Child Exploitation

When assessing a child or young person’s vulnerability, exploitation should always be considered. Often a hidden crime, it is crucial that practitioners understand signs of exploitation when working through a plan for effective support and protection. 

Child Sexual Exploitation 

Child sexual exploitation is when people use the power they have over young people to sexually abuse them. Their power may result from a difference in age, gender, intellect, strength, money or other resources. People often think of child sexual exploitation in terms of serious organised crime, but it also covers abuse in relationships and may involve informal exchanges of sex for something a child wants or needs, such as accommodation, gifts, cigarettes or attention. Some children are groomed through people who then force the child or young person into having sex with friends or associates. 

Child Criminal Exploitation

Criminal exploitation interlinks with a number of multiple vulnerabilities and offences, including the child or young person being exposed to, and/or being victim of, physical and emotional violence, neglect, sexual abuse and exploitation, modern day slavery and human trafficking, domestic abuse and missing episodes.

Trafficking and criminal exploitation are forms of abuse and therefore should be afforded a safeguarding response. Often only the visible symptoms of this abuse receive a response, meaning that many children and young people receive a criminal justice response, while their safeguarding needs are overlooked.

County Lines

The term County Lines is used to describe situations where children or young people may be recruited or transported by threats or coercion for the purpose of criminal exploitation in relation to selling illegal drugs.

Keeping Children Safe Online

The CEOP website has information about online risks at and you can also report concerns

Childnet also has information and guidance –

You can also access e-learning around online safety here

Modern Day Slavery & Trafficking 

Modern day slavery includes recruiting, moving, receiving and harbouring children for the purpose of exploitation. Child trafficking is a form of modern slavery. Many children are trafficked into the UK from overseas, but children can also be trafficked from one part of the UK to another.  

Children are trafficked for: 

  • Child sexual exploitation 
  • Criminal activity, including cannabis cultivation, street crime: such as pickpocketing, begging and bag theft, moving drugs, benefit fraud, immigration fraud and selling pirated goods, such as DVDs 
  • Forced marriage
  • Illegal adoption
  • Unreported private fostering arrangements (for any exploitative purpose)
  • Domestic servitude, including: cleaning, childcare, cooking,
  • forced labour, including working in restaurants, nail bars, factories and agriculture  

This list is not exhaustive and children who are trafficked are often exploited in more than one way.

National Referral Mechanism:

The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) is a framework for identifying victims of modern slavery and human trafficking and ensuring they receive the appropriate protection and support. 

Radicalisation & Extremism

Prevent/preventing vulnerable people from becoming drawn into terrorism is a key aim of the National Counter Terrorism Strategy (CONTEST), and aims to stop people from being exposed to extreme ideologies, or becoming involved in or supporting terrorist activity.

It is an approach that involves many agencies and communities, to safeguard children, young people and adults who may be at risk of being drawn into terrorism, using existing and specialist tools to intervene early and prevent escalation into the ‘criminal space’ through a multi-agency Channel Panel.

There are well-developed processes to assist practitioners who find themselves concerned about a child or young person:


Somerset Child Exploitation Strategy 

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Somerset County Lines Strategy

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Somerset VRU Strategy

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Hidden Child Guidance

This bite-size guide will provide an overview of guidance for practitioners to consider when dealing…

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