Committed to the prevention of child exploitation
We are a charity committed to the prevention of child exploitation across the south west of England.
between Sept 2022 to July 2023
What we do
Escapeline help young people to stay safe by educating them about how child exploitation and grooming works in their local area and teaching them protective strategies.
We strengthen community knowledge of child exploitation by running awareness-raising campaigns and we help the families of exploited young people, and those at risk of exploitation, through non- judgemental support and mentoring. Much of our work is conducted in schools and we also work alongside the police and local authorities, taking their referrals to support the children identified as most at risk of exploitation. As part of our legacy, we also train professionals in the signs and stages of child criminal exploitation, in order that they are better equipped to protect children in their care.
Who we are
We are a multi-disciplinary team of social work specialists in child exploitation and child trauma, teachers and experts by experience supported by business, safeguarding, legal and accountancy professionals.
We have experience of leading in child exploitation in the region and have extensive, practical knowledge and experience of how child exploitation operates in the South West and the impact it has on individuals, families and on local communities.
Escapeline’s staff are local to the area and are committed to providing a holistic approach to the issue of county lines. Our staff have years of experience working with young people and has an in depth and unique knowledge of child exploitation and county line gangs in South West of England. It is the willingness of our staff with lived-experience of County Line gangs to share their story, which sets Escapeline apart. We employ a youth mentor, who uses his first-hand experience of being exploited by County line gangs for 10 years. He shares his powerful and at times distressing story, connecting with young people and helping them to understand the dangers. We also have a sister who shares her story of her brother who was groomed and exploited by county line gangs and tragically died of a drug overdose. We also draw on the experiences of parents who share their story of the harm that has been inflicted on their own children. By sharing real, local experiences we are extremely successful in engaging with vulnerable young people.
What is child exploitation?
Child exploitation is the grooming and enslavement of children and young people for the purposes of making money through selling drugs, other illicit items and sexual exploitation. Criminal gangs, known as County line gangs, recruit and groom young people to transport and deliver drugs. Extreme violence and intimidation is used to control and trap children and to isolate them from their families and schools. Young people, in particular girls are also being sexually exploited. Vulnerable adults are also at risk.
In 2019, The National Crime Agency identified that over 2000 county lines are operating in the UK. The illegal drug business has been estimated to make an annual profit of more than £800,000,000 with over 50,000 young people being exploited by County Lines in England alone. County lines incorporates multiple forms of exploitation including coercion, trafficking, child sexual exploitation, criminal exploitation, modern slavery, gun possession and knife crime.
Gangs target any young person, of any background, race, gender or age. It is not just the vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, or those from poorer backgrounds or with a history of abuse that get targeted. Once drawn in, these children are more likely to skip school and fall behind in their education, be forced into substance abuse and criminal activity.
In the past decade, and particularly during the Covid pandemic, the County Line model has evolved out of cities to build a greater market, by spreading to rural and coastal towns, such as in the South West. They have forged links with local criminal organisations and recruit local children as runners who can market the drugs in schools, colleges and neighbourhoods.