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 trans-national 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. Exploitation is not just sexual and includes forced labour or domestic services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs;

Some children and young people are moved away from their home town to other locations, for the purpose of exploitation. Although the nature of the information is often anecdotal, more cases continue to come to light.

Definition of trafficking

“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.”

United Nations, 2017

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Trafficking is exploitation


Trafficked children experience multiple forms of abuse and neglect.

This can happen anywhere… child sexual exploitation and domestic servitude is common, as is factory and nail bar work.

While there is a demand for children and young people to carry out these roles, traffickers will continue to traffic children and young people for profit.

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 groups that we know are more likely to be trafficked than others:

  • refugees and migrant children;
  • children in care;
  • links to criminal networks;
  • missing from home and/or education;
  • gender: there is greater threat to girls than boys.
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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:

  • have chaotic home lives.
  • are involved in substance misuse.
  • are living in poverty.
  • not attending school or excluded due to their behaviour.
  • stay out overnight with no explanation.
  • 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.
  • are self harming.
  • have chronic alcohol and drug use.
  • are involved in offending behaviour.
  • are being moved around for sexual activity.
  • are having multiple miscarriages or terminations.
  • are offering to have sex for money or other payment then running before sex takes place.
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What you can do

Most trafficked children are invisible. Protecting them and promoting their welfare depends upon the awareness and co-operation of community groups and members of the public. Safeguarding trafficked children is very much everyone’s business and requires a community response 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 ok to talk even about the most difficult things.

Spot the signs & know what to do – use the checklists above, your safeguarding procedures and be confident in raising trafficking and modern slavery as a possibility.

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

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Next steps..

  • Follow your safeguarding procedures and make sure you identify any other risks.
  • Refer to children’s services or the police as a ‘first responder’.
  • Ensure they follow the National Referral Mechanism to assess whether there are grounds to suspect modern slavery.

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