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2.19 Child sexual exploitation

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Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is a national threat that transcends geographical boundaries and challenges our safeguarding response. The purpose of this procedure to help professionals to identify and respond where there is a concern that children and young people are at risk of or experiencing CSE.  

This procedure should be read in conjunction with Child Sexual Exploitation; Definition and a guide for practitioners, local leaders and decision makers working to protect children from Child Sexual Exploitation (Department for Education, 2017) and Working Together to Safeguard Children.

This procedure relates to children as defined by law up to the age of 18.

Other related procedures are:


Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is defined as:

Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse. It occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into sexual activity (a) in exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and/or (b) for the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator or facilitator.

‘The victim may have been sexually exploited even if the sexual activity appears consensual. Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology.’

Child Sexual Exploitation: A guide for practitioners, local leaders and decision makers working to protect children from child sexual exploitation  


CSE is a form of child abuse and results in children and young people suffering significant harm. They will face serious risks to their physical, emotional and psychological health and wellbeing. Any child or young person may be at risk of CSE, regardless of their family background or other circumstances.

It can also have profound and damaging consequences for the child’s family. Parents and carers are often traumatised and under severe stress. Siblings can feel alienated and their self-esteem affected. Family members can themselves suffer serious threats of abuse, intimidation and assault at the hands of perpetrators.

Children and young people may have already been sexually exploited before they are referred to children’s social care; others may become targets of perpetrators whilst living at home or in placements. They are often the focus of perpetrators due to their vulnerability, but sometimes adolescence itself is vulnerability enough; young people are beginning to push boundaries and take risks, they are trying to find their independence; this ‘normal’ adolescent behaviour can be exploited by perpetrators.

CSE is complex and widespread and can manifest itself in different ways. There are strong links between children who are being sexually exploited and other behaviours such as going missing from home or care, self-harm, substance misuse, sexually transmitted infections and youth offending. In addition, some children are particularly vulnerable, for example, children with learning disability, those in residential or foster care, those leaving care, migrant children, unaccompanied asylum seeking children, victims of forced marriage and those involved in gangs. A key factor in most cases of CSE is the presence of an ‘exchange’. This could be tangible such as money, drugs or alcohol; or intangible such as perceived love and affection, protection or status. This could also include situations whereby a child has undertaken sexual activity to prevent something negative such as a threat of violence being carried out against a family member.

In all cases those exploiting the child or young person have power over them, including by virtue of their age, physical strength, gender or sexual identity, cognitive ability, status and access to economic or other resources. CSE can take many forms, from children being groomed into believing they are in ‘consensual’ relationships where sex is then required in exchange for attention, affection, accommodation or gifts that were provided; to serious organised crime including group and gang-related exploitation as well as trafficking. Methods of deception, coercion and violence to induce fear and control are common.

Due to the nature of the grooming methods used by their abusers, it is very common for children and young people not to recognise that they are being abused. Practitioners should not assume capacity to consent at 16 and 17 and will need to work with a child of any age who believes they are consenting to help them to recognise the exploitation. Because of this self referrals or direct requests for help from young people are typically low so services/practitioners need to anticipate this and develop strategies in place to engage and address this.

This period of transition is when children are neither legally nor emotionally adult, but neither are they afforded the same basic protections under the law as children with fewer legal powers for intervention. The age of a child should not influence protective actions or attitudes and account should be taken of heightened risks for this age group, particularly those with limited economic or systemic support.  


Trafficking of children is defined as:

Act: recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, and/or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation.

Means: threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation           

Purpose: Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.

(Article 3c of the United Nations Palermo Protocol 2000).

Due to the fact that no young person can consent to being exploited, the ‘means’ of the trafficking legislation can be disregarded, as it is immaterial what measures were used to gain their compliance.

For a trafficking offence to be proved, the act and purpose are the only sections which need evidencing.

Therefore any child moved for exploitative reasons is considered to be a trafficking victim. This is partly because it is not considered possible for children to give informed consent.

Trafficking does not just occur across borders and can refer to children being moved within or between towns and cities. Children do not have to have been physically moved by an offender; they may have travelled independently or on foot but under instruction from the abuser or having been provided with a location. Internal trafficking can include; transporting the victims, arranging the transport, coercing the victim to travel to the destination, receiving the victim at the destination or harbouring.

All cases of trafficked children should be referred to the National Referral Mechanism. Specific public authorities have a ‘duty to notify’ the Secretary of State of any person identified in England and Wales as a suspected victim of human trafficking or slavery.

Examples of trafficking in cases of CSE may include: children being collected and taken to a party where sexual activity is expected; children getting into a taxi that has been booked for them to travel to an address to perform sexual activity or a child getting public transport to a destination after receiving a message (social media/app/text) telling them where to go and they will be expected to perform sexual activity; an abuser walking with a child from one location to another to perform sexual activity. The person/people arranging, transporting, receiving the child are all committing offences of trafficking if it can be proved they were aware of the purpose of the travel, i.e that the child would be sexually exploited.

Any child who is being, or is at high risk of being, sexually exploited should be considered for a referral to the NRM (National Referral Mechanism) for trafficked status. This must be done by a first responder, e.g police, local authorities or Barnardos. The NRM is a framework for identifying victims of human trafficking or modern slavery and ensuring they receive the appropriate support. You do not need consent from child or parent/carer to refer someone under 18 years via NRM for trafficked status and it can remain in place post-18-years with the consent of the victim.

There are a number of advantages to a victim having trafficked status, including for those aged 16+, as it increases the options for intervention and reduces contention around consent.

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 has legislated for Slavery and Trafficking Risk Orders, which are civil orders that may be made if a Court deems that there is a risk a defendant will commit a slavery or human trafficking offence, and that the order is necessary to protect against the risk of harm from the defendant committing any such offence.

Peer on peer abuse

Historically the focus has been on children and young people being sexually abused by adults. However, more and more we are becoming aware of abuse within peer relationships. This could involve: sharing or uploading of sexual images; forced or pressured activity in front of or with large groups (as part of gang initiation or other); and sexual bullying. CSE should be seen as one form of peer-on-peer abuse which may also include elements of domestic abuse, youth and gang-related violence and crime, and children who display sexually harmful behaviour. Peer groups may be a protective or contributory factor to abuse, therefore it is important that understanding this context is a priority within assessment.

There should be a local response to ensuring that children who cause harm or pose a risk also receive any necessary therapeutic services to meet their needs as a potential victim.

CSE datasets should reflect when when children are displaying offending behaviour or acting as facilitators.

Diversity and hidden communities

Children and young people from black and minority ethnic communities may have specific vulnerabilities associated with their culture which could constitute a barrier to disclosing or reporting the abuse (for more information see Appendix A). Policies relating to honour-based violence and risk of forced marriage may be relevant for consideration.

CSE is also a reality for boys and young men. There are different obstacles to detect when boys and young men are at risk of/experiencing CSE as they have different barriers to disclosure (for more information see Appendix A). 

For LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning) young people there may be fewer safe spaces for them to safely explore their sexuality and what a healthy relationship looks like; this, compounded by fear of stigma, harassment, judgement or bullying from the community, family or peers could contribute to young people taking a more secretive approach to relationships or sexual contact (for more information see Appendix A).

Young people with learning disabilities share many of the same vulnerabilities as all young people, but may face additional barriers to their protection. These are related to societal attitudes to children with disabilities as well as a lack of good quality, accessible sex and relationships education.

Technology and the internet

Technology such as social networking sites, online gaming and apps that facilitate messaging or meeting strangers are playing an increasingly significant role in sexual exploitation, for example through their use to record abuse and share it with other like-minded individuals or as a medium to access children and young people in order to groom them and exercise power over them.

Victims may also be recorded being abused, for example on mobile phones, and those images shared or used as another means of threatening, humiliating or coercing the child. Children and young people often have unrestricted or significant time on internet-enabled devices that is increasing risk in historically safe environments such as at home and school. Sexual exploitation by peers can often include the sharing of sexual images.

Technology is becoming increasingly sophisticated and new ‘apps’ are appearing regularly. Information regarding new technology or apps of concern should be shared widely to promote safeguarding and vigilance.

Offenders and locations

The perpetrators of CSE are not recognisable on sight and could be any gender, ethnicity, age, social or economic background. They may work alone or in groups and may be opportunistic, but are often well organised and use sophisticated tactics. Although this is a gendered crime most frequently perpetrated by men, there are female offenders.

Perpetrators may use facilitators to target young people. These may be peers or other adults who have experienced/are experiencing exploitation themselves or may be involved in other forms of exploitation such as criminal or gang activity. Facilitators should also be considered as potential victims and may be trying to protect themselves from further abuse or being threatened by abusers. They are used to develop the initial relationship with the child to facilitate the sexual exploitation.

Whilst any location might be chosen to perpetrate CSE, locations where children and young people are likely to gather without significant adult supervision could be used to target and/or exploit children. Known or unknown to proprietors, taxis and hotels can facilitate the anonymity of offenders that allows them to exploit undetected. It is important that businesses are well trained to identify risks and/or suspicious activity and what to do about it.

Local responses should include problem profiles which pull together and analyse data on victims, locations and perpetrators.

Where offenders have children there should be a referral to children services and when the offender is a child they should be always be referred in their own right.

Use of language

Children who are identified as at risk of or victims of sexual exploitation must be recognised as victims. Practitioners must recognise that the circumstances of the exploitation and the process of targeting or grooming to which the perpetrator has subjected them may mean they do not recognise themselves as victims or may believe that they are making choices. Children and young people may display challenging behaviour. However, this does not mean that children should be held responsible for their abuse. Language used in reports, meetings and with children should reflect their victim status.

Language such as ‘making a choice’ or ‘placing themselves at risk’ can be extremely harmful to the emotional wellbeing of the child or young person, and lead to them further disassociating themselves from being a victim and, should a case get to Court, give a perpetrator a route of defence that a young person was making a choice or giving consent. Under no circumstances should a child be referred to as a ‘prostitute’.


It must be noted that young people cannot legally consent to sex under the age of 16.

Whilst the Sexual Offences Act 2003 recognises that mutually agreed, non-exploitative sexual activity between teenagers does take place and that often no harm comes from it, it acknowledges that this group is still vulnerable, even if they do not view themselves as such. However, it is not just adult-child relationships that are exploitative and young people being of a similar age does not mean that the sexual activity is healthy or developmentally appropriate, and professionals and parents/carers should still be alert to the possibility of exploitation. This section should be read in conjunction with the procedure on Children who are sexually active (including under-age sexual activity).

Consent is defined as: ‘if he agrees by choice, and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice’. Freedom and capacity are important because it means even if a young person has said ‘yes’ they may not have legally been able to do so.

Under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, children under 13 are not considered competent or able to give consent to sexual activity. A referral to the police and children’s social care must be made where a child under 13 is believed to be engaged in sexual activity.

Sexual activity with a child under 16 is also a criminal offence and reference should be made to the procedure on Children who are sexually active (including under-age sexual activity) which identifies factors to consider in relation to whether a child over 13 has been able to give consent to sexual activity. Where the sexual activity is with an adult this must be referred to the police and social care.

Children over 16 cannot consent to their own abuse; freedom and capacity are just as relevant. Over 16s can still be sexually exploited.

The CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) give some guidance on the ‘context’ that could influence one’s ability to have have the freedom and capacity to consent:

  • age, maturity, understanding
  • whether s/he knew or understood the position they were in and what they were being asked to do
  • the history of the relationship between the parties
  • position of power over the complainant
  • any earlier provision by the suspect of any gifts, alcohol or drugs
  • promises by the suspect of a more secure or exciting way of life
  • insincere compliments and/or kindness shown by the suspect
  • any other evidence of exploitation or grooming so that s/he may not understand the full significance of what they are doing.

Capacity could be inhibited by: drugs or alcohol, medical, mental health conditions or disabilities that impact ability to give or articulate informed consent. Freedom to consent could be inhibited by: power imbalance (position of trust, blackmail, threats of violence to self or others, coercion, duress or pressure), experience of domestic abuse, a significant age gap with a young victim, dependence (financially, emotionally, through addiction). In order to consent a young person must understand what it actually means to consent, that they have the right to refuse or withdraw consent at any time.

Some children and young people do not recognise the coercive nature of the relationship and do not see themselves as victims of exploitation. It is important to remember that a child cannot consent to his or her own abuse. Therefore saying yes or absence of no, not fighting off an attack and not reporting or reporting much later does not imply consent was given. Trauma can affect memory and create inconsistency and this needs to be understood and planned for in any interview or process of evidence building.  


There is no definitive list of risk indicators and whilst the below may give an indication of behaviours to consider, further they should not be deemed exhaustive. Where there is no evidence of the indicators below but other behaviours or vulnerabilities are present that lead to a professional judgement that the child may be at risk of exploitation, this should be recorded and discussed with the safeguarding lead. At all times local safeguarding procedures and threshold documents should be followed. Local tools are available and may support identification of CSE.

The following may indicate that a child is already being sexually exploited[1]:

  • Repeat periods of absence/missing (day and/or night) from home, care and/or school/college/work.
  • Relationship of concern with a controlling adult(s) (male or female) or young person, which might involve physical and/or emotional abuse and/or gang activity.
  • Entering/leaving vehicles driven by unknown adults (not car theft).
  • Unexplained amounts of money, expensive clothes or other items; including phone credit.
  • Frequenting areas known for risky activities such as adult sex work.
  • Groomed/abused via the internet and mobile technology and/or excessive use of mobile phone including late night.
  • Unexplained contact with hotels, taxi companies or fast food outlets.
  • Recurring sexually transmitted infections/repeat terminations.
  • Inappropriate sexualised behaviour for age.
  • Evidence of/suspicions of physical or sexual assault.
  • Increased secretiveness around behaviour.
  • Self-harm or significant changes in emotional wellbeing (including disordered eating or high levels or aggression and suicidal ideation/attempts).

Other indicators that a child is at increased risk of exploitation might be:

  • Whereabouts unclear or unknown – day and/or night.
  • Absences/exclusions from school or not engaged in school/college/training/work.
  • Regular/multiple contacts from unknown adults/young people.
  • Drug/alcohol misuse.
  • Use of a mobile phone which causes concern – including sexting (youth produced sexual imagery)/multiple phones/sims.
  • Unsafe use of internet.
  • Risky/inappropriate sexual behaviour.
  • Lack of awareness/understanding of being safe.
  • Peers involved in sexual exploitation/risky or concerning behaviours.
  • Living independently and failing to respond to attempts by workers to keep in touch.
  • A&E attendance due to alcohol or drug misuse.
  • Being accompanied to appointments by an unknown person that causes concern.
  • Association with gang members that suggests sexual exploitation is a possibility or isolation from peers/social networks.
  • Volatile behaviour/hostility in relationships with parents/carers and other family members.

The following vulnerabilities may heighten a child’s risk of exploitation and may be present prior to abuse:

  • Living in a chaotic or dysfunctional household (including parental substance use, domestic violence, parental mental health issues, parental criminality).
  • History of abuse (including familial child sexual abuse, risk of forced marriage, risk of ‘honour’-based violence, physical and emotional abuse and neglect).
  • Family conflict/breakdown, lack of love/security.
  • Social isolation or social difficulties/lack of age appropriate friends.
  • Recent bereavement or loss.
  • Gang association either through relatives, peers or intimate relationships.
  • Learning disabilities/difficulty/physical disability.
  • Mental ill health.
  • Unsure about their sexual orientation or unable to disclose sexual orientation to their families/lack of safe space to explore sexuality.
  • Unsuitable accommodation (hostel, B&B, foyer)/sofa surfing/financially unsupported/migrant/refugee/homeless.
  • Living in a gang neighbourhood.
  • Current or history of local authority care/looked after child (residential or foster care).
  • Low self-esteem or self-confidence.
  • Young carer.
  • Family members or other connections involved in adult sex work.

Anyone who has regular contact with children is in a good position to notice changes in behaviour and physical signs that may indicate involvement in sexual exploitation. Local tools and pathways are available.

Professionals working within health settings may also be in a position to identify concerns that indicate harm from sexual exploitation or increased risk of:

  • A&E attendance due to alcohol/drug intoxication or self harm/suicidal ideation.
  • Revolving door presentations.
  • Regular attendance with unexplained physical injuries.
  • Attending alone or with a ‘friend’ (no supportive adult carer).
  • Non-specific physical complaints such as abdominal pain.
  • Presenting for treatment but leaving before being seen.
  • Vaginal or rectal bleeding (should not be automatically be ascribed to medical conditions such as piles or infection).

Time should be taken to explore the issues or presentation to identify any safeguarding concerns that require onward referrals.

Parents carers and anyone in a position of responsibility with a child should also know how to monitor online activity and be prepared to monitor computer usage in order to identify when a child might be being groomed or targeted online and how to report these concerns.

[1] Office of the Children’s Commissioner’s Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Gangs and Groups.

Protection and action to be taken

Professionals in all agencies working with children and young people should take responsibility to understand CSE so they are alert to the possibility that a child/young person for whom they have concerns may be at risk of being sexually exploited. They should discuss their concerns with their agency’s designated safeguarding advisor and refer as appropriate.

Professionals should familiarise themselves with their Local Safeguarding Children’s Board referral forms, supporting documentation (screening tools or risk assessments) and the pathway for responding to concerns.


Working with sexually exploited children is a complex issue which can involve serious crime and investigations over a wide geographical area.

Key principles in responding to child sexual exploitation were identified by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and set out in the See Me Hear Me Framework:

The child’s best interests must be the top priority

The best interests of children and young people and their rights to protection must drive all decision making. The paramountcy principle (Children Act 1989) must be adhered to where applicable and children’s rights under UNCRC Article 3 fully honoured.

Participation of children and young people

Services need to involve children and young people when decisions are being made about their care, protection and on-going support and be kept informed on any issues that affect them throughout. Professionals must be mindful of children and young people’s needs and equalities. Their UNCRC Article 12 rights must be honoured.

Enduring relationships and support

Support must be tailored to meet the needs of the child, according to their age, identity, ethnicity, belief, sexual orientation, disability, language, and stage of development. Children and young people have told us that a consistent person who sticks with them throughout the whole period of their protection and on-going care is crucial to their recovery.

Comprehensive problem-profiling

It is critical that agencies regularly problem-profile their local area to analyse and understand all the patterns of exploitation to which children and young people are subjected to. A comprehensive problem-profile needs to be compiled with the oversight of the safeguarding organisations and should be shared across all key partners to inform the development of a multi-agency strategy and action plans, the commissioning of services and the delivery of training and awareness-raising activity to support local professionals.

Effective information-sharing within and between agencies

Every area should have a cross sector information-sharing protocol which is predicated on the best interests and safeguarding of children and young people. All relevant agencies and services should be signatories and it should clearly state what information should be shared, by whom and the process for doing this.

Supervision, support and training of staff

Services should invest in the development and support of staff including providing regular supervision and the opportunities for them to reflect on practice. Those professionals who offer direct support to sexually exploited children and young people might require further intensive training and must have regular opportunities to reflect on their practice with a skilled consultant or supervisor.

Evaluation and review

Evaluations and regular reviews of the effectiveness of the CSE strategy is necessary to ensure services and interventions are achieving their intended outcomes and meeting the child and young person’s needs. Children and young people must be directly involved in this process in compliance with Article 12 of the UNCRC. This will ensure that performance is driven continuously by a cycle that leads to improvement.

The voice of the child

The voice of the child is central and any intervention should be based upon clear understanding and recognition of a person centred approach. Children want to be respected, their views to be heard, to have stable relationships with professionals built on trust and for consistent support provided for their individual needs. Anyone working with children who are victims of CSE should see and speak to the child; listen to what they say; consider their presentation; take their views seriously; and work with them collaboratively when deciding how to support their needs.

The words that a child uses may have been given to them by their abusers and therefore we need to ensure that is is the full presentation, behaviour and language of a child that is used to understand their voice and how to meet their needs.  

Parents and carers

The majority of children affected by CSE are living at home when the abuse starts. It is highly likely the parents will be among the first to realise something is wrong – although they may not be able to identify what.

Sexually exploited children may suffer physical, psychological, behavioural and attitudinal changes which all present severe challenges to parents and threaten the stability of the family environment. An affected child may direct emotional, verbal and even physical aggression towards parents and/or siblings, resulting in what could be described as a ‘chaotic household’.

The perpetrators of CSE deliberately seek to drive a wedge between the child and their family. This causes obvious strain at home as trust between the parents and child/young person breaks down. This disempowerment is sometimes unknowingly reinforced by statutory agencies and professionals, who can assume that the parents are unwilling to protect their child from exploitation, or incapable of doing so.

Families may be subjected to threats, intimidation and assaults by the perpetrators.

Professionals should work in partnership with parents to safeguard their child. The support model should focus on:

  • maximising the capacity of parents and carers to safeguard their children and contribute to the prevention of abuse and the disruption and conviction of perpetrators
  • early intervention and prevention
  • enabling family involvement in safeguarding processes around the child, including decision-making
  • ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the family in recognition of the impact of CSE, including the complex relationships between victims and offenders that may lead to behaviour that is hard to understand
  • balancing the child’s identity both as an individual and as part of a family unit
  • consistent staff who can develop a relationship with the family.

Information sharing       

Effective multi-agency collaboration is vital and whilst law enforcement agencies generally lead on pursue, it is essential for partner agencies to gather and share information regarding CSE. Agencies should familiarise themselves on local information-sharing protocols and also the police arrangements for sharing intelligence.

Effective information sharing and intelligence gathering can:

  • contribute to the identification and understanding of links between different forms of exploitation and hidden crimes therefore improving safeguarding and disruption
  • identify networks or individuals who pose a risk to children
  • identify locations being used for the purposes of sexual exploitation
  • provide evidence in applications to the Court for Civil and Criminal orders
  • enable intervention and support to the young person as early as possible

Engagement with victims and witnesses by support agencies including the voluntary sector, particularly regarding Return Home Interviews (also known as Welfare Return Interviews or WRIs) following missing episodes, has provided insight into networks of CSE perpetrators and should be viewed as a vital source of information and intelligence, and recorded appropriately on police and local authority systems.

Changes in the interpretation of legislation (Data Protection Act 1998; Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000; Human Rights Act 1998; Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996) have accelerated an appreciation of the importance of establishing an operational basis for making decisions to act or not. The approach must always be to record all information no matter how insignificant it may appear in the first instance, as it may often contribute to greater clarity around what are often extensive and complex CSE networks. Use of the appropriate police information sharing tool by all agencies will ensure that information is appropriately submitted, graded and sourced, ethically managed and securely disseminated. Examples may include:

  • vehicle details including registration/make/model/colour etc
  • full descriptions including names/nicknames, of suspected perpetrators
  • details/descriptions of unusual/regular callers to children’s homes
  • phone numbers of suspected perpetrators
  • address details of suspected perpetrators
  • details of addresses or localities that children at risk or being exploited may be being taken or where there has been suspicious activity relating to CSE.

Looked after children

Children who are looked after by the local authority can be more vulnerable to exploitation. Substitute carers must be able to recognise the possible indicators of child sexual exploitationLooked after children are subject to the same child protection procedures as those who live with their own families, however their needs may be different and for this reason their Independent Reviewing Officer and social worker must be kept informed of any concerns relating to child sexual exploitation or any other form of suspected abuse. The child/young person's Care Plan must include a strategy to keep them safe and it must be updated and reviewed regularly.

The appropriateness of a placement should be considered prior to placement to ensure it is not going to exacerbate any CSE risk or that placement will not heighten risk to any child already in situ.

Involvement of multiple children in child sexual exploitation

Where there is knowledge or strong suspicion that children or young people are involved in sexual exploitation together, or are being controlled by the same person/people, planning and action must be coordinated. This may involve working across organisational boundaries, for example when the children concerned are in the care of different local authorities.

Complex abuse procedures should be followed and a strategy meeting chaired by an appropriate senior manager to agree:

  • the resources that will be needed and how these will be made available
  • the staff team that will follow through the investigation and who should be told that the investigation is taking place
  • that any communication regarding the investigation should be on a strictly ‘need to know’ basis
  • the timetable for reconvening the strategy meeting in order to monitor progress and evaluate the information arising from the investigation.

When a child is identified, the networks in which they function should be considered and mapping exercises undertaken to ensure that all children to whom there are risks are appropriately identified and in receipt of a service.

Rising 18s and transition

Young people do not stop being exploited because they have turned 18. However, only those young people who are care leavers will continue to get the support from children’s social care and relevant health services. Where the young person has additional vulnerabilities, there should be robust pathways into adult social care and CSE should be a key part of the local transition policies and protocols

Planning for transition should begin at 15 to ensure that there is a relevant assessment and smooth transition into any necessary adult services.

Voluntary sector services will be key partners for service provision to young people post 18.

Further information

Appendix A

Children from black and ethnic minority communities (BME):

Blackmail connected to shame and dishonour can be used as a method of control. In addition, if a child or young person from a BME community discloses they have been sexually exploited, they may face additional dangers from their family and the multi-agency response will need to recognise and respond to these risks, e.g. blaming female victims rather than the perpetrator(s) or so called 'honour-based violence' and risk of forced marriage. These risks can also exist across cultures.

Strategies with BME communities need to anticipate the barriers and have plans in place to counter them. Communities need to feel that they are taken on board rather than ‘done to’ which could be counter-productive. Materials that are developed should be take into account language needs of the local community.

Boys and young men:

Boys and young men may also find it harder to disclose that they are being abused by other men because of issues about sexual identity and societal stereotypes on masculinity. Research indicates that males are more likely to be identified through the criminal justice system and that generally professional attitudes towards males are less protective than towards females. This should be a key element of training for professionals working with children and young people.


LGBTQ is an additional vulnerability that can be exploited by abusers to maintain control and keep exploitative relationships hidden. Openly admitting to a non-heterosexual or gender identity could create additional risks to young people from cultural views held by their family or community that could lead to physical violence or homelessness. Activities such as ‘Chem Sex’ are often (but not solely) associated with men who have sex with men and would also increase risk of and from exploitation (STDs, addiction, psychosis, physical harm and violence). Harmful beliefs about the sexual behaviour of LGBTQ communities could also contribute to a less protective attitude from professionals or create a barrier to the identification of vulnerability to exploitation.

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