William Eichler 10 January 2020

Lack of joint working in the fight against ‘county lines’ puts children at risk

Local authorities don’t always tell the police when they move ‘at risk’ children into their areas, a new report has warned.

A new study into the police and National Crime Agency’s response to vulnerable people in ‘county lines’ drug offending has called for more joint working between councils and the police.

Published by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, the report found there was widespread recognition of the value of joint working between public bodies when it came to protecting children from exploitation.

However, it warned that in practice this did not always happen.

The report also learnt that the funding for – and availability of – support services varied ‘hugely’ from area to area, and that demand for services was often greater than supply.

The Inspectorate discovered that joint working had improved in some areas when it came to tackling ‘county lines’ exploitation, that is, the practice of using young people and children to smuggle drugs.

It warned, however, that councils don’t always tell the police when they move ‘at risk’ children into their areas. This means that safeguarding measures are not as effective as they could be.

Responding to the Inspectorate’s report, Mark Russell, chief executive at The Children’s Society, said: ‘All agencies are still failing to consistently identify children at risk and share crucial information. Young people too often end up being treated as criminals rather recognised and supported as victims.’

‘That’s why The Children’s Society is calling on the Government to define child criminal exploitation in law and introduce a national strategy, backed up by funding,’ he continued.

‘We must bring the current postcode lottery to an end so that all children affected get a consistent response from the police, councils and other agencies.

‘This strategy must ensure that the real criminals are brought to justice. It must also ensure children get early help to prevent them falling prey to exploitation – and the support they desperately need to stay safe and recover where this has already sadly happened, including access to an independent advocate.’

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