Communities & Local Businesses

Child exploitation is a form of child abuse

Child Exploitation (known as CE) can happen anywhere, to anyone and by anyone.

We are committed to tackling child exploitation in the Wakefield District where communities and local businesses play a vital role in the identification and disruption involved in stopping CE. By raising awareness of it, we can spot the signs as early as possible to Speak Up, Stand Up and Stop Exploitation.

Remember, It is NEVER the fault of any child who is being exploited! Be curious and remember that it is against the law to exploit a child and the responsibility of everyone to safeguard children to keep them from harm.

We all have a responsibility to help protect children from exploitation
  • Text link image If you see the following in your community, it may be a sign that a child is being exploited:
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    Children arriving or leaving community areas in cars with older peers or adults
    Adults befriending children in local places
    Children in or around premises and communal spaces at unsociable hours

Can you recognise exploitation?

Operation Makesafe

was developed in partnership with London’s boroughs to raise awareness of child exploitation in the business community, such as hotels, licensed premises, taxi companies, shops, and care homes.

The purpose of Operation Makesafe is to empower businesses and organisations to tackle child exploitation through increased awareness and training. Find out more and to download resources visit the Met website:

Grooming a child is a crime, online or in the real world.


Targeting young people online for a sexually motivated purpose is never acceptable, in any context. Take a look at this short video from Police Scotland to see how it may happen.

What happens when a Child is Exploited?

A perpetrator will:

manipulate, deceive, coerce or control a child to undertake a criminal activity in exchange for something that they need or want such as:

  • gifts
  • money
  • accommodation
  • affection
  • or drugs so they can sexually or criminally exploit them.

A child won't always act or feel like a victim, often this may be because they have been groomed to feel respected and important. Bribery, intimidation, violence and/or threats is often involved, but a child does not need to have met their exploiter - this may happen online, using mobile phones and through social media.

It is the responsibility of everyone to understand child exploitation, know the signs and to act if you suspect a child is in danger of harm.

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What are the signs?

Usually carers closest to the child will know that there is something wrong and may already suspect Child Exploitation

Parents and carers tend to spot the signs before anyone else as they can see slight changes in behaviour and routine such as:

  • Frequently going missing from home or school or staying out unusually late
  • Anxiety around their mobile phones
  • Increased interest in money
  • In possession of drugs, alcohol or unexplained money
  • Disruptive behaviour in school and home
  • Having secret relationships/new friends
  • Being found in different areas
  • Coming home with injuries
  • Having unexplained hotel cards on their possession
  • Using unusual sexual, drug related or violent language

If you think a child is in immediate danger you must contact the Police on 999

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Children who run away are...
  • Text link image often at high risk of exploitation
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    If you spot a young person who you are concerned has run away do not frighten them:

    * don’t attempt to rescue them or restrain them
    * be sympathetic and ask them if they’re ok
    * report it (see below)
    * contact the 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

    They might be wearing a school uniform but not in school during the day, ask for money, look lost, be carrying lots of belongings around, look frightened or anxious, look too young to be travelling alone, wearing clothes that don’t fit with the weather conditions or ask you for directions.

What can businesses and the local community do next?

Nightwatch: Empowering The Night Time Economy

To Tackle Child Sexual Exploitation

An animated film from Barnardo’s showing how front line workers in the night time economy can play an important role in helping keep young people safe from sexual exploitation. The film follows a journey of a young girl and a perpetrator and highlights how, if you feel that something just isn’t quite right, you should report it. The night time economy can provide a network of eyes and ears within the community after dark.

What dooes your business need to know?

Scroll down to access specific advice for Banks, Delivery Drivers, Hotels/Caravan Parks, Public Transport, Retail, Taxi Drivers & Fast Food Restaurants.
Remember the acronym STAND UP to spot the signs


Travelling outside the area or more frequently

Appearance, do they look frightened, neglected, anxious

New clothes or high value items

Distant, disruptive or disrespectful

Unexplained absence from school or home

Popular, do they have new or lots of friends that are older

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Is a child or young person visiting your bank

  • Anxious, frightened, angry, showing signs of neglect or displaying other behaviours that worry you
  • Behaving aggressively
  • Visiting a branch far from the account holder's address
  • Paying in a large quantity of cash
  • Being instructed or controlled by another individual? Or is someone keeping an eye on them from a distance?
  • Receiving frequent messages and calls. Do they appear anxious when answering?
  • Approached at cash points or on social media for ‘Quick cash opportunities’
  • Unable to account for where their money has come from
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Concerning activity relating to a child's account
  • Text link image What are the signs?
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    Are they paying in small amounts frequently?
    Is there more activity than you would expect to see on a young person's account?
    Are there cash deposits or transfers from unknown sources?
    Are there a lot of transport or accommodation transactions on the account?
    Are there larger amounts going in?
    Are there other concerning account abnormalities?

    Children who are exploited often carry cash obtained from their exploitation and will visit bank branches to pay it into their abuser’s account. They may also be made to launder money or transfer criminal proceeds through their own bank account. You may notice if you are looking at records or speaking directly with young people.

Delivery Drivers

Whilst delivering in the community, look closer for children or young people who are

  • Looking lost or in unfamiliar surroundings 
  • Regularly in a public space during school hours or late at night
  • On their own or meeting different adults who don't appear to be parents
  • Getting deliveries to multiple properties regularly
  • Ordering items that need age ID approval and can’t make it
  • Being instructed or controlled by another individual
  • Accompanied by individuals who are older than them.
  • Having items delivered and someone else is paying for them.

As a delivery driver, you are working within communities and neighbourhoods, travelling through multiple public spaces during shifts. There may be opportunities for you to identify young people being exploited or abused within these spaces. 

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Things to look for when delivering to houses
  • Text link image What are the signs?
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    If you are delivering parcels, takeaways or other items to a house, you may be one of the only professionals in a position to spot and report concerns.

    Unaccompanied children visiting a house where only adults live.
    Young or vulnerable people who are anxious, frightened, angry, showing signs of neglect or displaying other behaviours that make you worried.
    Post coming to many names that suggests that there are many people moving through regularly.
    Signs of too many people living within a home.
    Locks on internal doors or items restricting access to home essentials.
    Anti-social behaviour such as graffiti or large parties happening within properties.
    Children with bruises, burns, bite marks or fractures.
    Tenants who appearing guarded around particular individuals.
    Shouting or violence towards a young person.
    Increased callers at a property such as walk ins, bikes, e-scooters or cars pulling up for short periods of a timeIncreased antisocial behaviour at a property.
    Not seeing the resident for long periods of time.
    Unfamiliar vehicles at the property.

Hotels & Caravan Parks

Hotels, caravan parks, and rented accommodation are being used to exploit and abuse children. This includes sexual abuse, criminal exploitation and Modern Slavery.

As reception or booking staff, housekeeping and bar staff you can look closer for the following indicators that something might not be right

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Things to look out for in your hotel/caravan park
  • Text link image What to look for when on reception
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    Last minute or walk-in bookings, particularly late at night.  
    Guests only using a room for a few hours, with no notification of leaving.
    Guests refusing to provide identification, leave credit card details. and/or with little or no luggage
    Guests with a local address booking a room.
    Guests in possession of large quantities of cash.  
    Guests requesting a room that is isolated, or near the rear exit to the premises.  
    A frequent guest of the hotel seen with a range of different young people or young people coming with multiple adults.
    Bookings made in a different name to the person checking in.  
    Guests asking for a specific room number when arriving, but not knowing the name in which the room is booked.
    Visitors to the accommodation without a room booking.
    Guests who do not want rooms cleaned and/or use the ‘do not disturb’ sign for long periods of time.
    Repeat visitors to the accommodation at irregular hours.
    Children or young people checking in with an adult or group of adults who do not appear to be their parents or guardians. 
    Young people meeting others in public areas or car parks on your premises.
    Young people arriving separately from those they are staying with.
    Noise complaints or signs of multiple people within the property.
  • Text link image What to look out for when housekeeping
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    Evidence of alcohol, drugs being prepared or taken.
    Evidence of contraception wrappers in guest rooms young people have been seen in.
    Signs of sexual or criminal activity having taken place in a room where young people have stayed or visited.
    Signs of more people being in the room than you would expect.
    Complaints from other hotel stayers about noise.
    Guests who do not want rooms cleaned and/or use the ‘do not disturb’ sign for long periods of time.

  • Text link image What to look out for as bar staff
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    Room service alcohol orders to rooms where there are guests who appear to be underage. 
    Young people in the company of older guests in the bar area. 
    Adult customers purchasing alcohol for young people.  
    Young people who appear anxious, frightened, angry or aggressive, showing signs of neglect, or displaying behaviours that cause you concern.
    Young people who appear to be instructed or controlled by another individual.

Public Transport

If you’re a train or bus driver, ticket inspector, tram or airport worker or staff at an E-Scooter company, you can help make our transport network a safe space for children and young people.

Try to take note of any unusual behaviour and report it if you are worried about a child.

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Things for public transport staff to look out for
  • Text link image Is a child or young person using public transport:
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    Anxious, frightened, angry, aggressive, or displaying other behaviours that worry you.
    Unfamiliar with their surroundings or appearing unsure about where they are travelling.
    Not in possession of a relevant ticket or fare to travel.
    In communication with or accompanied by older peers or adults who appear to be overseeing or controlling where they are travelling.
    Spending a long time in a transport hub and appearing unsure about leaving.
    Making frequent trips or spending long period of time in the toilet during their journey.
    Appearing to actively avoid being seen by transport staff or police in the area.
    Travelling at unusual hours (such as during school hours, early in the morning, or late at night?) and/or to multiple destinations in one day or night.
    Paying by cash for an expensive journey.
    Showing signs of neglect and/or indicating they have been staying somewhere unsanitary or unsafe.
    Using language that you suspect relates to criminal activity.
    Receiving frequent calls and messages that they appear anxious to respond to promptly.


Young people may be exploited to shoplift or to beg on busy high streets, outside supermarkets or in shopping centres. They may be accompanied or overseen by their exploiter even if you can’t see them.

Exploiters may also accompany a victim into your store in order to buy them items such as clothes, trainers, phones and other tech as part of what we call ‘grooming’. Through purchasing these items the exploiter can build a connection and seem like someone to trust when they are in fact using it to cynically reel them in, in order to exploit and abuse them later. 

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Things to look out for in or nearby your store
  • Text link image Is a child:
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    Anxious, frightened, angry or aggressive, showing signs of neglect, or displaying behaviours that cause you concern?
    Shoplifting, begging, or pickpocketing?
    Do they appear to be instructed or controlled by another individual?
    Paying using accounts or bank cards that don't belong to them?
    Buying expensive items with quantities of cash you wouldn't expect a young person to have? Or having them bought for them by someone who doesn’t appear to be their parent or guardian?
  • Text link image Are there young people who are
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    Accompanied by groups of older individuals?
    Returning to your store with different adults each time?
    In retail spaces at times you wouldn't expect? For example, during school hours or late at night?

Taxi / Private vehicles

Taxis, ride shares and private hire vehicles are sometimes used to transport young people for the purpose of abuse and exploitation.  

As a driver you may overhear concerning conversations a young person is having on the phone. The act of abuse or exploitation may not be visible but the control, coercion, grooming and its impact on a young person may be.

Whilst sharing a vehicle with a young person, you may be the only one to hear and observe signs of exploitation and abuse.

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Things to look out for in your taxi
  • Text link image As a driver, look closer for a child or young person who is:
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    Travelling alone? Unfamiliar with the local area?
    Travelling at unusual hours (during school time, early in the morning, or late at night? 
    Travelling to multiple destinations in one day or night?
    Travelling long distances and paying for a journey that is expensive and would seem unrealistic for a young person to afford by themselves? 
    Paying for journeys in cash or prepaid? Carrying lots of cash?
    Anxious, frightened, angry, showing signs of neglect or displaying other behaviour that makes you worried?
    Using words describing criminal or sexual activity?
  • Text link image If you work in a hire car branch look closer, is a child:
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    Being instructed or controlled by another individual?
    Appearing guarded around particular individuals?
    Anxious, frightened, angry, showing signs of neglect, or displaying other behaviours that worry you?
    Accompanied by another individual with suspicious booking information?

    Look out for fraudulent documents, payments in cash, regular bookings to different areas of the country or differences between names and addresses of those making the booking and those hiring the car.

Fast Food Restaurants

Fast food restaurants can be used by exploiters to build relationships with children and young people so they can then force them into acts of exploitation. This is known as grooming.

Exploitation can also take place in the restaurant itself, such as children being made to hold and sell drugs while there

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Things to look out for in your restaurant
  • Text link image Staff can look closer to see if a child:
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    Appears to be controlled or directed by another person.
    Appears uncomfortable with an adult they are in the restaurant with.
    Is followed to the toilets and/or spending an unusual amount of time there.
    Is in possession of more than one mobile phone and/or carrying lots of cash.
    Has spent a long period of time in the restaurant and met multiple people there over time.
    Appears anxious, frightened, angry, showing signs of neglect, or displaying other behaviours that make you worried.

    If something doesn’t feel right, you must report it!

How this may affect your business
  • Text link image Are you a target?
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    Did you know that perpetrators can target businesses and spaces to groom children?

    Keep your eyes and ears open to the people that frequently visit your space and be curious. Be open minded to the dangers that some children may face in your space. Did you know that children as young as 10 are used by criminal gangs?

    Share your knowledge and raise awareness in your area by sharing our campaign materials here [DESIGN PUBLIC RESOURCES TO DOWNLOAD]

How do I report Exploitation?
  • Text link image If you are unsure... report it!
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    Your information could be the vital piece of a jigsaw that can protect a child from exploitation. Information can be shared about a crime (however small or insignificant you think it may be) to West Yorkshire Police by calling 101 or 999 in an emergency. Anonymous information can be shared via Crimestoppers by calling 0800 555 111.

    If you have concerns about the welfare of a child click here for more information.

I reported exploitation, what happens next?