On Monday, Home Secretary Amber Rudd set out a multi-million pound commitment to steering young people away from crime and tackling violent drug-dealing gangs through the Government’s first Serious Violence Strategy.
The strategy hopes to strike a balance between prevention and robust law enforcement with a new £11m Early Intervention Youth Fund for community projects to help young people live lives free from violence. It also included a range of powerful actions to tackle the issue of “county lines” and its implications for drugs, violence and exploitation of vulnerable people.
Amber Rudd said: “A crucial part of our approach will be focusing on and investing more in prevention and early intervention…We need to engage with our young people early and to provide the incentives and credible alternatives that will prevent them from being drawn into crime in the first place. This in my view is the best long-term solution.”
Missing People is delighted to see that the links between county lines exploitation and missing are being acknowledged and understood in the new Serious Violence Strategy. Josie Allan, Policy and Campaigns Manager at Missing People, said:
"Young people and vulnerable adults caught up in county lines activity frequently go missing from home and school so linking with action being taken to address missing persons is often a critical factor in identifying and supporting those involved in county lines. Our guidance on county lines makes clear that going missing should be considered as a key indicator of potential gang or county lines exploitation."
It is vital that professionals respond effectively to all missing episodes to ensure that criminal exploitation, as well as other harms, are identified and addressed. We were pleased to see the value of RHIs recognised as they are often the only opportunity a child might have to talk about risks or harm faced whilst missing.
We also welcome news that funding is being made available to focus on early intervention and preventing children becoming vulnerable to exploitation. We think it is important that this allows projects to be delivered on a broad geographical scale, rather than within the confines of local authority boundaries as the very nature of this issue means services cannot work effectively when limited within those borders.
We hope now to see the Government continue their focus on this issue and deliver effective oversight to ensure that the thousands of children and young people who are at risk of, or area already being exploited, get the support that they need.