County Lines – impact on children, young people and families

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2018 National LGBT Conference
26 July 2018
Carried as Amended

County lines, or ‘going country’, is a national issue involving the use of mobile phone ‘lines’ by groups to extend their drug dealing business into new locations outside of their home areas. This generally involves a group from an urban area expanding their operations by crossing one or more police force boundaries to more rural areas, setting up a secure base and using runners to conduct day to day dealing. A ‘county lines’ enterprise almost always involves exploitation of vulnerable persons; this can involve both children and adults who require safeguarding.

Cuckooing is where a drugs gang, often operating through a county line, will come to a small rural town and exploit young or vulnerable persons, often using threats and/or violence, to achieve the storage and/or supply of drugs, and secure the use of their home.

The majority of those recruited by gangs are 15-to-17-year-old boys. Boys are less likely to be recorded as missing and perceived to be at lower risk than girls ensuring county lines operations have been able to exist below the radar. Girls who are exploited along county lines are at increased risk of sexual exploitation and trafficking.

LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) young people find it especially hard to get support in rural areas and are vulnerable to being targeted by these gangs because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. There is very little understanding and awareness of how they are exploited through targeted grooming, using threats to ‘out’ them and manipulation of internalised homophobia, biphobia and transphobia to trap them into continued abuse. Young homeless LGBT people are especially vulnerable group and a combination of sexual and criminal exploitation is often used.

There is also over representation of BME (Black, and Minority Ethnic) young people caught up in county lines exploitation and LGBT BME young people may be especially vulnerable to isolation and violence.

The current governments so called ‘austerity’ programme has resulted in policing, children, adult social care and youth service funding being slashed to such a degree that all services are struggling to cope. Meanwhile well organised gangs of drug dealers have found a lucrative way of increasing their market and with so many cuts, services have struggled to tackle this and respond. Children go missing, homes are ‘cuckooed’, and communities are destroyed by huge influxes of drugs and a risk in criminal as well as sexual exploitation.

Our members are being impacted with several rural areas being explicitly targeted and families are left with little or no support, not knowing where to turn. Our members working in children, adult and family services and specific LGBT services feel powerless and frustrated with so little resources to tackle the situations which they face daily. When the situation is already so hard for non-LGBT young people, the barriers that LGBT young people face are huge and there needs to be urgent action to ensure awareness of their needs is raised and help and support provided.


We call on the National LGBT Committee to:

1)Continue to campaign for an end to austerity and for adequate funding for police and social care

2)Raise awareness of how LGBT young people are groomed and exploited both sexually and criminally