This document outlines the specific form of child abuse called Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE), the need for staff to be aware of statutory guidance, the policy and procedure to follow if they receive a report of a child being at risk of or involved in CSE, or if they have concerns about a child or young person.
The Department for Education’s ‘Working Together To Safeguard Children (2018), describes child sexual exploitation as:
Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse. Sexual abuse may involve physical contact, including assault by penetration (for example, rape or oral sex) or non penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching outside clothing. It may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in the production of sexual images, forcing children to look at sexual images or watch sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways or grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via the internet).
The definition of child sexual exploitation is as follows:
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.
Department for Education – Child Sexual Exploitation – Definition and a guide for practitioners, local leaders and decision makers’ (February 2017)
A child is anyone who has not yet reached their 18th birthday. Throughout this advice the terms ‘child’ and ‘children’ are used to refer to all those under the age of 18.
The duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people (under 18) including the keeping them safe from sexual exploitation is a key part of the Government’s drive to improve outcomes for children and young people. This is supported in the core Government guidance ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’ (2018) and ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ (September 2021).
Bright World Guardianships staff should be alert to changes in reports of changes in children’s behaviour which could indicate that they may need help or protection. Staff are encouraged to use their judgement in identifying children who may be at risk of CSE and to report any concerns to the Designated Safeguarding Leads, Lana & James Foster, or Robbie Piper (as per the reporting procedure outlined in the Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy).
Bright World Policy
Staff members are expected to have a general understanding of the risks affecting children and young people, how to identify individual children who may be at risk of or involved in CSE, and what to do to support them. This policy outlines a clear procedure for protecting children at risk of CSE or those who are involved in CSE.
Bright World Guardianships understands that the duty to protect children from CSE builds on existing partnerships for example with schools, parents and Local Safeguarding Children Boards. This policy considers the need for effective engagement with partners who are in key positions to spot signs of CSE, (where this would not expose the child to further risk), and the need to be able to offer assistance and advice to those who raise concerns or who require signposting to the right support mechanism.
Bright World Guardianships understand the importance of awareness training for staff to identify children at risk of being drawn into CSE. Staff training needs are assessed internally with the Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) being the point of advice and support for staff, with regular safeguarding updates being circulated.
The Bright World Policy references the HM Government Reports of ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ (2021) and ‘Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation’ (2009) to ensure that staff have an awareness of the advice and support being given to schools:
Who is vulnerable to child sexual exploitation?
Any child, in any community: Child sexual exploitation is occurring across the country but is often hidden so prevalence data is hard to ascertain. However, areas proactively looking for child sexual exploitation are uncovering a problem. All practitioners should be open to the possibility that the children they work with might be affected.
Age: Children aged 12-15 years of age are most at risk of child sexual exploitation although victims as young as 8 have been identified, particularly in relation to online concerns. Equally, those aged 16 or above can also experience child sexual exploitation, and it is important that such abuse is not overlooked due to assumed capacity to consent. Account should be taken of heightened risks amongst this age group, particularly those without adequate economic or systemic support.
Gender: Though child sexual exploitation may be most frequently observed amongst young females, boys are also at risk. Practitioners should be alert to the fact that boys may be less likely than females to disclose experiences of child sexual exploitation and less likely to have these identified by others.
Ethnicity: Child sexual exploitation affects all ethnic groups.
Heightened vulnerability factors: Working Together makes clear the requirements for holistic assessment. Sexual exploitation is often linked to other issues in the life of a child or young person, or in the wider community context. Practitioners should be alert to the fact that child sexual exploitation is complex and rarely presents in isolation of other needs and risks of harm (although this may not always be the case, particularly in relation to online abuse). Child sexual exploitation may be linked to other crimes and practitioners should be mindful that a child who may present as being involved in criminal activity is actually being exploited.
Key indicators of children being sexually exploited
Staff members who have direct and indirect contact with students and young people in public and private sector organisations should be aware of the key indicators of children being sexually exploited. CSE can be very difficult to identify. Warning signs can easily be mistaken for ‘normal’ teenage behaviour which can include:
going missing for periods of time or regularly coming home late
regularly missing school or education or not taking part in education
appearing with unexplained gifts or new possessions for example mobile phones, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes;
excessive receipt of texts/phone calls;
spending time at places of concern or of known sex work, such as hotels or known brothels;
get involved in gangs, gang fights, gang membership and/or isolation from peers/social networks;
concerning use of internet or other social media;
not know where they are because they have been moved around the country;
associating with other young people involved in exploitation;
having older boyfriends or girlfriends;
suffering from sexually transmitted infections
mood swings. self-harm or changes in emotional wellbeing;
drug and alcohol misuse; and
displaying inappropriate sexualised behaviour;
increasing secretiveness around behaviours;
relationships with controlling or significantly older individuals or groups;
evidence of/suspicions of physical or sexual assault.
The following vulnerabilities are examples of the types of things children can experience that might make them more susceptible to CSE:
• Having a prior experience of neglect, physical and/or sexual abuse;
• Lack of a safe/stable home environment, now or in the past (domestic violence or parental substance misuse, mental health issues or criminality, for example);
• Recent bereavement or loss;
• Social isolation or social difficulties; • Absence of a safe environment to explore sexuality;
• Economic vulnerability;
• Homelessness or insecure accommodation status;
• Connections with other children and young people who are being sexually exploited;
• Family members or other connections involved in adult sex work;
• Having a physical or learning disability;
• Being in care (particularly those in residential care and those with interrupted care histories); and
• Sexual identity.
Not all children and young people with these vulnerabilities will experience child sexual exploitation. Child sexual exploitation can also occur without any of these vulnerabilities being present.
Children and young people who are victims of CSE may also show signs of sexual abuse or grooming. Details of these abuse types can be found on the NSPCC website.
Practitioners should also be aware that many children and young people who are victims of sexual exploitation do not recognise themselves as such.
A significant number of children who are victims of sexual exploitation go missing from education or home at some point. Return interviews for children or young people who have been reported as absent or missing can help in establishing why they ran away and the subsequent support that may be required, as well as preventing repeat incidents. The information gathered from return interviews can be used to inform the identification, referral and assessment of any child sexual exploitation cases.
Bright World Guardianships staff members may receive reports or have concerns that a child or young person is being abused because of unusual or changes in behaviour. Staff may notice that the child or young person:
- has a sudden change in behaviour
- is withdrawn and/or anxious
- is depressed
- is aggressive
- has problems sleeping and/or nightmares
- has eating disorders or changes in eating habits – wets the bed or soils clothes
- takes drugs and/or drinks alcohol
- self harms and/or has thoughts about suicide
- isolation from family and friends
- criminal activity
Potential indicators of risk can include:
• Acquisition of money, clothes, mobile phones etc without plausible explanation;
• Gang-association and/or isolation from peers/social networks;
• Exclusion or unexplained absences from school, college or work;
• Leaving home/care without explanation and persistently going missing or returning late;
• Excessive receipt of texts/phone calls;
• Returning home under the influence of drugs/alcohol;
• Inappropriate sexualised behaviour for age/sexually transmitted infections;
• Evidence of/suspicions of physical or sexual assault;
• Relationships with controlling or significantly older individuals or groups;
• Multiple callers (unknown adults or peers);
• Frequenting areas known for sex work;
• Concerning use of internet or other social media;
• Increasing secretiveness around behaviours; and
• Self-harm or significant changes in emotional well-being.
Staff should remain open to the fact that CSE can occur without any of these risk indicators being obviously present. Practitioners should also be alert to the fact that some risk assessments have been constructed around indicators of face-to-face perpetration by adults and may not adequately capture online or peer-perpetrated forms of harm. Risk assessments only capture risk at the point of assessment and that levels of risk vary over time, and that the presence of these indicators may be explained by other forms of vulnerability rather than CSE.
Staff members should discuss any urgent concerns with Lana Foster on 01273 835745. Non-urgent concerns can be submitted to Robbie Piper on Robbie@brightworld.co.uk or Lana Foster on email@example.com. The reporting procedure is detailed in full in the section below titled ‘Bright World Procedure’
In assessing whether a child or young person is a victim of sexual exploitation, or at risk of becoming a victim, careful consideration should be given to the issue of consent. It is important to bear in mind that:
a child under the age of 13 is not legally capable of consenting to sex (it is statutory rape) or any other type of sexual touching;
sexual activity with a child under 16 is also an offence;
it is an offence for a person to have a sexual relationship with a 16 or 17 year old if they hold a position of trust or authority in relation to them; ƒ where sexual activity with a 16 or 17 year old does not result in an offence being committed, it may still result in harm, or the likelihood of harm being suffered;
non consensual sex is rape whatever the age of the victim; and
if the victim is incapacitated through drink or drugs, or the victim or his or her family has been subject to violence or the threat of it, they cannot be considered to have given true consent and therefore offences may have been committed.
Child sexual exploitation is therefore potentially a child protection issue for all children under the age of 18 years and not just those in a specific age group.
Working with partners to protect children
Bright World Guardianships recognises the opportunity that the company has to support partners, including schools and medical professionals in helping to protect and support children and young people at risk of or involved in CSE. Disclosures and concerns can be reported to Bright World staff in relation to our own students, and also in relation to other children and young people who our students may be in contact with.
Bright World Guardianships acknowledges the importance of early sharing of information being key to providing effective help where there are emerging problems. This is detailed in our Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy. Where possible confidential personal information is shared with consent. However where there are concerns that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm, consideration will be given to disclosing information without consent where the public interest served by protecting the child from harm outweighs the duty of confidentiality.
As CSE is a form of child abuse, Bright World Guardianships will report cases or concerns in line with the company’s Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy and national guidance. The Director of Safeguarding and Operations will make an emergency or non-emergency report to the police or other statutory organisation as appropriate. Local multi-agency safeguarding arrangements are accessible to Bright World Guardianships. The process for referring concerns about the welfare of children to local authority children’s social care is available to staff.
Staff should be aware that anonymous reports can be made through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, via police force websites or advice can be obtained by contacting the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000.
Awareness Training for Staff
The following sites provide online training for staff who can regularly self-brief on how to identify children and young people who are at risk of or involved in CSE. Staff are expected to use these tools annually to complement the safeguarding training provided by Bright World Guardianships provided by the company.
Following registration staff should select the course titled
Keep them Safe – Protecting Children from Child Exploitation
Bright World Procedure
1. Bright World staff member receives the report about a child or young person displaying indicators of child sexual exploitation from a student, member of staff at a school, parent or other source by face to face disclosure, email or telephone call, or staff member develops concerns that a child or young person is displaying possible indicators of child sexual exploitation.
2. Bright World Staff member adheres to the Child Protection Policy including contemporaneously recording the disclosure in the most appropriate format (using the Tell Explain Describe model if the information is being given by a student), or reporting their concerns in writing to the Designated Safeguarding Lead – DSL, Lana Foster at Head Office.
3. The record of the disclosure is reported verbally as soon as practicable to the Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL), Lana Foster at Head Office on 01273 835745.
4. The staff member must submit a written record of the disclosure or concern on an IBOS Student Record – Incident Record (Head Office staff) or an email to Robbie Piper (Robbie@brightworld.co.uk) or Lana Foster (firstname.lastname@example.org).
5. The DSL will hold an emergency strategy meeting to discuss the incident, assess the alleged threat and risk to the child, implement an action plan and continue to review the situation until a resolution has been achieved.
6. The meeting will be recorded with timed and dated entries within a Student Record – Incident Record to record all actions and updates.
7. The incident will be referred to a statutory agency for further review where this is a necessary, relevant and proportionate course of action where a child or young person may be at risk of suffering significant harm or in need of support.
Published: July 2016
Reviewed: January 2021