In 2020 there were 164 referrals about children deemed to be at moderate, or significant risk of child criminal exploitation (CCE) or child sexual exploitation (CSE). The average age of the victim was 15.

Staff working in the multi-agency safeguarding hub, are seeing children as young as 11 being targeted by individuals and gangs for criminal gain. They are forced into selling and distributing drugs, often as part of ‘County Lines’ activity, coerced into carrying and storing money and weapons or into committing theft, burglary or robbery. They may also be sexually exploited.

In response to this risk to children and young people, the Gloucestershire Safeguarding Children Partnership has commissioned the creation of a communications campaign, to tackle child exploitation.

Are you listening?

Children won’t often just tell you if they are in trouble but there are often some obvious signs that could indicate they might need help.

Children are more likely to open up to an adult they have an existing and trusting relationship with. Parents, grandparents, older family relatives, family friends, neighbours, community members, teachers, school staff and coaches are all trusted adults children are more likely to open up to.

The most obvious sign is a change in a child or young person’s behaviour from what is considered ‘normal’ for them.

Other signs include:

  • Withdrawal from usual group of friends and a mention of older or new friends
  • Having gifts, a new phone or money that can’t be accounted for
  • Becoming withdrawn or secretive
  • Receiving a large number of calls or messages to their phone or being worried about being away from their phone
  • A drop in grades or performance, as well as suspension or exclusion from school
  • Going missing from home or not showing up to school or regular afterschool groups or clubs
  • Become involved in low level criminality such as antisocial behaviour

The following film focuses on four stories, which although fictional, are typical of the types of criminality children do become involved in.

The film was funded by Leicestershire and Rutland’s Violence Reduction Network.

What to do:

It is important we all play an active role in tackling this issue. If you suspect a child is being exploited try to talk to them.

If you are worried about your child or a young person in your care, call Gloucestershire’s Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub on 01452 42 6565 or send an email to [email protected]. If it’s an emergency, phone the police.

There are also other agencies and partners you can get advice from too, see the following links for more: