sad young boy sitting on the floor with text stop bullying written with chalk on chalkboard. social problems of humanity

Help with Bullying

How to Get Help with Bullying

Talk to Someone You Trust:

It’s okay to share your feelings. Talk to a grown-up you trust, like a parent, teacher, or school counselor. They’re there to help.

Know It’s Not Your Fault:

Bullying is never your fault. Remember, you didn’t do anything wrong.

Describe What’s Happening:

Explain what’s going on. Tell them who is involved, where it happens, and what they say or do.

Be Brave and Strong:

It’s important to be brave and stand up for yourself. You can say things like, “Stop!” or “I don’t like that.” If you don’t feel safe, it’s okay to walk away.

Stay with Friends:

Being with friends can help you feel safer and happier. They can support you.

Online Safety:

If the bullying happens online, block or report the person. Don’t share personal info and remember that you can always talk to a grown-up about it.

Keep a Bullying Diary:

Write down what happens, when it happens, and who’s involved. It helps grown-ups understand and help.

Be a Good Friend:

Be kind and make friends with others. Being a good friend is cool, and it can stop bullies

Stay Strong:

You are strong, and you can get through this. Believe in yourself, and know that things will get better.

Love and Support:

Your family loves you, and they’re there to support you. You’re never alone, and they will help you.

Remember, talking to someone you trust is the most important step. You don’t have to face bullying on your own. We care about you, and we want to help.

Unhappy young mother embracing upset little curly daughter with virus mask, sitting on windowsill at home, consoling sad preschool girl. Concept of coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic disease symptoms

Mental Health, challenges in a post covid world

Coping with mental health challenges during and after the COVID-19 pandemic has been a significant concern for young people, including those under the age of 16, in London and around the world. The impact of the pandemic on young people’s mental health can vary widely, but several common themes have emerged:

Social Isolation: Lockdowns and social distancing measures have led to social isolation, which can be particularly challenging for young people. The lack of in-person social interactions with peers and teachers has been a source of stress and loneliness.

Disrupted Education: The closure of schools and the shift to remote learning have disrupted the educational routines of young people. This change can lead to increased stress, anxiety, and feelings of uncertainty about their academic progress.

Family Stress: The pandemic has brought about financial and emotional stress in many households. Young people may be affected by family issues, such as job loss, illness, or strained relationships.

Fear and Uncertainty: The uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, including concerns about personal and family health, can contribute to anxiety and stress in young people.

Digital Overload: Increased screen time due to remote learning, socializing, and entertainment can lead to digital fatigue and potential mental health challenges.

Access to Mental Health Services: Access to mental health services has been disrupted for some young people, leading to difficulties in seeking support.

To address these challenges, various organisation’s, schools, and healthcare providers in London have taken steps to support the mental health of young people:

Schools have been providing mental health and well-being resources, counselling, and support to students. They have also adapted their teaching methods to better address emotional and social needs.

Online Resources: Many organisations and mental health services have offered online resources and virtual counselling to ensure young people can access support from home.

Community Programs: Community organisations and youth centres have developed programs to engage young people and promote social connections.

Parental Support: Encouraging open communication between parents and young people is crucial. Parents can provide a supportive environment for discussing emotions and stressors.

Government Initiatives: The government and local authorities in London have implemented initiatives to support the mental health of young people and their families during and after the pandemic.

It’s essential for parents, teachers, and caregivers to remain vigilant and provide a safe space for young people to express their feelings and seek help when needed. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, it is advisable to reach out to mental health professionals or organisations that can provide the necessary support and resources. Additionally, it’s important to stay informed about the latest local mental health services and resources available in London.

In London, there are various resources available to support young people dealing with mental health challenges. Here are some organisations, helplines, and services that can provide assistance and guidance:

YoungMinds: YoungMinds is a UK-based charity that focuses on improving the mental health and emotional well-being of young people. They offer resources, information, and a helpline for young people and their families. Visit their website at YoungMinds.

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS): CAMHS provides mental health support for children and young people in the UK. They offer assessments, treatments, and therapies. Referrals to CAMHS are typically made through a GP or school.

Kooth: Kooth is an online mental health platform for young people in the UK. It offers free, anonymous counseling and emotional support. You can access Kooth at Kooth.

MIND: offers a range of mental health services, including youth well-being services. They provide support for young people through various programs and resources.

Samaritans: While not specific to young people, Samaritans provides a 24/7 helpline for individuals in distress. You can call them at 116 123 (free from any phone) or visit their website at Samaritans.

Shout: Shout is a crisis text line available 24/7 for people in crisis. While not exclusive to young people, it can be a helpful resource. Text “SHOUT” to 85258 to connect with a trained crisis volunteer.

Off the Record: Off the Record provides mental health support to young people in South London. They offer counseling, workshops, and online resources. Visit their website at Off the Record.

Anna Freud Centre: The Anna Freud Centre offers a wide range of resources and services for children and young people’s mental health. They provide information, training, and support. Visit their website at Anna Freud Centre.

Local NHS Services: Many London boroughs have specific NHS services for child and adolescent mental health. You can inquire about these services through your GP or local healthcare provider

Local Support Services: Depending on the specific area within London, there may be local support services, youth centers, and community organizations that provide mental health support. It’s worth checking with your local council for information on these resources.

It’s important to remember that reaching out for support is a positive step, and there are professionals and organizations in London dedicated to helping young people with their mental health challenges. If you or someone you know is in crisis or requires immediate help, please contact emergency services or go to the nearest hospital.

 

Vaping flavored e-liquid from an electronic cigarette

Vaping, do you know what it is doing?

Vaping, or the use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), has become a growing concern, particularly among young people. The dangers associated with vaping in young people include:

Nicotine Addiction: Many e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is highly addictive. Young people who start vaping may develop a dependence on nicotine, leading to cravings and withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit.

Brain Development: Adolescence is a critical period for brain development, and nicotine exposure during this time can have long-lasting effects on cognitive and emotional functions. It can impair memory, attention, and impulse control.

Respiratory Issues: Vaping can cause lung problems and increase the risk of respiratory illnesses. Cases of severe lung injury related to vaping have been reported, especially in those who use e-cigarettes with illicit or contaminated substances.

Gateway to Smoking: There’s a concern that vaping may serve as a gateway to traditional cigarette smoking. Young people who start with e-cigarettes may be more likely to transition to smoking conventional cigarettes.

Unknown Long-Term Health Effects: E-cigarettes are relatively new, and their long-term health effects are still being studied. There may be risks and consequences associated with vaping that are not yet fully understood.

In the UK, the law and regulations regarding vaping have evolved over the years to address these concerns and ensure the safety of young people. As of my last knowledge update in September 2021, the key laws and regulations related to vaping in the UK were as follows:

Age Restrictions: In the UK, it is illegal to sell e-cigarettes and vaping products to anyone under the age of 18.

Advertising Restrictions: Advertising of e-cigarettes is subject to strict regulations. It should not appeal to young people, and it must not make health claims that are not supported by evidence.

Product Safety: E-cigarette products must meet safety and quality standards. They should not contain harmful substances beyond specified limits.

Tank Size Limits: There are restrictions on the size of e-cigarette tanks to prevent excessive nicotine intake.

Notification to Regulators: Manufacturers and sellers of e-cigarettes must notify regulators about the products they intend to sell.

Packaging and Labeling: Vaping products must be adequately labeled with health warnings, and packaging should be child-resistant.

It’s important to note that regulations may have evolved since my last update in 2021. The UK government and health organizations continue to monitor and assess the impact of vaping and may implement further changes to protect public health, especially among young people. If you want to stay up-to-date with the latest vaping laws and regulations in the UK, it’s advisable to refer to official government sources or consult with relevant health authorities.

A person sitting on a table surrounded by pills. Concept of substance addiction. Generative ai

Do you understand Cannabis

Smoking cannabis, especially at a young age, can pose various risks and dangers to one’s physical and mental health. It’s important to note that the effects and risks of cannabis can vary depending on factors such as the individual’s age, frequency of use, the potency of the cannabis, and their overall health. Here are some potential dangers for young people smoking cannabis:

Impaired cognitive development: The brain continues to develop well into a person’s mid-20s, and cannabis use during this period can negatively impact cognitive functions, such as memory, attention, and learning. This is a particular concern for adolescents and young adults.

Mental health issues: Some individuals, especially those with a predisposition to mental health conditions,

may experience increased risk of anxiety, depression, and even psychotic disorders like schizophrenia with heavy cannabis use, particularly when initiated at a young age.

Dependency and addiction: While cannabis is not as physically addictive as substances like nicotine or opioids, some individuals can become psychologically dependent on it, leading to impaired daily functioning and difficulty quitting.

Academic and occupational problems: Regular cannabis use can result in poor school or work performance, decreased motivation, and difficulties in meeting responsibilities.

Risky behaviours: Cannabis can impair judgment and coordination, increasing the likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors, such as driving under the influence, unprotected sex, or other unsafe activities.

Lung problems: Smoking cannabis, like smoking tobacco, can have adverse effects on lung health. Inhaling the smoke can lead to chronic bronchitis and lung infections.

Decreased educational and career opportunities: Some employers and educational institutions have strict drug policies, and a positive drug test for cannabis could result in missed opportunities.

Legal consequences: In many places, cannabis is still illegal for recreational use, and young people may face legal consequences if caught using or possessing it.

Reduced life satisfaction: Excessive cannabis use can lead to social isolation, lower quality of life, and a decreased sense of well-being.

Risk of exposure to contaminants: In regions where cannabis is not regulated or from unverified sources, there may be risks associated with consuming contaminated or adulterated products.

Tolerance and escalating use: Over time, individuals may develop a tolerance to the effects of cannabis, which can lead to using higher doses, making it more challenging to control usage.

It’s important for young people to be aware of these potential dangers and make informed decisions regarding cannabis use. If a young person is struggling with cannabis use or experiencing negative consequences, it’s essential to seek help from a healthcare professional or counselor who can provide guidance and support. Additionally, education and open communication between parents, caregivers, and young people are crucial for addressing these risks and promoting responsible decision-making.

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Drug addiction: getting help

If you need treatment for drug addiction, you’re entitled to NHS care in the same way as anyone else who has a health problem.

With the right help and support, it’s possible for you to get drug free and stay that way.

Where to get help for drugs

A GP is a good place to start. They can discuss your problems with you and get you into treatment.

They may offer you treatment at the practice or refer you to your local drug service.

If you’re not comfortable talking to a GP, you can approach your local drug treatment service yourself.

Visit the Frank website to find support near you.

If you’re having trouble finding the right sort of help, call the Frank drugs helpline on 0300 123 6600. They can talk you through all your options.

Charity and private drugs treatment

As well as the NHS, there are charities and private drug and alcohol treatment organisations that can help you.

Visit the Adfam website page, Finding Support, to see a list of useful organisations.

Private drug treatment can be very expensive, but sometimes people get referrals through their local NHS.

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countylines

How easy is it to be GROOMED

Unfortunately, it can be relatively easy for individuals to be groomed in criminal exploitation, especially if they are vulnerable or have a difficult home life. Criminal exploitation involves the manipulation and control of vulnerable individuals for the purpose of committing crimes, such as drug trafficking, theft, or prostitution.

Grooming is a process that involves building trust and emotional connections with the victim in order to gain control over them. The grooming process often starts with the perpetrator identifying a vulnerable individual, such as a child or someone with a history of abuse or neglect. The perpetrator then seeks to establish a relationship with the individual, often by providing them with gifts, attention, or a sense of belonging.

Over time, the perpetrator may use their influence and control to manipulate the victim into participating in criminal activities. This can involve coercion, threats, or even physical violence.

It’s important to note that anyone can be targeted for grooming, regardless of age, gender, or background. However, there are certain factors that can make individuals more vulnerable to grooming, such as a lack of social support, low self-esteem, or a history of trauma.

If you or someone you know is being groomed for criminal exploitation, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. Please check the bottom our page for resources to seek help!

Video: Paul McKenzie

The face of vaping young man on black studio background

Is Vaping safe?

Vaping has gotten much more popular among teenagers in the past few years. Now, many more teenagers use e-cigarettes, like the brand JUUL, than traditional cigarettes. There are restrictions on the sale and advertising of e-cigarettes to young people, but many teenagers still use them.

When teens vape, what they’re doing is inhaling steam that comes from hot nicotine liquid. E-cigarettes, vape pens and JUULs are all different devices for heating the liquid. Research shows that vaping has many medical risks.

E-cigarettes contain a lot of nicotine, which is very addictive. Getting addicted to nicotine can make it harder for teenagers to focus and concentrate. E-cigarettes also contain chemicals that could cause cancer, and there are many reports of serious lung problems connected to vaping. Additionally, vaping can make teenagers more likely to start smoking regular cigarettes.

Unlike regular cigarettes, e-cigarettes don’t have a strong smell, so it’s much easier for kids to use them in secret. The kid-friendly packaging and flavors of JUUL and other popular vape brands make vaping look fun, so even kids who wouldn’t try cigarettes may be tempted. Teens often think that vaping isn’t dangerous, and it’s easy for underage kids to buy vaping devices online.

If you’re worried your child might be vaping, start with a general conversation. Try asking if other kids at their school vape, and what they think about it. By finding out what they already know, you can start helping them understand the risks. This usually works better than just telling them that vaping is wrong. If your child is addicted to vaping, make sure to get care from an addiction specialist. Addiction to nicotine from vaping can be even more serious than addiction to regular cigarettes.More

BeyondWords

Although e-cigarettes have been around for more than a decade, vaping rates have skyrocketed in recent years, especially among teens. E-cigarettes are now the most frequently used tobacco product among adolescents — some 2.1 million middle and high school students were e-cigarette users in 2017 — far surpassing traditional combustible cigarettes.

JUUL, a popular vape device that comes in fun flavors, looks like a flash drive and can be charged in a USB port, is especially concerning. JUUL delivers high levels of nicotine, making the product extremely addictive. The company that makes and markets JUUL recently exceeded a $10 billion valuation faster than any company, including Facebook. JUUL sales now make up more than half of the e-cigarette market.

The FDA announced that it will be cracking down not only on illegal sales of e-cigarettes to minors, but also the “kid-friendly marketing and appeal of these products” because “we see clear signs that youth use of electronic cigarettes has reached an epidemic proportion.” And after recent unexplained illnesses and deaths that have been attributed to vaping, the CDC and the American Medical Association are expressing serious concern, recommending that people should avoid vaping entirely.

Teachers, health professionals and parents are alarmed by the growing popularity of vaping among young people and trying to educate not only teens but also themselves, as it’s all still so new.

What is vaping?

Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the vapor produced by the heated nicotine liquid (often called “juice”) of an electronic cigarette (e-cigarette or e-cig), vape pen, or personal vaporizer. It’s also commonly called JUULing (pronounced jewel-ing).

What originated as a smoking cessation aid has quickly became a popular — and addictive — product in its own right. Sarper Taskiran, MD, a child and adolescentpsychiatrist at the Child Mind Institute, attributes the recent rise in popularity to packaging and advertising. “The teens are after innovation and they’re attracted by sleek design and ease of use,” he says. “They look like an Apple product.”

Although vaping companies emphatically deny that they are marketing to young people, critics note such features in their advertising as youthful images and colors, animation, actors who appear to be under 21, and suggestions that vaping makes you happier and improves your social status.

Although some of the health risks associated with vaping appear to be less severe than traditional combustible cigarettes (there’s no tar, for example), there are still risks.

Some known risks of vaping are:

  • E-cigarettes contain high levels of nicotine. According to the company’s website, the nicotine content of one JUULpod is equivalent to one pack of cigarettes.
  • Because of these high nicotine levels, vaping is extremely addictive — and teens are already more susceptible to addiction than adults because their brains are still developing, which makes them more likely to habituate to using drugs and alcohol.
  • Addiction can impact the ability to focus. Dr. Taskiran has observed this with the adolescents he works with, who report that vaping initially increases their alertness and attention, but then experience a decrease in attention span. One student, for example, was able to sit through practice ACT exams but after JUULing for six months “can’t sit still because she starts craving, can’t think of questions, and just starts fidgeting.”
  • E-cigarettes and similar devices contain carcinogenic compounds, and a recent study found significantly increased levels of carcinogens in the urine of teens who vape.
  • One study found that vaping does, in fact, cause lung irritation akin to that seen in smokers and people with lung disease and causes damage to vital immune system cells.
  • There have been several deaths and hundreds of cases of lung illness attributed to vaping. Right now it is unclear if the cause is bootleg cartridges containing THC or CBD oil or legal nicotine cartridges. The CDC and the American Medical Association are recommending that people avoid vaping entirely while this is being investigated.
  • Taskiran notes that vaping increases heart rate and blood pressure, so can increase circulatory problems. One teen he works with started vaping and found that his swim times dropped because he can no longer sustain the heart rate required for swimming.

Since they leave little odor,  e-cigarettes are particularly easy to hide and even use discreetly in public places, including school. Kids are also vaping marijuana at increasing rates, which brings its own health risks.

Why parents should be concerned

One problem with vaping is that teens hear that it’s not as bad for your health as smoking cigarettes and many think there is no harm.  “They really think that they are mostly flavors and that they are inhaling a pleasant gas,” says Dr. Taskiran.

One study of 12th graders found that kids who vaped (but were not previously smokers) were more than four times as likely to “move away from the perception of cigarettes as posing a great risk of harm.” The study and others like it have showed that teens who vape are much more likely to start smoking cigarettes.

The packaging does little to convey the risks. “They are very enticing the way they look. It’s not transparent at all. It says 5% nicotine, which sounds like nothing, so teens think 95% is water weight or vapor,” laments Dr. Taskiran.

Plus, he points out, smoking never stopped being cool. It’s still positively portrayed in movies, and JUUL in particular has re-branded it to make vaping an even cooler alternative. But vaping isn’t only for the cool kids — many teens are curious (with flavors like mango, cucumber and crème, who wouldn’t be?) and presented with the opportunity will give it a try.

Sarah, a mom of two in Ann Arbor, MI, was shocked to get a phone call the other day from her son’s middle school principal, requiring her to come get him immediately for “emergency removal and suspension.” He and two friends had been caught vaping on school grounds after school, and a passing parent took photos and sent them to the administration.

Though they didn’t find any devices on her son — a straight A student with no prior offenses — the school, like many others, is taking a hard stance. “The principal knows that vaping is common and shared that the businesses in downtown Ann Arbor are selling to teens without asking for IDs,” relayed Sarah. “However, she feels the need to let my son and his friends know that it’s a really, really big deal.”

At this school, students caught vaping have to sign behavior contracts, must attend a Teens Using Drugs Class, and cannot participate in any sports, clubs or special events for the rest of the year. If the kids had been across the street, not on school grounds, it would have been a different scenario. But the principal said that had they been in high school rather than middle school, she would have called the police.

Sarah remembers what it was like to be a teenager so doesn’t think trying it is that big of a deal, but is concerned about addiction. “Addiction runs in my family and I worry about my son. Of course, I worry about the damage that the chemicals can do to his lungs and body as well,” she says.

Although some places are tightening restrictions locally, kids can still go to a website, click a button that says they are at least 21 years old, and purchase online. “The majority of adolescents I see are purchasing JUUL from the Internet,” says Dr. Taskiran.

How to talk to kids about vaping

Dr. Taskiran advises parents to start by educating themselves, so they know what they’re talking about going in, and to take an inquisitive and curious approach to what their teen’s experience is. “The most important thing is keeping it as a dialogue,” he says. “Declarative statements like ‘It’s bad for you’ just end the conversation.”

Dr. Taskiran recommends starting the conversation more generally by asking if a lot of kids at school vape. Once the conversation is initiated, you can slowly work up to asking things like, “What is your experience with that? What are the flavors like?” He also suggests getting a sense of what they know (or think they know) about the product, which gives you an opening to start educating them.

The silver lining of Sarah’s experience with her son is that he actually told his dad about the experience even before he knew he’d been caught. “They had a full one hour conversation about it after I was already asleep. He told my husband that he tried it for the first time and that it burned his throat and he didn’t like it.” She got the call from the principal the next morning before her son had a chance to tell her himself. “He’s a great kid and doesn’t really get in trouble except for talking in class because he’s bored. My goal has always been open communication and to keep him talking to us. He did!”

Of course, while parents need to educate themselves, the onus isn’t entirely on them. “Schools need to own this as well and provide educational strategies for both teachers and students,” says Dr. Taskiran. Prevention is a lot easier than treatment later on, he says, and notes that peer education can play a particularly important role.

If you are concerned that your child has become addicted there are plenty of treatment options. Dr. Taskiran recommends consulting with a clinician who is well-versed in addiction treatments. “This is a true nicotine addiction,” he says. “People usually think this is different from cigarette use — but it can be more severe than cigarette use.”

For tips on how to talk to teenagers about vaping, check out this guide from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.

This article was taken from https://childmind.org/article/teen-vaping-what-you-need-to-know/

Discarded Nitrous Oxide canisters and grey balloon

Nitrous oxide

Nitrous oxide

NOS is a colourless gas sold in canisters, usually inhaled using a balloon.


Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas or “NOS,” is a colorless and odorless gas that has been used for various purposes for over a century. It is commonly used as an anesthetic and analgesic in medical and dental procedures, as well as a propellant in whipped cream dispensers and fuel for race cars. However, despite its widespread use, nitrous oxide can be dangerous when used improperly or abused. Here are some of the dangers associated with nitrous oxide:

  1. Oxygen deprivation: Nitrous oxide can cause oxygen deprivation, which can lead to loss of consciousness, brain damage, and even death. This is because nitrous oxide can displace oxygen in the lungs and prevent oxygen from reaching the brain and other vital organs.
  2. Addiction: Nitrous oxide can be addictive, and prolonged use can lead to physical and psychological dependence. This can result in a range of negative consequences, including impaired judgment, memory loss, and even mental illness.
  3. Hypoxia: Nitrous oxide can also cause hypoxia, a condition in which the body does not receive enough oxygen. This can cause symptoms such as dizziness, lightheadedness, and shortness of breath, and can be especially dangerous for people with underlying medical conditions.
  4. Accidents: Nitrous oxide can impair judgment and coordination, which can increase the risk of accidents and injuries. This is particularly true when it is used while driving or operating heavy machinery.
  5. Reproductive health: Nitrous oxide has been shown to have negative effects on reproductive health, particularly in women. Prolonged exposure to nitrous oxide can interfere with ovulation, cause menstrual irregularities, and increase the risk of miscarriage.

Nitrous oxide can be addictive, and prolonged use can lead to physical and psychological dependence. Addiction to nitrous oxide can result in negative consequences such as impaired judgment, memory loss, and mental illness. Addiction can also lead to an increased risk of accidents and injuries, as well as financial problems and strained relationships. People who are addicted to nitrous oxide may experience withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, agitation, and insomnia when they try to stop using the gas. Therefore, it is important to seek professional help if you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to nitrous oxide.

For help with addiction go to FRANK
PARENT

Is my child in a gang?

Is my child in a gang?

If you are reading this now, you could already be worried that your child or someone you know is being groomed or involved in criminal activities.

With the increase in the movement of drugs and the money to be made instantly, more and more young people are being drawn into the lure of making vast amounts of money.

Communication around this increasing trend is becoming more and more complicated leaving many parents confused at spotting the signs early.

Once a young person has been recruited into the process, it can be a very challenging time. There are many signs of grooming that often go unseen and this is where the real work begins.

Organised circles of drug dealers do not care about the outcomes for your child! they are simply used to fill the rising demand for drugs and weapons. Once they are used they are often discarded and left to deal with the consequences alone.

There are countless cases of young people ending up in debt because of their involvement with these groups. The prisons are filling up with young people that believed that they were part of a friendship or even an intimate relationship.

Parents are also being drawn into the cycle as the impact of debt becomes apparent to them. There is little more than advice that the police can offer you in regards to dealing with these situations, however they can be a listening ear and will often have information about the groomer or dealer etc. There is no easy remedy, it will be hard work getting them out. It will also have an impact on the wider family, as groomers are often looked at as people that offer trust and a listening ear. They are also good at alienating the intended from all support systems. Initially being the parents or carers.

But have faith! with the right mentoring and coaching, many young people and parents find a way out!

What is a gang?

The word ‘gang’ means different things in different contexts, the government in their paper ‘Safeguarding children and young people who may be affected by gang activity’ distinguishes between peer groups, street gangs and organised criminal gangs.1

  • Peer group
    A relatively small and transient social grouping which may or may not describe themselves as a gang depending on the context.
  • Street gang
    “Groups of young people who see themselves (and are seen by others) as a discernible group for whom crime and violence is integral to the group’s identity.”
  • Organised criminal gangs
    “A group of individuals for whom involvement in crime is for personal gain (financial or otherwise). For most crime is their ‘occupation.”

It’s not illegal for a young person to be in a gang – there are different types of ‘gang’ and not every ‘gang’ is criminal or dangerous. However, gang membership can be linked to illegal activity, particularly organised criminal gangs involved in trafficking, drug dealing and violent crime.

 

Key things to look out for ...

Being aware is the most powerful weapon you can have!

Awareness is the key to breaking the cycle or pattern of grooming. Learning to spot the signs early can save you a lot of heart ache and pain. Much of the grooming process happens because there is a lack of communication and sensory acuity. We must notice the changes and act on them without wasting any time. Below is some tips on what you should be looking out for.

Changes in routines

Look out for significant changes in routine, this can be the time it takes to arrive home from school or the frequency of leaving and returning home for short periods of time. This often spells out that there is something happening in the background. Often young people will develop a pattern of staying out for many hours without an excuse or evidence of where they have been, they will often lie when challenged about their activities outside of the home. If your child is being used during the day when they are normally at school, provision or college, there will be a lot of evidence of this. Many young people are targeted here and find it difficult to avoid seeing a potential groomer. Children that are targeted and groomed in these situations are often referred to as new skins, as they are fresh and will have little knowledge of the intent. They will most certainly not of had any complications with the police before.

Friends and associates

Always have an interest in your child’s friends or associates, this is a powerful way of understanding the dynamics of the relationship. Many parents pay little attention and will often just assume that they are a natural group of friends that attend the same school, provision or college. This can be so far from the truth, as young people that are in the grooming process are introduced to new people frequently. The aim here is to keep the young person away from advice or rapport. Young people that are initiated into county lines or the child sex trade are put to work with people they don’t even know!

In grooming gangs, it is not uncommon for a young person to be put in charge of finding others. Gangs will often recruit specific members that are in schools or colleges to befriend individuals for the groomers. they will establish rapport with them and encourage them to join their gangs or meet with groomers direct. In fact there is an increasing demand for schools and colleges to educate young people about the dangers of such friendships. Pupil referral units are also being targeted by gang members and groomers. They will specifically target young people that are in these provisions as they are already known for challenging behaviour or special needs. Groomers are also good at obtaining private details or possessions such house keys, mobile phones or Oyster cards that can be used to form threats and control over an individual. Parents and staff should work together to try and identify the early signs of grooming within these organisations.

Phones and other means of communication 

None of the grooming process works without communication. Communication is the key driving force behinds this type of manipulation and should never be ignored. The excessive use of mobile devices to drive the increase in grooming has be one of the key factors in the simplicity in grooming. be aware of your child’s phone activities. Be particularly aware of the second line, or the road phone, which will often be a cheap handset that could easily be disguised as a spare phone. You may often be told that it was found or that a friend upgraded and gave it to them for free. These second phones or ‘Burners’ are the crucial link to the cycle. Without this method of communication, there is little contact and certainly no way in. 

There are a lot of parents and carers that allow unlimited usage of mobile phones and will often give their children unlimited data packages etc.

Social media and its many wonders has fuelled the communication process, with many young people being targeted online

Money and material items

The easiest way to know if your child or young person is buying or receiving items is to do random searches! It blows me away the amount of parents that have no knowledge of what they have in their own houses. Some parents only become aware when there is an arrest or search carried out. Money also plays in major part in understanding where your child is at. It’s simple, if you didn’t give them that money, then who the hell did! QUICK MATHS!!!!

Don’t walk around with your head in the sand wondering where the excess money is coming from, Act on it and ask the question, sooner than later.  If you’re child comes home and has a new item of clothing or money, challenge them and get an answer fast! Do not be afraid to confront this and most certainly do not accept any contribution of gift that can be part of an illegal a

sad woman sitting alone in a empty room

County Lines And Criminal Exploitation

County Lines And Criminal Exploitation

County lines is a term used to describe a type of criminal activity where drug dealers from urban areas exploit vulnerable people, including children and young people, to sell drugs in smaller towns and rural areas. The term “county lines” refers to the phone lines that the dealers use to communicate with their customers.

Criminal exploitation, also known as child criminal exploitation or CCE, is a form of child abuse where children and young people are exploited by criminals to commit crimes. This can include drug dealing, theft, or other types of criminal activity.

The exploitation often involves grooming, intimidation, and coercion. Children and young people who are at risk of being exploited may have a range of vulnerabilities, such as being in care, having mental health issues, or being homeless.

The exploitation of children and young people for criminal purposes is a serious problem, and it is important for communities, law enforcement agencies, and social services to work together to protect vulnerable individuals and prevent these types of crimes from taking place.

County Lines is where illegal drugs are transported from one area to another, often across police and local authority boundaries (although not exclusively), usually by children or vulnerable people who are coerced into it by gangs.

The ‘County Line’ is the mobile phone line used to take the orders of drugs. Importing areas (areas where the drugs are taken to) are reporting increased levels of violence and weapons related crimes as a result of this trend.

Children as young as 12 years old have been exploited into carrying drugs for gangs. This can involve children being trafficked away from their home area, staying in accommodation and selling and manufacturing drugs.

The Meaning Of the word Cuckooing

Criminal gangs are targeting the homes of vulnerable people to be used for drug dealing – a process known as “cuckooing” (after the bird that invades other bird’s nests) and victims are often left with little choice but to cooperate. Dealers often approach the vulnerable person offering free drugs to use their home for dealing or in some instances after providing ‘free’ drugs, will then force the person to deal for them in order to ‘re-pay’ their drug debts. These criminals are selective about who they target, a lot of the time victims are lonely, isolated, frequently drug users themselves and are already known to the police. “Cuckooing” means the criminals can operate from a property rather than the street, which is out of sight from the police making it an attractive option. They can then use the premises to deal drugs from, which is difficult for the police to monitor and they often will only stay for a short period of time. What to do if you suspect a property is being ‘cuckooed’?  Call Police on 101 or 999 in an emergency to report drug-related information.

How do you know if County Lines drug dealing is happening in your area?

An increase in visitors and cars to a house or flat New faces appearing at the house or flat New and regularly changing residents (e.g different accents compared to local accent) Change in resident's mood and/or demeanour (e.g. secretive/ withdrawn/ aggressive/ emotional) Substance misuse and/or drug paraphernalia Changes in the way young people you might know dress Unexplained, sometimes unaffordable new things (e.g clothes, jewellery, cars etc) Residents or young people you know going missing, maybe for long periods of time Young people seen in different cars/taxis driven by unknown adults Young people seeming unfamiliar with your community or where they are Truancy, exclusion, disengagement from school An increase in anti-social behaviour in the community Unexplained injuries

Exploitation of young and vulnerable people

A common feature in county lines drug supply is the exploitation of young and vulnerable people. The dealers will frequently target children and adults - often with mental health or addiction problems - to act as drug runners or move cash so they can stay under the radar of law enforcement.In some cases the dealers will take over a local property, normally belonging to a vulnerable person, and use it to operate their criminal activity from. This is known as cuckooing.People exploited in this way will quite often be exposed to physical, mental and sexual abuse, and in some instances will be trafficked to areas a long way from home as part of the network's drug dealing business. As we have seen in child sexual exploitation, children often don't see themselves as victims or realise they have been groomed to get involved in criminality. So it's important that we all play our part to understand county lines and speak out if we have concerns. 

Blue light flasher atop of a police car. City lights on the background.

Police powers to stop and search: YOUR RIGHTS

Police powers to stop and search:

The police can stop and question you at any time – they can search you depending on the situation.

A police community support officer (PCSO) must be in uniform when they stop and question you. A police officer doesn’t always have to be in uniform but if they’re not wearing uniform they must show you their warrant card.

Stop and search powers help the police to tackle crime. It’s targeted and intelligence-led and practised on people who are suspected of being involved in crime. Find out how it helps to keep our streets safe and what to expect if you are stopped.

Stop and question: police powers

A police officer might stop you and ask:what your name is what you’re doing in the area where you’re going You don’t have to stop or answer any questions. If you don’t and there’s no other reason to suspect you, then this alone can’t be used as a reason to search or arrest you.

Stop and search: police powers

If you get caught up in knife crime, you're not just going to get a slap on the wrists. It doesn't matter if it's for your own protection or if you are carrying a knife for someone else. Just carrying a knife can get you sent to prison for up to four years, even if you don't use it.

Your rights when being questioned

The police may question you about the crime you’re suspected of - this will be recorded. You don’t have to answer the questions but there could be consequences if you don’t. The police must explain this to you by reading you the police caution:“You do not have to say anything. But, it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”

Beforeyour searched

Before you’re searched the police officer must tell you:their name and police station what they expect to find, for example drugs the reason they want to search you, for example if it looks like you’re hiding something why they are legally allowed to search you that you can have a record of the search and if this isn’t possible at the time, how you can get a copy

Removing clothing: police powers

A police officer can ask you to take off your coat, jacket or gloves.The police might ask you to take off other clothes and anything you’re wearing for religious reasons - for example a veil or turban. If they do, they must take you somewhere out of public view.If the officer wants to remove more than a jacket and gloves they must be the same sex as you.

Your rights in custody

The custody officer at the police station must explain your rights. You have the right to:get free legal advice tell someone where you are have medical help if you’re feeling ill see the rules the police must follow (‘Codes of Practice’) see a written notice telling you about your rights, eg regular breaks for food and to use the toilet (you can ask for a notice in your language) or an interpreter to explain the notice You’ll be searched and your possessions will be kept by the police custody officer while you’re in the cell.

Young people under 18 and vulnerable adults

The police must try to contact your parent, guardian or carer if you’re under 18 or a vulnerable adult.They must also find an ‘appropriate adult’ to come to the station to help you and be present during questioning and searching. An appropriate adult can be:your parent, guardian or carer a social worker another family member or friend aged 18 or over a volunteer aged 18 or over The National Appropriate Adult Network provides appropriate adult services in England and Wales.