I’m being forced to work

  • You can work – if you would like to, and you‘re the right age
  • But you should not be forced to work
  • And you shouldn’t be taken away from where you live and be made to work somewhere else

As a child, your children’s rights are all to do with growing up in a safe environment, being looked after and being able to develop healthily. These rights are available to all children in Wales, whether or not they were born here.

You might not believe that anyone in Wales would try and force a child to work – but it can happen. Some children are brought to Wales either from other places in the UK or from places outside the UK and made to do housework, farm work or are forced to do other things that they don’t want to do instead of going to school, playing and relaxing or doing other things that children and young people should be able to enjoy. It’s not very common for this to happen, especially if you’ve grown up in Wales or the UK, but if it happens to you, you need to know that it’s wrong and there are people who can help you.

If you’re under 18, and you’ve been brought to Wales from another country, you have the same rights as any other young person in Wales. This means that you shouldn’t be forced to work. You may be here without any other members of your family and be worried about where you will live or what you will do if you try and stop working. You may not have your identity documents (like your passport) or the person or people making you work may have taken them away from you. In Wales, the support is here so that you will be given somewhere to live and will be supported to return home if that’s what you want. If it would be dangerous for you to return home, it may be possible for you to stay in Wales.

Some people use threats to make children or young people work for them. They might say that they will hurt you or members of your family if you doesn’t do the work. Other people might tell you that you owe them money and has to work to pay it off. Sometimes, the people who want you to work will say they can use magic to keep you doing what you are doing. You might start out doing something for someone because they tell you they love you and it’s important that you do whatever they want.

Whatever the reason you’re working, if you’re being made to do things that you don’t want to do, or you are uncomfortable with; if you’re not being allowed to go to school, or you’re working more hours than you are supposed to for your age, there’s a problem.

If you are being made to work, to do things that are damaging to your health and development, it’s wrong. The law in Wales says that there are only some kinds of work you can do if you are 13 or under, related to ‘performing’ – on stage or TV, or if you do some modelling. Even when you’re 14, you can only do ‘light work’, and you are only allowed to work a certain number of hours. Even if you feel comfortable doing the work you are doing, if it prevents you from having your rights to grow and develop, to be educated and to have time to play, it is wrong.

Some of the people you come into contact with might be worried about you and might be suspicious about how you are being treated. Some of those people – for example the police or people who work for the council – have to report their suspicions.

Just because the person making you work still lets you go to school doesn’t mean it is right that you are having to work. If you are being forced to do something you don’t want to do, it’s likely that your school work will suffer. If you are being made to work but you are also going to school, you might be able to tell someone at school about what is happening to you.

It might seem impossible that you will be able to tell someone what is happening to you – and you may be worried that you will get into trouble, either with the authorities, or, perhaps worse, the people who are forcing you to work. Remember that if you can tell someone like a teacher, a doctor, a policeman or a social worker what is going on, they should try and help you.