Rhiannon Sawyer – The Children’s Society

This is one of the most comprehensive and stark insights into what is going with County Lines you will find.

In this video Rhiannon Sawyer, area manager for London at the UK Childrens Society discusses how Organised Crime Groups are impacting young people throughout the entire country and how vulnerable young people and in some cases adults, are being abused and exploited.

Rhiannon discusses why youngsters are getting involved including the key societal issues such as poverty, learning difficulties, those who have experienced domestic violence, those who are young carers, are in care themselves, those excluded from schools and those from black and ethnic minorities. Whilst this issue touches ALL communities and all races, many of the aforementioned are over-represented amongst those directly involved.

Rhiannon goes onto to discuss the Grooming process, which can be over a couple of hours or very much longer. This involves social media such as Instagram and SnapChat accounts which are set up to glamourise opportunities to be involved, that its fun and that money can be earnt. Those targeted outside of social media are often met at schools, in parks, takeaways, shopping centres and other places.

The process of grooming can involve debt bondage where the victims are given gifts only to be told at a later date that they now owe the crime groups. Likewise they can be robbed of the goods they have been asked to deliver. The reality is this is carried out by the gangs themselves and it merely creates a debt that the victim owes and has to repay.

Digital collateral is also a part of this process, where the victims may be forced to strip, are assaulted, are beaten up, made to improper things all of which are filmed, with the threat that they will go online if the person doesn’t co-operate.

The threats faced are extremely real and extreme. This is organised crime who are clear in their approach and will utilise the most extreme violence possible to create fear. Children have witnessed shootings, stabbings. rapes (both boys and girls), adults have sex and are exposed to extremely unsanitary environments. This has immense impact on their level of fear and is intended to ensure compliance.

Rhiannon also discusses how vulnerable adults are being coerced into this dreadful situation. Cuckooing which involves the homes of vulnerable adults being taken over, often takes place as centres for distribution. Those targeted include vulnerable single mothers, those with learning difficulties, those in poverty and those who have a drug dependancy. These vulnerable people are intimidated, often abused and at real risk of violence.

In terms of numbers these are not known accurately. It was reported earlier this year that up to 46,000 young people were involved. However what is clear and undeniable is that every police force in the UK, every major city in the UK, and all county police forces are impacted with the latter reporting that organised crime groups from the cities are entering their more urban rural areas. This issue is bigger than anything the UK has seen before. It is bigger than previous child exploitation issues.

Rhiannon closes by discussing the absence of safe places for young people to visit and socialise. She refers to young people meeting at shopping centres, other places where they can congregate and the fact that this means there are no designated safe guarding leads/responsible adults to protect them. She asks that in the interests of children throughout the UK that every member of the public be vigilant and report any suspicious events to those in authority or responsible for the facility they are in.

Rhiannon Sawyer – Area Manager at The Children’s Society

Rhiannon Sawyer is the London area manager at the Children’s Society, a national charity that works with the country’s most vulnerable children and young people. Her role and responsibility is to oversee frontline work in London, which covers a range of areas, including criminal and sexual exploitation, modern slavery, violence against women (VAWG), destitution, advocacy and the missing and trafficking of children and young people. Rhiannon also works in an advisory position supporting all who are involved.

The Children’s Society are sector leaders in child criminal and sexual exploitation. They are currently running a national programme to disrupt these areas, including exploitation through county lines


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