Help & Advice by Hollie Burnham
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Data recently released by the Local Government Association (LGA) has shown that 3000 more children are in care this year compared to 2018, with county lines gangs increasingly exploiting vulnerable young people in an ever more complex network of organised crime.

County lines gangs are a growing phenomenon whereby drug gangs from large cities such as London and Birmingham, drive drugs into smaller rural towns and areas, often exploiting children and young people to increase drug supply and expand their network. Any child can be exploited regardless of their background, but it is often the most vulnerable who are targeted, particularly those already in care.

Last year, 638 children claimed to have been criminally exploited in one 3-month period alone, with the majority of these relating to county lines activity. This marks a 95% rise on the previous year, according to police figures. The number of children living ‘out of area’ has also increased by 13% over the past five years, with 11,000 children living over 20 miles from their home address. There is evidence to suggest that county lines gang members are being sent to areas where children are commonly placed to scout new opportunities and further expand their network.

Helen Leadbitter from The Children’s Society, a national charity working to support the country’s most vulnerable children, has said that young people are groomed into exploitation with drugs and alcohol or promises of status and wealth and then controlled using threats of violence or sexual abuse, with an increasing number of children being targeted to distribute drugs to other parts of the country.

The LGA data has shown that the age of children in care is steadily increasing, with children over 10 years old accounting for 63% of those in care. Teenagers in care are more likely to be placed in residential or secure facilities which are significantly more expensive than foster care, leading to what some are calling a crisis in the care system. A government spokesperson said, “Councils must make sure all children in their care are in safe and suitable accommodation. In some cases, this provision is not meeting the quality standards we expect for our children, which is why we are working with the sector and Ofsted to tackle any issues related to poor practice where it occurs.”

We can provide expert advice and representation if the Local Authority are involved with your children. You can contact us by calling 0191 263 6200 to speak to one of our specialist Family Law lawyers or to make an appointment.  Contact us as soon as the Local Authority become involved with your family; we can help you. Further advice on the Public Family Law services we provide can be found here.

Sources; thetelegraph.co.uk, 9 January 2020, ‘Children’s Commissioner warns county lines gangs help fuel thousands more older children in care. cypnow.co.uk, 10 January 2020, ‘Vulnerable children ‘consistently failed’ by county lines response, charity warns’.