Safeguarding considerations for Schools: Protecting children from criminality

How has county lines evolved?

The issue of county lines has evolved during the COVID-19 pandemic: with schools closed and people spending more time online, it is thought that gangs have been able to more easily locate vulnerable young people, and gang activity has been fuelled. This, coupled with reduced services, caused concern that more young people were, and still are, in potentially unsafe environments with limited detection and access to support. There is also growing concern that gangs are looking to refine their operating model post-COVID-19, thereby exposing children and young people to new risks.

KCSIE 2020 includes more resources for schools regarding county lines. KCSIE suggests that one key way for schools to identify potential involvement in county lines will be recognising and acting on missing episodes (both from home and school), during which the victim may be involved in exploitation. Schools will therefore need to ensure their policies and procedures for identifying when children are missing are robust and that staff training encompasses the school’s safeguarding response to children who go missing from education. This will also be an important factor in contingency planning for future COVID-19 outbreaks, where remote education has to be implemented at short notice.

It is important that, as with all safeguarding issues, county lines is approached with an ‘it could happen here’ attitude. Any child can be exploited, regardless of their background.

Further information on county lines can be found in our article here.

What is ‘Deets and Squares’?

There is a growing concern that with greater levels of unsupervised time, children are being used as ‘money mules’. The safeguarding concern (known colloquially as ‘deets and squares’, with ‘deets’ referring to bank details and ‘squares’ as a credit / debit card) involves children being asked / pressured to receive money into their account, before passing it on or withdrawing it in cash for someone. Children may receive a small percentage of this money in exchange.

Children can be particular targets as they may not realise the implications of laundering potential proceeds of crime. While parents may be more easily able to spot signs of this abuse than schools (e.g. through bank statements), schools should continue to be alert if a child seems to have unexplained funds or possessions. Financial pressure may be particularly relevant as families face difficulties associated with COVID-19 and children may think such requests are a quick and easy way to make money. Schools may also be able to use ‘deets and squares’ as an example in PSHE regarding peer pressure and associated crimes.

The law and practice referred to in this article or webinar has been paraphrased or summarised. It might not be up-to-date with changes in the law and we do not guarantee the accuracy of any information provided at the time of reading. It should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice in relation to a specific set of circumstances.

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