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Rise of county lines drug gangs sees number of teenagers in care homes soar by 20 PER CENT
- Children aged over 13 living in care rose by more than a fifth in five years
- Disruption brought by growth of county lines drug gang among key reasons
- Biggest increase was among teenagers over 16, rising by 25 per cent between 2014 and 2018
The number of teenagers under state care has shot up due to the rise of criminal gangs and drugs, it was revealed yesterday.
The count of children aged over 13 living in homes or with foster parents rose more than a fifth in five years, the Children’s Commissioner said.
Among key reasons for the surge was the disruption brought by the growth of gang culture such as the county lines drug dealing trade.
The report by the commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, found the number of children over 13 in the state care system went up by 21 per cent between 2013 and 2018. Meanwhile the number of young children aged five and under fell by 15 per cent. The biggest increase was among teenagers over 16, rising by 25 per cent between 2014 and 2018.
County lines cases are a growing issue, with city gangs expanding their operations into towns and often using vulnerable young people to move and sell narcotics
Older children in care included asylum seekers under 18 as well as those affected by family and gang pressures.
County lines cases are a growing issue, with city gangs expanding their operations into towns and often using vulnerable young people to move and sell narcotics.
Social workers are dealing ‘with growth of teenagers being taken into care because they are experiencing issues such as criminal or sexual exploitation, going missing from home, and parents being unable to protect them’, the report said.
Ringleader’s Rolexes to be auctioned
Flashy watches worth £27,000 and a collection of designer trainers costing nearly £13,000 are just some of the goods seized from a prolific county lines drug dealer.
Stefan Miller, 30, lived in Wandsworth, London, but was the ringleader of an operation using boys aged 14 to 16 as ‘drug runners’ around Gloucestershire. He made £175,000 from dealing and spent his money on items including Rolexes and 44 pairs of shoes by designers including Dolce & Gabanna and Gucci. One of the watches, an 18 carat Rose Gold Daytona, was worth £27,450.
Miller, who was jailed for 11 years in March, was found to possess more than £100,000 worth of heroin and crack cocaine. He appeared before Gloucester Crown Court, where he admitted conspiracy to supply the drugs. He was also convicted of possession of class A drugs with intent to supply.
His total realisable assets, worth £63,594.80, have now been confiscated by police and the items will be sold at auction on August 14.
It added that the greater needs and vulnerability of older teenagers – including those committed to the care system after sentencing by criminal courts – meant they are much more likely to be living in institutional homes rather than with foster parents.
The document said: ‘Changes over the last five years have transformed the children’s care model from one based on very young children living in foster homes to one where more and more older children are entering care and needing more specialist homes.’
There were 21,430 children aged 12 to 15 among the 75,420 in the English care system at the end of March 2018, Whitehall figures show. A further 17,410 were aged 16 to 18 and there were just over 14,000 children under the age of five.
The report found that older teenagers in care are five times more likely than children under 13 in the care system to have been identified by social workers as gang members and four times more likely to have been involved with drug abuse.
They are also 12 times more likely to have been involved in criminal trafficking; seven times more likely to have gone missing from their homes and six times more likely to have been caught up in child sexual exploitation. Miss Longfield said: ‘It is clear that we have a care system which is playing catch up.’
She added that teenagers often have ‘the most complex and expensive needs’, and that in one local authority ‘20 per cent of the entire children’s services budget is being spent on just ten children’.
The report also said teenagers are particularly exposed to the enduring failures of the care system which lead to them repeatedly relocating. Over three years, it said, just over half of children in care moved home at least once, and one in ten moved more than four times.
Miss Longfield said: ‘These children are being denied the chance to put down roots, to feel part of a family and to settle at school. It is not surprising that they are often the ones most at risk of exploitation.’
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