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Child Protection


Nitrous oxide is a colourless gas, also known as ‘laughing gas’. 
Nitrous oxide is a Class C drug and it is an offence to possess it unless it can be shown it was possessed for one of the legitimate statutory exemptions. Nitrous oxide has widespread legitimate uses, including in medical, dental, and veterinary settings and those with a legitimate reason for possessing the substance will be exempt from the ban.
However, possession with the intent to wrongfully inhale the substance or to supply to another person for it’s wrongful inhalation is an offence. ‘Wrongful inhalation’ means inhalation for purposes other than medical or dental purposes or of nitrous oxide that has been released into the atmosphere. It includes inhalation for the substances psychological effects and the offence is designed to prevent people recreationally inhaling the substance for this reason. 
The consequences for the offence of unlawful possession could include an unlimited fine, a visible community punishment, a caution and for repeat serious offenders, a prison sentence.
It is also an offence to import, export, produce or supply nitrous oxide where a person intends to wrongfully inhale the substance or where the individual knows, or is reckless as to whether, it is likely that another person will wrongfully inhale it.
There are serious health risks associated with the use of nitrous oxide, heavy use can result in neurological damage and even death due to the risk of falling unconscious and/or suffocating from the lack of oxygen.


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 to receive stolen money and transfer it to another account.

Most 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 as these people may see being a money 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, speak to a family member or trusted adult about your concerns.


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.


Chatrooms can be a fun pastime for your children. However, there are dangers involved with using chatrooms that both parents and children need to be aware of.

Some people use the internet and chatrooms as a method to gain contact with children and subsequently enter into inappropriate and illegal relationships, as they can create false identities and remain anonymous. They may use a method known as 'grooming', which involves using deceiving techniques build a relationship, trust and emotional connection with a child or young person so they can manipulate, exploit and abuse them. This may include creating different personas or posing as a child themselves.  There is a government website which gives a more comprehensive overview of this activity and has a version for parents and children which sets out the possible dangers of communicating with strangers online and how to make chatrooms a safer place to be - Thinkuknow, see Related Information for that and other helpful websites.

A few basic tips to be aware of when using internet chatrooms are;-

  • Never give out any personal details
  • Always be wary, some users on the internet are not who they say they are
  • Never arrange to meet anyone you have met through a chatroom unless you are 100% sure they are who they say they are. Even then, tell your parents, take them or another responsible adult with you and always meet in a public place.


Details of registered sex offenders are kept on a register for the Police only, it is not for public access. If you have any concerns over the activities of a local resident then you should speak to your local police force.

The Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme (Sarah's law) allows members of the public to make a request that the police investigate a person. Anyone who looks out for the welfare of a child can make an enquiry. This can include parents, carers, guardians, extended family, friends and neighbours.

Disclosures however, will only be given to the person best placed to protect the particular child or children and who needs to know the details in order to keep the child safe, usually a parent, carer or guardian.

Once an application for an investigation has been made the police will require the applicant to specify the grounds for the investigation and the nature of the relationship between the applicant and the child, the applicant and the individual and the individual and the child. The applicant will be invited to an interview with the police where matters will be enquired into further.

Whilst the police have a duty to explore the request, there is no requirement for the police to disclose any information and all requests for information about named individuals will be discussed by the police, probation and safeguarding children staff in order to determine whether the release of information will provide additional protection for the child(ren ) in question.

If information is disclosed, the applicant will be required to sign a confidentiality agreement and be subject to sanctions should any unlawful disclosure be made. See link in related information for more details.


There are various different types of smoke alarm, these are widely available and can cost as little as £5, depending on the type of detection it uses.

If you or a family member have a condition that may prevent or delay escape if there is a fire, you may need a specialist alarm system. Your local Fire and Rescue Service will be able to advise you further, please see the link in related information for your local Fire and Rescue Service contact details.


  • These types of smoke alarms detect free burning flames such as chip pan fires.
  • They detect the smoke before it gets thick.
  • Cost from under £5
  • Availability - can be found in most supermarkets and DIY stores


  • These are more sensitive and will detect slow burning fires
  • Less likely to go off whilst you are cooking
  • Cost from £15
  • Availability - can be found in DIY and electrical stores


  • These detect both free burning flames and slow burning fires
  • Cost from £5
  • Availability - can be found in DIY and electrical stores

Whichever model of smoke alarm you chose, look out for one which has a British Standard Kitemark symbol which indicates that the detector is an approved model.

British Standard Kitemark

Some fire services offer a home fire safety visit and provide free smoke alarms to the elderly and vulnerable, contact your local fire service for more details.


The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme gives members of the public a formal mechanism to make enquires about an individual who they are in a relationship with or who is in a relationship with someone they know where there is a concern that the individual may be violent towards their partner. This information may be disclosed via a request from a member of the public (Right to Ask) or be initiated by the police where a proactive decision is made to disclose information in order to protect a potential victim (Right to Know).


The NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) has introduced a new helpline service for adults who are concerned about their children in relation to street gangs. The number is 0808 800 5000.
The Government has also produced a leaflet giving advice to parents regarding children and street gangs. Please see the links in Related Information.
If you feel your child is in danger you should contact the police immediately. 
Other agencies that may be able to assist and offer support are your local Children's Social Services and the Safeguarding staff at school. 


Grooming can occur face to face or over the internet and involves any communication with a child in order to commit a sexual offence. The individual does this by forming an emotional bond with the child to gain their trust - this can then lead to the offence of child sexual exploitation (CSE) being committed.

If a child is being groomed they may display unusual behaviours which you need to look out for; these may include -

  • becoming anxious or clingy
  • change in eating habits
  • self harm/suicidal
  • taking drugs or alcohol
  • missing school

If you are concerned about a child, you can contact the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000 or you can report it directly to them via the following link -

NSPCC - report child abuse

For further support and advice on grooming and CSE, please see the links in related information.


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.

Contact your local police force

Enter your town or postcode to see information from your local force

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