Drug dealers ‘work in care homes to groom children’: Police probe ‘four staff at C4C residence’

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County lines gangs are recruiting children in care homes as drug runners as the youngsters are ‘easy targets for exploitation’, an investigation has found.

Whistleblowers have reported that staff at a care home in Lancashire have been probed by police over allegations of ‘modern slavery and trafficking offences.’

It is understood up to four staff members at a home run by Care 4 Children (C4C) could have been involved in a criminal ring that used children to sell drugs.

Whistleblowers uncovered notes from a meeting at the Care 4 Children home in Lancashire which detailed that a boy was ‘being exploited by staff via drugs running for them’ [Stock picture]

Workers at the Lancashire home reported smelling cannabis on the premises and in staff cars, according to The Mirror. 

Their investigation also uncovered the discovery of mobile phones which contained messages from one of the staff members involved and ‘snap’ bags used for drug deals in a child’s room on more than one occasion. 

Whistleblowers also uncovered notes from a meeting at the C4C home attended by police, council workers and C4C staff which detailed that a boy was ‘being exploited by staff via drugs running for them’. 

Four men who are understood to have worked in a series of C4C homes across the North West have been spoken to by police. 

The company, run by C4C founder and managing director Kamran Abassi, operates 18 care homes and special schools registered by Ofsted from North Wales to Yorkshire. 

Two men have been arrested, and C4C said both men had now left the company. 

Four men who are understood to have worked in a series of C4C homes across the North West have been spoken to by police. Pictured: The head offices of Care 4 Children in Bredbury, Greater Manchester [Stock picture]

Four men who are understood to have worked in a series of C4C homes across the North West have been spoken to by police. Pictured: The head offices of Care 4 Children in Bredbury, Greater Manchester [Stock picture]

Four men who are understood to have worked in a series of C4C homes across the North West have been spoken to by police. Pictured: The head offices of Care 4 Children in Bredbury, Greater Manchester [Stock picture]

Kamran Abassi is the founder and managing director of Care 4 Children

Kamran Abassi is the founder and managing director of Care 4 Children

Kamran Abassi is the founder and managing director of Care 4 Children

This included a 25-year-old man from Cheadle, Gtr Manchester, and a 32-year-old man from Great Harwood, Lancs, on suspicion of human trafficking and supplying Class B drugs.

A further two men from Manchester, aged 25 and 23, have also been questioned under caution. 

There are fears some of the men involved also worked at other C4C homes, fuelling fears that other children may also have been targeted.   

A police spokesman said: ‘We have received allegations of modern slavery and trafficking offences related to a care home in Lancashire.

‘The investigation is continuing.’

Police warned earlier this year that county lines drugs gangs were targeting children.

County lines gangs are named for the phone lines used to arrange drug deals and are known to recruit children and teenagers to transport drugs like cocaine from cities to the provinces [Stock picture]

County lines gangs are named for the phone lines used to arrange drug deals and are known to recruit children and teenagers to transport drugs like cocaine from cities to the provinces [Stock picture]

County lines gangs are named for the phone lines used to arrange drug deals and are known to recruit children and teenagers to transport drugs like cocaine from cities to the provinces [Stock picture]

What are county lines gangs?

The term county lines refers to the individual phone lines used by gangs to sell and distribute drugs.

The gangs, which are linked to increasing violence in provincial towns and shire counties, recruit children and teenagers to transport drugs from cities to the provinces. 

Figures released earlier this year in a National Crime Agency report showed more than 3,000 gangs were reported by police in 2019 – double the 1,500 of 2018.

It is also a four-fold increase since 2017 when there were 720 operations shipping heroin and crack cocaine from cities to provincial towns.

Despite a crackdown by forces, figures from the National County Lines Coordination Centre show 800 to 1,100 phone lines advertising drugs are active every month.

Gangs are recruiting an army of youngsters to replace those arrested for dealing, with the report warn-ing that children as young as 11 are being intimidated into becoming ‘runners’.

And the number of young people being groomed to become money mules – so criminals can access their savings accounts – has shot up by 26 per cent since 2017.

The report warns: ‘Exploitation in county lines drugs supply remains the most frequently identified form of coerced criminality with children the vast majority of victims.’

The gangs, which are linked to increasing violence in provincial towns and shire counties, recruit children and teenagers to transport drugs from cities to the provinces. 

County lines crimes are named for the phone lines used to arrange drug deals. 

A National Crime Agency report in April warned that children as young as 11 are being intimidated into becoming ‘runners’.

It also found more than 3,000 gangs were reported by police in 2019 – double the 1,500 of 2018, and a four-fold increase since 2017 when there were 720 operations shipping heroin and crack cocaine from cities to provincial towns. 

Children in care are particularly vulnerable to grooming and the care home in Lancashire has not been named to protect the identity of those involved.  

The whistleblowers also raised concerns that reports of the incidents in the home were not treated appropriately, according to The Mirror, but C4C denied all the allegations against them. 

The care home was also rated ‘good’ last year by Oftsted – the body responsible for inspecting children’s homes – at the time the criminal gang was said to have infiltrated the home. 

A spokesman told The Mirror: ‘At Care 4 Children the welfare of children and young people are our paramount concern. 

‘We take the issue of child safeguarding and protection seriously and always respond and act quickly to keep children and young people safe, to safeguard and promote their welfare.’

The company also said it has reissued their whistleblowing policy and will carry out an internal independent investigaton into the allegations.

C4C’s founder and managing director, Kamran Abassi, did not want to comment.  

Ofsted said a number of C4C homes had been prioritised for visits since the four arrests.

Lancashire Police said: ‘We have received allegations of modern slavery and trafficking offences related to a care home in Lancashire. 

‘Following enquiries two people, a 25-year-old man from Cheadle and a 32-year-old man from Great Harwood, have been arrested on suspicion of human trafficking and being concerned in the supply of Class B drugs. 

‘They have been released under investigation pending further enquiries. 

‘Two people, a 25-year old man from Manchester and a 23-year-old man also from Manchester, have been interviewed under caution. 

‘The investigation is continuing and enquiries on-going.’

Mail Online has reached out to C4C for comment. 

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