Child exploitation can take many different forms, they include:
- Child sexual exploitation
- Child criminal exploitation, including county lines
- Peer on peer abuse
- Online grooming and abuse
- Modern slavery and trafficking for the purpose of child exploitation
In all forms of exploitation it can sometimes appear to the untrained eye that the child or young person is complicit in their abuse. Exploitation is not a ‘lifestyle choice’ and it is a widespread issue, as these statistics show:
- Children as young as six are being used by drug dealers
- This can lead into prostitution and slavery
- 46,000 children in England and Wales are thought to be involved in gang culture
- 4,000 teenagers are being criminally exploited in London alone
The Children’s Society is actively engaged in making a difference so young people can enjoy community life and experience brighter futures, without risk.
The organisation is working alongside organisations such as British Transport Police, local authorities, schools, the NHS and a network of National Coordination Centres through their Prevention Programme and the #LookCloser campaign to educate and help professionals and the general public to better recognise the signs of exploitation and how to report any concerns. So far over 13,000 professionals have taken part.
The spotlight is on transport networks; providing awareness training to businesses such as Uber, Stagecoach, and National Express and focus on tackling hotspots which facilitate movement of young people such as fast food outlets, arcades and hotels where exploitation could be occurring ‘behind closed doors’.
The aim of the campaign is to empower professionals and the public to keep children safe. They are educated to understand and recognise the warning signs where a child may be subject to exploitation and how to act on and prevent it. Some of the signs the campaign highlights to identify a potential young victim are:
- Talking about older/new friends they’ve met online
- Talking about gifts/money they’ve received
- Becoming withdrawn and secretive
- Constant Contact
- Sharing Images
- Sharing Information
- Having a new phone or more than one phone
- Receiving a large number of calls or messages
- Worried about being away from their phone
- Change in appearance, personality, mode or presentation
- Inappropriate behaviour
- Being frightened of some people, places or situations
- Bring secretive
- Having money or things they can’t or won’t explain
- Physical signs of abuse, like bruises or bleeding
- Alcohol or drug misuse
- Sexually transmitted infections: and
Looking to the future – a 2030 mission
It is reported by The Children’s Society that children’s wellbeing at a 10-year low. The Children’s Society has published that it plans to overturn the damaging decline in child wellbeing by 2030 making sure that it “drives change at a local and national level.” It also promises to “influence national legislation and make sure local councils look after those who have it toughest in their communities”.
To help reduce this statistic, the society provides 1:1 support to victims to improve their opportunities and enrich their lives through the Disrupting Exploitation Programme by engaging young people in the arts and music via its Climb Programme.
It has identified the most vulnerable children are those who are living in poverty, face exclusion from mainstream school, or are living in care. However, more affluent areas of the community are seeing an increase in activity with drug peddling outside school gates. Young people are also more vulnerable during times where we have COVID-related restrictions on movement, resulting in them spending more time online.
More information is available at https://www.thinkuknow.co.uk/parents/ and https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/what-we-do/blogs/looking-closer-public-spaces-spot-child-exploitation