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County Lines: Women and Girls

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons on 23rd January 2020.

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Photo of Sarah Jones Sarah Jones Shadow Minister (Housing, Communities and Local Government) (Housing)

What recent assessment she has made of the effect of county lines exploitation on (a) women and (b) girls.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

County lines exploitation has a devasting impact on our communities, and we of course recognise the risks to girls and young women who are exploited by these ruthless gangs—including, often, for sexual exploitation. The National Crime Agency threat assessment published last year sets out the scale of the issue and the level of exploitation faced by women and girls, which is why we are investing £25 million to disrupt county lines gangs and put an end to this exploitation.

Photo of Sarah Jones Sarah Jones Shadow Minister (Housing, Communities and Local Government) (Housing)

We think that at least one in 10 people involved in county lines are girls, and the number is probably a lot higher than that. Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary has just published a report on how the police and the NCA are dealing with county lines, and it has a number of really excellent recommendations, many of them about different agencies working together. One recommendation is that by the end of the year there should be a legal definition of child criminal exploitation, so that everybody understands what it is and what they should do about it. Does the Minister agree and will she be working to that goal?

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

As the chair of the all-party group on knife crime, the hon. Lady will know that the Government are working on a public health approach to tackling serious violence. We are very much looking at the workings of agencies, including the police. The hon. Lady will welcome the fact that the National County Lines Coordination Centre has conducted more than 2,500 arrests and safeguarded more than 3,000 people. Of course, that work continues. One of the many ways in which we support those who are exploited is to fund young people’s advocates in London, Manchester and the west midlands to work directly with gang-affected women and girls, particularly if they have been victims or are at risk of sexual violence.