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Child exploitation

Spotting a runaway child

Close-up of a young woman, taken from waist-height, as she looks at her phone. Her face is not visible. Overlaid is text that says: "Spot the Signs Poster Hub".

Awareness of Child Exploitation (CE) has risen dramatically in recent years as the scale of the problem was unearthed in areas across the country. The issue has since been covered extensively on the news, in documentaries and TV dramas; but our teams find the early signs of exploitation are often still missed by the adults around a young victim.

For this reason, we have produced a series of posters that shine a light on this issue, and the ways to help a young person. The materials are most relevant for professionals who work with children, but are useful for anybody who wants to know more about Child Exploitation and Missing From Home.

Children may run away from home because they are unhappy or because they are being coerced and exploited.

Sometimes, children in care choose to run back to familiar people and places.

Children who run away will often be attracted to bigger towns and cities.

Towns and cities offer excitement, anonymity and good transport links to other parts of the country.

Could you spot a missing child?

Are they:

  • too young to be travelling alone?
  • travelling with someone who doesn’t appear to be a friend or family member?
  • trying to catch a lift into the town from a rural area?
  • in a school uniform from a school which isn’t local?
  • in a uniform but out and about during school hours?
  • wearing clothes that are inappropriate for the weather?
  • looking lost?
  • short of money?
  • asking for directions?
  • carrying a significant number of belongings with them?
  • giving a story that seems implausible and involves needing to get to a place some distance away?
  • clearly frightened and anxious?

How you can help

  • Don’t attempt to rescue them or restrain them
  • Be sympathetic and ask them if they’re ok
  • Contact the Social Care duty team if they disclose that they have run away
  • Contact on Police on 101 to report any concerns, even if the child says they’re fine
  • Ring 999 if you believe the child is in immediate danger