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FGR Community kick off project to tackle the exploitation of young people

FGR Community and Forest Green Rovers Football Club, with the support of Candriam Kid’s Fund, has this week launched a new programme to improve the safety of young people in the region, who may be at risk of being groomed and recruited to so called County Lines drug networks.

The Trust and Club has teamed up with Resilience UnLimited to raise awareness of the risks facing young people through online and social media campaigns, as well as in local schools and colleges across Gloucestershire.

The Trust and Club will also be training staff and volunteers involved in its extensive Community Programmes to help young people and their parents spot the signs that someone may be at risk and find out how to access support.

The programme is supported by the Trust and Club’s corporate partner, Candriam, who set up a Kids Fund, in 2020 to support many of Rovers youth programmes. The National Centre for Gangs Research, based at the University of West London, will also work alongside Resilience UnLimited on the project.

Gangs and organised crime networks from major cities, primarily seek to recruit and exploit children and vulnerable adults in rural or coastal areas, as part of their drug supply network. The National Crime Agency estimated that in 2019, there were more than 2,200 individual deal lines across the country. It estimates individual line profits in excess of £800,000 per year, with some lines generating several thousand pounds profit from a single daily delivery trip. The Ministry of Justice suggests an annual turnover of £0.5bn in UK County Lines activity.

CEO of Resilience UnLimited, Jonathan Green says:

“Children, as young as primary school age, have been targeted to store and deliver drugs, weapons, and profits from County Lines drug deals, with the promise of a share of those profits. However, the reality is often very different with young people instead often seeing nothing but coercion, intimidation, sexual exploitation and violence”

He adds that:

“We are seeing the impact of County Lines networks in areas not used to these levels of violence and exploitation. It is critical that young people and their parents are made aware of the risks of County Lines so that they can spot the signs and act. We are delighted that Forest Green Rovers are 100% committed to getting ahead of this challenge in Gloucestershire.”

Sarah Urquhart, Head of FGR Community adds:

“We are delighted to be part of the Network of Club’s, Football Trusts and local authorities that are joining forces together to raise awareness of the issue of county lines, gang crime and knife and youth violence. We look forward to working collaboratively with other organisations in Gloucestershire to help educate and reach young people and signpost them to support and guidance. There is a real potential for the project to grow and grow with the support of Resilience UnLimited”

The new programme starts this month and is expected to last as a minimum a year.

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