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Barriers experienced with multi-agency responses to county line gangs: a focus group study

Aimee Neaverson (Department of Criminology, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK)
Abbie Lake (Department of Criminology, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK)

Journal of Children's Services

ISSN: 1746-6660

Article publication date: 1 March 2023

Issue publication date: 7 March 2023




This study aims to create a platform for frontline practitioners to share experiences, express opinions and forge new ideas for effective multi-agency work when responding to child exploitation by county line gangs (CLGs).


CLGs are grooming children as young as age 7. The need for effective multi-agency responses to grooming by CLGs is a key priority for prevention. Using findings from focus groups held with 13 youth practitioners, school staff and charities, this article highlights the barriers that multi-agency frontline practitioners face when they are tasked with responding to instances of child criminal exploitation by CLGs.


Discussions within the focus groups indicate there are many common barriers and driving factors with regards to young people being successfully groomed by a CLG. More specifically, findings from this research identified school exclusions and a lack of prosocial sense of belonging to be a driving factor that exacerbated the risk of being successfully groomed by a CLG. Lack of a significant adult relationship was also found to be a barrier to successful multi-agency intervention, which was attributed to the lack of funding and resources required for adequate staffing needed to build meaningful relationships.


This study offered the unique opportunity for practitioners from various different sectors and jurisdictions to share their experiences of not only working with young people involved in CLGs, but also their challenges when using a multi-agency approach. These discussions are particularly important in the case of CLGs due to the cross-jurisdiction nature of the gangs’ activities. This research has identified issues with multi-agency responses to CLGs and offers recommendations for improvement. Identifying and understanding the barriers that practitioners face when responding to CLGs can allow for the development and implementation of various measures, which will aid the safeguarding of vulnerable victims of exploitation by CLGs.



This research received internal funding from Anglia Ruskin University. No external funding was provided for this research.


Neaverson, A. and Lake, A. (2023), "Barriers experienced with multi-agency responses to county line gangs: a focus group study", Journal of Children's Services, Vol. 18 No. 1, pp. 61-77.



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