5.8 Safeguarding Children and Young People from Child Sexual Exploitation: Policy, Procedures and Guidance
- Children from Abroad (including Migrant Children and Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children) Procedure;
- Forced Marriages Procedure;
- Domestic Violence and Abuse Procedure;
- Child Abuse and Information Communication Technology.
- Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) For The 21st Century;
- Sex and Relationship Education Guidance (DfEE 0116/2000);
- Puppet on a String: The urgent need to cut children free from sexual exploitation (Barnardo’s 2012);
- National Action Plan and Step by Step Guide for Practitioners.
Section 6, Managing Individual Cases was revised to set out details of the CSE Screening Tool. The Screening Tool (located at Appendix 1: Child Sexual Exploitation Risk Assessment Tool ) was also updated.
1.1 This chapter is based on and summarises Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation (DCSF 2009). This guidance was issued under Section 7 of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970 and Section 16 of the Children Act 2004 and LSCBs, local authorities and their Board partners are required to act under its general guidance unless there are exceptional reasons not to.
1.2 The guidance provides information about sexual exploitation, the roles and responsibilities of relevant agencies and the procedures practitioners should follow to ensure the safety and well-being of children and young people who it is suspected have been or are at risk of being sexually exploited.
1.3 Definition of Child Sexual Exploitation & Key Principles
1.3.1 Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation (2009) uses the following definition of the sexual exploitation of children;
What is child sexual exploitation?
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.
This definition is used by the Department of Education in their Definition and Guide for Practitioners.
1.3.2 Sexual exploitation of children and young people has been identified throughout the UK, in both rural and urban areas, and in all parts of the world. It affects boys and young men as well as girls and young women. It is a form of Sexual Abuse and can have a serious impact on every aspect of the lives of children involved.
1.3.3 It is a crime that knows no borders and, as indicated above, can be global in nature. Cross border cooperation is therefore crucial as it is possible that activity in one area may push perpetrators across a border together with young victims.
1.3.4 Whilst it is not known how prevalent it is. Sexual exploitation has become increasingly recognisable as practitioners gain more understanding of grooming and other methods of sexual exploitation and begin to take a proactive and coordinated approach to deal with it.
1.3.5 Children involved in any form of sexual exploitation should be treated primarily as victims of abuse and their needs carefully assessed. The aim should be to protect them from further harm and they should not be treated as criminals. The primary law enforcement response should be directed at perpetrators who groom children for sexual exploitation.
1.3.6 The government guidance requires agencies to work together to:
- Develop local prevention strategies;
- A child-centred approach. Action should be focussed on the child’s needs, including consideration of children with particular needs or sensitivities, and the fact that children do not always acknowledge what may be an exploitative or abusive situation;
- A proactive approach. This should be focussed on prevention, early identification and intervention as well as disrupting activity and prosecuting perpetrators;
- Parenting, family life, and services. Taking account of family circumstances in deciding how best to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people;
- The rights of children and young people. Children and young people are entitled to be safeguarded from sexual exploitation just as agencies have duties in respect of safeguarding and promoting welfare;
- Responsibility for criminal acts. Sexual exploitation of children and young people should not be regarded as criminal behaviour on the part of the child or young person, but as child sexual abuse. The responsibility for the sexual exploitation of children lies with the abuser and the focus of police investigations should be on those who coerce, exploit and abuse children and young people;
- An integrated approach. Working Together to Safeguard Children sets out a tiered approach to safeguarding: universal, targeted and responsive. Within this, sexual exploitation requires a three-pronged approach tackling prevention, protection and prosecution;
- A shared responsibility. The need for effective joint working between different agencies and professionals underpinned by a strong commitment from managers, a shared understanding of the problem of sexual exploitation and effective coordination by the Local Safeguarding Children Board.
2. The Child
2.1 Any child or young person may be at risk of sexual exploitation, regardless of their family background or other circumstances.
2.2 Sexual exploitation results in children and young people suffering harm, and causes significant damage to their physical and mental health. It can also have profound and damaging consequences for the child’s family. Parents and carers are often traumatised and under severe stress. Siblings can feel alienated and their self-esteem affected. Family members can themselves suffer serious threats of abuse, intimidation and assault at the hands of perpetrators.
2.3 There are strong links between children involved in sexual exploitation, criminal exploitation and other behaviours such as running away from home or care, bullying, self-harm, teenage pregnancy, truancy and substance misuse. In addition, some children are particularly vulnerable, for example, children with special needs, those in residential or foster care, those leaving care, migrant children, unaccompanied asylum seeking children, victims of forced marriage and those involved in gangs.
2.4 The majority of sexually exploited children are hidden from public view. They are unlikely to be loitering or soliciting on the streets. Research and practice has helped to move the understanding away from a narrow view of seeing sexual exploitation as ‘a young person standing on a street corner selling sex’ (DCSF 2009).
2.5 There is also often a presumption that children are sexually exploited by people they do not know. However evidence shows that this is often not the case and children are often sexually exploited by people with whom they feel they have a relationship, e.g. a boyfriend/girlfriend. Children are often persuaded that the boyfriend/girlfriend is their only true form of support and encouraged to withdraw from their friends and family and to place their trust only within the relationship.
2.6 Due to the nature of the grooming methods used by their abusers, it is very common for children and young people who are sexually exploited not to recognise that they are being abused. Practitioners should be aware that particularly young people aged 16 and 17 may believe themselves to be acting voluntarily and will need practitioners to work with them so they can recognise that they are being sexually exploited.
3. Important Information about Sexual Exploitation
3.1 Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse. It can take many forms from the seemingly ‘consensual’ relationship where sex is exchanged for attention, accommodation or gifts, to serious organised crime and child trafficking. (Human trafficking is the movement of a person from one place to another into conditions of exploitation, using deception, coercion, the abuse of power or the abuse of someone’s vulnerability – National Crime Agency.
3.2 What marks out exploitation is an imbalance of power within the relationship and is important to recognise this when considering cases of potential child sexual exploitation. The perpetrator always holds some kind of power over the victim, increasing the dependence of the victim as the exploitative relationship develops.
3.3 Technology can play a part in sexual exploitation, for example, through its use to record abuse and share it with other like-minded individuals or as a medium to access children and young people in order to groom them. A common factor in all cases is the lack of free economic or moral choice.
3.4 Sexual exploitation has strong links with other forms of crime, for example, domestic violence, online and offline grooming, the distribution of abusive images of children and child trafficking and drug related offending known as County Lines. Many adults involved in prostitution describe difficult childhood experiences that include domestic violence, neglect, emotional abuse, disrupted schooling and low educational attainment.
3.5 The perpetrators of sexual exploitation are often well organised and use sophisticated tactics. They are known to target areas where children and young people gather without much adult supervision, e.g. parks or shopping centres or sites on the Internet.
4. Roles and Responsibilities of Local Safeguarding Children Boards and Individual Organisations
4.1 Work to tackle sexual exploitation should follow the same principles as addressing other forms of abuse or neglect.
4.2 The Government Guidance requires that all Local Safeguarding Children Partnerships (LSCPs) should ensure their policies and procedures regarding sexual exploitation reflect their local areas. Particular procedures should specify:
- How to identify signs of sexual exploitation;
- How professionals can seek help and advice on this issue;
- How professionals should share information within government guidelines;
- The establishment of Lead Professionals in the key agencies, the routes for referring concerns and how concerns about sexual exploitation relate to thresholds for referral to Children’s Social Care;
- How professionals can work together to deliver disruption plans;
- How professionals can gather and preserve the integrity of evidence about perpetrators of sexual exploitation;
- The process and possible responses for supporting children and young people identified at being at risk of sexual exploitation;
- How to work with other local authority areas where children who have been sexually exploited are thought to have lived;
- How to deal with issues relating to migrant children in situations which make them vulnerable to sexual exploitation;
- How to manage situations of sexual exploitation through the use of technology such as the internet.
4.3 LSCPs should ensure there is a dedicated lead person in each partner organisation with responsibility for implementing the government guidance and that work in its area with children and young people who have been or are likely to be sexually exploited is coordinated.
4.4 All organisations that provide services for, or work with children, need to have arrangements in place which fulfil their commitment to safeguard and promote the welfare of children by ensuring that:
- Safeguarding training and refresher training includes an awareness of sexual exploitation, how to identify the warning signs, together with the recording and retention of information and gathering evidence;
- Their policies for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people are compatible with the LSCP policies and procedures;
- Information sharing protocols are in place and working well so that relevant information is always shared where this is in the best interest of the child.
4.5 The specific roles and responsibilities of individual agencies in implementing the government guidance are set out in Chapter 4 of the guidance.
4.6 The Norfolk Safeguarding Children Partnership has an Exploitation of Child sub group that meets regularly to develop and monitor the response to CSE as well as other vulnerabilities in Norfolk. In order to assist with this an action plan has been created. The sub group has also developed a strategy covering the three key areas of:
- Intervention and Disruption
5. Preventing Sexual Exploitation
5.1 The effects of sexual exploitation are harmful and far reaching and Chapter 5 of the Government Guidance looks at measures that may assist a local prevention strategy.
5.2 Prevention means that the risk that children and young people will become victims of sexual exploitation is reduced by:
- Reducing their vulnerability;
- Improving their resilience;
- Disrupting and preventing the activities of perpetrators;
- Reducing tolerance of exploitative behaviour;
- Prosecuting abusers.
5.3 Prevention measures will include the development of education and awareness raising programmes for children and young people so that they can make safe and healthy choices about relationships and sexual health, as well as for parents and carers (particularly those responsible for children living away from home) and people whose work places them in a position where they would notice and could report worrying behaviours (e.g. shopkeepers, park attendants and hostel managers) who are not traditionally regarded as part of the safeguarding community.
6. Managing Individual Cases
6.1 Identification of Risk and Possible Indicators
6.1.1 Anyone who has regular contact with children is in a good position to notice changes in behaviour and physical signs that may indicate involvement in sexual exploitation.
6.1.2 Relevant staff should also know how to monitor online spaces and be prepared to request access reports where they are suspicious that a child is being groomed online.
6.1.3 The fact that a young person is 16 or 17 years old should not be taken as a sign they are no longer at risk of sexual exploitation.
6.1.4 The factors below are recognised as factors linked to sexual exploitation. It is not an exhaustive list and each indicator is not in itself proof of involvement in child sexual exploitation. Concerns should increase the more indicators which are present although one single indicator alone may in itself be significant. Professionals should use their judgment when considering these factors. They are:
- Health – physical symptoms e.g. bruising, chronic fatigue, recurring or multiple sexually transmitted infections; pregnancy and/or seeking a termination of pregnancy; evidence of drug, alcohol or substance misuse; sexually risky behaviour;
- Education – truancy; disengagement with education; considerable change in performance at school;
- Emotional and behavioural development – volatile behaviour exhibiting extreme array of mood swings or use of abusive language; involvement in petty crime; secretive behaviour; entering or leaving vehicles driven by unknown adults;
- Identity – low self-image; low self-esteem; self-harm; eating disorder; promiscuity;
- Family and social relationships – hostility in relationship with parents, carers and/or other family members; physical aggressions towards parents, siblings, pets, teachers or peers; placement breakdown; detachment from age appropriate activities; association with other young people who are known to be sexually exploited; sexual relationship with a significantly older person; unexplained relationships with older adults (e.g. through letters, texts, internet links); staying out overnight or returning late with no plausible explanation; persistently missing or missing with no known home base; returning after having been missing looking well cared for with no known home base; going missing and being found in an area where the child has no known links;
- Social presentation – change in appearance; leaving home in clothing unusual for the child e.g. inappropriate for age;
- Parental capacity – family history of parental neglect or abuse;
- Family and environmental factors – family history of domestic violence; pattern of homelessness;
- Income – possession of large amounts of money with no plausible explanation; acquisition of expensive clothes, mobile phones or other possessions without plausible explanation; accounts of social activities with no plausible explanation of the source of necessary funding;
- Family’s social integration – reports that the child has been seen in places known to be used for sexual exploitation.
Possible indicators specific to boys and young men are:
- Health – physical symptoms (e.g. bruising or sexually transmitted infections); drug or alcohol misuse; self-harm or eating disorders;
- Education – truancy, deterioration of school work or part-time timetable;
- Emotional and behavioural development – secretive e.g. about internet use; anti-social behaviour; sexualised language; sexually offending behaviour;
- Family and social relationships – associating with other children and young people at risk of sexual exploitation; missing from home or staying out late; getting into cars of unknown people; contact with adults outside normal social group;
- Identity – low self-esteem, poor self-image or lack of confidence;
- Social presentation – wearing an unusual amount of clothing;
- Income – social activities with no explanation of how funded; possession of abnormal amounts of money, gifts, new mobile phones, credit on mobile phone, number of SIM cards;
- Social integration – frequenting known high-risk areas or going to addresses of concern; seen at public toilets known as locations where gay men meet to engage in sexual activity (cottaging); seen at adult venues.
6.1.5 The Office of Children’s Commissioners have also produced a comprehensive list of warning signs which can be used as a vulnerabilities checklist. (See The Office of the Children’s Commissioner’s Inquiry into Sexual Exploitation in Gangs and Groups – Appendix 3: Warning Signs and Vulnerabilities Checklist.
This promotes awareness of ‘softer’ intelligence. The following are categorised as “typical vulnerabilities in children prior to abuse”:
- Living in a chaotic or dysfunctional household (including parental substance use, domestic violence, parental mental health issues, parental criminality);
- History of abuse (including familial child sexual abuse, risk of forced marriage, risk of ‘honour’-based violence, physical and emotional abuse and neglect);
- Recent bereavement or loss;
- Gang association either through relatives, peers or intimate relationships (in cases of gang-associated CSE only);
- Attending school with young people who are sexually exploited;
- Learning disabilities;
- Unsure about their sexual orientation or unable to disclose sexual orientation to their families;
- Friends with young people who are sexually exploited;
- Lacking friends from the same age group;
- Living in a gang neighbourhood;
- Living in residential care;
- Living in hostel, bed and breakfast accommodation or a foyer;
- Low self-esteem or self-confidence;
- Young carer.
6.1.6 The following signs and behaviour are categorised as “generally seen in children who are already being sexually exploited”.
- Missing from home or care;
- Physical injuries;
- Drug or alcohol misuse;
- Involvement in offending;
- Repeat sexually-transmitted infections, pregnancy and terminations;
- Absent from school;
- Evidence of sexual bullying and/or vulnerability through the internet and/or social networking sites;
- Estranged from their family;
- Receipt of gifts from unknown sources;
- Recruiting others into exploitative situations;
- Poor mental health;
- Thoughts of or attempts at suicide.
Evidence shows that any child displaying several vulnerabilities from the above lists could be considered to be at risk of sexual exploitation. Professionals should immediately start an investigation to determine the risk, along with preventative and protective action as required.
6.1.7 It will not be the responsibility of individual workers to carry out an assessment of risk. The Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) is best placed to carry out an initial risk screening process with information available from different agencies. Individual practitioners will be expected to play a full part in this process, however, by providing as much information as possible to the MASH to assist with the risk assessment.
6.1.8 In the first instance concerns that a child may be at risk of sexual exploitation should be discussed with a manager and/or designated professional for safeguarding and a decision made as to whether there should be a conversation with the Children’s Advice and duty Service (CADS) who may then share the information with Health etc within MASH. If in doubt practitioners should consult with the CADS.
6.1.9 Where appropriate the wishes and feelings of the child or young person and their parents or carers should be obtained when deciding how to proceed. Practitioners should be aware that in some cases this may not be in the child’s best interests and could lead to the child being placed at further risk. Therefore professionals should seek advice from the CADS if they are in any doubt about this.
6.1.10 Where an agency is concerned about losing the engagement of a child or young person by reporting their concern to Children’s Social Care, the agency should discuss this with Children’s Social Care to agree a way forward. Any decision not to share information or refer a child should be fully recorded.
6.2 Referral, Risk Assessment and Strategy Discussion
6.2.1 Professionals who have a concern that a child or young person is experiencing or is at risk of Child Sexual Exploitation must contact CADS providing as much information as possible, with reference to the CSE warning signs and vulnerabilities as appropriate. Police officers and staff should submit concerns.by raising a Child Protection Investigation (CPI) on Athena. In urgent cases immediate safeguarding action should be taken by calling the police and/or the CADS as appropriate.
6.2.2 Police and Children’s Social Care placed in the MASH will discuss the information provided and any additional information they hold about the child, in order to complete a CSE Screening Tool (see Appendix 1: Child Sexual Exploitation Risk Assessment Tool). This tool will provide an indicator of risk under the following categories:
NON CSE – No evidence of Child Sexual Exploitation.
STANDARD – At this stage there is no evidence to suggest that the child is exposed to Child Sexual Exploitation, however there are concerns that a child or young person may be at potential risk of Child Sexual Exploitation in the future due to the presence of identified vulnerability factors or warning signs.
MEDIUM – There is evidence to suggest that a child or young person may be targeted for opportunistic abuse through exchange of sex for drugs or alcohol perceived affection, sense of belonging, accommodation, money and goods etc.
HIGH – There is evidence that a child or young person is currently exposed to Child Sexual Exploitation and the risk to the child’s safety is significant.
In MEDIUM risk cases a CSE Risk Assessment (See Appendix 1: Child Sexual Exploitation Risk Assessment Tool) will be completed by the Decision Makers to fully identify and manage risk.
In High Risk cases a S47 Children Act Investigation will commence which will include a CSE Risk Assessment as part of this process.
If the decision is made not to complete a CSE Risk Assessment the reason for this will be communicated to the referrer.
6.2.3 For those cases where a CSE risk assessment is completed, the result may inform a strategy discussion between Children’s Social Care, the Police, the referring agency and other relevant agencies. If the child is receiving hospital treatment and/or a medical examination is required the medical consultant must be involved. A decision as to the proposed response, will be made.
6.2.4 In cases deemed to be No risk then a decision may be made to take no further action other than to record the details for intelligence purposes and to monitor. In standard risk cases contact will be made with the Parent/Guardian and/or child. The relevant Police Safer Schools Officer will be informed and consideration made as to Early Help/FSP referral. In all other cases a multi agency plan will be created in the MASH tailored to the individual circumstances of the case. In appropriate cases a Multi Agency Sexual Exploitation (MASE) Meeting will be arranged to include all relevant agencies and, if appropriate, the parents and carers of the child or young person. Consideration will also be given to inviting the child or young person if appropriate.
6.2.5 The multi agency plans will be tailored to suit the circumstances, individuals and agencies relevant to each case. Individual agencies will be responsible for their actions but the coordination of the plan will be carried out by a member of Children’s Social Care or the Police situated within the MASH. The plans will be designed to prevent sexual exploitation and protect the children or young people involved, to disrupt the suspected offenders and to prosecute them.
6.2.6 Where the CADS decide to take no further action, this decision must be recorded and the referrer must be informed. The CADS may decide with the referrer, that whilst there is no evidence of sexual exploitation, the child may still appear vulnerable and that an assessment under the FSP (Family Support Process) should be undertaken by the involved agencies, if one has not already been undertaken.
6.2.7 The outcome of the referral will be either:
- That no further action is required;
- A referral to another agency and/or provision of advice and information and/or the FSP be undertaken by a relevant agency, with no further action required by Children’s Social Care;
- That the child appears to be a Child in Need and that an assessment by children’s social care is required;
- There is reasonable cause to suspect that the child is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm and that a Section 47 Enquiry is required;
- That emergency protective action should be taken to safeguard the child;
- Where the child is already known and new information suggests the child is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm, a Section 47 and/or a new or updated Social Work Assessment is required; or
- Children’s Social Care (children’s social care) will inform the Children’s Safeguarding Identified lead of the referral outcome.
6.3 Section 17 Social Work Assessment
Where there are no substantiated concerns that a child may be suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm but the Social Work Assessment indicates that the child may be in need and vulnerable to sexual exploitation the Social Work Assessment must be completed to more fully understand the child’s needs and circumstances.
6.4 Section 47 Enquiries and Assessment
6.4.1 When a child is suspected of suffering, or likely to suffer, Significant Harm, the Local Authority is required by S47 of the Children Act 1989 to make enquiries to enable it to decide whether it should take any action to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child.
6.5 The Outcome of Section 47 Enquiries and the Social Work Assessment
6.5.1 It is important to recognise that, whilst family members or carers may be involved or complicit in the exploitation of a child there are many occasions when the potential abusers will be from outside the family circle. In these cases the parents or carers may well be extremely protective and may have a very important role to play in the ongoing protection of the child and in the disruption and prosecution of the offender(s). In such circumstances the information below in paragraphs 6.5.3 and Section 6.6, Immediate Protection may not be relevant.
6.5.2 The outcome of Section 47 enquires and the Social Worker Assessment must be concluded.
6.5.3 The outcome of the Section 47 must be recorded and concluded under one of the following categories:
- Concerns are substantiated and the child is judged to be suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm; Where the agencies most involved judge that a child may continue to be suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm, Children’s Social Care must convene a Child Protection Conference. For more information please see Initial Child Protection Conferences Procedure. If the child is already subject to a Child Protection Plan, discussions must take place about any further protective steps needed to ensure the safety of the child. The Chair of the Child Protection Conference must also be advised and consulted;
- Concerns are substantiated, but the child is not judged to be suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm; The original concerns may have been substantiated but it is agreed between the involved agencies, the child and family, that a plan for ensuring the child’s future safety and welfare can be developed and implemented, without a Child Protection Case Conference and Child Protection Plan being put in place. In these circumstances, children’s social care will convene a Child In Need Meeting. This judgement requires careful consideration and can only be made by a suitable qualified social work manager, and in light of all relevant information obtained during the Section 47 enquiries and a completed Assessment;
- Concerns are not substantiated; Although Section 47 enquiries may have identified that the child is not suffering or likely to suffer significant harm, the child may still have additional needs that warrant coordinated professional intervention. In such cases, support should be provided via a Child in Need Plan or via the Family Support Process. Where no additional needs are identified, no further intervention will be required.
6.5.4 The child sexual exploitation lead within children’s social care must be informed of the outcome of the S47 and the Assessment.
6.6 Immediate Protection
6.6.1 Where immediate action to safeguard a child is required, it may involve removing the child from the home of a person who is exploiting them to a safe place. However, those working with children in these circumstances must never underestimate the power of perpetrators to find where the child is.
6.6.2 Such children will need placements with carers who have experience of building trusting relationships and skills at containing young people.
6.6.3 A decision to place a child or young person in secure accommodation should only be considered in extreme circumstances, when they are suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm. In cases where the child is under the age of 13, the approval of the Secretary of State must be sought.
6.7 Intervention and Support
6.7.1 Agencies should recognise that there may be a strong relationship between the child and the coercer/abuser and it may be difficult for the child to break this relationship.
6.7.2 A strategy should therefore be developed with wherever possible the child and family, to address the child’s needs and help him or her to move on from the exploitative situation. Wherever possible this should be done with participation from the child and family. It could include specialist therapeutic support, mentoring to assist a return to education or employment, outreach work, help to secure appropriate health services, and assistance to develop a positive network of friends and relatives.
6.7.3 The particular circumstances of the child should of course be taken into account in developing the multi agency response and the plan for services should be tailored to meet their specific needs, e.g. whether they are Looked After and/or preparing to leave care, not receiving a suitable education, often missing from home or care, may have been trafficked and/or may be affected by gang activity.
6.7.4 Parents should be engaged in this process unless they are implicated in the sexual exploitation.
6.8 Looked After Children
6.8.1 Children who are looked after by the Local Authority can be more vulnerable to exploitation. Substitute carers must be able to recognise the possible indicators of child sexual exploitation.
6.8.2 Children who are looked after by the local authority are subject to the same Child Protection Procedures as those who live with their own families. However their needs may be different and for this reason their Independent Reviewing Officer must be kept informed of any concerns relating to child sexual exploitation or any other form of suspected abuse.
For those children who are Looked After by Norfolk County Council but placed out of County, the practice does vary as to who will take the lead depending on where the young person is placed.
Some areas are developing multi-agency teams and there is a movement towards working with children at risk of CSE because they are in need in the area, regardless of who their ‘home’ local authority is. This is not consistent across the country.
Other residential homes will invoke their own safeguarding procedures, and will contact the child’s Children Services team who then consult with the MASH Police Team and hold their own Strategy meeting to which the social worker and appropriate senior manager will need to attend.
There may be other occasions when the Team Manager may have to travel to the young person’s placement to chair the strategy meeting.
Each situation maybe slightly different but if a young person placed out of county is thought to be at risk of CSE, the local area’s Safeguarding procedures must be followed.
The Children’s Homes and Looked after Children (Miscellaneous Amendments) (England) Regulations 2013 and revised (January 2014) Statutory guidance on children who run away or go missing from home or care emphasise that it is essential that liaison between professionals (and police as applicable) in both the ‘home’ and ‘host’ authorities is well managed and co-ordinated. A notification process for ‘missing’ and ‘away from placement without authorisation’ episodes should be agreed between responsible and host local authorities’.
Please also see the following for further relevant information:
- Children Missing From Care and From Home Procedure;
- Statutory Guidance on children who run away or go missing from home or care.
7. Identifying, Disrupting and Prosecuting Perpetrators
7.1 Identifying, disrupting and prosecuting perpetrators is a key part of work to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people from sexual exploitation.
7.2 While the police and criminal justice agencies lead on this, the support of all partners in gathering and recording information/evidence is vital. All those involved in caring for a child who is suspected to be at risk of sexual exploitation should continually gather, record and share information to this end. Parents and carers should be encouraged and supported to do so, ensuring that information is recorded in such a way that it can be used by the Crown Prosecution Service and accepted in Court.
7.3 Where a young person wants and is able to be part of a prosecution, it is essential that they are supported through this process and after the prosecution has taken place. Many of the issues facing young victims and witnesses are addressed in CPS Policy on prosecuting criminal cases involving children and young people as victims and witnesses, Crown Prosecution Service, 2006.
7.4 There are a range of criminal offences that perpetrators may have committed, for example under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. Immigration offences may also be relevant, as well as drugs offences, tax evasion or benefit fraud. Annex A of the Government Guidance sets out details of the legislative framework.
7.5 The Police National Database (PND) is a police-led information management system. It enables an investigator in one police force to identify which other police force holds relevant information on a given individual and is available to assist in the protection of children and young people from sexual exploitation.
7.6 In addition the National Offender Management Service (see Justice website), whose focus is the management and supervision of offenders, can assist to ensure that offenders are managed so as to protect children from sexual exploitation by maintaining awareness of the indicators set out in Section 6.1, Identification of Risk and Possible Indicators of this chapter.
7.7 The Police will:
- Provide training to staff at appropriate levels in recognising and responding correctly to issues of child sexual exploitation and make policy and guidance documentation available to all staff;
- Contribute to the CSE referral and risk assessment process, strategy discussions, MASE meetings and multi-agency plans via the MASE team situated in the MASH;
- Receive, research, collate and action internal and partner intelligence;
- Share intelligence and information with partners in accordance with the requirements of the Code of Practice on the Management of Police Information 2005, the National Intelligence Model and Data protection Act 1998;
- Ensure that all related Child Protection concerns are referred or notified to Children’s Social Care in the MASH;
- Conduct criminal investigations into all allegations of offences committed against children, managing investigations through the appropriate departments and resources and in accordance with the LSCB Child Abuse and Safeguarding Children Policy, NPIA Guidance on Investigating Child Abuse and Safeguarding Children 2009 and Force Policy in respect of Investigating Internet and Computer crime;
- Participate in joint investigations where appropriate in accordance with those policies and Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018;
- Implement early intervention strategies using Force guidance in respect of disruption activities and the use of Court Orders;
- Use Child Abduction Warning Notices to support prosecutions under the Child Abduction Act 1984 and Children Act;
- Make appropriate use of child protection powers;
- Ensure the use of Special Measures in accordance with the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999;
- Participate in joint information sharing and action planning with partner agencies detailed in Section 2, The Child (Strategy meetings, child protection Case Conferences and interagency CSE forums).
8. Social Media
8.1 The use of media and technology is now a common feature of the social activity of most young people. Smart-phones, laptops and tablets can all be used to exchange information verbally, by text, e mail and most commonly through apps, programmes and social media.8.2 The use of electronic media presents considerable opportunities to abusers and provides powerful tools with which to groom and control victims. Grooming is defined as developing the trust of a young person or his or her family in order to engage in illegal sexual conduct. It may include:
- Causing a child to watch a sexual act, e.g. sending sexually themed adult content or images and videos featuring child sexual abuse to a young person;
- Inciting a child to perform a sexual act, e.g. by threatening to show sexual images of a child to their peers or parents (e.g. self-produced material or even a pseudo-image of the child);
- Suspicious online contact with a child, e.g. asking a young user sexual questions;
- Asking a child to meet in person; befriending a child and gaining their trust, etc;
- Other grooming: the range in behaviours that fall into this category are widely variable but reflect the range of strategies often employed by adults to prepare a child for abuse, e.g. using schools or hobby sites such as the Scouts or Girl Guides to gather information about particular children, their location and future events where the child may be present; presenting as a minor online to deceive a child, etc.
8.3 It is also known that abusers and exploiters will sometimes pose as teenagers to obtain sexually explicit images via web cams or making arrangements to meet the victim. Often these individuals live some considerable distance from the victim and initially make contact through legitimate sites used by young people.
8.5 Telephone and internet communication data can provide excellent evidence against abusers and can assist in identifying perpetrators and unknown victims and in identifying networks. It is vital that those having care of children at risk of CSE gather as much information as possible re mobile numbers, text communications and social media contacts and forward it to police SPOCs to assist the police in collating this evidence.