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Catch22 to deliver rescue and support service for county lines

The not-for-profit organisation will be working closely with custody sergeants around those under 25 who come into stations and show signs of being exploited.

Catch22 has recently been given £5m Home Office funding to support young people affected by county lines activity. The funding covers the project for the next three years.

It centres around two strands of work; a one-to-one specialist support service and a ‘rescue service’, and it will operate across the four areas that already receive specific county lines support; London, Merseyside, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands.

Police Oracle spoke with Service Support Manager Johnny Bolderson on how the programme will operate.

“The referrals we’ve had so far have come from custody sergeants,” he explained.

“We’ve got posters up in police stations and also cards with QR codes that can take you straight to the referral. They then answer three questions about the case and someone from Catch22 will come back within an hour.

“Say for example a 14 year old has been arrested for robbery and is being held in custody and the sergeant has a feeling they might be being exploited. They fill out the three questions and then someone from Catch22 will call them back up and Catch22 can fill out the referral on the phone – it’s not another job for them.

“Sometimes we will have to explore the offence a little – the purpose of our service is as an intervention that leads to support so it’s important there is some indication of exploitation.

“For example they’re being held for robbery but they’ve done that robbery to pay off a drug debt.

“When it’s agreed with the sergeant we come down and pick that person up. We take them home but we use that journey home as an intervention or a teachable moment where we hope to encourage them to pick up further support with the service.”

One such sign to look out for may be where a person has been picked up far away from their home address. If their home address is in one of the four areas then Catch22 will be able to come and collect that young person wherever they are.

There are four regional managers and each team has five people working in it. Specialists within the team include mental health as well as specific women and girls caseworkers. 

Each caseworker will be able to take on around 12 cases each at any one time. 

Catch22 are willing to accept other referrals, including self-referrals, but they would ask that person to go to a safe place to be picked up, such as a police station. They will be able to collect people 365 days a year between the hours of 9am and 10pm. 

In cases where that young person doesn’t want to be picked up Catch22 can still offer support from other services such as an anonymous helpline SafeCall which is operated by charity Missing People.

The support service is tailored to the individual and can run as long as they need. It could encompass help with substance misuse or trauma for example.

One caseworker will stay with the case the whole time.

The project has been running for just a few weeks and Mr Bolderson said the most prevalent ages being referred are from 13-16.

If criminal proceedings are pursued by the police, Catch22 will continue support as long as possible.

“County lines is horrendous, and the problem is it’s really well-organised,” Mr Bolderson said.

“Services and professionals, we almost seem to be chasing our tails the whole time because the gangs adapt. We need to be careful that we don’t stay stagnant, but adapt as well.

“We’re even seeing now ‘inter-county lines’ where young people won’t cross the line because they won’t be picked up by police as much.

“We need to give young people the tools to say ‘It’s alright for me to step away from county lines.’”

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