Project reduces children going missing due to county lines

Intervention with children at risk of going missing due to involvement in county lines hailed a success

Published on 3rd October 2018

The number of children going missing due to links with county drugs lines has been reduced in a Home Office funded project in Kent.

The county lines pilot project run by St Giles Trust and Missing Poeple began in September 2017 with the aim of testing out a range of interventions to support vulnerable children involved in county lines running between London and Kent so that they could exit the activity.

Kent Police said: “The cohort of clients (children) in the Dover area on average had approximately 123 missing episodes in the six months prior to St Giles involvement. This has reduced to 49 episodes in four months."

Similarly, for the cohort of 14 children in Thanet, “the average number of missing
episodes per month pre-St Giles involvement was 16.12 per month and post St Giles involvement – 5.65 per month”.

Under the St-Giles project, child focused interventions included one-to-one casework and phone based support. A further element of the project involved professional training of people with ‘lived experience’ to create a team of Peer Advisor volunteers who, once their training is complete, will be able to support the casework with affected children.

The specialist casework delivered to children and their families has had the greatest impact in helping children to move away from county lines involvement, said the evaluation report. Police, youth offending teams and social services, children and mothers agreed with this finding. The majority of children receiving casework support show positive progress includingreductions in and/or cessation of missing episodes and coming to the attention of the police, returning to school or training, taking up positive social and sport activities and improved family relationships.

"Given the length of the project and the starting points for the children (no involvement in school/training, frequent missing episodes involving drug running and significant violence, frequent contact with the police, poor family relationships, traumatic experiences, negative peer group involvement, poor engagement with statutory services) this is particularly impressive," said the evaluation by JH Consulting.

Caseworkers’ lived experience and cultural competence gives them the credibility to establish trusted relationships, recognised by children. The caseworkers’ trauma informed approach and understanding of the unique and serious risks to life facing children involved in county lines is a highly important feature which is helping to safeguard of some of the most vulnerable children in the UK, the report added.

Casework has cost around £80,000 over seven months, giving a unit cost of around £2,100, comparing favourably with that of an established ‘standard’ casework service. Kent police calculate £271,253 of savings from the steep drop in missing episodes alone.

It concludes that the very short pilot period means that the full impact of the service has not been realised and cannot be assessed. Continuation of the service with robust evaluation would provide significant additional learning, including identifying the finer detail around ‘reachable moments’ and the most effective type of interventions. It would also enable assessment of the additional impact that Peer Advisors can have in supporting children receiving casework.

It recommends that funding that can provide a more sustainable future for vital specialist services is essential. The cost savings identified by Kent Police provide a sound business case for funding specialist casework, including through the Police and Crime Commissioners.

The success factors and effective approaches identified through the pilot should be drawn on in developing national and local responses to supporting vulnerable children involved in county lines activity.

This includes:

- Further delivery, development and expansion of one-to-one casework support for children and families delivered by voluntary sector organisations such as SGT that have specialist skills.

- Provision of nationally available specialist phone support for children and families affected by county lines.

- Specialist training for professionals.

- Specialist awareness raising sessions for children and young people, in schools/PRUs and community/leisure settings to provide early intervention.

- Provision of accurate information and support to raise awareness for parents.

- Continuing evaluation of the impact, effectiveness and learning from the delivery of services, including sharing results, to maximise learning from the interventions delivered and provide a robust evidence base.

The government has announced a new National County Lines Coordination Centre to strengthen the UK's response to county lines drug crime.

A multi-agency team will be set up to develop the national intelligence picture of the complexity and scale of the threat, prioritise action against the most serious offenders, and engage with partners across government, including in the health, welfare and education sectors.

Evaluation of County Lines Pilot Project

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