Child sexual exploitation

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is defined by the government as;
The sexual exploitation of children and young people under 18 involving exploitative situations, contexts and relationships with young people (or a third person or persons) receive something (e.g food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts, money) as a result of performing and or another 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/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 persons limited availability of choice resulting from their social/economic and or emotional vulnerability.

The approach recommended in national guidance (OFSTED, 2014) notes that senior leadership and a multiagency approach is essential to challenge and go beyond individual case management, in order to detect patterns of activity underpinned by organised crime and to direct effective action.

Whether in the Oxfordshire serious case review (OSCB 2015) or in the Rotherham report it was clear that perpetrators target children from difficult backgrounds and the journey is not just an individual one for a child or young person but for their family and foster carers. In the Oxfordshire serious case review, half were children who had gone missing from school or their placement many times before action was taken against the perpetrators.

The Oxfordshire serious case review also sets out key learning points for staff whether in; education, health, police, social care, foster care or staff in residential homes. A young victim in the Rotherham review asked all those working with young people to spot the signs;

"I want you all to look for the child that is unhappy, that doesn’t want to be at school, that has no friends, seems to be going out a lot, could be driving around in cars, has more than one mobile, has an attitude, seems to have a lot of boyfriends."

What do we know?

The consequences of CSE include; self harm and suicidal thoughts, pregnancy, management of the emotional consequences of miscarriages and abortions, the inability to parent children, mental and emotional abuse from threats of violence and coercion, and physical abuse where they may be the victims of multiple rape or early Sexual abuse.

Tackling CSE is very difficult. It requires people to recognise the signs, to help the young person to recognise their experience as abuse, supporting them through the criminal justice system, and gaining evidence for a prosecution. This requires multi agency collaboration and the use of both support and enforcement strategies.

Support strategies include:

  • Staff trained and sensitive to; age of consent in different cultures and recognition of evidence of grooming (this could be via mobile phones, social media, friends, or use of cars/taxis) and how to disrupt activity
  • Integrated services for social care and targeted youth support
  • Identification of self harm and emotional difficulties and support through mental health services whether for the child or parent
  • Increasing local networks of support
  • Using targeted youth support services to build and maintain trust and that communicate effectively with social care services
  • Logging behaviours and triggers and developing strategies to reduce harm.
  • Support for the family of the child
  • Evidence gathering in the form of social care warning letters to known persons of interest where threshold for police enforcement is not met.

Enforcement strategies include:

  • Securing a conviction under the risk of sexual harm orders (Section 19 of the Crime and Disorder Act)
  • Housing powers of enforcement. e.g abduction notices served
  • Enforcement powers around taxis and fast food establishments
  • CCTV checks made e.g around use of taxis, fast food and other sites

Facts, Figures, Trends

Trends in CSE are being collected but this is the first year since the national and Berkshire assessment criteria and pathways have been put in place (see Berkshire procedures) The use of a consistent assessment process is becoming embedded and providing greater assurance between agencies as a result of training. However the estimates of the total numbers affected vary according to the quality of the referrals and the sheer range of risk factors. To date among the 80 children known to Thames Valley Police in Slough all have clear action plans.

National & Local Strategies (Current best practices)


The Slough Local Safeguarding Children’s Board web pages detail all the relevant guidance and resources related to the sexual exploitation of children, however, a summary is provided below:

The Department for Education has published both general guidance (Safeguarding children and young people from sexual exploitation 2009) and a national action plan (Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation: Action Plan 2011) for tackling sexual exploitation of children.

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) is a body created by the Government in 2006 as a ‘one stop shop’ for internet-related issues that had an impact on the safety and security of children and young people online. (Source: Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre: The Way Forward)

The latest OFSTED guidance describes best practice within a complex field which includes;

  • ensuring governance and oversight by senior directors and the local safeguarding childrens board
  • training for all front line staff in the difference between grooming and gang culture related risk factors
  • training in the detection of warning signs in terms of behaviour, triggers and referral processes
  • support services such as 121 youth support integrated within social care
  • the role of the voluntary sector and friendship groups to increase networks of support
  • awareness of cultural influences where a knowledge of the age of consent may be lower than the England legal age of 16
  • intelligence derived from various sources
  • ability to demonstrate evidence of grooming sufficient to gain a conviction
  • strong local action plans to disrupt grooming and substance misuse

It is also important to consider learning from experiences of other local authorities. The serious case review into child sexual exploitation in Oxfordshire (2015) makes clear recommendations as follows

  • agencies should not make assumptions about the most difficult young people
  • there should be recognition that precocious and difficult behaviour may arise as a result of exploitation
  • multiple occasions where a child goes missing should not be viewed as the norm and good case supervision is required during the assessment phase where assessments are raised repeatedly
  • performance data on missing children should be reviewed frequently and compared with CSE reports (preferably monthly)
  • the timeliness of looked after children reports is a critical indicator
  • agencies should be sensitive to three possible causes of parental desperation;
  • each agency should not assume that others are dealing with CSE
  • there is a clear need to protect victims during the prosecution stage
  • pressure points occur on entering care
  • actions taken must be child focussed
  • the quality of evidence collected will depend not just on the victims reports but on other contemporaneous reports from care homes and from families which include descriptions of the young persons appearance and personal accounts, forensic analysis and the results from performance management systems

Local Strategy

Since the publication of the previous JSNA, training on child sexual exploitation for staff in Slough has been embedded through all agencies.In addition Berkshire Child Protection Procedures have been updated in relation to the policy on missing children and for CSE.

There is now a CSE and trafficking subgroup of the Slough safeguarding childrens board. As part of this work a Pan-Berkshire LSCB CSE Indicator Tool has been developed to help professionals focus on indicators of CSE and to determine whether further investigation is required.

Slough LSCB Strategy to Tackle Child Sexual Exploitation

The Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) has a Child Sexual Exloitation Strategy and action plan which provides a clear referral pathway to an operational monitoring forum: Sexual Exploitation Risk Assessment Conference to implement a multi-agency action plan for all known cases.

The CSE subgroup reports to the Safer Slough partnership where there is senior director oversight. As a result of this strong partnership there is a clear focus on those identified to the police and social care.

Further Local Actions

Thames Valley Police and Slough social care have successfully prosecuted offenders. CCTV is in place in the town and taxi drivers are supportive of the no tolerance approach.

Referrals to the early help team are supported by emotional health and wellbeing programmes and by targeted 121 youth support. Self-harm is being addressed in schools through an outreach mental wellbeing programme offered by staff trained in the new care pathways who meet regularly in the new wellbeing hub. Extensive 121 youth support is integrated into the new care pathways for emotional health and wellbeing.

In response to recent reviews, a Missing Person Return Interview Protocol has been drawn up alongside relevant targeted training for key staff to ensure joined up approach in relation to minimising risk of CSE.

What is this telling us?

Slough has a no tolerance approach to child sexual exploitation and has established a CSE subgroup of the local safeguarding childrens’ board to reduce this crime.

There is however a gap in capacity within specialist CAMHS services for the provision of evidence based dialectical behaviour therapy for complex cases. DBT comprises of four elements;
Early help programmes are in place that aim to reduce the risk of a child being taken into care. The early help process offers self help programmes to parents coping with the impact of domestic abuse, alcohol or drug misuse or low levels of parental mental health that do not meet the criteria for referral to adult mental health services.

What are the key inequalities?

Looked after children, children leaving care and youth offenders are at a 40% increased risk of CSE (source OFSTED 2014).

What are the unmet needs/ service gaps?

  • The attitudes of staff in all agencies to young people presenting with difficult behaviours needs to be reviewed and staff working with young people should be trained in the signs of safety and how to establish a multiagency plan to reduce the risk of further harm.
  • All agencies should receive training on the learning from the Oxfordshire and Rotherham reviews
  • Advice on how to obtain consent (embedded in the national service specification for sexual health services) needs to be reviewed in the light of the OSCB’s recommendations. The learning from the OSCB report is that sexual health and school nursing services need to go beyond the usual consent procedures and explore whether exploitation is taking place.
  • Police data is extensive but what is not known until wider training is in place is whether there are further children at risk within the community.
  • Continuity of support through trusted staff in; schools, targeted youth support and social workers is essential. This advice applies to any service interfacing with the young person or their family as trust can be broken through multiple contacts.
  • Where looked after children are placed out of area reporting can be delayed if the child or young person goes missing.
  • Continuing training and support services for foster carers is needed and for councillors.
  • CCTV provision across the town is effective but limited.
  • Current intelligence suggests that taxi drivers are not implicated locally but young people at risk are conveyed by taxi drivers who should be trained to recognise the signs and refer appropriately In the Rotherham and Oxfordshire areas the risks of the perpetrators being from the Pakistani community were much higher The evidence to date in Slough is that is not the case locally but further monitoring is required in the case of small numbers as the ethnic distribution among victims and perpetrators should be documented as part of the surveillance

Recommendations for consideration by other key organisations

  • Slough LSCB has a scrutiny role in relation to CSE
  • Councillors and senior executives should note that as a result of the Rotherham review they are now accountable even after their period of service ends.

See also

  • Alcohol
  • Child protection
  • Domestic abuse
  • Looked after Children
  • Maternal mental health
  • Sexual health
  • Substance misuse