The Home Office has announced up to £5 million allocated to continue providing support to young people and their families for the next three years, to help free them from the grasp of vicious County Lines gangs. As part of the package of support, funding will also be allocated to continue the delivery of the national confidential and anonymous helpline ‘SafeCall’, delivered across England and Wales by Missing People.
Catch22 will deliver a one-to-one specialist support service for young people under 25 – safely making contact with young people who have been referred by partners, such as police and children’s services, and work with them to exit their involvement in County Lines.
If under-25s are identified outside of their hometowns, a rescue service will be deployed to bring them home safely, offering a pivotal moment for them to engage with caseworkers and protect their futures.
The service will also offer mental health support and counselling to the young people and their families, to help deal with the trauma of their experiences.
Crime and Policing Minister, Jeremy Quin, said:
“I want victims of exploitation to know that we are on their side – and that there is a way out, a brighter future available.
“Since 2019 we have already shut down 2,400 County Lines, made over 8,000 arrests and engaged over 9,500 individuals through safeguarding interventions.
“These services will be relentless in their focus to carve out safe routes home for young people in danger and tear them away from the grip of these merciless gangs, opening up their futures once more.”
Catch22’s service will operate across the four largest exporting areas for county lines activity – London, the West Midlands, Merseyside and Greater Manchester.
Catch22 Chief Executive Officer, Naomi Hulston, said:
“For children and young people who are victims of County Lines activity, the impact on their lives – and the lives of those around them – is devastating. We know that grooming techniques are becoming more advanced and that escaping the clutches of these perpetrators can be incredibly difficult. That’s why as part of this service we’ll not only be bringing young people home safely, we’ll be supporting them to make sure they can process their experiences and are protected from any future harm.”