Children's Social Care

Children and young people face several channels to their safety and wellbeing. Criminal and sexual exploitation is complicated and can places children at risk as well as their families, friends and communities.

Children and young people are very vulnerable as they can be victims and perpetrators. Any young person can become a victim of sexual or criminal exploitation. Many young people who are being exploited do not recognise they are being abused. They can be befriended by those who wish to exploit them. The link between children being exploited and children going missing is a high risk factor.

How might we recognise if children and young people are vulnerable to exploitation?

Safeguarding children and young people is everyone's responsibility. Being aware of possible indicators is important. The list below is not exhaustive but offers some examples of warning signs to look out for:

  • Missing from home or car
  • Absent from school
  • Offending or anti-social behaviour
  • Drug or alcohol misuse
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), pregnancies and terminations
  • Poor mental health
  • Self-harm and/or thoughts or attempts at suicide
  • Receipt of gifts/money/alcohol/drugs etc from unknown sources
  • Changes in physical appearance or physical complaints
  • Physical injuries
  • Evidence of sexting, online bullying and/or vulnerability through the internet and/or social networking sites
  • Estranged from family/friends/community
  • Recruiting others into exploitative situations
  • Having older friendship groups

Remember, young people from any background/gender can become victims of exploitation. Vulnerability factors include:

  • Living in a chaotic household (parental substance abuse, domestic abuse, criminality, etc)
  • History of abuse
  • Recent bereavement or loss
  • Gang association (either through relatives, peers or intimate relationships)
  • Learning disabilities/other vulnerabilities
  • Mixing with other young people involved in child exploitation/sexual exploitation
  • Uncertainty about their sexual orientation or identity and/or unable to disclose this to their families
  • Being cared for by the local authority
  • Difficulty making friends from the same age group
  • Homeless or living in a hostel/supported accommodation
  • Low self-esteem or confidence
  • Young people in alternative education provision

If you are a parent or carer, please have a look at the information listed below. This provides you with more information about what you can do to protect your child and who to contact if you have concerns.

Last Updated on Friday, March 24, 2023

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