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Increase in county lines grooming during pandemic cause for concern

A new survey suggests nearly half of child parents and carers believe their children are greater risk of being criminally exploited since the pandemic started.

The survey by The Children’s Society suggests that 80% of parents and carers have concerns that their children are at risk of being exploited to sell drugs in their home locality with a similar proportion being concerned their children are being groomed online with particular concerns on the impact of social media, online gaming platforms and messaging apps.

Worryingly, forty per cent of parents and carers had not heard of the term child criminal exploitation and around a quarter cent had not heard of the term county lines. Additionally, a quarter of respondees said they would not know where to go for support if they thought a child was being criminally exploited.

Chief executive of The Children’s Society, Mark Russell said: “Exploitation can wreck young lives and put children in enormous danger. Successive lockdowns have left many feeling isolated, struggling with their mental health and worried about everything from the pandemic to family finances.

He went on to add “It is worrying that significant proportions of parents lack knowledge about this type of exploitation, the places where children can be targeted – especially in the community – the signs to look out for and who to go to if they have concerns.

“More needs to be done to raise awareness about child criminal exploitation among not just professionals, but parents, children and the wider public too.”