7 Key Findings about Child Exploitation

The Children’s Society’s report Counting Lives explores exactly what is meant by child exploitation. It investigates how children are exploited and how local and national responses need to be made more effective.

Below, we have summarised the 7 key findings the Children’s Society believe are vital:

Not all child exploitation involves drugs

The Children’s Society report states that criminal exploitation of children comes in many forms. Although it is often stereotyped and believed that all child exploitation involves drugs, this is not necessarily true. Although there are children that are coerced into moving and selling drugs across the country, child exploitation often includes situations like children being forced to shoplift or having to threaten other young people.

Children are groomed through online music videos

The world of social media can be extremely dangerous for young children. Criminals will often use online groups that focus on popular culture such as online music videos to fake similar interests to young people. In doing so, the perpetrators gain trust easily and so can develop relationships with the children.

All children are at risk

Certain vulnerabilities such as a child growing up in poverty or having learning difficulties may place certain children at a greater risk. However, the Children’s Society report found that regardless of a child’s family network, socio-economic background or neighbourhood, all children are at risk of exploitation.

Drugs are a problem everywhere

The Children’s Society report found that drugs are a problem everywhere, not just in major cities. Practitioners and police reports have found that there are thousands of drug trafficking routes in all areas of the country.

There is no age limit to exploitation

Regardless of age, children are targeted for exploitation across the country. The report found that although older adolescents and teenagers are more likely to be targeted, children as young as seven find themselves at risk. This may lead to more problems, as often young children of this age are not deemed ‘at risk’ and as such, there is less protection surrounding them.

Signs of exploitation are not obvious

Although there are a range of signals which may suggest that a child is being or has been exploited, some indicators are easy to miss. For example, if a young person is going missing from home, it is likely to be picked up on quicker than if a young person in care goes missing.

Exploited children are not treated equally

The Children’s Society report has found that gender, age, ethnicity and background will all affect how a professional will respond to a child who has been at risk of being criminally exploited. Some may be recognised as victims while others are not.

The Counting Lives report argues that there needs to be a national strategy to responding to children who are victims of exploitation.

Children should be full of optimism and hope, however criminals across the country are taking advantage of young people and pushing them into a world of violence and illegal activity. Society is then treating these children like criminals rather than victims.

By providing a range of activities, we support the young people within our care with the attention they deserve. We do this with both planned and emergency admissions as a result of crisis intervention, supporting any child who has been subject to abuse, neglect or exploitation. We also support children who may be at risk of being exploited.

To find out more about our Wilderness Experiences and crisis intervention, please email us on

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The placement was really good and beneficial to me. The staff were all really supportive and nice and always made themselves available to me if I had any problems. The outdoor activities that were offered helped me to have a better outlook and showed me that I can do so much more in life, and it really helped me process and made me feel like a better person.


As METCO Officer for Cumbria Police I have regular contact with the team at AWW in relation to vulnerable children at risk of CSE and going missing. If a specific incident has occurred, the Home Manager and I speak on the phone to discuss the best way forward. She also attends CSE risk assessment meetings and we receive Philomena Protocol forms when a young person arrives in placement.

Cumbria Police