County Lines Conference – Quinton House School
Our substance misuse team were invited to attend a conference about county lines at Quinton House School on the 30th June to share our experience and expertise with children from schools across the district. The Conference was organised by Jack Bott, the head boy and brought together speakers from Northamptonshire Police, a lawyer in the Criminal Justice Service and MP for Northampton South Andrew Lewer.
Over the last 10 years drug supply and distribution pathways have undergone significant changes and large gangs operating out of major cities have built networks using young children to supply drugs in towns and villages. The dangers and challenges of this problem are very real in our communities. Gangs use fear and intimidation to lure vulnerable children and young people into storing, delivering and selling drugs. Victims often face, intimidation including threat to kidnap and coercion that often involves creating a debt the child has to pay back.
Oli Handley explained how a large number of our service users at Hand UP have experienced coercion from gangs, and nearly half of county lines drug dealers are teenagers in the 15-19 bracket. He explained to children how these people will often end up in services such as Hand Up as their lives turn into horror stories. These young people are often vulnerable to exploitation, from broken homes and suffering high levels of exclusion and hardship.
Karl Winfarrah also gave an empowering and emotional talk on his experience of county lines and how it impacted his life. Reflecting on his talk Karl explains “It was an incredibly moving experience for me because the age group I spoke to was the same age group as when I got involved with county lines.”
It is so important that we engage and address the young people most affected by this, and the conference allowed us to directly engage with this cohort.
Leading through Collaboration
Northampton Hope Centre is committed to building and working collaboratively with organisations across Northamptonshire to tackle issues facing our communities. Sharing impact stories, offering support and signposting people to services that helps them through hardship through networks and opportunities like this conference, is essential in building thriving and healthy communities. We are working on many outreach and community initiatives with this goal in mind.
Andrew Lewer, MP for Northampton South, spoke about the success of the event at the Education Select Committee meeting for the Child Exploitation and County Lines Inquiry. He discussed the value of collaboration to prevent child exploitation through county lines with experts, who agreed that bringing partners together and sharing lived experiences will be vital.
Quinton House School hopes that the conference will be an annual inter-school event, focusing on a different issue each year that is relevant to young people in and around Northampton.
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