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Missing and runaway children

Children and Young People who going missing and/or run away from their home or placement is a serious issue that the London Borough of Enfield is pro-actively addressing. This issue is often an indicator of other problems in the home where the child lives.

Enfield Safeguarding Children Board (ESCB) has a comprehensive Missing from Home, Care, Education and / or Health Protocol which provides information and advice to professionals regarding how to respond to and work with young people who are missing.

We work closely with   an independent specialist service for children and young people called the Enfield Runaways Service. This service operates within the community and in partnership with all the statutory agencies to assist in providing an effective response to children who are missing.

St Christopher’s Young Runaways Service is community based in Enfield and can be contacted by email, or telephone 020 8780 7800.

Enfield Runaways Service Leaflet

Enfield Runaways Poster

Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)

We know that when young people go missing they can be particularly vulnerable to exploitation. This may take the form of sexual exploitation which is defined as;

“Child sexual exploitation is 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, and/or (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.”

For more information on CSE you please visit our main Child Sexual Exploitation and Missing page and our Child Sexual Exploitation – Resources and Tools page.

County Lines

We also know that young people who are missing are vulnerable to becoming involved in criminal activity.

‘County lines’ is the term used to describe the approach taken by gangs originating from large urban areas, who travel to locations elsewhere such as county or coastal towns to sell class A drugs.Gangs typically recruit and exploit children and vulnerable young people to courier drugs and cash. Typically, users ask for drugs via a mobile phone line used by the gang. Couriers travel between the gang’s urban base and the county or coastal locations on a regular basis to collect cash and deliver drugs

Gangs recruit children and young people through deception, intimidation, violence, debt bondage and/or grooming. Gangs also use local property as a base for their activities, and this often involves taking over the home of a vulnerable adult who is unable to challenge them.

For more information on County Lines you download our County Lines briefing or visit the National Crime Agency website.

Trafficking & Modern Slavery

The trafficking of children simply means the movement of a child for the purposes of exploitation.

This movement could be from one country to another, one county to another even one room to another.  Harbouring a child for the purposes of exploitation is also considered trafficking, for example, making a child be a domestic slave in their own home.

Any child moved for exploitation is considered to be a trafficking victim (whether or not they have been deceived) because it is not considered possible for children to give informed consent to their own exploitation.

Trafficking of children can be external (in and out of the UK) or internal (within the UK).

Types of Exploitation

Children may be alone/unaccompanied or part of a sibling, family or community group.   They could be trafficked by their parents, foster parents, adoptive parents, siblings, communities or by complete strangers.

Child trafficking is often multi-faceted and therefore children may experience more than one exploitation type, for example, labour exploitation by day and sexual exploitation by night.

Victims of Child trafficking may experience (not an exhaustive list):

  • Extreme trauma
  • Juju and witchcraft
  • Rape, being held captive
  • Beatings, drugging
  • Change of identity and confiscation of identity documents
  • Multiple loss/separation
  • Made to believe that they owe large sums of money e.g. debt bondage
  • Socially isolation

ALL victims of Child Trafficking should be seen as a child protection concern and should be treated as such with statutory services.

This is everyone’s responsibility and the responsibility of children’s services, community and voluntary providers, education services, community safety and health provision to respond to trafficked children.

As victims of child trafficking, children should receive:-

  • Immediate Safety on Identification
  • Appropriate Accommodation
  • Language and cultural support
  • NRM referral
  • Follow up support and education
  • Support to deal with the trauma they have faced
  • Support to prevent further abuse and exploitation

All first responders to the National Referral Mechanism including the police and local authorities have a ‘duty to notify’ via a National Referral Mechanism of any potentially trafficked children, this is part of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 legislation.

Resources and Tools

ECPAT UK – Campaigning against child trafficking and transnational child exploitation

To report any concerns relating to any of these issues

Contact Children’s Single Point of Entry (SPOE) on 020 8379 5555 (Mon-Thurs 9am-5pm; Fri 9am-4.45pm).

Out of office hours call: 020 8379 1000 (select option 2 and you will be transferred to an advisor)

You may also make contact by email;

In an emergency, call 999.

For further information visit the Single Point of Entry (SPOE) webpage

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