The trade of humans for the purposes of forced labour, slavery or sexual exploitation is understood to be one of the fastest growing areas of both international and intranational criminal organisations, and has devastating effects on the victims.

Trafficking does not necessarily involve travel to another county or even long distance nationally. A child can be trafficked within their own area, especially in relation to child sexual exploitation and child criminal exploitation (including county lines). Exploitation can also include forced labour, domestic servitude or the removal of organs.

Trafficking poster

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Definition of trafficking

“Human trafficking is “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”

The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings

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Trafficking is exploitation


Trafficked children experience multiple forms of abuse and neglect.

Child trafficking differs from that of adults in that a child cannot give informed consent to his or her own exploitation, regardless of whether he or she seemingly agrees to travel or genuinely understands the situation. The elements of coercion or deception (means), do not need to be present to prove an offence although, in reality coercion and deception etc. are likely to have been used to groom child victims.

The “more” link on the right takes you to the Home Office guidance in relation to victims of modern slavery.

Vulnerable groups

Everyone can be vulnerable to being trafficked, however there are some children that we know are more likely to be trafficked than others:

  • refugees and migrant children;
  • children in care;
  • children who are not in the care of their parents/legal guardians;
  • links to criminal networks;
  • missing from home and/or education;
  • gender: there is greater threat to girls than boys;
  • children with additional needs;
  • excluded children;
  • children with chaotic home lives;
  • children living in poverty;
  • children living with substance misuse;
  • children with additional needs.
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Spotting the signs

Many of the signs are similar to those we see in relation to any abusive situation, however some specific considerations are in relation to children who:

  • are not registered with a school or a GP practice​;
  • do not have any documents (or have falsified documents);
  • stay out overnight with no explanation;
  • are seen getting into unknown cars or taxis;
  • experience a breakdown of residential placements due to their behaviour;
  • have money or goods including mobile phones, drugs and alcohol that they cannot account for;
  • experience multiple sexually transmitted infections, miscarriages or terminations;
  • are self-harming;
  • misuse substances;
  • are involved in criminal activity.
  • spend a lot of time doing household chores, rarely leave their house, have no time for playing.
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What you can do

Many children are trafficked ‘in plain sight’ – e.g. perpetrators of sexual/criminal exploitation have been known to pick children up from their education settings during lunch break, returning them just before afternoon registration – yet still remain invisible in terms of help and support. Some children are hidden, never seen outside their home or workplace. Protecting them and promoting their welfare depends upon the awareness and co-operation of education settings, community groups and members of the public. Safeguarding trafficked children is very much everyone’s business and requires a community response, particularly in high-risk areas.

Create an environment based on equality and informed choice – help young people think about the issues and attitudes behind trafficking and modern slavery.

  • Be aware of the signs and effects.
  • Support pupils and families.
  • Sign-post to supportive services.
  • Any concerns should be raised with your designated safeguarding lead.

Ensure young people know the risks – talk about poverty at an age appropriate level and have a safety plan to get help.

Check young people have safe relationships – in their family, with their peers and with your staff. Create the environment where it’s okay to talk even about the most difficult things.

Spot the signs and know what to do – use the checklists above, your safeguarding procedures and be confident in raising trafficking and modern slavery as a possibility. Refer to children’s services or the police as a ‘first responder’ and ensure they follow the National Referral Mechanism to assess next steps.

Take action – and keep taking action until you know they’re safe.

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  • SAVE ME film and facilitator handbook

    The SAVE ME short film and accompanying handbook were co-produced by local young people, Enfield Council and the AVIARD INSPIRES film company. They can be used to aid discussions, facilitate workshops, enhance learning and educate children, parents, professionals, communities and businesses about grooming, child exploitation, coercive control and other abuses towards children. They can be used in settings such as schools, colleges, community youth centres, youth justice settings and parenting groups etc.

  • Modern slavery awareness & victim identification guidance

    Modern slavery is happening in the UK today, but the crime can be difficult to spot and go unreported. This guidance is intended as a resource providing clear and up to date information on the key facts, and to help public sector workers who may not routinely come across modern slavery recognise the signs and respond so that more victims get help and perpetrators are brought to justice.

  • Care of unaccompanied migrant children and child victims of modern slavery, Statutory Guidance

    This guidance sets out the steps local authorities should take to plan for the provision of support for looked after children who are unaccompanied asylum seeking children, unaccompanied migrant children or child victims of modern slavery including trafficking.

  • The Passage Modern Slavery Handbook

    Tackling modern slavery, human trafficking and exploitation in the homelessness sector. This handbook explains what slavery looks like in the homeless community, what to watch out for and what you can do about it.

    Although directed at the homelessness sector, this handbook provides a useful summary of what modern slavery is and the vulnerabilities people face.

  • Modern slavery explained

    From the charity Unseen – What is modern slavery? Slavery is an umbrella term for activities involved when one person obtains or holds another person in compelled service. Millions of people around the world are trapped in modern slavery. It is a crime happening in our communities, takeaways, hotels, car washes, nail bars and private homes, and modern slaves could be working for you.

  • Modern Slavery Act 2015 – Statutory Guidance for England and Wales

    The guidance considers the sorts of things which indicate that a person may be a victim of slavery or human trafficking, arrangements for determining whether there are reasonable grounds to believe that a person may be a victim of slavery or human trafficking and arrangements for providing assistance and support (NB: non-statutory for Scotland and Northern Ireland).

  • Video resources …

    Video resources created by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority and other agencies looking at areas such as debt bondage, accommodation, survivor stories and modern slavery.

  • Modern slavery training: resource page

    Government page which provides a number of different sets of training materials around modern slavery.

  • Types of Exploitation – Infographic

    One page infographic setting out the types of exploitation that is seen with modern slavery. Can be used as a poster.

  • Signs of Exploitation – Infographic

    One page infographic setting out the signs that might indicate that an individual is a victim of modern slavery – can be used as a poster.

  • Victim Vulnerabilities – Infographic

    One page document setting out the vulnerabilities that can be seen in victims of modern slavery.  Can be used as a poster.

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  • Training resources for DSLs to use in team meetings
  • Reference documents for additional information
  • Handout for staff summarising trafficking
  • Quiz to test staff understanding
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