Safeguarding Children and Young People

Stoke-on-Trent City Council provides help and support to young people and their families. We have a duty to investigate circumstances where children are at risk of abuse or neglect and to arrange for them to be protected.

We aim to work with families so that they can care for their children at home, wherever possible. We can help people who are struggling to cope with being parents, by offering short-term support to help them overcome their difficulties.

What to do if you are worried about a child

The Family Information Service Hub (FISH) will help you when looking for advice/support for a child, young person or family. It has access to a wide range of information regarding services to support families and much more family related information.

For more information on this service click here.


The number to call if you are worried about a child or young person and think that they may be the victim of neglect or abuse is:

Safeguarding Referral Team: 01782 235100
Emergency Duty Team: 01782 234234 (outside office hours, weekends and bank holidays)
Minicom: 01782 236037

If you think a child or young person is in immediate danger, telephone 999.

What do we mean by abuse or neglect?

A person may abuse or neglect a child or young person by harming them, or by not stopping them from being harmed.

Physical abuse is when children or young people are hurt or injured by others, for example by hitting, shaking, squeezing or biting.

Emotional abuse is when children are persistently denied love and affection. Children will suffer if they are always shouted at, made to feel stupid, rejected, used as scapegoats or live in a violent environment.

Sexual abuse is when others use children to meet their own sexual needs. This might include sexual activity involving the child or young person or showing children pornographic material on videos or on the internet.

Neglect is where no one meets children's basic needs for food, warmth, protection, education and care, including health care.

The sexual exploitation of children is a form of child abuse which involves a combination of factors:

  • Pull factors: children exchanging sex for attention, accommodation, food, gifts or drugs;
  • Push factors: children escaping from situations where their needs are neglected and there is exposure to unsafe individuals;
  • Control, brain washing, violence and threats of violence by those exploiting the child.

Boys and girls may be drawn into sexual exploitation by peers who are already involved. Girls in particular are frequently coerced into sexual exploitation by an older man, posing as and viewed by them as their boyfriend. Over time, access to friends and family becomes curtailed and the child becomes alienated from agencies which may be able to identify and interrupt the abuse.

Sexually exploited children are rarely visible on the streets, and grooming children for abuse via the internet has contributed to the invisibility of the sexual exploitation of children.

Increasingly, victims are identified under 16 years of age, across all cultures. Many children are exploited in the community.

Sexually exploited children commonly have low self-esteem and have experiences which include the following signs and symptoms:

  • Going missing frequently and / or from a young age;
  • Previous and sometimes current sexual abuse, neglect and physical abuse, and domestic violence within the family;
  • Family involvement in sexual exploitation, drugs or alcohol;
  • Drug and alcohol use themselves;
  • Emotional symptoms, including eating disorders, mood swings and self harm:
  • Involvement in theft, shoplifting, deception etc. often organised by the person exploiting them;
  • A preoccupation with their mobile phone which indicates the child is being controlled e.g. possession of multiple phones, extreme distress when one is lost or not working:
  • Showing signs of sexual activity / abuse, including STDs, terminations and pregnancy scares;
  • Possession of money and goods not accounted for;
  • Having an older “boyfriend” - in some cases the “boyfriend” drives them about.

Professionals in all agencies should be alert to the possibility that a child for whom they have concerns may be sexually exploited. They should discuss their concerns with their agency’s nominated safeguarding lead.

If you have concerns that a young person is at risk of sexual exploitation contact: 01782 235100 and ask to speak to the Duty Social Worker.

For more information visit the Stoke-on-Trent Local Safeguarding Children Board website: