Child Exploitation

Child exploitation is child abuse.

When a child is exploited they're groomed by being given things like gifts, drugs, money, status and affection. This is usually in exchange for carrying out a criminal or sexual activity.

There are different types of or behaviours linked to a child being exploited. This includes, but is not exclusive to:

  • Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE), including County Lines
  • Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)
  • Harmful Sexual Behaviour
  • Modern Slavery and Trafficking
  • Missing From Home & Care
  • Online Exploitation
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Sometimes abusers use violence and intimidation to frighten or force a child making them feel as if they've no choice.

Any child can be a victim of child exploitation and anybody can be a perpetrator of child exploitation, no matter their age, gender or race. The relationship could be posed as friendship, someone to look up to or romantic. Children who are exploited may also be used to 'find' or coerce others to join groups.


Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE), including County Lines
  • Text link image What is CCE?
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    CCE is where another person or persons manipulate, deceive, coerce or control a child to undertake a criminal activity.

  • Text link image What does County Lines mean?
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    County Lines is a term for urban gangs exploiting children into moving drugs, normally from a large city, into other areas such as suburban areas and market and coastal towns, using dedicated mobile phone lines or “deal lines”.

    Children as young as 12 years old have been exploited into carrying drugs for gangs. This can involve children being trafficked away from their home area, staying in accommodation and selling and manufacturing drugs. This can include:

    – the home of a vulnerable adult, that is taken over by a criminal gang, often referred to as cuckooing

    – hotels

    – short term private rental properties such as bed and breakfasts

How does County Lines happen?

The National County Lines Coordination Centre (NCLCC) have produced a 10 minute video discussing the County Lines approach and how this is impacting children and vulnerable adults, services and society:

Spotting the Signs of CCE

CCE is happening in all areas of the country, including in Wakefield.

A child won't always act or feel like a victim, often because they have been groomed to feel respected and important to criminals. It is the responsibility of all who work with children and families to know the signs and to act if you suspect a child is in danger.

The most obvious sign is a change in a child's behaviour from what is considered as 'normal' for them.

Other signs can include:

  • Withdrawal from usual group of friends and a mention of older or new friends
  • Having gifts, a new phone or money that can’t be accounted for
  • Becoming withdrawn or secretive
  • Receiving a large number of calls or messages to their phone or being worried about being away from their phone
  • A drop in grades or performance, as well as suspension or exclusion from school
  • Going missing from home or not showing up to school or regular afterschool groups or clubs
  • Become involved in low level criminality such as antisocial behaviour
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Are You Listening?

The below video produced by Leicestershire Police, highlights the importance of listening to a child and noticing signs of change in their behaviour:


Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)
  • Text link image What is CSE?
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    CSE is a type of sexual abuse. When a child is exploited they’re given items such as gifts or drugs, money, status and affection, in exchange for performing sexual activities.

    CSE happens in person and online. An abuser may gain a child’s trust or may look to control them through violence or blackmail before moving onto sexually abusing them. This can happen in a short period of time.

Spotting the signs of CSE

Sexual exploitation can be difficult to spot and sometimes mistaken from 'normal' teenage behaviour.

Signs can include:

  • Unhealthy or inappropriate sexual behaviour
  • Being frightened of some people, places or situations
  • Being secretive
  • Sharp changes in mood or character
  • Having money or things they can't or won't explain
  • Physical signs of abuse, like bruises or bleeding in their genital or anal area
  • Alcohol or drug misuse
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Pregnancy
  • Having an older boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Staying out late or overnight
  • Having a new group of friends
  • Going missing from home or care or stopping going to college or school
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Would you know the signs?

Adults who already know a child are often the first to notice that a child is being exploited. Watch and listen to the below video from Parents Against Child Exploitation (PACE), who talk about their experiences and changes they noticed in their child:


Harmful Sexual Behaviour (HSB)

What is HSB?

HSB is an inappropriate sexual behaviour which is displayed by a child and may be harmful and/or abusive.

It can be displayed towards children and adults. In addition to the harm caused to those who it is directed at, it is also harmful to the child who displays the behaviour.

HSB is increasingly presenting through technology, known as 'Technology assisted HSB'. Technology assisted HSB can include:

  • Viewing pornography
  • Viewing / sharing indecent images and videos of children
  • Revenge porn
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  • Text link image Harmful Sexual Behaviour Support Service
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    South West Grid for Learning (SWGfL) and the Marie Collins Foundation have created a harmful sexual behaviour service to support professionals working with children and young people in tackling harmful sexual behaviour and respond to incidents.

    The service is available to professionals in England who work with children including teachers, designated safeguarding leads, police, social care and healthcare professionals. The service offers:

    – advice on individual cases or incidents of harmful sexual behaviour in children

    – guidance on policy development on tackling harmful sexual behaviour in children

    – relevant resources and best practise around harmful sexual behaviour in children

    For further information, visit the SWGfL website.


Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking
  • What is Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking?
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    Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking are types of child abuse. Many children and young people are trafficked into the UK from other countries.

    Child Trafficking also takes place where a child is taken from one area in the country to another. This is a common feature with Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) exploiting children to carry out crime such as drug dealing as part of County Lines.

  • How is Trafficking used to exploit children?
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    Trafficking is where a child is tricked, forced or persuaded to leave their homes and are moved or transported and then exploited, forced into sexual abuse, commit crime, work or sold. Children are trafficked for:

    – Sexual and criminal exploitation

    – Benefit fraud

    – Forced marriage

    – Domestic slavery

    – Forced labour

    – Committing crimes like moving drugs, working on cannabis farms, theft and begging

What can the signs of Modern Slavery look like?
  • Isolation
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    – Rarely allowed to travel on their own

    – Appear to be under the control of others

    – Tend not to interact with other people

    – Seem unfamiliar with their neighbourhood

    – Have relationships which don’t seem right

  • Restricted freedom of movement
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    – Don’t have documents that would allow travel

    – Limited opportunities to move freely

    – Few personal possessions

    – Wear the same clothes day in day out

  • Reluctance to seek help
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    – Avoid eye contact

    – Appear frightened or hesitant to talk

    – Fear law enforcement agencies such as the police

    – Fear of deportation

    – Unsure on who to trust or where to get help

    – Fear of violence to them or their family

  • Physical appearance
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    – Untreated injuries, anxiety, agitated or appearing to be withdrawn and neglected

    – Look malnourished or unkempt

    – Wear clothes that are unsuitable for their work

  • Poor living conditions
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    – Living in dirty, cramped or overcrowded accommodation

    – Working and living at the same address

  • Unusual travel arrangements
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    – Always dropped off at / collected from work

    – Dropped off / picked up in private cars or taxis at unusual times and places

Where can I go for further information about Modern Slavery?

Unseen are a UK charity who provide safehouses and support in the community for survivors of trafficking and modern slavery and also run the UK Modern Slavery and Exploitation Helpline. For further information on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking visit Unseen website at www.unseenuk.org.


Missing From Home & Care

When a child goes missing, this can be reflective of other safeguarding issues affecting them.

Some of the risks associated with children who are missing from home and care include:

  • Being in unsafe places, with unsafe or risky adults;
  • Being more likely to be involved in substance misuse;
  • Being more likely to be involved in anti-social or criminal offending behaviour;
  • More likely to be involved in child trafficking or child exploitation;
  • Less likely to be socially and educationally engaged

This means that children who go missing, particularly where this is a sustained feature of their behaviour and / or connected with other types of vulnerability are more likely to be suffering or at risk of suffering significant harm. For this reason, it is important that services in Wakefield identify, understand and address missing episodes for children, in ways that reduce risk and vulnerability.

For operational guidance in Wakefield in relation to Missing From Home & Care view the guidance below:

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Further Information on Child Exploitation

There are specific organisations who specialise within child exploitation, some of those agencies are listed below with links to their respective websites for further information:

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