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Child exploitation is everyone’s business

Young boy in classroom
Young boy in classroom

What is child exploitation?

Child sexual exploitation is when someone manipulates a child or young person with bribes, threats of violence or humiliation in order to control them. The control is then used to force a child or young person under 18 to have sex, or do sexual things with them or other people, it can happen to both girls and boys.

Child exploitation is about more than just sexual, there is also criminal exploitation, which links in with county lines, trafficking and modern slavery.

Child criminal exploitation is when someone or a group coerce and deceive a child to commit criminal acts for financial gain. This includes asking a young person to transport or sell drugs, begging or shop lifting. They usually manipulate the victim into carrying out these criminal acts in exchange for something the victim needs or wants.

How can you help?

Children or young people who are being exploited don’t know they’re victims and they’re being taken advantage of. They need you to be their voice, speaking out on their behalf. You can let police, local authorities or a charity know if you suspect a child is being exploited and help end the cycle of abuse. Child exploitation is everyone’s business and we know it’s happening particularly in businesses.

Some of the key signs to look out for are:

Hotel staff

  • Last minute/walk-in bookings, often late at night
  • When booking the room the customer refuses to provide identification and wants to pay with cash and the address given is local
  • The room is only used for a few hours and guests have little or no luggage with them
  • Guests request an isolated room away from other guests and in a quieter side of the hotel.
  • Frequent guests are going in and out of the room with different people
  • Guests arriving will ask for a specific room number but not the know the name of the person in the room

Licensed premises

  • Young people under the age of 18 in the company of older guests
  • An older person purchasing alcohol for a young person/young people under the age of 18
  • A young person being dropped off and taken from licenced premises
  • A young person who appears under the control or instruction of others
  • Young people that look distressed, intimidated, frightened, dishevelled or disorientated
  • Young people under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Young people with injuries such as bruising or blood stains
  • Young people displaying inappropriate sexualised behaviours or dressed inappropriately for their age
  • Young people being taken to areas of licensed premises that are not supervised or security checked
  • Victims may have more money than a young person ordinarily would or may own expensive phones and clothing than you would expect for someone their age
  • You may overhear conversations or witness sexual activity within the premises
  • A frequent guest of the premises seen with different young people under of the age of 18

Taxi and private hire vehicles

  • Adults putting a young person, who may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, into a taxi or private hire vehicle
  • Young people who look concerned or frightened in the company of the adults they’re travelling with
  • Young people being picked up and taken to hotels at odd times of the day and night
  • Young people appear to be travelling with adults they don’t know
  • Victims show inappropriate sexual behaviour or are dressed inappropriately for their age
  • Victims have more money than a young person would ordinarily have or own expensive phones and clothing than you would expect for someone their age
  • Overhearing conversations which don’t seem right or witness sexual activity within the vehicle between a young person under 18 and an adult
  • Fare paid by someone other than the young person in the vehicle
  • Morning pick-ups from hotels and or Bed and Breakfast
  • Young people travelling in your vehicle look dishevelled, distressed or disorientated

If you work in hospitality, for a hotel or are a driver for taxi or private hire vehicles we have free booklets available to download which has further information on spotting the signs of child exploitation.

Guidance for taxi drivers

Guidance for licensed premises

Guidance for hotels and hospitality

Tell someone what you see

If you suspect that any of the signs above are happening or a child is at risk of exploitation, please speak to a senior member of staff or contact police via 101. You can also fill out an online form here.

Please visit to find out further information on child exploitation and the support services available to victims.