County lines crime targeted in new Government £13 million scheme

County lines crime is to be targeted in a new multi-million pound scheme designed to steer young people and children away from exploitative gangs.

The Home Office launched a £13 million fund on Sunday to help youth workers, police, nurses and other professionals form protective relationships with vulnerable young people.

Experts believe such people are at particular risk of sexual exploitation, county lines gang crime and relationship abuse.

Known as "county lines", gangs use children and young people to traffic drugs, using dedicated mobile phones or "lines", into new locations outside of their home areas.

It comes after ITV News revealed that thousands of British children are being exploited by drug gangs and increasingly exposed to a world of extreme violence.

Local authorities will now be invited to apply for funding to run projects aimed at fostering relationships between frontline staff and at risk children.

A Home Office-commissioned review carried out last year found that a trusted relationship with an adult was an essential part of programmes to support vulnerable children, and that the lack of trusted relationships is consistently cited in reviews of failures around child sexual abuse and exploitation.

The latest scheme will be targeted towards young people aged 10-17 who have been identified as vulnerable to being sexually exploited, victims of county lines and peer/relationship abuse.

Victoria Atkins, minister for crime, safeguarding and vulnerability, said: "This Government is working to keep all our children and young people safe and protect them from those who would exploit them or try to pull them into a life of violence and crime.

"We all know how valuable it can be for a child to have an adult in their life who they can trust, who they can confide in, who has their best interests at heart and who is in a position to act when they are in trouble.

"Through the Trusted Relationships Fund we want to ensure that those most at risk of abuse and exploitation, such as child sexual exploitation or gang related exploitation have such a person in their lives."