5.5 Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation
In May 2017 a revised definition of CSE was added.
This chapter was updated in May 2016 and references to the CSE Risk Assessment tool were added.
- 1. Introduction
- 2. Definition
- 3. Aims and Purposes
- 4. Key Principles
- 5. Grooming
- 6. Trafficking
- 7. Prevention
- 8. Managing Individual Cases
- 9. Multi-Agency Involvement
- 10. Roles and Responsibilities
- 11. Children’s Services
- 12. Police
- 13. Youth Services
- 14. Education Services
- 15. Health Services
- 16. Voluntary and Community Groups/Agencies
- 17. Identifying, Disrupting and Prosecuting Perpetrators
This guidance provides information about sexual exploitation, the roles and responsibilities of relevant agencies and the procedures practitioners should follow to ensure the safety and well-being of children and young people who it is suspected have been sexually exploited.
These procedures should be read in conjunction with:
- Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation the Department for Children, Schools and Families June 2009;
- Supplementary Guidance to Working Together to Safeguard Children from Sexual Exploitation (DCSF, 2009);
- Child Sexual Exploitation National Action Plan and Step-by-Step Guide for Practitioners (Department for Education, 2013);
- Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) For The 21st Century;
- Sex and Relationship Education Guidance (DfEE 0116/2000) statutory guidance for schools;
- Safeguarding Children who may have been Trafficked (2011);
- National working group (NGW) Network Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation;
- Guidance and protocols for professionals from Surrey Safeguarding Children Board;
- Children Missing from Care and Home Procedure.
Sexual exploitation of children and young people has been identified throughout the UK, in both rural and urban areas, and in all parts of the world. It affects boys and young men as well as girls and young women. It is a form of Sexual Abuse and can have a serious impact on every aspect of the lives of children involved.
It is a crime that knows no borders and, as indicated above, can be global in nature. Cross border cooperation is therefore crucial as it is possible that activity in one area may push perpetration across a border, together with the young victims.
Children involved in any form of sexual exploitation should be treated as the victims of abuse and their needs carefully assessed; the aim should be to protect them from further harm and they should not be treated as criminals. It likely that these children/young people may present with challenging or ‘difficult’ behaviour e.g. involvement in crime or anti-social behaviour; however it is important to look beyond this behaviour in order to support them and protect them from harm. The primary law enforcement response should be directed at perpetrators who groom children for sexual exploitation.
The sexual exploitation of children and young people is a form of Sexual Abuse.
The sexual exploitation of children is described in the government guidance document 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."
It can occur through the use of technology without the child’s immediate recognition; e.g. being persuaded to post sexual images on the internet/mobile phones without immediate payment or gain. In all cases, those exploiting the child have power over them by virtue of their age, gender, intellect, physical strength and/or economic or other resources.
Violence, coercion and intimidation are common, involvement in exploitative relationships being characterised in the main by the child’s limited availability of choice resulting from their social/economic and/or emotional vulnerability.
What marks out sexual exploitation is an imbalance of power within the relationship. The perpetrator always holds some kind of power over the victim, increasing the dependence of the victim as the exploitative relationship develops.
Children involved in any form of sexual exploitation should be treated primarily as the victims of abuse and their needs carefully assessed. The aim should be to protect them from further harm and they should not be treated as criminals. The primary law enforcement response should be directed at perpetrators who groom children for sexual exploitation.
3. Aims and Purposes
The aims and purpose of the procedures is to:
- To identify those at risk of being sexually exploited;
- To apply pro-active problem solving to address the risks associated with victims, perpetrators and locations and ensure the safeguarding and welfare of children and young people who are or may be at risk from sexual exploitation;
- To take action against those intent on abusing and exploiting children and young people in this way;
- To provide awareness raising and preventative education for the welfare of children and young people who are or may be sexually exploited;
- To provide timely and effective interventions with children and families to safeguard those vulnerable to sexual exploitation.
4. Key Principles
A child-centred approach. Action should be focussed on the child’s needs, including consideration of children with particular needs or sensitivities, and the fact that children do not always acknowledge what may be an exploitative or abusive situation.
A proactive approach. This should be focussed on prevention, early identification and intervention as well as disrupting activity and prosecuting perpetrators.
Parenting, family life, and services. Taking account of family circumstances in deciding how best to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people.
The rights of children and young people. Children and young people are entitled to be safeguarded from sexual exploitation just as agencies have duties in respect of safeguarding and promoting welfare.
Responsibility for criminal acts. Sexual exploitation of children and young people should not be regarded as criminal behaviour on the part of the child or young person, but as child sexual abuse. The responsibility for the sexual exploitation of children lies with the abuser and the focus of police investigations should be on those who coerce, exploit and abuse children and young people.
An integrated approach. Working Together to Safeguard Children 2010 (now archived) sets out a tiered approach to safeguarding: universal, targeted and responsive. Within this, sexual exploitation requires a three-pronged approach tackling prevention, protection and prosecution.
A shared responsibility. The need for effective joint working between different agencies and professionals underpinned by a strong commitment from managers, a shared understanding of the problem of sexual exploitation and effective coordination by the Local Safeguarding Children Board.
Many children and young people are groomed into sexually exploitative relationships but other forms of entry exist. Some young people are engaged in informal economies that incorporate the exchange of sex for rewards such as drugs, alcohol, money or gifts. Others exchange sex for accommodation or money as a result of homelessness and experiences of poverty. Some young people have been bullied and threatened into sexual activities by peers or gangs, which is then used against them as a form of extortion and to keep them compliant.
Although the predominant evidence is of men sexually abusing children and young people, both men and women have been known to sexually exploit young men and young women. There is a presumption that children and young people are sexually exploited by people they do not know. However, evidence shows that they are often abused by ‘boyfriends’ or people with whom they feel they have a relationship. Professionals should also be alert to organised familial abuse or abuse within closed community groups, including sexual exploitation and the making and distribution of abusive images of children and trafficking of children into, within and out of the UK for the purposes of sexual exploitation.
The perpetrators of sexual exploitation are often well organised and use sophisticated tactics. They are known to target areas where children and young people might gather without much adult supervision, such as shopping centres, cafes, takeaways, pubs, sports centres, cinemas, bus or train stations, local parks, playgrounds and taxi ranks, or sites on the Internet used by children and young people. The process of grooming may also be visible in adult venues such as pubs and clubs. In some cases perpetrators are known to use younger men, women, boys or girls to build initial relationships and introduce them to others in the perpetrator networks.
However, young people can also be sexually exploited by informal and unorganised groups of people. Children and young people, who are themselves the victims of exploitation, may introduce other young people to their abusers. This may not be a deliberate attempt to groom others into sexual exploitation, but rather a way of ensuring that their abuser’s attention is deflected away from themselves. These children and young people are themselves victims and should not be prosecuted except as a last resort when other interventions have failed and there is an absolute need to protect others.
Children and young people may be groomed into ‘party’ lifestyles where they go to houses/flats with numerous men and other young women. These ‘parties’ often introduce children and young people to alcohol and drugs and offer a space to ‘chill’. Young men may be groomed through ‘casual’ social relationships formed at common meeting places with perpetrators introducing them to a ‘macho’ lifestyle of cafes/bars/arcades, etc. This may develop into socialising and making money from criminal activities such as shop lifting or car theft and be linked to other risky behaviours such as drinking, smoking and drug using. Many young men and boys who are being exploited may be secretive or ambiguous about their actual sexual orientation.
Other possible perpetrators may include friends, peers and friends of older siblings. In some cases, perpetrators may target young people through their parents or carers, by providing drugs, alcohol or money to the parents or carers. This can often mean that the parents or carers approve of the perpetrator as a potential boyfriend or girlfriend as they are trusted and needed by the family.
The hidden nature of this form of abuse has a significant impact on the visibility of the problem. Disclosure of sexual abuse and violence is always difficult for children and young people. The sophisticated grooming and priming processes executed by abusing adults and the exchange element of the abuse act as additional barriers, which increase denial and make disclosure especially difficult.
Children and young people are increasingly using computers and mobile phones to access the internet for social networking or to visit potentially risky websites such as dating services. This opens up further opportunities for perpetrators to make contact and to groom children and young people for sexual exploitation. The fact that online users often lie about their true identity means that young people can be more easily groomed and coerced into meeting up with potential perpetrators. (For more information, contact Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) or visit their website).
Children and young people who are victims of sexual exploitation are vulnerable to internal trafficking across cities and counties within the UK and also international trafficking into and out of the UK for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Trafficking involves the illegal trade in human beings for the purposes of sexual exploitation. The definition of human trafficking is:
“recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the 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. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation to adults or children in forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”
The effects of sexual exploitation are harmful and far reaching for children and young people and the ultimate aim for any local strategy must be to prevent them from being exploited in the first place.
Action to tackle Sexual Exploitation should be proactive, focussing on prevention, early identification and intervention, as well as on disrupting activity and prosecuting perpetrators. It is important for investigations to be managed so that interventions to safeguard children and young people also support the gathering of evidence to increase the chance of successful criminal prosecutions of their perpetrators, thereby safeguarding potential future victims.
In order to help children and young people achieve good outcomes it is important to identify issues and problems early and to take prompt preventative action. Early intervention is likely to be far more effective than intervention at a later stage when the impact on the child or young person’s health or development is likely to have escalated. Prevention strategies should therefore be regarded as a key part of agencies’ approaches to sexual exploitation, as they are key in achieving good outcomes.
Children and young people should be provided with preventative education at the earliest opportunity providing them with critical thinking skills and knowledge in relation to safe and healthy relationships. This will help them to avoid situations that put them at risk of sexual exploitation and know who to turn to if they need advice and support.
8. Managing Individual Cases
The factors below are recognised as factors linked to sexual exploitation. It is not an exhaustive list and each indicator is not in itself proof of involvement. Concerns should increase the more indicators that are present.
High Risk factors could be described as:
- Entrenched in one or a number of abusive relationships;
- Contact with known perpetrators regularly going missing and running from home;
- Problem drug and alcohol abuse;
- Experience of violence, intimidation and fear;
- Excessive mobile and internet use;
- Physical and/or learning disability (believe recently published research suggests this);
- Looked After Child or subject to CP Plan currently or in the past.
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.
They should also know how to monitor online social networking sites / spaces and be prepared to request access reports where they are suspicious that a child is being groomed online.
The fact that a young person is 16 or 17 years old should not be taken as a sign they are no longer at risk of sexual exploitation.
Although the predominant evidence is of men sexually abusing children and young people, both men and women have been known to be involved. The evidence also shows that they are often abused by ’boyfriends’ or people with whom they have a relationship.
Professionals should also be alert to organised familial abuse or abuse within closed communities, including sexual exploitation and the making and distribution of abusive images of children and trafficked children.
Each agency should have a lead professional for sexual exploitation. Concerns that a child may be at risk of sexual exploitation should be discussed with a manager and/or designated professional for safeguarding and/or the lead professional for sexual exploitation and the Multi-agency Risk Screening Tool should be completed. Where there is considered to be a risk of CSE a referral to Surrey Children’s Services must be made.
Whilst the wishes and feelings of the child or young person should be obtained when deciding how to proceed but practitioners should be aware that perpetrators may have groomed the child’s responses and that the child may be denying what is happening.
Where an agency is fearful of losing the engagement of a child or young person by reporting their concern to Surrey Children’s Services, the agency should discuss this with Surrey Children’s Services to agree a way forward. This will allow the referring agency to alert Surrey Children’s Services to their concerns but agree a timescale to ensure the young person can be engaged.
Any decision not to share information or refer a child should be fully recorded. See also Information Sharing Procedure.
A child or young person who is suspected of suffering or, of being likely to suffer sexual exploitation will by definition be a child who may be a Child in Need under the Children Act 1989 and should be referred to Surrey Children’s Services under the Contacts and Referrals Procedure.
Surrey Children’s Services should decide on its course of action within 24 hours taking into account the urgency of the situation and need to react quickly if necessary to protect the young person.
In making this decision Surrey Children’s Services will discuss with any referring professional or service, and involve other professionals and services as necessary, including the Police.
The child’s individual needs and circumstances must be carefully assessed, including issues of ethnicity, gender, culture, disability, religion and sexual orientation.
Specific action during the Assessment of a child who has been sexually exploited should include obtaining relevant information from professionals in contact with the child and those who have expertise in working with children and young people involved in sexual exploitation. At this stage the Children’s Service CSE Risk Assessment tool must be used.
Agencies with statutory child protection powers must at all stages, consider whether the child may be in need of urgent action to secure his/her safety because of the risk to the child’s life or likelihood of significant harm.
An Assessment may indicate that the child is defined as ‘in need’ and services are to be provided to support the child.
However a further more detailed Assessment may be required. This will still apply even where the concerns are about abuse by non-family members.
If at any stage:
- There is reasonable evidence that the child is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm; or
- The child is in Police Protection (under Section 46, Children Act 1989); or
- The child is subject to an Emergency Protection Order.
A Strategy Discussion must be held.
The Strategy Discussion should decide whether the criteria for initiating a Section 47 Enquiry are met and, if necessary, plan the enquiry.
Surrey Children’s Services should involve the professionals with specialist experience in sexual exploitation in the Strategy Discussion.
Consideration should be given to contacting neighbouring and other Local Authority areas where children and young people have alleged to have been sexually exploited or where abusers and coercers live.
Where a decision to prosecute has been taken, the priority must be to investigate and prosecute those who abuse, coerce or groom children into sexual exploitation.
The children and young people concerned may have Surrey Children’s Services involvement, including as Looked After or as subject to a Child Protection Plan, or receiving support as a Child with a Disability, or Surrey Youth Support Services involvement as Children in Need. A Strategy Discussion must be held when sexual exploitation is recognised
The wishes and feelings of the child should be obtained when deciding how to proceed; however, professionals who are assessing the views of these children must be aware that the perpetrators may have groomed them and conditioned their response.
Where immediate action to safeguard a child is required, it may involve removing the child from the home of a person who is exploiting them to a safe place. However, those working with children in these circumstances must never underestimate the power of perpetrators to find where the child is.
Such children will need placements with carers who have experience of building trusting relationships and skills at containing young people.
A decision to place a child or young person in secure accommodation should only be considered in extreme circumstances, when they are at grave risk of Significant Harm. In cases where the child is under the age of 13, the approval of the Secretary of State (see Department for Education) must be sought.
Agencies should recognise that there may be a strong relationship between the child and the coercer/abuser and it may be difficult for the child to break this relationship.
A strategy should therefore be developed, with the child and family wherever possible, to address the child’s needs and help him or her to move on from the exploitative situation. It could include specialist therapeutic support, mentoring to assist a return to education or employment, outreach work, help to secure appropriate health services, and assistance to develop a positive network of friends and relatives. This may be undertaken by Youth Support Services or CAMHS.
Agencies should be aware of the support that the Young Witness Project can offer if a child is giving evidence in Court.
The particular circumstances of the child should of course be taken into account in developing the multi-agency response and the plan for services should be tailored to meet their specific needs, e.g. whether they are Looked After and/or preparing to leave care, not receiving a suitable education, often missing from home or care, may have been trafficked and/or may be affected by gang activity.
Parents should be engaged in this process unless they are implicated in the sexual exploitation.
Annex C of the Government Guidance ‘Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation’ (2009) contains information (and a diagram) about service provision. This is intended to assist professionals to decide what types of intervention and supportive action will be required for children and young people at any given time.
9. Multi-Agency Involvement
All staff (including practitioners, middle and senior managers) in all agencies should, as a result of training, be familiar with the vulnerability and warning signs/risk indicators (see Section 8.1, Identification of Risk and Possible Indicators). They will be familiar with the CSE Flowchart: Child Sexual Exploitation Flowchart (For Use By All Agencies) and Multi Agency CSE Risk Screening Tool which can be viewed here.
These agencies include (not an exhaustive list):
- Surrey Children’s Services;
- Health Services (substance misuse services, school health nurses, practitioners in young people’s advisory/sexual health services, Genito-Urinary Medicine (GUM) clinics, CAMHS, GPs, accident and emergency units, specialist nurses/doctors for LAC/CP, health visitors);
- Youth Justice Services;
- Leisure and Community Services (youth workers, play workers, leisure centres, parks);
- Voluntary sector and community groups/agencies.
Each agency should identify a lead officer, practitioner or manager for CSE who should have, or develop, a level of expertise. They should be able to advise within their agency on identifying and referring a child at risk and how their agency can contribute to risk reduction work and a safeguarding plan.
Surrey Children’s Service maintains a list of all children in Surrey considered to be at risk of CSE. The list is compiled jointly with colleagues from the Police and is reported weekly. Children on the list are risk rated and may be discussed at the monthly Area MAECC (Missing & Exploited Children’s Conference) meetings.
Monthly Area MAECC meetings have representation from Surrey Children’s Services, Police, Education, Health and Youth Support Services. The groups meet monthly to discuss cases of particular concern because of missing episodes and/or the risk of sexual exploitation. The purpose of the group is information sharing and multi-agency decision making. Information from the meetings will contribute to the up-dating of the CSE List. A MAECC Oversight Group considers the work and decision-making of the Area MAECC meetings.
Data regarding missing children is compiled from Police and Surrey Children’s Service information and is reported on monthly to senior managers with the Surrey Children’s Services, the Surrey Safeguarding Children Board and members of the MAECC Oversight Group.
10. Roles and Responsibilities
Surrey Safeguarding Children Board
Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015 sets out details of the roles and responsibilities of the organisations involved in safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and focuses specifically on the role of the LSCBs; this guidance should be read in conjunction with the relevant chapters.
“Sexual Exploitation in not limited to particular geographical areas and all LSCBs should assume that it is an issue in their area. Even in areas where there is no apparent, clear evidence of CSE, the guidance is relevant in the context of awareness raising and preventative education. The guidance is aimed primarily at LSCB partners, managers and practitioners, but is relevant for all professionals working with children, young people and families.” Working Together to Safeguard Children 2010 (now archived).
LSCBs have a key role to play in coordinating and ensuring the effectiveness of the work of its members. They should act in accordance with this guidance in carrying out their functions and should make arrangements to ensure that children and young people are appropriately safeguarded from sexual exploitation.
Ofsted have provided guidance on responding to CSE, including the use of appropriate language with children.
11. Children’s Services
Surrey Children's Services have the lead responsibility for responding to children and young people at risk of, or abused through sexual exploitation and should act in accordance with their responsibilities under the Children Act 1989.
Following a referral, all Local Authorities have a duty, under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989, to ensure that the needs of all children and young people who are involved in, or are at risk of, being sexually exploited are assessed and that appropriate multi-agency engagement and appropriate interventions are undertaken.
Where a child or young person is already allocated, concerns may be raised by another professional or by the child’s social worker. The risk of harm to the child or young person needs to be re-assessed in light of the information relating to CSE and any existing plans amended accordingly.
The priority for the police is the investigation and prosecution of offenders who have been involved in abusing children and young people through sexual exploitation. The focus will be to concentrate on securing evidence against those suspected of exploiting children and young people. The police will support the child or young person throughout any prosecution.
The police will focus their enquiries on investigating and prosecuting those who sexually abuse a child or young person and will pursue prosecution of the most serious charges that evidence will support. The police, who support the child or young person through any prosecution, will take any measures that are necessary to ensure that the child or young person is safeguarded through the criminal justice system, giving particular consideration to the use of ‘special measures’ during the court process.
Enquiries should consider information about the alleged abuser/s own family and whether they should be referred to Surrey Children's Services as a cause for concern and whether enquiries should be made. Where there are concerns that the child’s family have had a role to play in the abuse or have not taken appropriate action to protect the child or young person, the Public Protection Investigation Unit, will become involved and usual procedures will apply.
All officers should recognise when a child or young person is involved in or at risk of sexual exploitation as a result of training and by being aware of the vulnerabilities and warning signs/risk indicators and should be aware of what action to take to ensure that the child or young person is appropriately safeguarded. Where an officer has a concern of CSE (or any other vulnerability), a referral should be made via the Child at Risk form to the Central Referrals Unit. Consideration should be given to providing immediate protection where it becomes apparent that action needs to be taken to safeguard a child or young person’s welfare. This may involve the use of police protection (Children Act 1989 Section 46) and joint working with Surrey Children’s Services.
13. Youth Services
The role of Leisure, Youth, Careers and Community Services staff in relation to children abused through sexual exploitation is primarily in the prevention, recognition and referral stages.
Services should ensure that their staff receive appropriate training so that they are equipped, alert and competent to identify and act upon concerns that a child is vulnerable to, at risk of, or experiencing abuse through CSE.
Leisure, Youth, Careers and Community Services should identify a designated lead officer, practitioner or manager for CSE. These lead individuals should have, or develop, a level of expertise in relation to CSE. They should be able to advise within their team or service on identifying and referring a child at risk and how their agency can contribute to risk reduction work and a safeguarding plan. They should also be invited to attend multi-agency CSE meetings where appropriate (see chapter 4).
Where staff such as youth workers, career advisers, play workers or leisure centre workers have immediate concerns they should, together with their designated CSE lead, make a referral to Surrey Children's Services in accordance with their child protection procedures. Where the concerns are not immediate, or are unclear, staff should discuss the case with their agency’s designated lead officer for CSE.
In the case of street activity being noted, including within parks, staff should contact the local police.
Youth and community services have a key role to play in educating children to stay safe and preventing risk of CSE through awareness-raising and keep safe work.
Youth Service run a Project whereby Volunteers are offered to young people who go missing or who are at risk of sexual exploitation in order to engage and support them. Referrals to this service can be made by any agency.
14. Education Services
Staff in schools, further education colleges and other education establishments are uniquely placed to recognise and refer children who are abused through CSE. They are also in a position to support children to reduce their vulnerability to and risk of sexual exploitation and to support abused children to recover.
School staff in all school settings should be alert and competent to identify and act upon concerns that a child is vulnerable to, at risk of, or experiencing abuse through CSE.
The school’s Personal and Social Education (PSE) curriculum provides clear opportunities for schools to teach about all aspects of relationships. Specifically learners should be given opportunities to understand the features of safe and potentially abusive relationships and the risks involved in sexual activity, including potential sexual exploitation. By exploring the features of safe and healthy relationships, schools can help children and young people to develop the skills to negotiate behaviour in personal relationships, identify potential risks, stay safe and seek help if needed. PSE provides a sound platform through which to deliver basic safeguarding information, to explore ideas around ‘healthy’ sexual relationships. This also needs to include opportunities for children and young people to understand the risks involved in staying out late and going missing from school, home or care.
Staff should be aware of the importance of reporting any concerns related to children and young people who go missing during the school day, reporting information that perpetrators may be targeting an educational facility or other relevant information. This includes responding to concerns related to a child in local authority care.
Education services should identify a designated lead officer for CSE and/or a designated teacher who should monitor information to identify when more than one child in the school or community may be being targeted for sexual exploitation. These lead individuals should have, or develop, a level of expertise in relation to CSE. They should be able to advise within their school or service on identifying and referring a child at risk and how their agency can contribute to risk reduction work and a safeguarding plan. They should also be invited to attend the strategy meeting where appropriate (seeSection 8.6, Strategy Discussion and Section 47 Enquiries).
14.2 Education Welfare Officers and Other Pastoral Staff
In their assessment and ongoing work with young people and their families and liaison with school staff, can identify children who are being, or are at risk of being, abused through sexual exploitation. Where the young person is already known to an Education Welfare Officer, they would also be expected to attend the strategy meeting where appropriate and contribute to the Family Action Plan or child protection plan.
Any concerns that a child is at risk of sexual exploitation should be raised with the designated teacher for CSE, who should make a referral to Surrey Children's Services in line with the school’s child protection policy.
The designated CSE lead will be expected to attend the strategy meeting where appropriate in relation to individual children or young people.
15. Health Services
As most health provision is provided universally, health professionals may often be the first to be aware that a child may be vulnerable to, at risk of or abused through CSE. These children may be in contact with a range of services, including sexual health services, advice and counselling, CAMHS, substance misuse services and accident and emergency services.
Health professionals should be alert and competent to identify and act upon concerns that a child is vulnerable to, at risk of, or experiencing abuse through CSE.
Health professionals such as school health nurses, practitioners in young persons’ advisory/sexual health clinics and GPs have a crucial role in promoting the young person’s health which includes identification of immediate and on-going health needs (including sexual health needs and emotional needs). As a universal service, health is well placed to offer support, counselling and information to enable young people to understand the risks and develop strategies for staying safe.
The Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) should identify a designated lead officer for CSE. This lead officer for CSE should monitor information to identify when more than one child in the community may be being targeted for sexual exploitation.
In addition, a designated professional for CSE should be identified in each service. These lead individuals should have, or develop, a level of expertise in relation to CSE. They should be able to advise within their service on identifying and referring a child at risk and how their agency can contribute to risk reduction work and a safeguarding plan. They should also be invited to attend multi-agency CSE meetings where appropriate.
Any health professional with concerns that a child is at risk of, or is being abused through CSE should share their concerns with their designated CSE lead, who should make a referral to Surrey Children's Services in line with their agency’s child protection procedures.
Health staff should offer and/or continue to provide health education, counselling, sexual health and medical intervention to the child as an appropriate part of early intervention.
16. Voluntary and Community Groups/Agencies
Because of their often chaotic circumstances and past family experiences, many young people are reluctant to engage with statutory services and might often find voluntary agencies more approachable sources of help. By working in partnership with statutory bodies, voluntary agencies are able to offer services which help young people understand the grooming process and raise awareness of risks and the implications of risk taking behaviour.
There is a wide range of specialist and other voluntary and community agencies and groups who might be well placed to identify children who are at risk of, or are experiencing abuse, through CSE. Voluntary and community sector agencies often have a close relationship with their local communities and can develop trusting relationships and maintain a link to the children or young person if they become ‘lost’ to statutory services. Outreach agencies are often the first point of contact for children in risk situations and specialist voluntary agencies often have the opportunity to provide vital risk reduction support.
Staff should be alert and competent to identify and act upon concerns that a child is vulnerable to, at risk of, or experiencing abuse through sexual exploitation.
Agencies and services should identify a designated lead practitioner/manager for CSE. These lead individuals should have, or develop, a level of expertise in relation to CSE. They should be able to advise within their team or service on identifying and referring a child at risk and how their agency can contribute to risk reduction work and a safeguarding plan. They should also be invited to attend CSE strategy meetings where appropriate (see Section 8.6, Strategy Discussion and Section 47 Enquiries).
Any concerns that a child is at risk of CSE should be raised with their designated lead for CSE, who should make a referral to Surrey Children's Services in line with the agency’s child protection procedure.
The designated CSE lead will be expected to attend the CSE strategy meetings where appropriate in relation to individual children or young people.
It is essential that voluntary and community groups and agencies operate as multi-agency network partners in order to provide children with access to the widest possible range of intervention and support services.
17. Identifying, Disrupting and Prosecuting Perpetrators
Identifying, disrupting and prosecuting perpetrators must be a key part of work to safeguard children and young people from CSE. While the police and criminal justice agencies lead on this aspect of work, the support of other partners, for example in recording information and gathering and preserving evidence is also vital. Identifying and prosecuting perpetrators should be a key consideration of all agencies working to address the issue of CSE locally but, any work to identify and prosecute perpetrators should not put children and young people at any further risk of harm.
Local areas need to adopt a three-pronged approach to dealing with CSE, including prevention, providing support and protection for young people and prosecuting offenders. These areas of work should not be undertaken in isolation. Work to identify and address the risk factors that make young people vulnerable to CSE and the provision of support and protection will enable agencies to gain the trust and confidence of the young person, in many cases so that they can be part of the work to tackle the exploitation itself. Specialist agencies, particularly those that are non-statutory, that work with victims of CSE will most frequently be in this position and it is vital that where a young person wants, and is able to be a part of a prosecution, the agency is able to support them through the process and post conviction, including consideration of special measures and victim support.
Work to identify concerns about children and young people may mean that agencies become aware of perpetrators of CSE. Suspected perpetrators may also be identified through other work such as neighbourhood policing or work to trace organised crime. Agencies and professionals should contribute to action taken against perpetrators. The details will be for local operations and the most effective tactics will change and develop, not least to keep up with perpetrator behaviours. In such situations the Police will convene a multi-agency strategy meeting to engage all relevant agencies in a prevention plan.
Disrupting perpetrator behaviours should be viewed as an important part of local work to tackle CSE. Whilst there should always be a pro-active investigation aiming for successful prosecutions, a disruption plan targeting suspected perpetrators can be extremely beneficial. A disruption plan might involve a number of activities, ranging from simple observation of an individual’s activities, to the use of a range of civil orders including Child Abduction Warning Notices, Sexual Offences Prevention Orders, and Risk of Sexual Harm Orders, depending on the type of behaviour and evidence available. Other legislation, such as the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, Protection from Harassment Act 1997 or Family Law Act 1996 or Child Abduction Act 1984 might be used to disrupt incidences of CSE while other measures to safeguard children and young people or gather evidence are taking place. The Licensing Act 2003 can be used to prevent children and young people gaining access to adult venues such as pubs and clubs where they may be especially vulnerable to grooming.
Local authorities may be able to use their statutory powers to disrupt incidences of sexual exploitation. For example, if practitioners are aware of locations where sexual exploitation is taking place, local authority licensing or housing departments can be invited to exercise their powers to close down venues. If a child is in the care of the local authority and the child is missing, the local authority can apply to the court for a recovery order under s50 Children Act 1989.
Child Abduction notices under Section 2 of the Child Abduction Act 1984 can be used to disrupt contact between an adult and a child or young person where the child is under 16 years old. It is an offence for a person not connected to the child to take the child away from the person with lawful control of the child, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse. In such cases, the police may remove the child to a place of safety and issue a formal warning to the perpetrator. Although these cases do not require a complaint from the child, it does require the child’s parent or guardian to make a statement. Although not a long-term solution to the problem, Section 2 notices are a useful tool in terms of immediately breaking contact between the child and the individual exploiting them. They are also useful in ensuring that the suspected perpetrator cannot claim they did not know the age of the child. The perpetrator’s details will also be input on to the Police National Computer system (PNC).
Information and intelligence gathered through the joint investigation of CSE is the starting point for building up local knowledge about people responsible for exploiting children and young people. This should enable police and local authority Surrey Children's Services to recognise situations where organised and complex abuse is taking place, and instigate the necessary investigations. The information from investigations can then be linked together by different authorities and police forces to establish whether or not cross-border networks of exploiters are operating.
Information sharing and multi-agency working is central to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people vulnerable to, at risk of and/or abused through CSE.
The effective identification and recording of information and intelligence in relation to individual cases is crucial to the successful disruption and prosecution of perpetrators. All people involved in caring for a child or young person who is suspected to be at risk of CSE should continually gather, record and share information with the appropriate authorities. Parents and carers should be encouraged and supported in identifying perpetrators, collecting and preserving evidence (medical, forensic and circumstantial) as well as in supporting their children through the criminal justice process. Such information can form the basis of strong intelligence and can help the police to start an investigation. The CSE lead must work in partnership with their counterparts in other agencies to ensure that information and intelligence is recorded and shared appropriately. Effective recording systems should be in place to enable information to be shared between agencies, support individual investigations and enable local areas to monitor and map sexual exploitation to identify specific problems and monitor trends.
Ensuring that evidence is gathered in a way that will be accepted by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and can be used in court is critical. The CPS should work with local partners to discuss how to build a successful case in order to support successful prosecutions.
The investigation should seek to identify and assemble evidence that will support charges to reflect the full extent of the abuse. Contemporaneous photographic evidence of physical abuse should be obtained whenever appropriate. It will help in establishing severe abuse even when the child may be unwilling or unable to give evidence. Photographic evidence of the conditions in which a child was kept could also provide valuable evidence for charges of kidnapping or false imprisonment. Care should be taken, however, in obtaining such evidence to ensure that it does not compound the abuse suffered by the young person, and she or he should be made aware that photographs are being taken for evidential purposes.
Those investigating criminal actions must understand that the welfare of the child is the paramount concern.
The Child Sex Offender Review (CSOR) Disclosure Scheme is designed to provide members of the public with a formal mechanism to ask for disclosure about people they are concerned about, who have unsupervised access to children and may therefore pose a risk. This scheme builds on existing, well established third-party disclosures that operate under the Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA).
Police will reveal details confidentially to the person most able to protect the child (usually parents, carers or guardians) if they think it is in the child’s interests.
The scheme has been operating in all 43 police areas in England and Wales since 2010. The scheme is managed by the Police and information can only be accessed through direct application to them.
If a disclosure is made, the information must be kept confidential and only used to keep the child in question safe. Legal action may be taken if confidentiality is breached. A disclosure is delivered in person (as opposed to in writing) with the following warning:
- 'That the information must only be used for the purpose for which it has been shared i.e. in order to safeguard children;
- The person to whom the disclosure is made will be asked to sign an undertaking that they agree that the information is confidential and they will not disclose this information further;
- A warning should be given that legal proceedings could result if this confidentiality is breached. This should be explained to the person and they must sign the undertaking’ (Home Office, 2011, p16).
If the person is unwilling to sign the undertaking, the police must consider whether the disclosure should still take place.