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1.4.10 Safeguarding Children and Young People from Child Sexual Exploitation


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Aims and Objectives
  3. Definition of Child Sexual Exploitation
  4. Definition of ‘Consent’ to Sexual Activity
  5. Information Sharing
  6. Recognition of Child Sexual Exploitation
  7. Vulnerability Factors and Risk Indicators
  8. Referral
  9. Assessment
  10. Strategy Discussion
  11. Multi-Agency Strategy Meetings
  12. Child’s wishes and Feelings
  13. Intervention with Children and Young People at Significant risk of, or Abused through Sexual Exploitation
  14. Children and Young People in Care
  15. Young people aged 18 years and over entitled to Aftercare Services
  16. Young people aged 18 years and over
  17. Models of Child Sexual Exploitation
  18. Monitoring and Governance
  19. Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme
  20. Sexual Harm Prevention Orders and Sexual Risk Orders

    Appendix 1: Child Sexual Exploitation Risk Assessment Matrix

    Appendix 2: Guidance for Agencies receiving Information about CSE

    Appendix 3: List of Named Lead Contacts for CSE

    Appendix 4: Relevant Legislation and Guidance

    Appendix 5: Police Powers

    Appendix 6: Useful Contacts


1. Introduction

This chapter sets out the formal Child Protection procedure to be used where there are concerns that a child is at risk of, or is being abused through sexual exploitation. It is to be used in conjunction with the Assessment Triangle from Working Together 2015.

Where relevant, professionals should also refer to existing single agency and multi-agency protocols for safeguarding children in specific circumstances, including:

  • Safeguarding and Promoting the Welfare of Sexually Active Young People;
  • E-Safety and the protection of children from abuse via the internet social networking sites, multi- media and other forms of information technology.


2. Aims and Objectives

The aim of this procedure is to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people when there are concerns that they are at risk of abuse through sexual exploitation; and to encourage effective law enforcement through the detection, investigation, arrest and prosecution of those who perpetrate this form of child abuse. The main objective of this procedure is to:

  • Define what is meant by ‘Child Sexual Exploitation’;
  • Provide a procedure for responding to concerns around risk of sexual exploitation;
  • Provide an assessment framework for the identification of children and young people vulnerability toward, and at risk of sexual exploitation;
  • Outline responsibilities of multi-agency partners;
  • Formalise the exchange of information between multi-agency partners;
  • Raise awareness of all agencies involved with children and families of sexual exploitation as a form of sexual abuse and as a child protection concern;
  • Ensure children’s social care, police, health services, education and all other local authority and voluntary sector agencies work together and share a consistent approach to responding to child sexual exploitation;
  • Establish a quality assurance process to monitor and evaluate arrangements.


3. Definition of Child Sexual Exploitation

The sexual exploitation of children and young people is often a hidden form of child abuse. A number of different definitions have been developed through the work of academics, researchers and practitioners. Although different definitions exist the concepts of sexual exploitation and exploitative exchange of sex with children are central to each. For the purpose of this Procedure the definition of child sexual exploitation used by the government in England and Wales has been adopted. The definition used by the government in Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation: Supplementary Guidance to Working Together to Safeguard Children DCSF (2009a) states:

Sexual exploitation of children and young people under 18 involves exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where young people (or a third person or persons) receive ‘something’ (e.g. food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts, money) as a result of them performing, and/or another or others performing on them, sexual activities. Child sexual exploitation can occur through the use of technology without the child’s immediate recognition; for example being persuaded to post sexual images on the Internet/mobile phones without immediate payment or gain. In all cases, those exploiting the child/young person 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 or young person’s limited availability of choice resulting from their social/economic and/or emotional vulnerability.

In relation to the above definition, and for the purpose of this document, child sexual exploitation (CSE) is subsequently understood as involving:

  • Abuse through exchange of sexual activity for some form of payment;
  • Abuse through the production of indecent images and/or any other indecent material involving children whether photographs, films or other technologies;
  • Abuse through grooming whether via direct contact or the use of technologies such as mobile phones and the internet;
  • Abuse through trafficking (both cross-border and internally) for sexual purposes.
This guidance applies to male and female children up to the age of 18 years, and irrespective of whether they are living at home, a Looked After Child (LAC) living with foster carers or in a residential setting or young people living independently.


4. Definition of ‘Consent’ to Sexual Activity

The law set down the age of consent to sexual activity as 16, regardless of the child’s sexual identity and/or orientation. The age of consent is raised to 18 in cases of someone having a position of trust including, for example, professionals working with children and young people and adult lodgers. However, in the context of child sexual exploitation, the term ‘consent’ refers to whether or not a child or young person, male or female, who may be 16 or older, understands how to give consent and has capacity to give consent. Subsequently, it is important for professionals to understand the circumstances under which a child aged 16 or older have been unable to give informed consent to sexual activity. Such circumstances include, for example, where they have been sexually groomed, where they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, where they have received threats of violence and where there is a power imbalance between a victim of sexual exploitation and the perpetrator.


5. Information Sharing

See also Information Sharing and Confidentiality Procedure.

Professionals can only work together to safeguard children if there is an effective exchange of relevant information between them. Whenever possible, consent of children and families should be obtained before sharing personal information with third parties. However, in some circumstances, consent may not be possible or appropriate. Subsequently, the duty of confidentiality is not absolute. Particularly where the safety and welfare of a child dictates information must be shared. For example, where a professional believes there is a current or imminent risk to the safety, health and/or welfare of any child or young person. In such cases it is important professional judgment is used to determine a situation which is serious enough to outweigh the young person’s right to confidentiality and privacy.

Any disclosure or decision not to disclose information must be justified according to the particular facts of the case and documented accordingly. Immediate advice should be sought in cases of doubt from Lead Professionals in Child Protection within the practitioner’s own agency. In relation to children at risk of, or abused through sexual exploitation, the protective network of professionals involved in Strategy Meetings, Child in Need Plans and Child Protection Plans should agree the ongoing response to risk together, enabling individuals to feel confident information shared will be used to secure the safety of the individual concerned and promote positive outcomes for the child or young person.


6. Recognition of Child Sexual Exploitation

Evidence gathered on child sexual exploitation in Northumberland suggests the majority of exploitation takes place in community-based private and rented residential accommodation, and in some cases commercial premises, in public and/or otherwise on the street. However, the primarily hidden nature of this form of abuse has a significant impact on the wider visibility of the problem. Disclosure of sexual abuse and physical violence is always difficult for children and young people. This is due to the sophisticated grooming processes executed by abusing adults, and the exchange element of the abusive act; which encourages fear, confusion, denial and misplaced loyalties. All of which act as barriers making detection and disclosure by children and young people especially difficult.

Key to safeguarding vulnerable children is the ability to recognise ‘at risk’ children and young people and for agencies to work within a standard risk assessment framework. Evidence from research in relation to the vulnerabilities and risk indicators associated with sexual exploitation is now well established. Therefore, level of risk can be identified by considering the number and range of risk indicators present in a child’s life.  Subsequently, all staff in all agencies should be familiar with Appendix 1: Child Sexual Exploitation Risk Assessment Matrix, and the vulnerability and risk indicators set out within the Matrix. Staff and agencies that should be aware of the Child Sexual Exploitation Risk Assessment Matrix, and the vulnerability and risk indicators set out within the Matrix primarily include:

  • Children’s social care;
  • Police;
  • Education (schools, education other than at school, further education colleges);
  • Health services (substance misuse services, school health nurses, practitioners in young people’s advisory / sexual health services, GUM clinics, CAMHS, GPs, Accident and Emergency Units, out-of-hours services, specialist/lead nurses/doctors for Looked After Children / Child Protection, health visitors, pharmacists, midwifes, obstetrics and gynaecologists;
  • Targeted Adolescent Services (TAS) including the Youth Offending Services (YOS) and Probation;
  • Leisure and Community Services (youth workers, play workers, leisure centres, parks etc);
  • Voluntary sector and community groups.
Each agency should identify a Lead Professional for Child Sexual Exploitation. In addition, each area children’s social care team, Family Placement Services, Residential Unit, police force, school, health and other relevant agencies should identify a Lead Practitioner or Manager for CSE. These lead professionals should have a significant level of knowledge and expertise in relation to CSE. They should be able to offer advice within their agency on identifying and referring a child ‘at risk’ to children’s social care. Lead professionals should further advise on how their agency can contribute to risk reduction work and a safeguarding plan for children at risk. They should also be invited to attend multi-agency meetings held under this procedure where deemed appropriate and/or necessary.


7. Vulnerability Factors and Risk Indicators

7.1 Vulnerability Factors

Identified vulnerability factors related to child sexual exploitation include:

  • Abuse or neglect by parent/carer/family member;
  • History of local authority care;
  • Family history of domestic abuse;
  • Family history of substance misuse;
  • Family history of mental health difficulties;
  • Breakdown of family relationships;
  • Low self-esteem.

7.2 General risk Indicators

General risk indicators include:

  • Staying out late/going missing;
  • Multiple calls or text to mobile by unknown adults/older young people;
  • Other use of a mobile phone that causes concern;
  • Expressions of despair including self-harm, overdose, eating disorder, challenging behaviour, aggression etc;
  • Disclosure of sexual/physical assault followed by withdrawal of allegation;
  • Sexually transmitted infections or unplanned pregnancy;
  • Peers involved in sexual exploitation and/or ‘clipping’ (receiving payment in exchange for agreement to undertake but not performing sexual acts);
  • Drugs misuse;
  • Alcohol misuse;
  • Use of the internet that causes concern;
  • Unsuitable/inappropriate accommodation (including street homelessness);
  • Isolated from peers/social networks;
  • Lack of positive relationship with a protective/nurturing adult;
  • Exclusion from school or unexplained absences from or not engaged in school/college/training;
  • Living independently and failing to respond to attempts by worker to keep in touch.
Please note: This list is by no means exhaustive, and other indicators may be present.

7.3 Significant risk indicators

Significant risk indicators include:

  • Periods of going missing overnight or longer;
  • Older ‘boyfriend’/ relationship with controlling adult;
  • Physical/emotional abuse by that ‘boyfriend’/controlling adult;
  • Entering/leaving vehicles driven by unknown adults;
  • Unexplained amounts of money, expensive clothing or other items;
  • Frequenting areas known for sex work;
  • Physical injury without plausible explanation.

Important key points:

  1. Child sexual exploitation is a particularly hidden form of abuse;
  2. Disclosure of this form of abuse is rare;
  3. Children do not volunteer, or ‘make choices’ to be sexually exploited and cannot consent to their own abuse;
  4. Vulnerability and risk indicators of CSE are well established;
  5. All agencies should be familiar with the Child Sexual Exploitation Risk Assessment Matrix (Appendix 1: Child Sexual Exploitation Risk Assessment Matrix).


8. Referral

As with all child protection concerns, all agencies should refer any concerns about a child at risk of any form of sexual exploitation to children’s social care following the process set in the Referrals Procedure. This includes all information gathered from any source including children, young people their families and/or their carers. Disclosure of this form of abuse may not be commonplace and it is therefore essential all information from a range of sources is brought together. It is important for professionals to understand any information may help to build up a full picture that a child may be suffering abuse through sexual exploitation. Subsequently, professionals should share information with children’s social care and police via the information and intelligence sharing process outlined in Appendix 2: Guidance for Agencies receiving Information about CSE.

Research identifies children who go missing, including those who may have been trafficked (Department of Education, 2009c), are at risk of sexual exploitation (DCSF, 2009a’ 2009b). Subsequently, foster carers and staff in residential settings should always report any incidents or concerns around child sexual exploitation and children who go missing. All responses to children missing from care should be undertaken in line with Joint Protocol between Northumberland Area Command and Northumberland Children's Services Regarding Children and Young people Missing from Home and Care. Where the threshold for intervention is met a Return Interview should, if possible, be used to establish if a child has been sexually exploited and/or remains at risk. It is also important for practitioners to understand skilled use of Return Interviews is necessary as they can prove an effective tool, alongside other means, for gathering ‘soft’ intelligence related to CSE. All intelligence in respect of CSE should be passed to Police where necessary (see Appendix 2: Guidance for Agencies receiving Information about CSE).

The children’s social care Lead Professional (Single Point of Contact) for children at risk of abuse through sexual exploitation should be informed of the concern by the person taking the referral in children’s social care. Where the child has an allocated Social Worker, they should also be informed. When a referral is received regarding a Looked after Child (LAC), the allocated Social Worker must inform their Team Manager, and the Children’s social care Lead Professional (Single Point of Contact) for children at risk of abuse through sexual exploitation (see Appendix 3: List of Named Lead Contacts for CSE), and the Designated Nurse for LAC.


9. Assessment

In light of the complex and hidden nature of this form of abuse, which children and young people rarely disclose, it is important to work on the basis of concerns rather than relying on hard evidence. The Child Sexual Exploitation Risk Assessment Matrix (see Appendix 1: Child Sexual Exploitation Risk Assessment Matrix), which includes three levels of risk, has been adapted specifically for inclusion in this Procedure. The Matrix enables safeguarding actions to be linked to evidence of risk, thereby facilitating both preventive action and appropriate interventions. The Matrix is intended to inform appropriate professional responses in relation to children and young people’s safeguarding needs.

A risk assessment using the Child Sexual Exploitation Risk Assessment Matrix should be undertaken to establish if a child is in need and requires protection. This should be completed by children’s social care, within 7 working days of the referral. The risk assessment will consider all the vulnerabilities and risks and place the child in one of three levels of risk: low risk, medium risk or high risk. However, it is important to understand that children and young people can move between these levels. Where a child or young person is identified as medium or high risk the allocated Social Worker should complete a Vulnerability Check List (VCL) and where necessary refer to the Risk Management Group (RMG).

9.1 Level 1 - Low Risk of Sexual Exploitation

Children and young people assessed as low risk may not have indicators of risk in relation to sexual exploitation. The majority of children and young people will not be at immediate risk of sexual exploitation. However, these children and young people may have contact with support agencies such as children’s social care; and therefore are likely to have some vulnerability factors present. Children and young people assessed as being low risk may need access to basic information that will enable them to develop an awareness of the risks that can lead to a situation in which they may be exposed to sexual exploitation. They need access to information that will equip them to avoid risk situations and to protect themselves. Practitioners working in children’s social care are well placed to deliver such information as part of their interaction with the children and young people with whom they are in contact.

The School Personal Health, Social and Economic Education (PHSE) and Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) curriculum provides a sound platform through which to deliver basic safeguarding information, to explore ideas around ‘healthy’ sexual relationships and to provide children and young people with a sense of agency, and control about their bodies and selves. This also needs to include opportunities for children and young people to understand the very real risks involved in staying out late and going missing from school, home or care. Health professionals such as school health nurses, practitioners in young persons’ advisory/sexual health clinics and GPs have a 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 in relationships and avoiding risk of sexual exploitation.

9.2 Level 2 - Medium Risk of Sexual Exploitation

Children and young people assessed as at medium risk are likely to have multiple vulnerabilities such as problematic parenting and childhood experiences present. One, two or several risk indicators may also be present. Multiple vulnerabilities increase the risk of such children and young people being groomed for sexual exploitation. Early intervention and preventative work is needed to protect children and young people who have multiple vulnerabilities present. A practitioner or agency view that a child is at medium risk of sexual exploitation may be inaccurate. Subsequently, sharing information via a strategy discussion about that child may reveal them to be at high risk, and in need of protection. Interventions to interrupt abuse through sexual exploitation and support children to recover a healthy lifestyle are more likely to be successful if a child who is at risk can be identified, and information about concerns shared within a multi-agency support network as early as possible.

Subsequently, a multi-agency strategy meeting must be held to ensure all information is shared, and where necessary a child in need plan is agreed to address risk and need. The plan should include a programme of direct work with the child to raise awareness of sexual exploitation and to provide tools for the child to protect themselves and stay safe in relationships. The programme should raise risk awareness, provide information on keeping safe and address specific identified issues that pose a threat to safety. It should be delivered by a practitioner who has a good working relationship with the child or young person. It should include opportunities for the child to understand the very real risks involved in activities such as staying out late and going missing from home, care or education. It may also be appropriate to target some work through group work with the young person and their peers in an environment that the young person is comfortable with, which may be in school or a community setting. Risk needs to be regularly reassessed as part of the planned work undertaken with a child or young person. Any significant change in circumstances which might increase vulnerability or any incidence of behaviour associated with risk should result in an immediate reassessment of risk using the Child Sexual Exploitation Risk Assessment Matrix (see Appendix 1: Child Sexual Exploitation Risk Assessment Matrix).

9.3 Level 3 - High Risk of Sexual Exploitation

A child or young person identified as at high risk of sexual exploitation is likely to have multiple vulnerabilities present as well as multiple indicators of risk. Children and young people at high risk may have been groomed or targeted for opportunistic abuse and/or exploitative relationships by abusing adults and in some cases by their older peers. It is at this level that any omitted information can have the greatest effect on accuracy of assessment and information sharing. A multi-agency strategy meeting for children at risk of abuse through sexual exploitation should always be convened in relation to child or young person assessed as at high risk. Multi-agency strategy meetings enable the effective exchange of information between representatives of key agencies. The meetings should include the individual who has identified risk or raised concerns in relation to the child or young person and representatives of children’s social care, police, health, education, and care settings and/or any specialist child sexual exploitation and missing children services. Multi-agency strategy meetings should respond to the needs of children and young people for whom risk of sexual exploitation is indicated but not known, as well as responding to cases where evidence of sexual exploitation is available.

The multi-agency strategy meeting should agree plan of action to include direct work with the individual child or young person. The focus of any safeguarding plan and of direct interventions should be the reduction of specific risks which are causing concern. In particular where staying out late and/or going missing from school, home or care is identified, these should be addressed as a priority. The safeguarding implications of staying out late and going missing should not be underestimated by any agencies. The length of intervention required will be different in each case and is reliant on the specific circumstances of the child or young person and the nature of the risks which are being addressed. Individual children and young people may respond to intervention in different ways and this will also impact on the length of that intervention.

A change of circumstances such as a care placement change, for example, may serve to support the reduction of risks in a relatively short space of time; conversely a placement change could serve to quickly escalate risk level. At least one review meeting by the multi-agency strategy group should be conducted to ensure actions have been taken, assess progress, consider the impact of interventions, share further information and reassess the level of risk. Risks should be carefully monitored and reviewed over time in relation to children and young people for whom there have been concerns as part of the assessment and planning processes. Risk needs to be regularly reassessed as part of the planned work undertaken with a child or young person. Any significant change in circumstances which might increase vulnerability or any incidence of behaviour associated with risk should result in an immediate reassessment of risk using the Child Sexual Exploitation Risk Assessment Matrix.


10. Strategy Discussion

Following completion of the Child Sexual Exploitation Risk Assessment Matrix, it may be decided that a strategy discussion is required. A Strategy Discussion should always take place where a child is assessed as at medium or high risk of sexual exploitation. A strategy discussion may also take place where a child is assessed as at low risk of sexual exploitation depending on the nature of the vulnerabilities and risk indicators identified. Children’s social care and the police should share and discuss all information received/gathered with other professionals/agencies as appropriate. A decision on the next course of action should be made within 24 hours or without delay if there is immediate concern for a child or young person. The person making the referral should be informed of the outcome of the strategy discussion.


11. Multi-Agency Strategy Meetings

Multi-agency strategy meetings for children at risk of sexual exploitation should be conducted as set out in the Strategy Discussions/Meetings Procedure and should incorporate the following additional measures:

  1. A strategy discussion will, in most cases, agree that a multi-agency strategy meeting should be held. A strategy meeting should always be convened for children at medium or high risk of sexual exploitation;
  2. The meeting should be chaired by a children’s social care’ manager with lead responsibility for child sexual exploitation;
  3. Additional to children’s social care and Police those attending the strategy meeting should include:
    • The referrer, if a professional;
    • Lead officers for CSE from education and health;
    • Child’s Social Worker (if they have one);
    • Designated Police Officer from Police PVP Unit;
    • Representative from Barnardo’s and/or any other specialist child sexual exploitation/missing children service;
    • Any other relevant person who can assist in the planning process for the child protection enquiries and in formulating a multi-agency safeguarding plan e.g. fostering link worker, residential key worker/manager, TAS workers, voluntary agency worker, designated child protection/LAC nurse;
    • Representative from Probation Service working with any identified perpetrators or supervising a parent/carer;
    • Any professional and/or service directly involved in supporting parents.
  4. The meeting should:
    • Share and clarify information;
    • Identify all risks (including those in the sexual exploitation risk assessment framework) and agree on action and make recommendations to address each risk;
    • Decided if a Section 47 Enquiry is necessary;
    • Consider the likelihood of prosecution of relevant abusers, and where prosecution is not likely, consider a range of alternate disruption activity against perpetrators;
    • Develop a plan to safeguard the child or young person;
    • Agree a date to review the plan;
    • Decide who will undertake direct work with the child or young person to reduce risk and facilitate an exit from risk and/or abuse.
  5. Following a multi-agency strategy meeting, medium and high risk cases will require allocation to the relevant Children’s social care Team. These cases should progress to a Section 17 child in need assessment and care plan, or a Section 47 enquiry and Child Protection Plan where necessary. Where a child already has an allocated social worker, any existing plans will need to be amended accordingly. In addition, any existing VCL or other relevant risk assessment will need to be updated. Implementing an effective child in need or child protection plan for a child at risk of sexual exploitation may require professionals to be extremely persistent in continuing to offer support and services. It may be that a professional from an agency other than children’s social care is best able to provide a direct service. The case should remain allocated to a social worker whilst a Child in Need or Child Protection Plan is in place, in order to act as a point of contact for the child, family and professionals and to co-ordinate the plans. Plans should outline the range of support and intervention(s) needed to address each identified risk;
  6. The priority for the Police is the investigation, arrest and prosecution of offenders who have been involved in abusing children and young people through sexual exploitation. Sections 47 to 51 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 deal with the sexual exploitation of children. The Act creates a number of offences that apply to CSE (see Appendix 4: Relevant Legislation and Guidance). This law enforcement role should be undertaken in accordance with the principle of multi-agency co-operation to safeguard children. It may not always be appropriate to interview the child or young person in a formal manner; particularly where a child does not believe they are being sexually exploited. Evidence shows that a relationship with a protective, nurturing adult who over time challenges the perceptions of the young person can lead to an increase in the awareness of the child in relation to risks and vulnerabilities. Information may be most effectively gathered over time, by practitioners who have gained the trust of the young person in a manner that does not alienate the child, but rather involves them in the process, contributing to their own safety.
Where there may be limited evidence in relation to perpetrators, for example, the absence of a statement, action may still be taken in relation to particular activity. This includes reports of the transportation, movement of a child victim between towns and cities, or what is otherwise considered to be the internal trafficking of a child for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Any known address or vehicle being used for the purposes of CSE should be reported to police. All intelligence should be recorded and collated and reported to police via information sharing system outlined in Appendix 2: Guidance for Agencies receiving Information about CSE. Police should consider using the range of powers at their disposal including those set out in repeat search of premises and child abduction legislation (see Appendix 5: Police Powers). The Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) provides a statutory framework for the assessment and management of risk posed by sexual and violent offenders. This includes individuals who are considered to pose a risk or potential risk of harm to children. The Potentially Dangerous Persons (PDP) provisions mirror the MAPPA arrangements, and will allow for referral/discussion of cases that do not have the relevant offence for inclusion in MAPPA.


12. Child’s wishes and Feelings

Children and young people at risk of sexual exploitation will often be in circumstances where they are isolated from protective, nurturing adults. They will need to be enabled to express their wishes and feelings to make sense of their particular circumstances and contribute to decisions that affect them. Of particular relevance is the impact of those who may have groomed and conditioned children, in order to coerce and abuse them. Children may also be under very strong pressure, and be intimidated, afraid and/or dependent on the exploiter(s) because for example substance misuse. Children may therefore reject offers of help and support, and interventions need to be designed creatively to address this. Again, it may be most appropriate for support to be provided by agencies specialising in child sexual exploitation and missing children.


13. Intervention with Children and Young People at Significant risk of, or Abused through Sexual Exploitation

A different response will likely be required in relation to each level of risk. Each of the three categories of risk has associated safeguarding actions. By the point in a child or young person’s life where they are significantly at risk of, or are already abused through sexual exploitation, they are subject to a complex pattern of life experiences which impact negatively on each dimension of their life. Because of this they can present to agencies as ‘streetwise’ or as ‘problematic’ rather than in need of support. Risk identification and assessment lead to an effective plan of intervention. Intervention, support and action should be based upon the child or young person’s needs and be delivered by a skilled and trusted worker in conjunction with a protective network of appropriate agencies. Working with children and young people for whom sexual exploitation is an issue requires a holistic approach through investment of time and resources in long term intervention. An important aspect of the work can be maintaining contact and being available to children and young people until they reach a point where they are ready to think about their situations and accept support.

The process and effort spent by a worker on relationship building can be an important factor in bringing them to that point. These windows of opportunity, when they present, should be fully capitalised upon, with the right kind of support being made available at the time that it is required by the young person. This can only be achieved through the cooperation and joint working of an established network of appropriate agencies. Establishing a positive, trusting relationship with such vulnerable children and young people takes time. A relationship needs to be developed which offers something tangible to the child or young person. At the same time it is important to acknowledge that workers are not providing a friendship and that there are inescapable power differentials. Change needs to happen at a pace that is set by the young person and which provides real choices and promotes a sense of positive control for the young person. There is a need to be non-judgemental, consistently honest, and to listen to and respect the views of children and young people.

Important key points

  1. Intervention should begin with assessment of risk and relationship building;
  2. Honest discussion during assessment will assist the child or young person in feeling included; and create a sense of ownership and connection with the agreed plan;
  3. The plan should address each individual area of vulnerability and risk;
  4. Professionals need to be realistic about expectations and to understand support is long-term, intensive and will go backward at times as well as forward;
  5. Targeted support for parents or carers of children at risk or CSE should also form part of the planning process.


14. Children and Young People in Care

If the child or young person is in a residential unit or family placement, the residential staff or foster carer is required to take positive action to clarify and record any concerns, and minimise the child’s involvement in sexual exploitation. If suspicion that a child is being sexually groomed and/or exploited are confirmed the following steps should be taken:

  • Always treat the child as a victim of exploitation, not a troublemaker or criminal;
  • Ensure all relevant information is recorded in the child’s care plan and file - concerning adults and identifying information e.g. appearance, street names, cars registration details etc, telephone activity, the child’s patterns of going missing etc - together with decisions and clear directions for action;
  • Make every effort to dissuade the child from leaving to engage in sexual exploitation by talking to them, involving them in alternative activities, and ensuring they have the resources to attend those activities, including escorting where necessary;
  • Ensure that the child is aware of the legal issues involved, for example that those exploiting them are committing a range of criminal offences;
  • Where possible monitor mobile calls, text messages and letters by: aiming to be present when phone calls or texts are made or received; negotiating restricted/supervised use of mobile phones which are being used inappropriately; opening some letters in the presence of the child and/or withholding letters if necessary; reasons for intercepting letters, mobile texts and calls (for example, where they are suspected or known to relate to a dangerous adult) should be included in the care plan and risk assessment;
  • Monitor callers to the home, or adults collecting children by car. This may involve turning visitors away, or passing information directly to the Police, monitoring any suspicious activity in the vicinity of the home and informing the Police;
  • Use appropriate methods, in accordance with relevant guidance, to prevent the child leaving home to engage in sexual exploitation (these should be recorded in the care plan and risk assessment);
  • Where these efforts fail, and the child leaves, staff need to decide whether to follow them and continue to encourage them to return;
  • If they will not return, staff should inform the local Police that the child is missing and pass on all relevant information;
  • Liaise with Police and/or available out-reach agencies, so they can search for a child who has gone missing;
  • Offer sensitive, welcoming and caring responses to children when returning home;
  • Inform the allocated Social Worker and Family Placement Worker.
If the child is in foster care, the social worker and family placement worker should meet with the foster carer to decide which of the above steps could reasonably be taken by the foster carer as part of the multi-agency plan. The child’s behaviour and attitude may be extremely challenging, and carers and staff will require on-going support, advice and training in knowing how to respond. These needs must be considered and resources identified, either by the manager of the residential unit, or the family placement worker.


15. Young people aged 18 years and over entitled to Aftercare Services

The supplementary guidance Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation (2009a) applies to all children and young people under the age of 18 years. However reference is made to a duty of care towards older young people leaving care under the Children (Leaving Care) Act (2000) with regard to the safeguarding guidance. In cases where a young person entitled to receive services under the Children (Leaving Care) Act (2000) is assessed as at medium or high risk of abuse through sexual exploitation, the associated actions above should be followed.

The Pathway Plan should specifically identify their vulnerability to sexual exploitation, and address the factors known to impede successful recovery from sexual exploitation e.g. homelessness, poverty, lack of educational and employment opportunities and lack of supportive social contacts. In relation to Level 2 and Level 3 cases information and awareness raising actions should be included in the pathway planning process. Risk should be assessed and addressed as part of existing processes on an on-going basis. Similarly, where children and young people are assessed as Level 2 or 3 cases, work to reduce risk of sexual exploitation should be included in the pathway plan and regularly reviewed. As for children and young people under the age of 18, liaison between children’s social care and Police will be required in addressing the protection of the child or young person.


16. Young people aged 18 years and over

A young person who has been subject to the complex pattern of life experiences including sophisticated grooming and priming processes that have brought them to a point where they are at risk of, or are abused through, sexual exploitation, does not stop needing support and protection when they reach the age of 18 years. They remain a vulnerable young person with on-going needs. A person's vulnerability will depend on their circumstances and environment, and each case must be judged on its merits. A vulnerable adult can be defined as a person 18 years old or over whom:

  • Is or may be in need of community care services by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness; and
  • Is or may be unable to take care of him or her or himself, or is unable to protect him or herself from significant harm or serious exploitation.

This definition of vulnerable adult may include a person who:

  • Has a physical or sensory disability; including people who are physically frail or have a chronic illness;
  • Has a mental illness, including dementia;
  • Has a learning disability;
  • Is old and frail;
  • Misuses drugs or alcohol;
  • Has social or emotional problems, or whose behaviour challenges service.


17. Models of Child Sexual Exploitation

Barnardo’s (2011) has identified three broad models of child sexual exploitation activity. These models are not exhaustive and other forms of CSE exist. However, those below show a spectrum of exploitation, as follows:

  • Inappropriate relationships’ usually involving one perpetrator who has inappropriate power or control over a young person;
  • Boyfriend model of exploitation and peer exploitation’ where the perpetrator befriends and grooms a young person into a ‘relationship’ and then coerces or forces them to have sex with friends or associates;
  • Organised/networked sexual exploitation or trafficking' where a child or young people (often connected) are targeted by gangs or groups, possibly situated across geographical areas, in and between towns and cities where they may be forced /coerced into sexual activity with multiple groups of perpetrators.
It is important practitioners are familiar with different models of sexual exploitation, and are able to recognise the processes applicable in each identified case (Barnardos).


18. Monitoring and Governance

Within the context of the Government National Action Plan (2011) on tackling child sexual exploitation Local Safeguarding Children Boards are encouraged to: collect information to monitor models of CSE, and map prevalence, patterns and the effectiveness of interventions for children who are sexually exploited in their area. The lead practitioner/manager for CSE should be responsible for this within agencies/teams/services and for passing that information onto the NSCB. Northumberland Safeguarding Children Board (NSCB) should ensure monitoring arrangements for child sexual exploitation are in place. The numbers of strategy meetings held under this protocol, numbers of children involved and any deficits in service provision should be recorded and monitored by the NSCB in order to evidence local prevalence, patterns and need and ensure adequate and relevant service provision.

Click here to view Action where there are concerns that a child is at risk of abuse through sexual exploitation: Flow Chart.


19. Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme

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.


20. Sexual Harm Prevention Orders and Sexual Risk Orders

These orders were introduced by the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.  They replace the previous Sexual Offences Prevention Order, Risk of Sexual Harm Orders and Foreign Travel Orders which were introduced by the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

The court needs to be satisfied that the order is necessary for protecting the public, or any particular members of the public, from sexual harm from the defendant; or protecting children or vulnerable adults generally, or any particular children or vulnerable adults, from sexual harm from the defendant outside the United Kingdom.

The Orders prohibit  the defendant from doing anything described in the order, and can include a prohibition on foreign travel (replacing Foreign Travel Orders which were introduced by the Sexual Offences Act 2003).

Failure to comply with a requirement imposed under an Order is an offence punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment.

Sexual Harm Prevention Orders

Sexual Harm Prevention Orders can be applied to anyone convicted or cautioned of a sexual or violent offence, including where offences are committed overseas. They replace the previous Sexual Offences Prevention Orders.

A prohibition contained in a Sexual Harm Prevention Order has effect  for a fixed period, specified in the order, of at least 5 years, or until further order. The Order may specify different periods for different prohibitions.

Sexual Risk Orders

Sexual Risk Orders can be made where a person has done an act of a sexual nature as a result of which there is reasonable cause to believe that it is necessary for such an order to be made, even if they have never been convicted. They replace the previous Risk of Sexual Harm Orders.

A prohibition contained in a Sexual Risk Order has effect  for a fixed period, specified in the order, of not less than 2 years, or until further order. The Order may specify different periods for different prohibitions.


Appendices

Appendix 1: Child Sexual Exploitation Risk Assessment Matrix

Appendix 2: Guidance for Agencies receiving Information about CSE

Appendix 3: List of Named Lead Contacts for CSE

Appendix 4: Relevant Legislation and Guidance

Appendix 5: Police Powers

Appendix 6: Useful Contacts

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