Criminals are using everyday necessities such as food and warm clothing to entice children into “county lines”, as the cost of living crisis makes at-risk children even more vulnerable.

Schools around the UK are seeing, first hand, the impact of child criminal exploitation, with increasing numbers of students and young people being exploited by gangs to transport drugs between local areas.

Despite government legislation placing great importance on schools’ roles in safeguarding children (Keeping Children Safe in Education – first published in March 2015, with most recent updates in May 2022), lack of funding, as well as massive deficits in school budgets, means many schools are struggling to meet the pastoral and support staffing needs to keep their young people safe.

With cuts to youth support teams in local authorities, schools are placed in an unwinnable position, by not having access to enough internal or external support for their most vulnerable pupils. And even if a school is concerned about a child, and is able to contact an outside agency, the level of perceived risk needed to reach the threshold for intervention, is much higher than many would like to believe.

The current cost of living crisis which is affecting households throughout the country, is also forcing parents to work longer hours in order to be able to meet costs. But as director of Rotherham-based charity Diversify, Sara Cunningham explains, “That’s when a gang member is outside the school gates or the takeaway”. However recruitment is not limited to out-of-school hours, Diversify also claim to have pictures of students being passed packages from gangs through the school fences at lunchtime.

And the problem is not just limited to urban settings or poverty-stricken places.

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders has described county lines as “rife” in rural areas due to less support available from under-funded social service and police. However, at a recent meeting of head teachers from the north of England, one head teacher from North Yorkshire attributed the targeting of rural areas to the lack of after school activities in the community for young people.

But, with technology playing such a massive part in the lives of young people, gangs are able to target young people in every corner of the country, through social media. By advertising their activities as money making opportunities, gangs are able to entice young people as young as 12.

Despite a potential prison sentence for drug trafficking, and the strong link between county lines and violent crimes, young people are still finding themselves involved in this type of criminal activity, showing just how desperate these times really are.

With triple the number of children under 16 arrested for drug dealing in Essex alone, “these gangs see children as expendable commodities” explains author Shay Doyle (not his real name), in his new book after time as an undercover police officer in Manchester.

Here at Game Changer we are passionate about helping to change this narrative

With learning outcomes correlating to the latest guidance from the Department of Education, our solution allows schools to have real impact in a proven, positive and effective way.

If you are interested in how our programme can help your school, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Meet Gamechanger’s Partnerships and Business Development Executive, Juliet Chappell.

Juliet is a trained facilitator with over 10 years of experience in Theatre in Education (actor, writer workshop leader and director). She has a BA Hons in Modern History from the University of Oxford and a BA Hons in Acting from the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts. She is a qualified TEFL teacher and spent many years working across mainland Europe with a number of English language theatre companies and education providers. Juliet has also worked within the UK as an actor on stage and screen.

Juliet joined Gamechanger at the start of 2024, in a change of role from her career in the NHS. She is looking forward to focusing on business development and partnerships, with the hope of expanding the national provision of Gamechanger’s Impact and Intervention products. She is excited to see the portfolio evolve and is proud to be involved in the company’s mission to reach many vulnerable young people at risk of Child Criminal Exploitation and other major social issues.

Away from work, Juliet enjoys exploring the coast and moorland of her home county of Devon. Aside from hiking and sea swimming, she is interested in travelling, languages, theatre, current affairs and food (cooking and eating!)

Meet Gamechanger’s strategy and financial planning expert Richard Adam.

Richard’s role is to provide financial oversight and strategic support for Gamechanger. 

Richard is a qualified accountant and experienced Director with a background in manufacturing and digital businesses, including shared immersive spaces for education and simulated training environments. Richard is supporting the team with financial and strategic enterprise planning, providing a robust framework and development pathway underpinning the consistent and highest standards of service delivery and client satisfaction now and in the future.