Whilst it’s acknowledged that there are many forms of vulnerability, the term ‘vulnerable’ used by the VEMT Practitioner Group(s) refers to young people who are ‘vulnerable to child sexual exploitation, child criminal exploitation, modern slavery, and/or being trafficked.’

Child sexual exploitation (CSE)

The latest advice from Government (February 2017), defines child sexual exploitation as:

A form of child sexual abuse. It occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate, or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into sexual activity:
a) in exchange for something the victim needs or wants
b) for the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator or facilitator.

The victim may have been sexually exploited even if the sexual activity appears consensual. Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology.

More information is available in CSE – definition and guide for practitioners.

Child criminal exploitation (CCE)

While there is still no legal definition of child criminal exploitation, CCE as used by the VEMT Practitioner Group(s), refers to:

The act of using a minor child for labour, profit, or financial advantage. It may involve gangs and/or organised criminal networks used to store, move, export, or deal illegal drugs and/or money, and they will often use coercion, intimidation, violence and weapons.

Children and young people who are reported to the police as missing from home (MFH), or missing from care (MFC).

Repeatedly being MFH or MFC can be an indicator of a young person’s vulnerability to CSE/being trafficked.

Trafficking relates to the movement of young people for the purposes of modern slavery, sexual, or criminal exploitation which is classed as a form of ‘human trafficking’ under the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

Although human trafficking is international, trafficking for CSE is often within the UK.

Modern slavery is the term used in the UK, and is defined within the Modern Slavery Act 2015.  The Act categorises offences of slavery, servitude, and forced or compulsory labour and human trafficking. These crimes include holding a person in a position of slavery, servitude forced or compulsory labour, or facilitating their travel with the intention of exploiting them soon after.

The VPG is an operational group which supports frontline practitioners in their role of supporting a child or young person.  The group is based on partnership problem solving model incorporating the signs of safety and ensures positive outcomes for children and young people.

County lines used to describe gangs and organised criminal networks involved in exporting illegal drugs into one or more importing areas within the UK, using dedicated mobile phone lines or other form of ‘deal line’. They are likely to exploit children and vulnerable adults to move and store the drugs and money and they will often use coercion, intimidation, violence (including sexual violence), and weapons.

Gangs use children and vulnerable people to move drugs and money to these areas. Once caught up in county lines, exploited individuals are at risk of extreme physical and/or sexual violence, gang recriminations and trafficking.

The definition of county lines is taken from Home Office’s ‘County lines partner pack‘.​​

What should practitioners do?


Any child in Middlesbrough or Redcar & Cleveland, regardless of their community, gender, or ethnicity, can suffer CSE, CCE, or county lines.


When completing social care or Early Help assessments and undertaking Signs of Safety meetings, practitioners should always consider whether CSE, CCE, county lines and/or trafficking is an issue. If it is, report as follows:

  • If there is an immediate danger to a young person, report this to the police on 999
  • If there is a crime but not an immediate danger to a young person, report this to the police on 101
  • A Safer Referral should be considered and if open, a strategy should also be considered
  • Additionally, a referral to the VEMT Practitioner Group (VPG) should be made in order to problem solve


To refer into the VEMT Practitioner Group (VPG), a lead professional must complete the VEMT Vulnerability Assessment completing the applicable domains and complete the scoring tool within. A decision will be made via a multi-agency assessment meeting (pre-agenda) where the case will be accepted or alternative interventions offered.

Step one
Complete the Tees-wide child exploitation VEMT practitioner screening tool / referral form.
Please note, forms should be completed with partner agencies present so all information is presented.

Step two
Submit the form to (Middlesbrough cases) or (Redcar & Cleveland cases).

Partnership information sharing

Cleveland Police’s ‘partnership information sharing report’ form can be used by professionals working under the safeguarding agenda to inform the police of any information regarding child sexual exploitation, child criminal exploitation, and county lines involvement.

Professionals can include names (including nicknames) of suspected perpetrators, locations where exploitation may be taking place, car or vehicle details, locations including online and/or description of individuals seen in suspicious circumstances.

Download the partnership information sharing report form.

The information will then be recorded on the police intelligence system is strictly confidential and source information is and used to better understand the problem of CSE in Middlesbrough and Redcar & Cleveland, and to enable a coordinated response through VEMT.

Worried about a child?

Find out what to do if you’re worried about a child in Middlesbrough or Redcar & Cleveland and want to make a safeguarding referral.


Look Closer

Young people are being exploited and are losing hope, but it’s not always obvious. The Children’s Society’s #LookCloser campaign encourages everyone to learn the signs of child exploitation and how to report it if worried.

County lines

A4 county lines awareness poster from the Home Office

In the wrong hands

‘In the wrong hands’ is a major campaign to fight child sexual exploitation on Teesside. The thought-provoking campaign outlines what child sexual exploitation (CSE) is, the tell-tale signs to look out for, and where to get help or report concerns.

Child exploitation is a serious crime. Victims of sexual exploitation are often unaware that they are being exploited. This type of abuse can happen to any child or young person up to the age of 18 from any background.

View the ‘in the wrong hands’ toolkit.

Useful contacts

Emergency Duty Team: 01642 524 552
Barnardo’s: 01642 300774
Childline0800 11 11
Police (emergency): 999
Crimestoppers: 0800 555 111
Police (non-emergency): 101
Stop It Now0808 100 900

Useful websites

Barnardo’s works to transform the lives of the UK’s most vulnerable children.

CEOP (formerly the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) works to protect children from harm online and offline.

NSPCC works to prevent child abuse and neglect.

Thinkuknow teaches children and young people aged 5-17 to identify the risks they may face online and tells them where they can go for support.

Home Office County Lines Partner Pack ​gives guidance for frontline professionals on dealing with county lines.

Home Office child exploitation disruption toolkit gives disruption tactics for those working to safeguard children and young people under the age of 18 from sexual and criminal exploitation.

Be Space Aware is a campaign to stop and prevent adolescent criminal exploitation (SPACE).

Parent Zone provide support and information to parents, children, and schools to help families to navigate the internet safely and confidently.


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