Today marks Child Exploitation Awareness Day and an opportunity to raise awareness of child exploitation and the warning signs, the multi-agency team in Warwickshire are focusing on a week of activity across social media, aiming to share advice on how to identify warning signs and ways in which people can report concerns.
Criminal exploitation of children involves exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where young people receive something (e.g. status, ‘protection’, food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, affection) as a result of them completing a task on behalf of another individual or a group of individuals which is of a criminal nature.
It often occurs without the child’s immediate recognition, with the child believing that they are in control of the situation. In all cases, those exploiting the child have power over them by virtue of their age, gender, intellect, physical strength and/or economic or other resources.
Violence, coercion and intimidation are common and the exploitative relationship is characterised by the child’s limited availability of choice resulting from their social, economic or emotional vulnerability.
Child exploitation can take on many forms including but not limited to:
County lines criminals are targeting vulnerable young people in Warwickshire and are exploiting them by using them to deal drugs. ‘County lines’ is a term used to describe gangs transporting drugs from bigger cities into smaller towns and rural areas. This is a national problem involving gangs operating from cities including Birmingham, London, Manchester and Liverpool.
Children displaying vulnerabilities such as poverty, family breakdown, living in looked-after care, experiencing domestic abuse, substance misuse, behavioural or development disorders and exclusion from school are frequently targeted by county lines criminals. The children are attracted by and offered a sense of belonging, inclusion, status and money.
Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a type of child abuse. It happens when a young person is encouraged, or forced, to take part in sexual activity in exchange for something. The reward might be gifts, money, alcohol, drugs or simply just the promise of love and affection.
It might seem like a normal friendship or relationship at the beginning, but the young person might be persuaded to do sexual things in return for something (e.g to prove their love, pay for the things given or financial gain) with the abuser or their friends or associates The young person is often tricked into believing they're in a loving and consensual relationship and made to feel good about themselves. This is called grooming. They may trust their abuser and not understand that they're being abused, thereby appearing to be consensual in the activity.
It can also involve violence, coercion and intimidation, with threats of physical harm or humiliation.
Domestic servitude when a child or young person is a domestic worker or helper working within their employer’s home or in a community such as a commune, performing a variety of tasks. This arrangement becomes exploitative when there are restrictions on the domestic worker’s movement, and they are forced to work long hours for little pay. They may also suffer physical and sexual abuse.
If you are concerned about a child, location or situation concerning county lines, contact police on 101. Dial 999 in an emergency.
For support and advice, get in touch:
If you are worried about a child or young person, contact the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub between 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, on 01926 414144.
You can also make a report to Warwickshire Police via their website or by calling 101, or you can contact your local Children and Family Centre.
Contact Crimestoppers confidentially and anonymously on 0800 555 111.
You can talk to trained counsellors on the 24-hour helplines run by ChildLine on 0800 11 11 and the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000
The new Something’s Not Right website is packed full of information and resources around Child Exploitation, including the different types of exploitation, what signs to look for in a child or young person, and what support is available if you or someone you know may be a victim of child exploitation. The website also features some powerful real life stories about victims of CE.