Child Exploitation

What is Child Exploitation?

Exploitation includes sexual, criminal (including county lines), modern slavery and online exploitation. Children who are exploited usually do not recognise the coercive nature of the relationship or see themselves as a victim. Exploitation is not the child's fault. Abusers are very clever in the way they manipulate young people. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the fight against exploitation. For example, did you know a child can be recruited to a gang from hundreds of miles away? More and more often young people are being groomed remotely to carry out ‘jobs’ in their community, for their exploiters who live on the other side of the country.

What is criminal exploitation?

Criminal Exploitation covers any activity around gang and county lines and includes children coerced or manipulated into criminal activity such as, transporting drugs, involvement in cannabis farms or theft. A gang may claim control over territory in a community, and engaging either individually or collectively in violent behaviour or other types of criminal activity. County lines is when gangs and organised crime networks groom and exploit children to sell drugs. They may make them travel across counties, and they use dedicated mobile phone ‘lines’ to supply drugs.

Spot the signs of criminal exploitation

Here are some signs that may indicate that your child is at risk of or being exploited:

  • Receiving game currency and other gifts within games.
  • Children who are travelling alone and look frightened and maybe have no tickets or money to pay for travel
  • Children/adults who look frightened in the company of other children or adults
  • Children travelling alone at night
  • Those who do not look comfortable with adults they are travelling with
  • A child or young person who allows others to speak for them when addressed directly
  • Those under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Their physical appearance may show signs of injury, malnourishment and maybe unkempt
  • They might seem unfamiliar with the local area, or not be local
  • They could be receiving excessive texts or phone calls
  • They have been given a mobile phone
  • Are they deliberately avoiding authority figures such as police officers or railway staff?
  • A young person that has access to drugs or alcohol but has no means to buy this?
  • Going missing
  • Involved in criminal activity

What is sexual exploitation?

Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is a type of sexual abuse when a child is made or tricked into doing something sexual, sometimes receiving something in return like love, affection, money, drugs or alcohol. 

Abusers are usually older males, but they can sometimes be of a similar age or be female. They are very sophisticated in the way they operate, meaning what they do is well thought out and planned. An abuser will know areas to target. They are skilled in approaching children or young people in person or may use a younger man or woman, or boy or girl, to make the initial contacts. Some use the internet or mobile phones to engage the child or young person.

Spotting the signs:

  • Missing from home
  • Receiving excessive or strange messages or phone calls
  • Getting gifts like a phone, jewellery, new trainers – being given drugs, cigarettes, alcohol or even free food.
  • Developing close friendships or relationships with people over 18 years old.
  • Being under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Injuries that there is no explanation for
  • Sudden change in mood, friends, groups, school attendance
  • Getting picked up and dropped off by unknown people in cars
  • Self-harming

If you are worried about your child or any other child contact the police on 999 for emergencies or 631212

An organisation called PACE (Parents Against Child Exploitation have some useful resources and can be found by clicking About Pace - Parents Against Child Exploitation (Pace) UK (