Plight of young people groomed into drug running by dealers who have spread out from major cities highlighted by report

Vulnerable children in provincial areas and small towns – including those from middle-class families – are at risk of exploitation and grooming by criminal gangs seeking to extend their reach beyond major cities, according to a new report compiled by MPs.

The report by the all-party parliamentary group on missing children heard evidence from parents of children as young as eight who had been groomed for “criminal exploitation”. One mother, who described herself as middle class, told the MPs: “My son became involved in a gang where he was exploited to sell class A drugs at the age of 14 in 2012. I didn’t know what to do or who to call.”

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