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What is Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE)?

The UK Government defines Child Criminal Exploitation as: Research into Adverse Childhood Experiences started in the US during the late 90’s. The research found that Adverse Childhood Experiences were associated with poorer mental health, physical health, higher levels of problematic drinking and drug abuse. It is highly likely that children in the care system would have experienced at least one Adverse Childhood Experience.

What is County Lines?

The UK Government defines county lines as: “County lines is a term used to describe gangs and organised criminal networks involved in exporting illegal drugs into one or more importing areas within the UK, using dedicated mobile phone lines or other form of “deal line”. They are likely to exploit children and vulnerable adults to move and store the drugs and money and they will often use coercion, intimidation, violence (including sexual violence) and weapons.”

Which Children are vulnerable to Child Criminal Exploitation?

There is no one indicator that can predict which children will get involved in CCE. From research we know that certain factors make a child more vulnerable to CCE;

  • A lack of a stable home environment, now or in the past, which includes Domestic Abuse, Parental Substance Misuse, mental health or criminality.
  • Gangs are known to target vulnerable children. Therefore, children having experience of neglect, physical and or sexual abuse are more likely to be a target in addition to having their own mental health and social difficulties.
  • Being excluded from mainstream education, in particular attending a Pupil Referral Unit.
  • Both genders are being exploited.
  • Any ethnicity or nationality might be exploited.
  • The average age for children becoming involved in CCE is 15-16 years. However, children under the age of 12 have been exploited.
  • Children who take drugs are more likely to be exploited.

Signs of Child Criminal Exploitation

There is no one sign that indicates a child is being criminally exploited. But from previous cases, there are a range of signs that could indicate CCE;

  • Persistently going missing from school or home
  • Being found out-of-area
  • Unexplained acquisition of money, clothes, or mobile phones
  • Excessive receipt of texts / phone calls and/or
  • Having multiple relationships with controlling / older individuals or groups
  • Leaving home / care without explanation
  • Suspicion of physical assault / unexplained injuries
  • Carrying weapons
  • Significant decline in school results / performance
  • Gang association
  • Isolation from peers or social networks
  • Self-harm or Significant changes in emotional well-being

National Approach

The Home Office produced a guide for professionals around CCE and County Lines.

Greater Manchester Approach

Greater Manchester have an approached to tackle CCE, called Programme Challenger. For more information on Programme Challenger please visit

If you work with children and young people there are some resources you can use within your organisation.




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Tameside Safeguarding Children Partnership
Tameside One, 
Market Place, 

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Tel : 0161 342 4348

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