Young People at Risk of Exploitation

Spotlight - Interactive Sessions for Secondary Schools

We provide interactive sessions on modern slavery to secondary schools across the UK. Providing sessions of this nature is important to protect young people who may be vulnerable and susceptible to exploitation.

Young people are at a time in their lives when they are experimenting, learning and growing, while using social media on a regular basis.

Young people can be exploited anywhere. In the UK, there have been several high-profile cases in the UK highlighting the risks of children being trafficked for sexual and criminal exploitation. The sessions run by the Modern Slavery Helpline seek to highlight these risks and provide young people with the information, confidence and resilience to protect themselves and understand the dangers which they could face.

Our sessions include:

  • 40-minute interactive session for 14-16-year-olds
  • 30-minute awareness session for teachers and school staff
  • Pre- and post-session questionnaires for children and staff to evaluate the sessions
  • Provision of awareness-raising material

For more information and if you would like Spotlight to come to your school, please contact

Is someone forcing or encouraging you or someone you know to do something you don't want to do?

Exploitation of young people can take many forms, including sexual exploitation, criminal exploitation, grooming, trafficking and generally encouraging or forcing a young person to do something they do not want to do.

UK-born residents, as well as young people from overseas could be at risk so it's important to be familiar with the types of exploitation, how to spot it and how to report it.

A child does not need to have been coerced or deceived in order for a situation to be considered as exploitation.

The good news is that there is support available.

If you believe you are being exploited or know someone who is, and are in imminent danger, call the Police on 999. Otherwise, you can contact the Modern Slavery Helpline:

Call the Modern Slavery Helpline - 08000 121 700

Report online at

Download the Unseen App to spot the signs and call or submit a report to the Modern Slavery Helpline

When you call the Modern Slavery Helpline as a minor (someone under the age of 18) you'll speak to a trained Advisor who will be able to talk to you about your situation. You don't have to give them your name or any personal details if you don't want to. If you appear to be at risk then your situation will be referred on to the Police but if you are not at risk, and do not want the Police involved, you can just speak to an Advisor for help, support or advice. You will be given a case number so that if you contact the Helpline again, you will be able to speak to someone who is aware of the situation.

Types and Methods of Exploitation


Grooming is when someone builds an emotional connection with a child to gain their trust for the purposes of abuse and exploitation. Children are groomed online or face-to-face and this could be by a stranger or someone they know. Groomers may be male or female and could be any age.

Groomers will hide their true intentions and may spend a long time gaining a child’s trust. Groomers may try to gain the trust of a whole family to allow them to be left alone with a child and if they work with children they may use similar tactics with their colleagues. Sometimes groomers use false identities to bond and gain trust with a young person.

Groomers exploit young people by:

  • Pretending to be someone they are not, for example, by saying they are a different age online
  • Offering advice or understanding
  • Buying gifts
  • Providing products such as drugs or alcohol which a young person would not legally be able to obtain
  • Giving the child attention or affection, which they may not receive at home
  • Using their professional position or reputation
  • Taking them on trips, outings or holidays

Child Trafficking

Child trafficking is a form of modern slavery. Children are recruited, moved or transported and then exploited, forced to work or sold. Trafficking does not just mean that a person is moved from one country to another. A child who is moved around between towns and cities within one country is also considered to have been trafficked.

There are various reasons why a person, including a child, may be trafficked, including:

  • Sexual exploitation (see below)
  • Forced marriage
  • Confined to a home to do housework such as cleaning, cooking and looking after other children
  • Forced to work, such as in factories or farms
  • Criminal activity such as pickpocketing, begging, transporting drugs (known as County Lines), working on cannabis farms, selling illegal items such as pirated DVDs, and bag theft

Sometimes, children who are trafficked may be neglected or abused, which can be physically and emotionally harmful.

Children may be coerced, forced or persuaded to leave their homes and families. Traffickers use grooming techniques to gain the trust of a child, family or community (see 'Grooming' section above).

Traffickers may promise children education or persuade parents their child can have a better future in another place. However, it is often the case that children who are trafficked often miss out on an education, which leaves them in a more vulnerable state.

It may be difficult for families to recognise child trafficking, as the crime may not be obvious and the signs may not be clear at first, but using the below 'Spot the Signs of Exploitation' guide may help.

Sexual Exploitation

Sexual Exploitation is a common type of sexual abuse. Children might receive something such as gifts, money or affection in return for performing sexual acts or others performing sexual acts on them. Children or young people may be tricked into believing they’re in a loving, consensual relationship and they might be invited to parties and given drugs and alcohol. They may also be groomed and exploited online. Some children and young people are trafficked into or within the UK for sexual exploitation.

Sexual exploitation can affect children from the UK as well as minors trafficked into and around the UK from overseas. Sexual exploitation can also happen to young people in gangs.

Criminal Exploitation

Criminal exploitation is when a child is coerced or forced into committing a crime by their exploiter. One example of this is County Lines, which is when gangs and organised crime networks exploit people as young as 12 to sell drugs. These children are often made to travel across counties, and use mobile phone ‘lines’ (hence County Lines) to sell drugs.

The gangs groom and threaten young people, or even trick them into trafficking drugs. Young people may be threatened verbally or physically by gangs, or the gang may threaten their families. As a form of grooming, the gang may give the young person a gift or reward such as new clothes, jewellery, food or money.

Vulnerable young people, who may be homeless, in poverty or in care, are likely to be targeted by gangs as they are seen as more easily manipulated.

Spot the Signs of Exploitation

The signs of exploitation may not always appear obvious but if you notice any of the following, it could be a sign that a young person is being exploited:

  • Mood swings - is the person happy one moment but unhappy or worried the next?
  • Are they angry, upset or withdrawn?
  • Does the person show inappropriate sexual behaviour? This could be an indication that the person has been sexually exploited.
  • Are they dressed inappropriately for their age? This could be a sign that they are being asked to do things they don't want to do, or are being brought clothes as gifts, which could indicate grooming.
  • Do they go missing at night time or weekends, or do they stay out late? Do you know who they are spending time with or where they are going?
  • Have they stopped attending school or is their attendance sporadic? If they are not attending school they could be being exploited or could be forced into committing crimes, such as County Lines.
  • Are they sometimes founds in areas away from their home? This could be a sign of criminal exploitation as they may have travelled across counties.
  • Do they have gifts or presents which they can't explain, such as money, clothes or phones? This could be a sign that they are being groomed.
  • Have they returned home with injuries which they can't explain? It could be that they were attacked or threatened.

If you are concerned, don't worry, there is support available. The details of how to get in touch are below. We are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and it's free to call.

Call the Modern Slavery Helpline - 08000 121 700

Report online at

Download the Unseen App to spot the signs and call or submit a report to the Modern Slavery Helpline