Past Events

County Lines and Child Criminal Exploitation: Breaking the Cycle of Violence, Coercion and Abuse

Date:     Thursday 28th September 2023

Time:     10:00am - 4:00pm

Venue:  Broadway House, Westminster

  • Event Abstract
  • Programme
  • Key Speakers
  • Who Should Attend?
  • Marketing Opportunities

Tackling the criminal exploitation of children is a complex issue – many children and young people become victims as a result of coercion, control and grooming by gang elders from ‘County Lines Gangs’. Unfortunately, children who are at-risk of school exclusion, in pupil referral units (PRUs), or in care are acknowledged to be disproportionally vulnerable to being groomed and these risk-factors have only been heightened since the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing cost-of-living crisis. The most recent statistics from the National Crime Agency estimate that there are more than 2,000 individual deal lines in the UK, and according to The Children’s Society, 46,000 children in England are thought to be involved in gangs, with 4,000 of those being criminally exploited in London alone.

Underscoring its commitment to tackling this growing challenge and bolster the law-enforcement response, the Government has invested up to £145m over the next three years, including £5m to support victims and families who are affected by county lines exploitation. Whilst this funding and other recent initiatives are all positive moves forward, unfortunately money alone will not solve the problem – increased co-ordination and data sharing between local authorities and the police is crucial to having the tools to identify, safeguard and support vulnerable young people, who are already involved in or are at-risk of exploitation by county lines gangs. Stronger multi-agency working is therefore critical to the success and effectiveness of local safeguarding frameworks to protect victims, and in turn, bring perpetrators to justice.

This Policy Foresight ‘in-person’ conference offers a timely opportunity for key partners from local authorities, children’s services, the police, social care, education, youth offending, criminal justice, health, housing, third sector and other key statutory agencies to understand the current national picture of county lines and examine how gangs have exploited the pandemic and the current cost-of-living crisis to target more young people. The conference provides an ideal platform for participants to hear from experts and policymakers, learn from innovative best practice and share ideas to improve early intervention strategies, enhance partnership working and deliver lasting protections that keep vulnerable young people safe from exploitation and harm.

Why Attend?

  • 'In-person' conference featuring presentations and panel discussions with a wide range of policymakers and key officials
  • Receive key updates on the current scale of County Lines and how gangs have adapted during the Covid pandemic and cost-of-living crisis to target more vulnerable young people
  • Gather knowledge to enhance early intervention strategies, local and national partnership working arrangements and county lines disruption programmes
  • Examine how current legislation and legal frameworks including the Modern Slavery Act and National Referral Mechanism (NRM) can be effectively used to protect young people from exploitation
  • Interactive Question Time sessions with opportunities to engage with all speakers
  • Learn best practice from experts working to protect vulnerable teenagers from criminal exploitation & county lines gangs
  • Share ideas and network with fellow participants from local authorities, social care, police, education, youth offending, criminal justice, health, housing, third sector and other key statutory agencies

  • Resource - The Children's Society Look Closer Campaign

    Guidance - 12th February 2021: County Lines Exploitation: Applying All Our Health

    Guidance - 14th March 2023: Government County Lines Programme

    News - 9th March 2023: Thousands more arrested in nationwide crack down on county lines


    Delegate Registration & Refreshments


    Chair’s Welcome and Opening Remarks


    Morning Keynote Address: Tackling County Lines and Child Criminal Exploitation – The National Picture

  • Understanding the current national picture and evolving trends in county lines
  • Analysing how gangs have exploited the Covid-19 pandemic and current cost-of-living crisis to adapt the recruitment of vulnerable young people
  • Embedding a consistent national approach to tackling county lines gangs that balances enforcement with safeguarding
  • Effectively utilising current legislation and legal frameworks as key safeguarding tools including the Modern Slavery Act and National Referral Mechanism (NRM)

  • 10:30am

    Questions and Discussion


    Morning Refreshments


    Panel Session One:

    Embedding Proactive Early Intervention Strategies

  • Improving the identification of victims of criminal exploitation
  • Looking at the ‘Whole Child’ – Implementing complex safeguarding strategies using a trauma-informed response
  • Protecting young people from extra-familial harm through a Contextual Safeguarding Approach
  • Addressing the increasingly complex role that gaming and social media sites play in recruiting vulnerable young people into county lines gangs

  • 12:00pm

    Questions and Discussion


    Networking Lunch


    Panel Session Two:

    Transforming Multi-Agency Working to Protect Victims and Disrupt Criminal Exploitation

  • Creating local exploitation partnerships between senior specialists in local authorities, the police, children’s services, education, health, social care and the third sectors
  • Enhancing data-sharing between key agencies to improve the understanding the local picture of need
  • Improving the use of the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) – Exploring the lessons learned from the Devolving Child Decision-Making Pilot Programme
  • Utilising the ‘Public Health Approach’ – Improving decision-making to ensure a coordinated response that meets the needs of vulnerable teenagers in every area

  • 2:05pm

    Questions and Discussion


    Afternoon Refreshments


    Panel Session Three:

    Delivering Lasting Protection for Vulnerable Young People

  • Achieving better outcomes through effective interventions that allow victims to exit county lines activity and prevents them from re-exploitation
  • Tackling Debt Bondage – Effectively supporting and protecting victims with drug debts from their exploiters
  • Harnessing the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) and other existing legal powers, including Gang Injunctions, Slavery and Trafficking Risk Orders (STRO) or Prevention Orders (STPO) to protect victims and disrupt county lines gangs
  • Ending the Cliff Edge – Using transitional safeguarding to ensure that victims are protected beyond the age of Eighteen

  • 3:15pm

    Questions and Discussion


    Final Questions and Chair’s Summary & Closing Comments


    Networking Reception

    End of Conference

    *Please note the programme and timings are subject to slight alteration without notice


    Inspector Duncan Evans, NPCC County Lines Lead for Child Exploitation, National County Lines Coordination Centre

    Merseyside Police

    Superintendent Martin Earl, Strategic County Lines Lead, Merseyside Police

    St Giles Trust

    Junior Smart OBE, Founder and Gangs/CCE Lead, SOS Gangs Project; St Giles Trust


    Emma Norman, Director of Young People & Families, Catch-22

    Chidrens Society

    Gemma Buckley, Senior Project Worker & Nadia Ayub, Service Manager, West Mercia Climb Service, The Children's Society

    Manchester City Council

    Jayne Horan, Complex Safeguarding Lead for Greater Manchester, Manchester City Council


    Maleeka Dachi, Group Service Manager for Safe Space/MACE and NRM Panel Chair, London Borough of Lewisham

    Durham University

    Dr Jenny Lloyd, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Contextual Safeguarding Team, Durham University

    Rescue and Response Project

    William Willson, Operations Manager, Rescue and Response County Lines Project


    Joe Caluori (Chair & Moderator), Director of Crime, Justice and Equalities, National Centre for Social Research (NatCen)

    • Local Authority Officers & Councillors
    • Central Government Departments & Agencies
    • Directors of Children’s Services
    • Local Safeguarding Children Boards
    • Safeguarding/Child Protection Teams
    • Heads of Children’s Social Care
    • Children & Family Services
    • Mental Health Support Teams
    • NHS Health Workers
    • Family & Parental Support Workers
    • Domestic Violence Co-ordinators
    • Troubled Families Teams
    • Community Safety Teams
    • YOS/YOT Managers & Members
    • Police Authorities
    • Police & Crime Commissioners
    • Police Youth Engagement Officers
    • Neighbourhood Policing Officers & Practitioners
    • Organised Crime Police Teams
    • Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs)
    • Anti-Social Behaviour Coordinators
    • Drug & Alcohol Action Teams
    • Youth & Community Workers
    • Youth Inclusion Officers
    • Community Safety Officers & Managers
    • Crime & Disorder Reduction Partnerships
    • YOI Governors & Managers
    • Probation Officers & Managers
    • Offender Managers
    • Local Criminal Justice Boards
    • Criminal Justice Liaison Teams
    • Youth Inclusion & Support Panel Members
    • Chairs & Chiefs of Probation Boards
    • Social Workers
    • Head Teachers, Deputy Heads & Assistant Heads
    • Pupil Referral Units
    • Education Welfare Services
    • Local Education Authorities
    • Community Psychology & Mentoring Services
    • Court Service, Judges & Magistrates
    • Criminologists
    • Diversity & Equality Officers
    • Academics & Researchers

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