The Home Office has allocated up to £5million to support victims of county line mining over the next three years.
Hundreds of victims will be helped to escape drug gangs following the expansion of support services in London, the West Midlands, Merseyside and Greater Manchester.
These are the largest export areas for county line activity, which involves drug trafficking operations in which children or vulnerable adults are groomed to transport drugs from one city to other parts from the country.
The money will be used to provide a rescue service and personalized and specialized support to the victims.
The individual specialist support service is aimed at young people under the age of 25 and will be provided by the non-profit organization Catch22.
The service will safely contact young people who have been referred by protective partners, such as police and child services, and work with them to end their involvement in county line activity. .
If under-25s are identified outside their hometown, the rescue service will be deployed to bring them home safely.
The service will also offer mental health support and counseling to young people and their families, to help them cope with the trauma of their experiences.
Home Secretary Jeremy Quin said: ‘I want victims of exploitation to know that we are on their side – and that there is a way out, a better future available.
“Since 2019, the government’s county lines program has closed 2,400 lines, made more than 8,000 arrests and engaged more than 9,500 people in protection interventions.
“These services will be relentless in their goal to create safe routes for young people at risk and to rescue them from the grip of these ruthless county line gangs, opening up their future again.”
As part of the support package, funding will also be allocated to the confidential and anonymous helpline SafeCall, which helps victims of county line scams.
The service is provided across England and Wales by Missing People and has supported 480 young victims since its inception in 2017.
Catch22 chief executive Naomi Hulston said: “For children and young people who are victims of county line activity, the impact on their lives – and the lives of those around them – is devastating.
“We know that grooming techniques are getting more and more advanced and that escaping the clutches of these attackers can be incredibly difficult.
“That is why, through this service, we will not only bring young people home safely, but we will support them to ensure that they can process their experiences and are protected from future harm. “