April 1, 2021 Research and Evidence Young people and ‘county lines’: a contextual and social account Journal articlesBy Lauren Wroe Download This paper presents an analysis of a ‘county lines’ safeguarding partnership in a large city region of England. A critical analysis of current literature and practice responses to ‘county lines’ is followed by the presentation of an analytical framework that draws on three contextual and social theories of (child) harm. This framework is applied to the partnership work to ask: are the interconnected conditions of criminal exploitation of children via ‘county lines’ understood, do interventions target the contexts of harm, and is social and institutional harm acknowledged and addressed? The analytical framework is applied to a dataset collected by the author throughout a two year study of the project. Qualitative data collected by the author and quantitative data published by the project are coded and thematically analysed in NVivo against the analytic framework. Critical tensions are surfaced in how multi-agency, child welfare practices are applied to ‘county lines’ affected young people. Generalising these findings to the child welfare sector at large, it is proposed that the contextual dynamics of child harm via ‘county lines’ must be understood in a broader sense, including how multi-agency child welfare practices contribute to the harm experienced by young people. There are limited peer-reviewed analyses of child welfare responses to ‘county lines’. This paper contributes to that limited scholarship, extending the analysis by adopting a critical analytic framework to a regional county lines project at the juncture of future national, child welfare responses to ‘county lines’.