County lines and cuckooing: Safeguarding Week

Do you have contact with young or vulnerable service users in the community? If yes, then please keep on reading to learn more about county lines and cuckooing.

County lines is the term used for major issues involving drugs, violence, gangs, modern slavery, sexual exploitation and missing persons. It usually involves an urban criminal gang travelling to smaller locations to sell heroin, crack or cocaine.

It is the criminal exploitation of children and vulnerable adults, where gangs will use people to move and store money and drugs by using coercion, intimidation, violence and weapons.

If you are working with young service users, you should already be aware of what makes them more likely to be exploited.

People who may be vulnerable to county lines and cuckooing are:

  • aged between 15 -16
  • have prior experience of neglect
  • are socially isolated
  • have a physical or learning difficulty or poor mental health

There are a few signs you can keep a look out for, which include:

  • if they go missing and are found out of area
  • they have unexplained amounts of money or new clothes or phones
  • they are associating with controlling older individuals or groups and gangs and are isolated from their peers
  • you suspect they are the victim of physical assault
  • they self-harm or their emotional wellbeing declines
  • they carry weapons

If you are working with or visiting the home of an older or vulnerable adult service user, here a few things which makes them more likely to be exploited:

  • they live in social housing
  • they have a physical or learning disability or poor mental health
  • they are lonely and do not have close family or community support

Some of the signs to look for are:

  • disengagement from support services
  • new ‘friends’ and unidentified people visiting the property
  • possessions disappearing, living conditions deteriorating, property falling into disrepair

If you are concerned and you believe there is immediate risk of harm, contact the police. If not, contact your line manager.