The safety and wellbeing of the young people using our services is at the heart of everything we do.
To help ensure our hosts have the information and support they need for their role, we provide training and regular Host Forums on relevant topics. This month we arranged a session in Harrogate which focused on drugs awareness and what has become known as County Lines.
“when working with young people, the best approach is one of harm reduction”
Delivered by Cheryl Parker, a Substance Misuse Officer at the Youth Justice Service, the session gave an overview of the types of drugs that young people are most likely to use, along with their effects. Cheryl made it clear that when working with young people, the best approach is one of ‘harm reduction’: giving them the facts so that they can understand the risks associated with different drugs, and can make an informed decision about what and what not to take. Telling them to ‘just say no’ doesn’t work.
The information on County Lines gave an insight into the complexity of the problem and how the drugs operations are constantly changing in order to stay one step ahead of law enforcement agencies. Particularly worrying, given that SASH supports 16-25 year olds, is the fact that the involvement of people as young as 15 and 16 year olds is common. Those targeted are lured with promises of new trainers and earnings of £100 – £500 a day. However, once involved, the reality is that they end up in debt to the gangs and are subjected to violence (and sometimes sexual violence) and threats to ensure that they are too scared to give evidence to the police or to accept help.
Cheryl gave our hosts list of signs to look out that might indicate that a young person had fallen prey to a gang’s tactics. You can download them in a gov.uk poster here.
“if you’re running drugs for a local dealer, you know who you are up against, with this you have no idea.”
Our hosts found the session very helpful. David Thomas from Harrogate said:
“Whilst I knew about such things from the press, I was only really vaguely aware of how it operates. I didn’t know they targeted vulnerable people and not just the young people. Also how sophisticated and subtle it all is, making it sound so innocuous at first to ensnare a person. The targeting of school gates with the promises of big money, phones etc. The other thing that has occurred to me, if you’re running drugs for a local dealer, you know who you are up against, with this you have no idea.”
Helen Birkbeck from Thirsk was equally glad to have attended :”It was very informative, in a sad way; the main thing that struck us was the way the unscrupulous (to put it mildly) dealers get their hooks into vulnerable people and how hard it is for them to extricate themselves. As hosts, we shall try to be more alert to signs of this sort of problem.”
Our thanks to Cheryl for this highly useful session!