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Across the country, young people are being manipulated, sexually abused, forced to launder money and deal drugs. Exploitation isn't obvious. But it happens everywhere. And you can stop it. Get to know the signs of child exploitation and how to report it through our award-winning #LookCloser campaign with the British Transport Police and National County Lines Coordination Centre. Together we can protect children from this abuse.

What is exploitation and where does it happen

boy standing in train station alone

Visible in public

When someone builds a relationship with a child to manipulate them, this is known as grooming. It happens online and offline. The child may then be sexually abused, forced into labour, made to launder criminal money, or coerced into transporting drugs or stealing from shops. These are types of child exploitation. 

Young people are targeted at fast food outlets, shopping centres and parks. They are forced to travel on trains, buses, coaches and use roadside services for rest stops. It can also happen 'behind closed doors' in hotels, salons, car washes. Or online through gaming platforms and social media.

It can happen anywhere and any child can be exploited. By learning to spot the signs and how to report them, we can keep children safe from this abuse.

young girl on phone in train station

Join our campaign

Join us and pledge to #LookCloser to protect young people from exploitation. 

By getting to know the signs and how to report your concerns if worried, we can keep more children safe from abuse.

Signs of child exploitation

Ask yourself, is a young person:

  • Travelling alone, particularly in school hours, late at night or frequently?
  • Looking lost or in unfamiliar surroundings?
  • Anxious, frightened, angry or displaying other behaviours that make you worried about them?
  • In possession of more than one phone?
  • Carrying lots of cash?
  • Potentially under the influence of drugs or alcohol?
  • Being instructed or controlled by another individual?
  • Accompanied by individuals who are older than them?
  • Seen begging in a public space?

Do you work in these industries?

If you work in any of these industries, there may be specific signs of exploitation you can look out for.

young man looking strong sun setting in the trees behind him

What is financial exploitation?

A growing concern across the country involves criminals approaching children and young people online through gaming and social media platforms, and in places like shops and cashpoints with offers of quick cash and fake job opportunities, only to use and control their bank accounts to commit fraud and launder money from organised crime. 

Programme of Learning

We offer a free, year round Programme of learning for any professional working with or overseeing services for children and young people, including those in frontline roles up to strategic leads and commissioners. 

Out sessions cover a wide range of issues related to preventing and disrupting child exploitation and abuse. They seek to incorporate and respond to the latest developments in tackling these ever changing harms and will help equip professionals with the knowledge and tools that they need to address these.

Click on the session titles below to book on to these events (you will need to do so for each individually) . 

This page will continue to be updated throughout the year with more learning events. 

Thursday 11 July 2024Disrupting exploitation10:00 – 12:00
Thursday 29 August 2024Safeguarding care experienced young people from exploitation13:00 – 15:00
Monday 16 September 2024Financial exploitation10:00 – 12:00

Do you work with young people?

Do you work with young people?

If you work with children or young people, our #LookCloser resources could help you with your practice.

Do you have concerns about a child you know or work with?

If you think a child you know or work with is at risk of exploitation or is being exploited, contact the social care team at their local council.

man in hoodie talks to young boy in hoodie and baseball cap in the park

If something doesn't feel right, don't wait, report it

Call the police on 101 or 999 in an emergency

You can also report to the police online. Only report your concerns when it is safe for you to do so, even if this is after the event that your concerns initially arose.  Do not attempt to intervene yourself. 

Text the British Transport Police on 61016

If you are on a train, you can text the British Transport Police. Information on routes of travel, addresses, appearance, and behaviour of a child can all help to protect young people. 

Call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111

If you have information on child exploitation and abuse or suspect it may be happening but want to remain completely anonymous, you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers online or on the phone.

Call the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000

The NSPCC helpline is staffed by trained professionals who can provide expert advice and support if you’re concerned about a child. 

download #LookCloser resources

Look Closer Digital Pack

#LookCloser resources

Whether you work directly with young people, work in an industry where exploitation could be visible, or are a concerned member of the public, our #LookCloser resources help everyone play their part in stopping child exploitation.

It includes #LookCloser posters and leaflets, social media assets, a programme of learning events on child exploitation, explainers on grooming, financial exploitation and more. 

Please also see our Working with prevention report and learn more about the work we do collaborating with organisations in every sector across England and Wales to improve responses and prevent exploitation and abuse.