A sister's experience of county lines

Published: 23/07/2020

This series of podcasts explores a sister's experience of being a family member when someone is being criminally exploited.

This resource is part four of the Learning Pathway on adolescence and exploitation. Our pathways guide you through connected resources on a key topic to support self-directed learning and development. Find out more about Learning Pathways.

If you are currently working through this Learning Pathway please find the link to the next resource below to continue on your learning journey.

Sara (a pseudonym) speaks to Research in Practice Assistant Director Susannah Bowyer about her experience of being a family member of someone who is being criminally exploited.

Part one – Push/pull factors and grooming

This episode addresses why Sara thinks her brother was exploited in terms of push and pulls factors. It talks about his early life and how he was exploited and groomed both at the beginning and as it progressed. We also come to understand how her brother doesn’t fit the media stereotype.

Part two – The business model

This episode focuses on how county lines is a business model and how it increasingly took over her brother’s life. It gives more detail about how the operation is run and how there is a tight schedule for those involved. It talks about how family life was affected, what would have helped, being a victim and a perpetrator as well as what rewards there were for him including the role of ‘power’.

Part three – The possibility of leaving and exiting

The final episode focuses on barriers to leaving and exiting and what needs to be overcome. It talks about how threats and violence hold young people in the county lines gang. It talks about how societal drug use facilitates county lines exploitation. Sara reflects on the role of professionals and systems and puts forward suggestions of what might work.

  • How does Sara think her brother was drawn into county lines exploitation?
  • How might a child / young person be impacted when their brother or sister is being exploited?
  • What interventions and support was offered and given to her family? What does she feel could have helped?
  • Near the end of part two and in part three, Sara talks about what her brother gets out of being involved. What unmet needs does she identify that county lines gang involvement fulfils?
  • What does she feel makes it hard for him to leave? Think about how this has evolved as he grows older.
  • How does your organisation/area currently support brothers and sisters of those who are exploited? What do you think might be helpful? Is this a conversation you can raise with colleagues?


Adolescence and exploitation: Learning Pathway - Resource five

Topic Trauma

Trauma-informed approaches with young people

This frontline briefing is an introduction to trauma research for practitioners working with young people whose experiences (either earlier in their childhood and/or in the present) may lead to complex traumatic responses across the lifespan. Time to complete: 20 minutes.
Continue to the next resource

Professional Standards

PQS:KSS - Relationships and effective direct work | Abuse and neglect of children | Child and family assessment | The law and the family and youth justice systems | Developing excellent practitioners | Purposeful and effective social work

PCF - Values and ethics | Diversity and equality | Rights, justice and economic wellbeing | Knowledge