Stratford based charity scoops £120k to help stop grooming of boys by county lines drug dealing gangs
PUBLISHED: 17:00 14 January 2020
A charity has scooped £120,000 to help stop boys being groomed by drug dealing criminals.
City Bridge Trust, the City of London Corporation's charitable arm, awarded the money to The Children's Society for its Stride initiative, which runs from the national charity's base in Stratford.
Dhruv Patel, chairman of the City of London Corporation's City Bridge Trust Committee, said: "The number of boys being groomed and trafficked by criminal gangs is of huge concern.
"These crimes can easily go under the radar, leaving vulnerable young people with little or no support.
"We must take action - and our work with The Children's Society will make a real difference to young boys at risk."
The project works with boys being targeted, groomed and trafficked for criminal exploitation - including county lines drug dealing.
The Children's Society has reported an increase in cases of children trafficked from London and other cities and forced to distribute drugs in other parts of the country by organised crime gangs.
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Children often go missing from home or care, and are sent to stay in trap houses from where the drugs are packaged and sold.
City Bridge Trust's funding will pay for one-to-one support for boys referred to the charity, giving them protection and access to mental health support.
Sessions at schools will raise awareness of the importance of healthy relationships and the risks of the grooming and criminal exploitation.
Carers, police and volunteers will be trained to help them spot and respond to signs of exploitation.
Helen Leadbitter, an area manager at The Children's Society, said: "These young people are groomed into exploitation with drugs and alcohol or promises of status and wealth and then controlled using terrifying threats, violence and sexual abuse.
"This is a really worrying issue across London and elsewhere. We know from our work and research that while any child can be affected, including girls, boys are often targeted.
"Sadly, too many children end up being criminalised rather than supported as victims."
A recent National Crime Agency report identified nearly 2,000 individual county lines "deal lines" controlled by criminal networks.
The Children's Society's Counting Lives report highlighted that nationally agencies recognising children as victims is inconsistent and often comes too late.