Child trafficking

A person commits a child trafficking offence if they intentionally arrange or facilitate the travel of another person with the intent to commit a relevant offence. SOA (2003)

Child trafficking is a form of child abuse in itself and therefore a referral to social care is required. It can have a long term devastating effect on victims who often experience multiple forms of abuse. The hidden nature of child trafficking makes it difficult to identify victims, grasp the scale of the problem and to develop effective responses.

A trafficked child can be defined as "Moving a young person from point A to point B to arrange or facilitate sexual activity".

They do not need to have moved far - it could be as short as a mile or two. It could be from a local park to a flat, or from one room to another. They do not need to have been trafficked in or out of a country or county and they may not realise that they have experienced trafficking because perpetrators often move or take the young people to another location for sexual activity so this may be quite common.

The definition of trafficking forms part of the Palermo Protocol which the UK has signed up to.

Palermo Protocol

The act - The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of people.

The means - By means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, the abuse of power or the position of vulnerability or of the giving and receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of the person having control over the other person.

The purpose - 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.

Professionals only need to evidence two of these criteria to establish the trafficking of children (The act and the purpose).

As a professional, these are things you can do

Prompt decisions are needed when any concerns relate to a child who may have been trafficked, to avoid the risk of the child being moved again. Children who may have been trafficked are likely to have complex or serious needs and there will often be child protection concerns.

Anyone who has a concern regarding the possible trafficking of a child, must immediately consult with their designated lead for child protection and make a referral to children's social care. View our safeguarding procedures for more information

Practitioners should not do anything which would heighten the risk of harm or abduction to the child (such as consulting with, or informing those suspected of trafficking that a referral is being made). Once safeguarding processes have been initiated, a referral to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) should be made using the NRM Referral Form.

National Referral Mechanism (NRM)

The NRM was set up in 2009 by the Home Office and is a framework for identifying victims of human trafficking and ensuring they receive the appropriate care:

  • Safe accommodation and material assistance
  • Access to emergency medical treatment
  • Counselling and information regarding their legal rights
  • Guidance on education, training and employment
  • Advice on immigration and legal rights and services.

You can also find further guidance regarding the NRM.

Possible indicators that a child may have been trafficked

The following indicators are not a definitive list and are intended as a guide.

For children internally trafficked within the UK, indicators include:

  • Physical symptoms indicating physical/sexual assault.
  • Behaviour indicating sexual exploitation
  • Phone calls or letters being received by the child from adults outside their usual range of contacts.
  • The child persistently goes missing, missing for long periods, returning looking well and cared for despite having no known base.
  • The child possessing large amounts of money, acquiring expensive clothes/mobile phones without plausible explanation.
  • Low self-image, low self-esteem, self-harming behaviour, truancy and disengagement with education.
  • Shows sign of physical or sexual abuse and/or has contracted a sexually transmitted infection or has an unwanted pregnancy.

Whilst resident in the UK, the child:

  • Doesn't appear to have money but has a mobile phone.
  • Receives unexplained and unidentified phone calls whilst in placement.
  • Has a history of missing links and unexplained moves.
  • Is being cared for by adults who are not their parents and the quality of the relationship between the child and their adult carer is not good.
  • Has not been registered with or attended a GP practice and/or has not enrolled in school.
  • Is being moved around the town or city to meet new people at parties.
  • Is required to earn a minimum amount of money every day, works in various locations, has limited amount of movement and is known to beg for money.
  • Fearful of any person in authority.
  • Overcrowded home conditions with unrelated adults or other children.

At point of entry, the child:

  • Has entered the country illegally, has no passport or means of identification or has false documentation.
  • Is unable to confirm the name and address of the person meeting them on arrival.
  • Has had their journey or visa arranged by someone other than themselves or family.
  • Has a prepared story or is reluctant to give details of accommodation or other personal details.
  • Is fearful of those in authority and persons they are travelling with.
  • Not travelling with a person who has parental responsibility.

Other sources of support, resources and information

See our safeguarding procedures for children abuse through sexual exploitation

Derbyshire Constabulary

Derbyshire Constabulary have produced some useful information and advice about human trafficking

The Police also work closely with the Salvation Army

Stop the Traffik equip people to understand what trafficking is, how it affects them and what they can do about it. Their website is full of useful information packs that can be downloaded:


ECPAT UK is a children's rights organisation campaigning against child trafficking and exploitation in the UK.

ECPAT UK also have an eLearning course for professionals to access - In your hands - safeguarding child victims of trafficking.

Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP)

CEOP work closely with the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), the Association of Chiefs of Police Officers (ACPO), the UKHTC and relevant statutory and non statutory stakeholders on all issues of child trafficking.


The NSPCC have a variety of resources and information along with their Child Trafficking Advice Centre. Telephone: 0808 800 5000.

They have also produced a short animated film called "When someone cares" to share with young people to raise their awareness.


Barnardos have a variety of resources for professionals, parents and carers to access:

A PDF leaflet and guide for professionals.

A PDF leaflet for parents to help spot the signs.

A short DVD to help spot the signs.

A PDF leaflet for young people on how to keep safe from exploitation

National Working Group (NWG)

The NWG is a charitable organisation within the UK who disseminates their information down through their services to professionals working on the issue of CSE and child trafficking within the UK. The NWG website offers a variety of resources and also a CSE elearning package aimed at practitioners and other staff who come into contact with children, young people and families.

We have gold membership which enables partner agencies to login to the NWG website and access their resources e.g. Derbyshire schools, social care and residential children's homes. Everyone wishing to access the website will require a username and password. These are unique to each person and not generic for a team or department. If a member of staff would like a username and password, they will need to contact the NWG to be given a password. Please mention that you are a partner agency to the Derbyshire Safeguarding Children Board who have a gold membership.

The NWG contact details are:

Telephone: 01332 585371

Related documents

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