Toggle Contrast

Child Exploitation


If you are concerned a child or young person is being criminally or sexually exploited you must report it.

There is a Child Exploitation Indicator Tool that can be used alongside the established referral process and should be attached to the MARF when referring to First Response.

Information on how to report concerns can be found here.

Child exploitation (CE) is when a child or young person is tricked or forced into doing something sexual or criminal seemingly in return for things like love, affection, money, drugs or alcohol.

Definition of Child Sexual Exploitation

Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse.

It occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into sexual activity (a) in exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and/or (b) for the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator or facilitator.

The victim may have been sexually exploited even if the sexual activity appears consensual.

Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology.

(Department for Education, 2017)

Both grooming and sexual exploitation can happen in real life and online. In fact, online contact often plays a big part in sexual exploitation.

Definition of Criminal Exploitation (also known as ‘county lines’)

County lines is a term used to describe gangs and organised criminal networks involved in exporting illegal drugs into one or more importing areas within the UK, using dedicated mobile phone lines or other form of “deal line”. They are likely to exploit children and vulnerable adults to move and store the drugs and money and they will often use coercion, intimidation, violence (including sexual violence) and weapons.

(Home Office, 2018)

Sometimes things that seem like normal teenage behaviour could be a sign a young person is being sexually and / or criminally exploited. It should be noted that child sexual and criminal exploitation can also occur without any risk factors or signs being obviously available.

Signs which may indication Child Sexual Exploitation

  • Acquisition of money, clothes, mobile phones etc without plausible explanation
  • Gang-association and/or isolation from peers/social networks
  • Exclusion or unexplained absences from school, college or work
  • Leaving home/care without explanation and persistently going missing or returning late
  • Excessive receipt of texts/phone calls
  • Returning home under the influence of drugs/alcohol
  • Inappropriate sexualised behaviour for age/sexually transmitted infections
  • Evidence of/suspicions of physical or sexual assault
  • Relationships with controlling or significantly older individuals or groups
  • Multiple callers (unknown adults or peers)
  • Frequenting areas known for sex work
  • Concerning use of internet or other social media
  • Increasing secretiveness around behaviours
  • Self-harm or significant changes in emotional well-being

(Department for Education, 2017)

Signs which may indication Child Criminal Exploitation

  • Persistently going missing from school or home and / or being found out-of-area
  • Unexplained acquisition of money, clothes, or mobile phones
  • Excessive receipt of texts / phone calls and/or having multiple handsets
  • Relationships with controlling / older individuals or groups
  • Leaving home / care without explanation
  • Suspicion of physical assault / unexplained injuries
  • Parental concerns
  • Carrying weapons
  • Significant decline in school results / performance
  • Gang association or isolation from peers or social networks
  • Self-harm or significant changes in emotional well-being

(Home Office, 2018)


Contact for copies of the latest campaign material.

  • Barnardos – Barnardos is the largest provider of child sexual exploitation support services in the UK. This page provides information on the work that they do and links to their own research and resources relating to CSE
  • The Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre (CEOP) – CEOP works with child protection partners across the UK and overseas to identify the main threats to children and coordinates activity against these threats that bring offenders to account
  • The Children’s Society – Outlines the policy work of the Children’s Society in relation to CSE, criminal exploitation, trafficked young people, including their latest research
  • Crimestoppers – Campaigns including tackling CSE and county lines
  • – Guidance for frontline professionals on dealing with county lines, part of the government’s approach to ending gang violence and exploitation
  • Local Government Association Child Sexual Exploitation Resource Page – Links to resources, national guidance and action plans
  • National Crime Agency – Briefing report about county lines violence, exploitation and drug supply
  • NSPCC – Information research and resources on child abuse including CSE and trafficking
  • PACE (Parents Against Child Sexual Exploitation) – PACE works alongside parents and carers of children who are being, or are at risk of being, sexually exploited by perpetrators external to the family