessions
- Using drugs and drinking alcohol
- Friendships or relationships with older adults
- Inappropriate or sexualised behaviour
- Being secretive
- Changes in appearance (clothes, hygiene, etc.)
- Significant changes in mood or behaviour
- Youth offending behaviour, getting into trouble with the police, or involvement in youth justice system
- Becoming withdrawn or isolated
- Poor mental health e.g. self-harm
- Excessive time spent on social media talking to ‘friends’ they haven’t met
- Recurrent STIs
Where can I go for support?
If you are worried about a child and wish to make a referral, please visit the below safeguarding website relevant to your local authority:
If you believe somebody is in immediate danger always dial 999.
Alternatively, if you wish to give information anonymously visit the CrimeStoppers website below.
Other useful resources
- Are you listening Child Criminal Exploitation awareness video: Are you listening? (youtube.com)
- The Children’s Society Slang Dictionary: Slang-Dictionary-A5-Booklet.pdf (ivisontrust.org.uk)
- BBC documentary ‘Hidden Girls’: BBC Three – Hidden Girls
- Parents guide to Online Safety: Online-safety-parents-guide.pdf (westmidlands-vrp.org)
- Parents guide to Child Sexual Exploitation: Sexual-exploitation-parents-guide.pdf (westmidlands-vrp.org)
Advice for young people
What is a gang?
The word ‘gang’ can have different meanings depending on what context it is used. In the Government’s paper ‘Safeguarding for children and young people who may be affected by gang activity’ they distinguish between peer groups, street gangs and organised crime groups (OCGs).
- Peer group – A relatively small social group which may or may not describe themselves as a ‘gang’ depending on the context.
- Street gang – Groups of young people who see themselves (and are seen by others) as an established group who are known to commit criminal acts and acts of violence.
- Organised criminal gangs or ‘OCGs’ – A group of individuals involved in crime for personal gain (i.e. financial). These individuals will see crime as their ‘occupation’.
What is grooming?
Organised crime groups groom children, young people and vulnerable adults by building a relationship, trust and an emotional connection with them. Once they have built this relationship with them they will manipulate, exploit and abuse them.
Anybody can be a groomer. It doesn’t matter what age, gender, or race they are. Grooming can happen over a short or long period of time and can either be online or in person. Groomers may even build a relationship with family members to make them seem trustworthy or authoritative.
Groomers can form different types of relationships with a vulnerable person. This could be:
- Romantic relationship
- Authoritative figure
- Dominant and persistent figure
Whether online or in person, groomers often use tactics such as:
- Buying gifts
- Giving attention, advice or showing understanding
- Pretending to be younger
- Taking them on trips, outings or holidays
I’m being pressured to carry packages for a gang. What can I do?
- You should never let anybody pressure you into doing something you don’t want to
- If you think you may be pressured into carrying something illegal, try to think of a way to say no before you are put on the spot
- Try to stay away from situations that you know are likely to result in somebody asking you to do something you don’t want to do
- Find positive things to do which will help you avoid dangerous situation
Help and Support
If you are worried about yourself a friend, being pressured into carrying an illegal package or are in a situation that you feel uncomfortable, you can get advice from independent agencies. When you contact them you do not have to give your personal details or information.
If you believe you, or somebody else, is in immediate danger always dial 999.
Help and Support available to you
Visit our Support page for further information and advice on where to go for support.
We are taking a partnership and inclusion approach to bringing about positive changes in communities throughout Staffordshire & Stoke-on-Trent. These projects are created or selected based on understanding and needs of local communities, brought by those who are living and working within them.
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