5.5 Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation
This chapter was updated in July 2017 to reflect changes to existing procedures.
- 1. Introduction
- 2. What is CSE
- 3. Aims and Purposes
- 4. Key Principles
- 5. Responding to CSE
- 6. Multi Agency Involvement
- 7. Roles and Responsibilities
Reducing the impact of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is a priority for Surrey Safeguarding Children Partnership.
This guidance outlines 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 are at risk of/experiencing CSE.
These procedures are aimed at professionals and managers working across statutory and non-statutory services in Surrey. It should be read in conjunction with recent practice guidance issues by the Department for Education.
These procedures have been adopted by the Surrey Safeguarding Children Partners and support individual agency’s existing safeguarding policies and procedures. These procedures should be considered as binding by all agencies with responsibilities for protecting children in Surrey.
2. What is CSE
Surrey Safeguarding Children partners have adopted the following definition of CSE published by the Department for Education in April 2017:
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.
CSE is a complex form of abuse and it can often be difficult for those working directly with children to identify and assess. The indicators for CSE can sometimes be mistaken for ‘normal adolescent behaviours’. And conversely normal adolescent behaviour can give rise to concerns about CSE.
It requires knowledge, skills, professional curiosity and an assessment which identifies possible indicators and recognises personal circumstances of individual children to ensure that the signs and symptoms are interpreted correctly and appropriate support is given.
Even where a young person is old enough to legally consent to sexual activity, the Sexual Offences Act (2003) states that consent is only valid in situations where a child makes an informed choice and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice. If a child feels they have no other meaningful choice, are under the influence of harmful substances or fearful of what might happen if they don’t comply (all of which are common features in cases of child sexual exploitation) consent cannot legally be given whatever the age of the child. Child sexual exploitation is occurring across the country but is often hidden so prevalence data is hard to ascertain.
The Serious Crime Act 2015 furthermore introduced a new offence of coercive and controlling behaviour in intimate and familial relationships. When working with young people, consideration will need to be given as to whether the young person is being coercively controlled into engaging in sexual activity.
Children from any background or community can be the victim of exploitation. All practitioners should therefore be open to the possibility that the children they work with might be affected.
3. Aims and Purposes
The purpose of these procedures is to:
- Support the early identification of children at risk of/experiencing CSE effectively
- Ensure children at risk of/experiencing CSE and their parents/carers are consistently provided with the right support to end sexual exploitation; and
- Provide practitioners working across the partnership with the necessary guidance and understanding about their own, their agency’s and their partner agency’s responsibilities when working with children at risk of/experiencing CSE.
4. Key Principles
In 2018, partners in Surrey adopted the Effective Family Resilience approach – a strength-based approach that works on the premise that children and their families have the strengths, resources and ability to recover from adversities. It creates a common language used by all professionals across the partnership – from universal services through to child protection. The approach encourages us to support and reinforce child and family functioning rather than focus on individual or family deficits
5. Responding to CSE
Please see here for the CSE Operating Process
Further reading: Making Noise: Children's voices for positive change after sexual abuse (Children's Commissioner), April 2017
CSE is often a hidden harm, and explicit evidence of exploitation may not be evident. Children and young people may not disclose their experiences. This can be out of fear of recriminations, feelings of shame and guilt or because they do not recognise their own exploitation or they fear they will not be believed. Equally when professionals are seen as reliable and consistent and are curious and confident about asking what is happening then young people will be more likely to disclose
You should always be open to the possibility that the children you work with might be affected.
There are inherent factors that make any child vulnerable to CSE. Some children display additional vulnerabilities. The table below lists some of the vulnerabilities that can increase the likelihood of a child becoming a victim of CSE.
Table 1: List of Vulnerabilities
Inherent vulnerabilities (every child)
Additional Vulnerabilities (some children)
In addition, there are a number of indicators that may that suggest the presence of CSE.
If you are concerned that a child is at risk of/experiencing CSE, this should be discussed with your manager in the first instance with a view to deciding whether a referral is required. In addition, you may wish to seek input from your agency’s safeguarding lead to help your decision-making.
As a professional, you must balance the need for swift action with the need to make informed decisions. If a child is at immediate risk, you must call the Police on 999.
When considering making a referral, you will also need to balance the need for confidentiality with your responsibility to share information to protect the child. Where possible, you should always ascertain the views of the child, and keep them, and their parents/carers informed about your actions.
You should consult your agency’s information sharing agreements to help guide your decision.
Any decision not to share information or not to refer a child should be recorded using your agency’s formal case recording systems together with the reasons for non-referral.
See also Information Sharing Procedure.
Yoou should send your referral to the Surrey Children's Single Point of Access (C-SPA)
Surrey Children's Single Point of Access (C-SPA)
Phone: 0300 470 9100
Email: email@example.com – emails are dealt with during normal office hours
Out of hours phone: 01483 517898 to speak to our Emergency Duty Team.
If you are unsure, refer to the C-SPA. If you have already been in touch with children’s social care services about the child, or you are aware that the child has an allocated lead professional in children’s social care or Family Services, you should send the completed screening tool to the lead professional directly.
If you are concerned about a child’s immediate safety, please contact the Police on 999. In all cases, you should expect to be informed about the outcome of your referral.
Once the C-SPA or the child’s lead professional has received a CSE Screening Tool and confirms the identified risk(s), a full CSE Assessment will be undertaken by a suitably qualified practitioner in Children’s Services or Family Services.
The completed CSE Risk Assessment form will be forwarded to the weekly CSE Risk Management Meetings (RMM). The RMM is responsible for confirming risk ratings and for reviewing identified risk if a child’s circumstances change
CSE Risk Management Meetings
Multi-agency CSE Risk Management Meetings (RMM) take place weekly in each of the Children’s Social Care areas. Jointly chaired by Children’s Services and Family Services, the RMM provide a multi-agency forum with responsibility for assessing and reducing the risk of CSE for children assessed as at risk of/experiencing CSE. These meetings will also include representatives from Surrey Police, Education and Health and any other agencies appropriate to the children being discussed.
Each week, the RMM will consider new referrals with a view to agreeing a risk rating and a CSE Safety Plan for children assessed as medium or high risk. Children discussed at the RMM and given a risk rating will be added to the county-wide CSE list which is updated and circulated weekly.
The RMM will allocate a lead agency with responsibilities for the implementation of an agreed CSE Safety Plan. The RMM will review and assess the effectiveness of each CSE Safety Plan and adapt interventions in accordance with changing risk/circumstances.
The RMM is responsible for confirming the risk rating.
The weekly RMM will convene a strategy discussion 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.
Intervention Planning and Review
The weekly RMM will develop a bespoke CSE Safety Plan for each child assessed as high or medium risk of CSE and will maintain ongoing oversight of a child’s Safety Plan. The RMM will furthermore agree and allocate a lead agency for those who do not have an allocated lead professional. Lead professionals will be required to provide regular updates to the RMM.
Children assessed as low risk will be held at an Early Help level by Surrey Family Services, unless they already have a social worker in Children’s or Family Services. The responsibility for closing the CSE safety plan remains the responsibility of the RMM.
For children already open to Children’s Services of Family Services, the CSE Safety Plan should complement a child’s existing plans and will be developed with and overseen by the child’s lead professional.
Ensuring a child is safe from CSE will require input from a range of people. As part of the safety planning processes, a child’s views should always be taken into consideration. In addition, the views and role of a child’s parents/carers as well as wider professional network to build resilience and to keep a child safe should be considered.
Actions agreed as part of the CSE Safety Plan should be proportionate to the level of assessed risk, focus on enhancing protective factors and reflect a child’s communication requirements and developmental needs.
Please refer to the multi-agency service response diagram to help with decision-making.
Closing a CSE Safety Plan
- The weekly RMM are responsible for confirming that the risk of CSE has reduced to such an extent that the safety plan can be closed. Once a child’s risk of CSE has been reduced and the child is no longer felt to be at risk, the weekly RMM will consider closing the CSE Safety Plan and removing the child from the CSE List.
- The RMM will maintain a record of the decision to close the CSE Safety Plan together with the reasons for this decision and areas of good practice. If there are any ongoing support requirements, the RMM will refer to the appropriate agency.
Transition to adult services
- Where a child is still at risk of CSE and is aged 17, transition planning should start as soon as possible. This is particularly important for young people who may have limited eligibility for adult services or may face other challenges such as moving from one Local Authority area to another.
- Consideration should be given as to how information should be shared effectively with other relevant professionals to ensure the young person experiences a seamless transition that supports them to reduce their risk of sexual exploitation and that ensures professionals have sufficient background information to provide effective support.
- Where a child turns 18 and there is still a risk of sexual exploitation, an ongoing support package must be agreed with appropriate (adult) services when a child turns 18. The RMM cannot close the case until that support package has been agreed. If the child meets the definition of an ‘adult at risk’ (Care Act 2014, section 42) a referral to the Children's Single Point of Access must be made under the safeguarding adults procedures.
Identifying, disrupting and prosecuting perpetrators
- Effective responses to CSE balance the need to support children with the need to disrupt perpetrators. These are not mutually exclusive activities, and local agencies, working with police and others need to make use of community safety tactics and action to keep children safe.
- The regulatory and enforcement functions of the local authority are vital in preventing and disrupting CSE and in building intelligence which can help with prosecutions. 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.
6. Multi Agency Involvement
The complex nature of CSE requires a joined-up, multi-agency response. All staff (including practitioners, middle and senior managers) in all agencies should, as a result of training, at minimum have a basic understanding of CSE, be familiar with vulnerability factors and warning signs/risk indicators as well as the procedures outlined here. The SSCP offers online and face-to-face training for staff working across the partnership.
Each agency should furthermore consider identifying a lead officer, practitioner or manager for CSE who should have, or develop, a level of expertise and who can act as a point of contact. They should be able to advise within their agency on identifying and referring a child at risk and how their agency can contribute to the development and implementation of the agreed CSE Safety Plan.
Should you identify any risks or issues with the existing processes, please escalate them via your agency’s nominated representative on the SEAMB, or contact the SSCp directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
7. Roles and Responsibilities
7.1 Surrey Safeguarding Children Partnership
Surrey Safeguarding Children Partnership (SSCP) has a key role to play in coordinating and ensuring the effectiveness of responses to CSE in Surrey. The DfE has set out clear guidance on what effective local responses look like. These have been reflected in Surrey’s CSE Strategy and Action Plan as well as these procedures.
7.2 Surrey Children's Services
Surrey Children's Services have statutory responsibility for protecting a child and promoting a child’s wellbeing and should act in accordance with their responsibilities under the Children Act 1989.
Given these statutory responsibilities, Children’s Service Manager will jointly chair weekly CSE Risk Management Meetings.
A high number of children assessed as at risk of CSE will already be known to Children’s Services, others may become subject to statutory protection as a result of their exploitation. For these children, Children’s Services staff have a key responsibility to ensure actions to reduce CSE are effectively co-ordinated with a child’s wider intervention plans.
7.3 Surrey Family Services
Surrey Family Services discharges a range of statutory and non-statutory duties on behalf of the local authority, including delivering Child in Need (CiN) services to older teenagers (ordinarily aged 14 plus) and delivering a range of Early Help Services.
The service, having grown out of the council’s Services for Young People has considerable specialist expertise in relation to adolescents and adolescent risk and safeguarding and provides a provides a range of parenting and whole-family support programmes.
Surrey Family Services jointly chairs the weekly RMM, and shares responsibility for assessing the risk of CSE and developing effective CSE Safety Plans. Practice is based on the principles of contextual, relational safeguarding which sees children and young people and their parents/carers as partners in safeguarding.
7.4 Surrey Police
The priority for the police is the disruption of perpetrators who have been involved in abusing children and young people through sexual exploitation.
In addition, Surrey Police provides a range of functions to support the victims. Representatives from Surrey Police are an active members of the weekly RMM. They also provide a crucial link between RMMs and Community Harm Reduction Meetings (CHarMMs) at District and Borough level.
In cases where known/suspected perpetrators have been charged, the police will furthermore support the child or young person throughout the court process.
You can find further information here
7.5 Surrey Education Services
Staff in schools, further education colleges, education services, alternative provision and other education settings are uniquely placed to recognise and refer children who are at risk of/experiencing CSE. They are also in a position to support children to prevent CSE, as well as playing a role in supporting those children who are and have previously experienced CSE by ensuring the delivery of quality Sex and Relationship Education.
Every education setting/service should identify a designated lead officer for CSE and/or a designated teacher who should monitor the prevalence of CSE in their school, setting or service. The designated lead should have, or develop 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 (see Section 8.6, Strategy Discussion and Section 47 Enquiries). They should also be able to contribute to and receive the agreed CSE Safety Plan for children in their school, setting or service.
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, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE) and Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) 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, consent 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.
The PSHE curriculum provides a sound platform through which to deliver basic safeguarding information, to explore ideas around ‘healthy’ sexual relationships. The curriculum should also provide opportunities for children to understand the risks involved in staying out late and going missing from school, home or care.
School staff should be aware of the importance of reporting any concerns related to children who go missing during the school day, reporting information that perpetrators may be targeting an education setting and other relevant information. This includes responding to concerns related to a child in local authority care.
7.7 Pupil Support Teams
In the assessment and intervention with children, families and liaison with school staff, pupil support teams can identify children at risk of/experiencing CSE. Where a child is already known to a service, the Local Authority Officer or Teacher involved would also be expected to actively contribute to the CSE safety planning.
Members of the Pupil Support Team attend the weekly RMMs and provide a crucial link to schools. The representative on the RMM will ensure that the views of education services and schools are represented, and that the agreed CSE Safety Plan is shared with the child’s education setting.
7.8 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 experiencing 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 the prevalence of CSE, and the health service’s capacity and capability to respond to CSE.
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/experiencing CSE should share their concerns with their designated CSE lead, who will make a referral using the agreed health screening tool in line with their agency’s child protection procedures.
7.9 Community Safety Partnerships
CSE is played out in a variety of arenas governed and regulated by the local authority. Community Safety Partnerships therefore have a significant contribution to make to protect children at risk of/experiencing CSE.
In Surrey, the disruption of perpetrators is co-ordinated at Community Harm and Risk Management Meetings (CHaRMMs) across the 11 District and Boroughs. CHarRMMs furthermore play a key role in the identification of suspects.
Community Harm and Risk Management Meetings (CHaRMMs)
CHaRMMs are the primary forum for tackling high risk perpetrators or serious community safety and anti-social behaviour incidents and replace existing Community Incident Action Groups (CIAGs).
The aim of the CHarMM is to:
- Facilitate effective information sharing and case management that enables appropriate action to increase the safety, and well-being of victims and the wider community
- Reduce repeat victimisation and implement risk management plans to prevent further harm
- Address the anti-social or criminal behaviour of the perpetrator
Members of the CHarMM will discuss and agree actions to reduce the negative impact that problem individuals and families have on Surrey’s communities through their anti-social behaviour. Using the expertise that exists on this multi-agency group, members will share information on high risk cases, and incidents, and put in place appropriate risk management plans to address the behaviour of the perpetrator, and reduce the negative impact on victims.
Surrey Police act as the main conduit between the weekly RMM and CHarMMs. Agencies attending the CHarMMs will hold significant information about known/suspected perpetrators, and have a range of statutory powers to disrupt. This information will be valuable to the police in their efforts to secure prosecutions, as well as contributing to services supporting the victims and his/her family.
7.10 Leisure, voluntary, community and faith services including voluntary youth groups
The role of leisure, voluntary, community and faith services including voluntary youth groups in relation to children abused through sexual exploitation is primarily in the prevention, recognition and referral stages.
Services should ensure that staff and volunteers receive appropriate training so that they are equipped, alert and competent to identify and act upon concerns that a child is at risk of or experiencing CSE.
They should identify a designated lead officer for CSE. These lead individuals should have, or develop, a level of expertise in relation to CSE and should be able to advise within their team or service on identifying and referring a child in accordance with these procedures, and how their agency can contribute to the implementation of agreed CSE Safety Plans. They should also be invited to attend multi-agency CSE meetings and receive copies of a child’s CSE Safety Plan where appropriate.
Voluntary, community and faith services including voluntary youth groups have a key role to play in educating children to stay safe and preventing risk of CSE through awareness-raising and keep safe work.