Hundreds of young people have been successfully diverted away from the dangers of County Lines gangs thanks to an intervention scheme set up and funded by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, according to a new report published today.
The report by Brent Council sets out the impact of the Mayor’s flagship £5.6m Rescue and Response scheme to target youngsters caught up in county lines drug gangs and reveals that in the last year, nine out of 10 young Londoners supported by the project have either reduced or completely stopped their involvement in county lines.
The report also highlights how more than 1,000 social workers and staff from other frontline organisations have now received specialist training from the Mayor’s Rescue and Response programme to spot the hidden signs of exploitation in vulnerable young women and girls involved in county lines activity and provide the support they need to escape exploitation.
County Lines is the name given to drug dealing where phone lines are used to move and supply drugs, usually from cities into smaller towns and rural areas across the whole country.
Since the City Hall funded Rescue & Response programme began three years ago, more than 450 young people who were referred to the programme have engaged with the support provided and benefited from positive opportunities such as training, education and support towards employment.
Among those helped by the programme are a young woman who was identified to be at high risk from exploitation and from harm and abuse from her own family and faced multiple criminal charges linked to County Lines activity. She was provided with a support network and a safe space to understand her needs and protect her from abuse and exploitation, helped through her legal proceedings and set positive goals to focus on going forward.
A 17-year-old boy was intercepted by Rescue and Response programme while in hospital for a for a severe hand injury, directly linked to being exploited by County Lines activity. He was provided with temporary housing and a support network to ensure he could return to his local borough. He is now no longer offending and is working on building a career with the help of the Safer London ‘Hardship Fund’.
Last month the Mayor warned that the cost of living crisis, which is impacting huge numbers of Londoners and some of the most vulnerable groups in our society, could jeopardise the progress that’s been made in tackling violent crime. There is growing concern that loss of jobs and training opportunities could also lead to more young Londoners becoming vulnerable to exploitation in County Lines – making the Mayor’s Rescue and Response action and intervention more important than ever. In the last year the number of young people referred to the scheme for help to exit the dangers of County Lines increased by nearly 10%.
The work of the Mayor’s Rescue and Response programme sits alongside the enforcement action being carried out by the Met police to dismantle county lines and target drug gangs who rarely leave the capital but are responsible for dealing drug, and exploiting young people and vulnerable adults. From April 2021 to March 2022, teams across the Met closed more than 560 lines and made almost 450 arrests for offences including drug supply, modern slavery and weapons.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “It’s vital that we support young people and keep them safe from exploitation by criminal gangs.
“I am determined to ensure we provide an escape route for young Londoners who feel trapped and I’m pleased the Rescue and Response programme is working to break the chain of criminality that holds some of our most vulnerable young men, women, girls and boys hostage.
“Thanks to this programme, more than 450 young people have benefited from positive opportunities to help change their lives for the better and divert them away from exploitation by criminal gangs.
“I know we’re only scratching the surface of a major national issue that is still driving violence in London and across the country, but that is why I will continue to invest record amounts in programmes that intervene in the key moments in a person’s life, to divert them away from crime and build a safer London for everyone.”
Head of Practise at Safer London, Alison Campbell, said: “We’re proud to be part of the Mayor of London’s Rescue and Response initiative which enables young Londoners to break free – and stay free – from the cycle of County Lines.
“It’s important to understand that young Londoners affected by County Lines have been exploited, groomed and abused. They have experienced traumatic events many of us couldn’t comprehend. Furthermore, the impact of County Lines is far reaching, affecting entire families and communities. Rescue and Response has allowed Safer London to provide direct support to young Londoners impacted by County Lines.
“Our Rescue and Response team work collaboratively with young Londoners, building strong trusting relationships, so they can work through their trauma, improve their safety and move onto the positive futures they deserve. We hope, with the support from the Mayor of London, we can continue to support those affected for as long as the threat of County Lines persists.”