IT IS vital County Lines drug victims get the support they need according to a children's charity boss - after 15 people were arrested in Cumbria as part of a police crackdown.

A national week of action to tackle County Lines gangs saw 1,000 arrests across the UK. 15 of those were made in Cumbria and nine were in Barrow.

James Simmonds-Read of The Children’s Society’s Prevention programme, said: “Bringing down the criminals who cynically exploit vulnerable children through these county lines operations is crucial.

“But it’s equally important that the children they have groomed, who may have been deeply traumatised by horrific violence, threats, and sexual abuse, are recognised as victims.

“Too often, these young people do not get the support they need or are seen as having chosen to get involved in crime when they were manipulated.

“It is vital these children are protected from abuse rather than prosecuted and professionals must also get better at identifying children who may be at risk of exploitation sooner and offering timely help.

"We want to see the Government define child criminal exploitation in law and adopt a new national strategy to tackle the issue. This strategy should focus upon ending the postcode lottery when it comes to identifying and supporting young people who are exploited, alongside efforts to disrupt the criminals who have groomed them.

"Spotting the signs that a child could be at risk isn’t just a matter for professionals. That’s why we launched our Look Closer campaign alongside the National Police Chiefs Council and British Transport Police during this week of action.

"We’re urging staff who work in the service sector including in hotels, shops and in public transport to spot the signs a child may be being exploited and to report concerns to the police.”