Last night at the Swindon Full Council meeting, Cllr Barbara Parry successfully gained unanimous support on her County Lines Motion to enable Swindon Borough Council and partners to increase and further improve the work to tackle criminal exploitation.
Cllr Barbara Parry, “I am absolutely delighted with the level of support received and the shared passion to protect children, young people and vulnerable adults in this Borough and also nationally. I would like to thank my fellow Councillors for supporting this Motion and I would also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in the Child Exploitation Partnership for all their support and positive contribution.”
Please see below for the speech Cllr Barbara Parry made in Full Council last night, followed by the County Lines Motion.
Thank you Mr Mayor, I move the Motion, accepting the minor amendments from Cllr Watts and Cllr Courtliff.
I hope that there is now no one in this Chamber saying, “What is County Lines?”
Cllr Kevin Parry and I have been working on County Lines since Spring/Summer last year in collaboration with the Police and Children’s Services Officers, when we noticed a sharp rise in activity locally.
We invited the Chief Constable to run a County Lines awareness session, to give Councillors a better understanding of County Lines, with a view to broadening the responsibility to Safeguard children, young people and vulnerable adults. As you know, this took place early December 2018, led by the Chief Constable and his dedicated crime team.
In terms of bringing people together, I have adopted the same method as I used ten years ago to create a network of multi-agency professionals, when I carried out an Anti-Bullying review as a then Parent Governor Co-opted Member of the CYP O&S Committee. This had a very positive outcome with the first SBC Anti-Bullying vision being produced when prior to this there was no Anti-Bullying policy in existence (except for a small number of schools with their own individual ones). This also led to many more schools signing up to the Healthy Schools Award for which they needed to have an Anti-Bullying policy. Councillors can put party politics to one side for the greater good of the town as they did back then and also when my Husband and Cllr Bob Wright worked together on Domestic Violence as members of the Safer & Stronger O&S Committee.
I know from that piece of work, for which I carried out extensive research, that by bringing people together and everyone within that network taking ownership and contributing, positive outcomes can be achieved.
The reality with County Lines and Child Exploitation as a whole, is that it is such a huge problem and in fact Swindon has the biggest problem with County Lines, in the whole of Wiltshire. We cannot simply push this issue in the direction of the Police and expect them to be able to wave a magic wand. With 46,000 children involved nationally, it requires a broad range of multi-agency professionals and relevant organisations to come together, take ownership, work together to develop additional strategies that will help and support those who are being exploited but also that will prevent others who are at risk from being exploited.
There is already lots of excellent multi-agency work taking place across the Borough but I know that together with additional partners, we can do so much more. I have therefore encouraged additional people who I have recently reached out to and brought on board, to attend the Multi-Agency County Lines and Modern Slavery Conference at Lydiard in April. It has been so heart-warming to receive the level of support I have from these partners; wheels are already massively in motion within The White Horse Federation, as part of my role at The Ridgeway School, I am working on a large-scale Multi-Agency project for Child Exploitation. More information on this will follow in due course.
Our MP for South Swindon has been very supportive and has obtained the support of the Home Office to help to tackle this at a national level. The Home Secretary paid a personal visit almost two weeks ago to Gablecross to learn more about the issue himself. Robert Buckland QC MP is also speaking with the Metropolitan Police in London.
How many people are aware that it is not only children from disadvantaged backgrounds who are exploited, it is not only teenagers of a certain age? That there are, as we speak, children from middle class families AND disadvantaged backgrounds, there are not only teens, nor secondary school aged children but also primary school aged children; there are vulnerable adults, who are all being groomed and exploited and put in serious danger by these organised crime groups. We have children in Swindon, travelling around with kitchen/Rambo/craft knives, pen knives and other knives, some striving to carry a larger knife than others because they are so afraid for their own safety. This is not acceptable. There are often daily reports of stabbings in London, we have to protect our children. We absolutely MUST all take ownership to discourage gang culture and to prevent knife crime, County Lines and any type of child exploitation.
I urge you all to support this Motion so that together, we can do so much more to protect children, young people and vulnerable adults in Swindon and beyond. Safeguarding after all, is EVERYONE’s responsibility. We owe it to the children to improve their lives now, their futures and their children’s futures.
County Lines Motion (minor amendments shown in italics)
Councillor Barbara Parry will move
Councillor Teresa Page will second
That this Council:
- That County lines drug dealing is one of greatest threats of our time
- The Children’s Commissioner estimates that there are at least 46,000 children in England who are (involved in – change to:) victims of this type of gang activity.
- That this Council Is committed to building on the multi-agency relationships and increasing the partnership working that is so vital to not only the protection of but literally also the survival of some of the most vulnerable people in our Borough.
- The excellent work that is already taking place by an extremely dedicated multi-agency team around the signs of criminal exploitation and County Lines
- The Cabinet Member for Housing and Public Safety writes to the Home Secretary, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Secretary of State for Education, requesting that the government develops a national strategy to address the issue of County Lines, which would:
- Provide clear and effective national support for work being put together at a local level
- Facilitate working across local authority boundaries, for example the need to track perpetrators and children across boundaries,
- Address the need for ongoing support for young people and families that are affected
- Provide guidance on timeliness of interviewing young people who have been found after having been notified as missing
- Identify appropriate skills and resources for local authorities and local police forces and other relevant agencies to support a national strategy and deal with the impact of County Lines.
- The Cabinet Member for Children and School Attainment, writes to EVERY school in Swindon encouraging them to:
- a) Increase the work they are doing to raise awareness of County Lines and the wider criminal activity related to it
- b) Include County Lines training for ALL staff as part of the compulsory annual Safeguarding training. This would not only raise awareness but would provide all staff with the tools to identify children and young people who are either already victims of or who are at risk of exploitation
- c) Provide County Lines education to ALL students (adapted to suit both Primary and Secondary), via PSHE to raise awareness amongst children and help them to identify risk factors themselves
- d) Provide appropriate support to give our children the confidence to ask for help and/or to report any suspicious activity
- ALL Members make a firm commitment, via this motion, to raise awareness within individual Wards, working with the Police, local schools and community groups
The Leader of the Council write to the Home Secretary requesting that the Government increase Police funding by sufficient levels as to allow Police authorities to have the appropriate resources to tackle County Lines Drug Dealing.