THE Government has issued guidance on how to stop children being exploited as part of "county lines" organised crime.

Home Officer bosses have worked with the National Crime Agency and other agencies to try to prevent children as young as 12 being targeted by drug gangs.

The Barrow and Furness MP, John Woodcock has highlighted the phenomenon in the town and led a seminar in Parliament to discuss how to tackle the problem.

The Home Office advised people how to spot signs of exploitation.

It warned people to look out for children persistently going missing, unexplained acquisition of mobile phones and cash, leaving home without explanation and significant decline in school performance.

County lines activity involves gangs using phone lines to traffic drugs from large cities to small towns.

Children aged between 15 and 16 are said to be the most common targets.

Mr Woodcock previously said: “County lines drug dealing is not only a blight on our community but it is hugely exploitative of young and vulnerable people.

Barrow experienced 12 drug deaths, more than twice the national average number, in the months since last December.