Other Forms of Exploitation

Although these forms of exploitation do not appear in their own right within the Care Act 2014, they are often linked to other forms of abuse or neglect and it is important to report any suspected activity to the Police or the Local Authority.

County Lines

County lines is a term 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.

Spotting the Signs

  • Persistently going missing or being found out of area
  • Unexplained acquisition of money, clothes, or mobile phones
  • Excessive receipt of texts / phone calls and/or having multiple handsets
  • Relationships with controlling / older individuals or groups
  • Leaving home / care without explanation
  • Suspicion of physical assault / unexplained injuries
  • Carrying weapons
  • Gang association or isolation from peers or social networks
  • Self-harm or significant changes in emotional well-being.

For more information see our County Lines Learning Briefing.


Cuckooing is where a criminal befriends someone who lives on their own. The criminal then moves in and/or uses the property to operate unlawful activity. Victims can often be lonely, isolated and vulnerable.

Spotting the Signs

  • Increase of vehicles stopping at the property, often for short periods
  • Increase of antisocial behaviour around the property
  • Open drug dealing near the property
  • Not seeing the resident of the property as often
  • Increase of the number of people coming and going at various times of the day or night

Predatory Marriage

A predatory marriage is where a vulnerable person is exploited by someone who coerces them to marry for financial benefit or to inherit their estate.

For more information about predatory marriage visit https://www.predatorymarriage.uk/ 


Radicalisation is the process by which a person comes to support terrorism and extremist ideologies.
If you are worried someone close to you is becoming radicalised act early and seek help. The sooner you reach out, the quicker the person you care about can be protected from being groomed and exploited by extremists.

Police forces across the country have specially trained Prevent officers who work with professionals in health, education, local authorities and charities, as well as faith and community groups to help vulnerable people move away from extremism. They are here to listen and offer help and advice. Receiving support is voluntary.

Friends and family are best placed to spot the signs, so trust your instincts and share your concerns in confidence. Professionals can help if you act early, you won’t be wasting police time and you won’t ruin lives, but you might save them.

For members of the public if you have a concern contact your Local Authority safeguarding team or Cleveland Police on 101. You can also call the ACT Early Support line on 0800 011 3764, operating every day 9.00 am -5.00pm. If you are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech impairment, a police non-emergency number is available as a text phone service on 18001 101.

Further information and advice can be found at ACT Early | Prevent radicalisation

And Get help for radicalisation concerns – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).

You can also obtain further information and advice from the Cleveland Police web page Prevent | Cleveland Police


Grooming is when someone builds a relationship, trust and emotional connection with a child or vulnerable adult so they can manipulate, exploit and abuse them. People who are groomed can be sexually abused, exploited or trafficked. Groomers may also build a relationship with the person’s family or friends to make them seem trustworthy.

Spotting the Signs

  • Being secretive about how they spend their time, including when online
  • Having an older boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Having money or new things like clothes and mobile phones that they can’t or won’t explain
  • Drinking or taking drugs
  • Spending more or less time online or on their mobile phones
  • Being upset, withdrawn or distressed
  • Sexual behaviour, language or an understanding of sex that does not seem appropriate
  • Spending more time away from home or going missing for periods of time.

Victims are not always aware that they are being exploited. Young people are generally targeted because of their vulnerability, however vulnerable adults can also be targeted. Children who are groomed can grow into vulnerable adults who become more at risk of ongoing exploitation. Being groomed can cause long term psychological damage.

Tricky Friends is a short animation developed to raise awareness of ‘mate crime’, exploitation, cuckooing and county lines.