At the beginning of May, The Clewer Initiative held its first Breaking County Lines Learning Forum, drawing together 25 participants who had recently attended Breaking County Lines courses.
The Forum is acting as a follow on from the course – a place where people who are now taking action against county lines can share learning and be further equipped and inspired in their work.
Over the past six months, we have run Breaking County Lines courses for more than 200 participants from a variety of backgrounds including churches, schools, and statutory organisations across the UK. At the heart of the course, is an emphasis on encouraging people to form action groups and work with their local community to build resilience and protect children, young people and vulnerable adults.
The Forum began with a presentation on the key facts and latest developments in county lines by Detective Inspector Anne Rannard from the National County Lines Coordination Centre. Anne outlined that as county lines gangs are constantly refining their operations to avoid detection, the signs of exploitation are changing and becoming increasingly subtle. For example, gangs are increasingly using holiday accommodation including airbnbs, caravans and hotels as a base for their operations so that they are more difficult to detect. Anne highlighted the need to be ‘professionally curious’ when something does not seem right and to remain alert to what is going on around us in our local areas. Having strong links with local police and knowing how to report suspicions can make a huge difference in detecting and responding to the issue effectively.
We also heard from Revd Dr Dan Pratt who shared his experience of setting up the Southend Against Modern Slavery Partnership, an initiative bringing together churches, charities, and statutory organisations in Southend-on-Sea to prevent modern slavery. Dan emphasised the vital role which the church can play, acting as a catalyst for change through forming strong connections with the local community and encouraging the use of existing assets to respond to modern slavery and county lines. This method of building community resilience has been central to our Breaking County Lines courses as we have explored the importance of individuals and organisations working together to protect the most vulnerable and foster safe and inclusive communities where county lines cannot thrive.
The Forum also enabled participants to connect with one another and share their experiences and plans for tackling county lines. It was encouraging to hear about the initiatives participants are already planning, ranging from awareness raising to forming preventative partnerships and supporting children and young people in their local community.
Looking forward, our vision for the Breaking County Lines Learning Forums is that they will provide a space where those taking action can gain mutual encouragement and build a community of practitioners committed to tackling county lines at the grassroots level in order to prevent county lines from taking place.
To read more about how Dan Pratt has established the Southend Against Modern Slavery Partnership, click here.
To read Anne Rannard’s thoughts on partnering with the police, click here.
To read Anne Rannard’s list of signs to look out for of county lines, click here.