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What should I do if I suspect a child is being abused?


Spotting the signs of child abuse can be difficult. Children might not want to tell anyone, or they may not even be aware it is happening.

If you are unsure, the best thing to do is talk - to the child, to a teacher or another responsible adult. It is always helpful to get someone else's perspective.

Symptoms that may be cause for concern include;

  • Talk of being left home alone or with strangers
  • Excessive violence with other children
  • Lack of social skills and struggles to make friends
  • Has a poor relationship with their parent(s)
  • Shows disruptive behaviour at school
  • Becomes secretive and reluctant to share information

If you have noticed any of the above and are unsure whether to report, do not wait until you are certain. You should contact the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000 and a counsellor will then be able to assess the situation before offering further advice.

Related questions


A 'money mule' is someone who transfers stolen money on behalf of criminals through their own bank account.

Criminals will contact a person, either on the internet (via social media, a fake job advertisement) or in person, and offer to pay them for use of their bank account in order to receive stolen money and transfer it to another account.

The majority of the money being transferred is stolen money and is used to fund further criminal activity such as terrorism and fraud.

Criminals usually target vulnerable people who are in financial difficulties themselves and see being a mule as an opportunity to make money.

Once a person has transferred the money successfully there is a high chance that the criminals will want to repeat the process and may use intimidation if someone does not comply.

It is a criminal offence to let someone use your bank account for this activity and you could face a prison sentence of up to 14 years if caught. You could also have your account closed and find it difficult to access credit.

If someone asks you to use your bank account, report it to your local police force. Please see the link in Related Information for contact details.

Please also see the related topic, County Lines, in Related Information.


'County lines' is a term used to describe networks of gangs and organised crime groups, who use children, young people and vulnerable adults to carry out illegal activity on their behalf.

This criminal exploitation is known as 'county lines' as young children travel across counties and use dedicated mobile phone 'lines' to supply drugs.

As well as the storage and supply of drugs, gangs also use children for the movement of cash proceeds (money mules) and to secure the use of dwellings (commonly referred to as 'cuckooing').

Criminal gangs groom children into trafficking their drugs for them with promises of money, friendship and status. Once they've been drawn in, children are often controlled using threats, violence and sexual abuse. These children can then become trapped in criminal exploitation and feel as if they have no choice but to continue doing what the criminals want.

What are signs of criminal exploitation and county lines?

  • Unexplained absences from school, college, training or work.
  • Going missing from home, staying out late and travelling for unexplained reasons.
  • In a relationship or hanging out with someone older than them.
  • Being angry, aggressive or violent.
  • Being isolated or withdrawn.
  • Having unexplained money and buying new things.
  • Wearing clothes or accessories in gang colours or getting tattoos.
  • Using new slang words.
  • Spending more time on social media and being secretive about time online.
  • Unexplained injuries.
  • Carrying weapons.
  • Making more calls or sending more texts, possibly on a new phone or phones.
  • Taking drugs / abusing alcohol.
  • Having hotel cards or keys to unknown places.

The police work collaboratively with other forces and regional organised crime units to build intelligence, tackle the demand for drugs, ensure disruption of county lines activity, protect the vulnerable and carry out enforcement activity.

What to do if you have concerns

  • If you have information you wish to share with the police, contact your local police force.
  • If you believe a young person you know could be in immediate danger, call 999.
  • If you are a young person who is worried about your involvement, or a friend's involvement in county lines, it is a good option to speak to a family member or trusted adult about your concerns.


Bogus Callers

  • 'Officials' may be smartly dressed and claim to be from the council, a utilities company, health authority or other organisation.
  • 'Dealers' may offer to buy antiques, furniture or jewellery.
  • A 'labourer / worker' may say that they need to enter the house to check something or make urgent repairs.

Bogus callers will be attempting to gain entry to the premises to steal, often working in pairs, with one person distracting the homeowner while the other gains entry to the property.

Always ask the caller for their identification and check it, before letting them in. You can also phone to company to verify their identity. Make sure that you check the number yourself, rather than using a number that they give you, as this may be false and be answered by someone working with them. A genuine caller will be happy to wait outside whilst you check their credentials. If you are in any doubt, do not let the caller in.

Some utilities companies have password schemes, so you can check the identity of the caller before opening the door. You can contact your supplier to find out if they provide this service.

Rogue Traders

These people may use pressure tactics to persuade homeowners to have unnecessary work done or to purchase goods. The rogue traders will often have no experience or training and will carry out poor quality work or sell sub-standard goods for large amounts of money and usually ask for payment in cash.

Here are some top tips to avoid becoming victim to a rogue trader:

  • Install a door chain or spy hole.
  • Never agree to have work done by somebody who is just passing or take their word that it needs to be done at all.
  • Never agree to have work done or part with any money on your doorstep.
  • Always get at least 2 written quotes from traders for any work.
  • Always agree the price, payment arrangements and start/finish dates in writing before any work starts on your home.
  • Ask friends and relatives for a recommendation.

For complaints about goods and services, the Citizens Advice Bureau provide free, confidential and impartial advice on consumer issues. Please see the links in Related Information for details.


You should speak to your child's teacher to start with to let them know of the situation and what your child has told you. It is important to remain calm but firm when approaching the subject.

Ask the teacher at school if they have noticed any changes in your child's behaviour, as bullied children are often withdrawn and quiet which can affect their overall school performance.

The school will have policy in place for dealing with bullying and the teachers will have experience in dealing with such, therefore they should be able to suggest the best course of action. The websites listed in Related Information offer help and support for parents and children about the best way to approach bullying.


You should speak to the Head Teacher or Head of Year in this situation. It is important that this kind of incident is dealt with carefully but also professionally. The school will be able to advise on how to resolve the situation, measures could include observing lessons or if possible moving class to a different teacher. It may be worth speaking to your child about the bullying and how they would like the issue to be resolved.

Please see the websites in the Related Information section that offer specific advice in this situation.

Contact your local police force

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