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Child Exploitation (including Child Sexual Exploitation and Child Criminal Exploitation)


In February 2024, information was added into Section 13, Transitional Safeguarding.

February 5, 2024

The world of Safeguarding is ever changing; it is becoming increasingly complex and child exploitation should not be seen in isolation as it often overlaps with child-on-child abuse, modern day slavery, harmful sexual behaviour, gang and group activity, anti-social and offending behaviour and going missing from home or care. Together these create a set of harmful circumstances and experiences for children and young people.

The exploitation of children and young people has been identified throughout the UK, in both rural and urban areas. It affects all children from all backgrounds and it can have a serious impact on every aspect of the lives of children involved and on their families. Due to its nature, child exploitation is a crime that has no borders. Cross border agency cooperation is therefore crucial.

Working Together to Safeguarding Children 2018 reflects changes to traditional child safeguarding practice and the increasing knowledge and understanding relating to extra familiar risks to children and young people. When there is concern relating to child exploitation, the guidance for agencies and partnerships is to consider risks outside the home (sometimes called contextual safeguarding) to safeguard children and young people effectively:

“As well as threats to the welfare of children from within their families, children may be vulnerable to abuse or exploitation from outside their families. These extra-familial threats might arise at school and other educational establishments, from within peer groups, or more widely from within the wider community and/or online. These threats can take a variety of different forms and children can be vulnerable to multiple threats, including: exploitation by criminal gangs and organised crime groups such as county lines; trafficking, online abuse; sexual exploitation and the influences of extremism leading to radicalisation.”

“Assessments of children in such cases should consider whether wider environmental factors are present in a child’s life and are a threat to their safety and/or welfare.”

Child sexual exploitation is defined as:

“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.”

Child Sexual Exploitation - Definition and a Guide for Practitioners, Local Leaders and Decision Makers (DfE, 2017)

Child criminal exploitation is defined as:

“where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, control, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into any criminal activity (a) in exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and/or (b) for the financial or other advantage of the perpetrator or facilitator and/or (c) through violence or the threat of violence. The victim may have been criminally exploited even if the activity appears consensual. Child criminal exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology.”

Serious Violence Strategy (HM Government, 2018)

County Lines is a term used to describe gangs and organised criminal networks involved in exporting illegal drugs into one or more importing areas [within the UK], using dedicated mobile phone lines or other form of “deal line”. They are likely to exploit children and vulnerable adults to move [and store] the drugs and money and they will often use coercion, intimidation, violence (including sexual violence) and weapons.

Organised Networks

An organised network is characterised by two or more individuals (whether identified or not) who are known to (or associated with) one another and are known to be involved in or to facilitate the sexual exploitation of children. Being involved in the sexual exploitation of children includes introducing them to other individuals for the purpose of exploitation, trafficking a child for the purpose of sexual exploitation, taking payment for sexual activities with a child or allowing their property to be used for sexual activities with a child. (Definition taken from Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, CSE by organised networks report February 2022)

Children who are exploited are victims of abuse and their needs should be carefully assessed. The aim of any intervention should be to protect them from further harm. Criminal justice responses should be directed at facilitators and/or perpetrators of child exploitation.

Government guidance requires agencies to work together to:

  • Develop local prevention strategies;
  • Identify children and young people at risk of exploitation;
  • Take action to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people who are vulnerable to, or experiencing exploitation; and
  • Take action against the facilitators and/or perpetrators of child exploitation.

In doing so, the key principles should be:

  • A child-centred approach. Action should be focused on the child’s individual needs; taking into consideration the fact that children do not always acknowledge what may be an exploitative or abusive situation;
  • A proactive approach focused on prevention, early identification and intervention as well as disrupting activity and prosecuting those who facilitate and/or perpetrate child exploitation;
  • Parenting, family life, and services. Taking account of family circumstances when considering 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 exploitation, just as agencies have duties in respect of safeguarding them and promoting their welfare;
  • Responsibility for criminal acts. The exploitation of children and young people is child abuse. Police investigations should focus on those who facilitate and/or perpetrate the exploitation of children and young people.
  • An integrated approach. Child exploitation requires a three-pronged multi-agency approach: prevention, protection and prosecution;
  • A shared responsibility. There is a need for effective joint working between different agencies and practitioners underpinned by a strong commitment from senior leaders and managers across the partnership to effectively tackle child exploitation. A shared understanding of the problem of child exploitation and effective coordination should occur through Safeguarding Children Partnerships.

Any child or young person may be at risk of sexual or criminal exploitation, regardless of their family background or other circumstances.

Child exploitation results in children and young people suffering harm, and causes significant damage to their emotional, mental and physical health, affecting their overall wellbeing. 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 scared. The family network and the child’s peers and friends may suffer serious threats of abuse, intimidation and assault at the hands of facilitators and/or perpetrators of child exploitation.

There are strong links between children who experience exploitation and other behaviours such as running away from home or care, bullying, emotional wellbeing and mental health problems, drug and/or alcohol misuse, anti-social and offending behaviours, exclusion from school, and problems with family relationships. In addition, some children are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, for example, children with additional needs, children who are Looked After, care leavers, migrant children, unaccompanied asylum seeking children, and children who have experienced domestic abuse.

Children and young people are often groomed and exploited by children with whom they feel they have a relationship with. Due to the nature of grooming methods used by facilitators and those who exploit and abuse children and young people, it is very common for children and young people who are exploited not to recognize that they are being abused. Practitioners should be aware that older children in particular may believe themselves to be acting voluntarily, and they will need practitioners to work alongside them, to help them recognize that they are experiencing or have experienced exploitation and abuse.

This extract from The Office of the Commissioner for Children (OCC) Inquiry into CSE in Gangs and Groups (Nov 2012) helps to consider issues around consent.

"The law not only sets down 16 as the age of consent, it also applies to whether a person has given their consent to sexual activity, or was able to give their consent, or whether sexual violence and rape in particular took place. In the context of child exploitation, the term 'consent' refers to whether or not a child understands how one gives consent, withdraws consent and what situations (such as intoxication, duress, violence) can compromise the child or young person's ability to consent freely to sexual activity."

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 has extended the definition of Position of Trust within the Sexual Offences Act 2003 section 22A to include anyone who coaches, teaches, trains, supervises or instructs a child under 18, on a regular basis, in a sport or a religion. It is against the law for someone in a position of trust to engage in sexual activity with a child in their care, even if that child is over the age of consent (16 or over).

Practitioners must also consider other factors which might influence the ability of the person to give consent, e.g. learning disability / mental ill health. Young people under the age of 16 cannot legally consent to sexual activity. Sexual intercourse with children under the age of 13 is statutory rape. A child under 18 cannot consent to their own abuse through exploitation.

Child exploitation is a form of child abuse. It can take many forms from a seemingly ‘consensual’ relationship where there is an exchange of something, such as attention, goods, status, a sense of belonging, substances, accommodation or gifts, to serious organised crime which involves international and/or internal child trafficking and modern slavery.

An imbalance of power within the relationship characterises child exploitation. Those who facilitate or perpetrate child exploitation always have a degree of power and control over the child or young person, and this often results in the child or young person having an increasing level of dependence on the person or persons exploiting them as the exploitative relationship develops. Coercion and violence go hand in hand with child exploitation.

Technology can play a part in child exploitation, for example, through its use to record and share incriminating activity and/or abuse, or as a medium to groom children and young people, and/or by utilising apps such as those that allow geo tracking, or online banking apps used for money laundering, or those which provide access to temporary accommodation.

Child exploitation also has strong links with other forms of crime, for example, online and offline grooming, the distribution of abusive images of children, modern day slavery, forced labour and child trafficking.

The perpetrators of child exploitation are often well organised and may use sophisticated tactics. They are known to target children and young people in online or off line places and spaces where children and young people come together with little or no adult supervision, such as music video channels, chat rooms, parks, street ‘corners’ house parties, shopping centres or takeaway restaurants.

Perpetrators work hard at keeping their abuse hidden and as such can go unnoticed.

With effect from 29 June 2021, section 69 Domestic Abuse Act 2021 expanded so-called ‘revenge porn’ to include threats to disclose private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress.

Work to tackle child exploitation should follow the same principles as addressing other forms of abuse or neglect.

Safeguarding Children Partnerships should ensure their policies and procedures cover:

  • How to identify signs of child exploitation;
  • How practitioners can seek help and advice;
  • How practitioners should share information within government guidelines;
  • The establishment of Lead Practitioners in local areas;
  • Pathways for referring child exploitation concerns with the relevant local authority Children’s Social Care Services and the Police;
  • How practitioners can work together to deliver disruption plans;
  • How practitioners can gather and preserve the integrity of evidence relating to child exploitation;
  • The process and possible responses for supporting children, young people their families and communities;
  • How to work with other local authority areas across geographical borders, to ensure that children and young people who are, or have been exploited, and their families, are safeguarded, and those who facilitate or exploit them are identified, targeted and disrupted.
  • How to deal with issues relating to migrant children in situations which make them vulnerable to child exploitation;
  • How to manage and respond to the facilitation of child exploitation through the use of technology.

Safeguarding Children Partnerships should ensure there is a dedicated lead person in each partner organisation with responsibility for the oversight of child exploitation and that work in the locality is coordinated.

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 includes an awareness of child exploitation, and that this covers how to identify warning signs, how to make appropriate referrals for support and intervention, and how to capture and share information appropriately;
  • Policies for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people are compatible with the Safeguarding Children Partnership policies and procedures;
  • Effective information sharing protocols are in place, ensuring that relevant information is always shared.

Prevention measures should include:

  • Reducing the vulnerability of children and young people;
  • Improving children’s resilience;
  • Disrupting and preventing the activities of facilitators and perpetrators;
  • Reducing tolerance of exploitative behaviour;
  • Building the strength of families and communities to keep children safe;
  • Prosecuting those who facilitate, exploit and abuse.

The development of education and awareness raising programmes is vital. When aimed at children and young people these should help them make informed choices and safe decisions about friendships, behaviours, locations and relationships.

Resources for parents and carers (particularly those responsible for children living away from home) should help them understand how they can protect, build resilience and access support. Resources should also be developed for people who are not traditionally regarded as part of the safeguarding community, but whose employment places them in a situations where they may notice concerns (e.g. shopkeepers, park attendants, taxi drivers and hostel managers) these resources should include how to identify and report concerns.

Anyone who comes into regular contact with a child is in a good position to notice changes in behaviour and/or physical signs, which may be an indication that the child or young person is experiencing exploitation and harm.

The fact that a young person is 16 or 17 years old should not alter how a practitioner/agency responds to a concern which relates to child exploitation.

Below are indicators linked to child exploitation, they include factors that may heighten vulnerability. The indicators do not create an exhaustive list, and each is not in itself proof that a child is at risk of exploitation, or is being exploited. Concern should increase with the number of indicators present, although one single indicator alone may in itself be significant. Practitioners should use their judgment and knowledge of a child /young person and their circumstances when assessing risk and vulnerability. Professionals should also use their professional curiosity – what am I seeing, why am I seeing it and what do I need to do to satisfy myself that the child or young person is not being exploited.

  • Family and social relationships – hostility /aggression in relationship with parents, carers and/or other family members, or peers; association with adults or other children /young people who are assessed to be at risk of exploitation /known to be exploited; unexplained relationships with unknown adults, reduced contact with family/friends which is of concern, spends time at addresses and places not known to parent/carer, goes or is taken to places they have no known connections with. Gang association. New friendship groups;
  • Health – evidence of drug, alcohol or substance misuse; self-harm, eating disorders; physical injuries, such as bruising, knife inflicted and/or sexual violence injuries. Low self-esteem; expressions around invincibility or not caring about what happens to them, low mood;
  • Education – disengagement with education, employment or training; considerable change in performance and/or behaviour; not in mainstream education, excluded, whereabouts unknown during school /college/work hours;
  • Behavioural – bullying/threatening behaviour, aggression, anti-social behaviour; offending behaviour; secretive, mood swings, social isolation, detachment from age appropriate activities /friendship groups;
  • Social presentation – change in appearance /clothing, new tattoos, branding;
  • Family and environmental factors – family history of parental neglect or abuse, mental health, domestic abuse, gang association/neighbourhood, offending, bereavement, parental separation, poverty and deprivation. Scared of reprisal or violence;
  • Income – possession of unexplained money and/or items such as clothing, mobile phones, credit on mobile phones; sim cards; accounts of social activities including parties, and travel with no plausible explanation of the source of funding;
  • Missing [1] from home, care or school.

[1] Missing is a key indicator of child exploitation. A missing person is anyone whose whereabouts are unknown whatever the circumstances of disappearance. They will be considered missing until located and their wellbeing or otherwise established. Reporting a child as missing is a crucial safeguarding tool.

When considering child exploitation indicators, practitioners should take into account that these do not necessarily mean that a child is at risk of or experiencing exploitation.

It is crucial to recognise that a child with vulnerability factors does not automatically indicate that they are at risk of exploitation. The exploitation of a child occurs because a facilitator or abuser recognises, responds and takes advantage of a child’s vulnerability, and that this is often enabled by an absence of protective structures around the child, their family, social relationships and/or social spaces.

Every assessment undertaken in relation to child exploitation should reflect the individual circumstances and characteristics of the child within their family, peer and community context. All assessments should include an analysis of parental capacity to meet the needs and reduce the vulnerability of the child or young person, whether they arise from issues within the family or from the child or young person’s wider social relationships and/or community context.

Concerns that a child may be at risk of being exploited should be discussed with a manager and/or the designated professional for safeguarding and a decision made as to whether a referral to the local authority Children’s Social Care, is required, via the multi-agency safeguarding hub.

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. However, 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.

Where a practitioner or agency is concerned about losing the engagement of a child or young person by reporting their concern to Children’s Social Care, this should be discussed with Children’s Social Care to agree a way forward.

Practitioners should be aware that many children and young people who are exploited do not see themselves as victims. In such situations, discussions with them about concerns should be handled with great sensitivity. Seeking prior advice from specialist agencies may be useful. This should not involve disclosing personal, identifiable information at this stage.

In assessing whether a child or young person is a victim of sexual exploitation, or at risk, 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 sexual intercourse (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;
  • 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; therefore offences may have been committed;
  • To give true consent a person needs to have Capacity;
  • 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.

A significant number of children and young people who are being exploited may go missing from home or care, and education. Some go missing frequently; the more often they go missing the more vulnerable they are to being exploited. If a child does go missing, the Children who go Missing from Care or Home Procedure should be followed.

Return to Home Interviews should always be completed within 72 hours with the child or young person. It can help in establishing why they went missing and the subsequent support that may be required, as well as preventing repeat incidents and preserving evidence. Information and intelligence gathered from return interviews can be used to inform the identification for Referral and Assessment of any child exploitation cases.

The steps that need to be taken at any stage if there is a concern about CE are laid out in the section below. The first step is always to complete the CE vulnerability checklist (see Appendix: vulnerability checklist) to help identify the risk.

When a child is identified as suffering or likely to suffer exploitation, a referral should be made in line with the Report Concerns Procedure. Any contact to the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub should clearly stipulated that there are concerns in respect of child exploitation and include the completed vulnerability checklist.

Cumberland Safeguarding Hub or Westmorland and Furness Safeguarding Hub will screen the referral and will determine the level of support and next steps required for the referral. See Appendix 2: CERAR Referral Pathway – Young Person Children NOT open to Children’s Services.

For children already open to social care following completion of the vulnerability checklist, contact should be made by the child’s social worker with the CERAR team See Appendix 3: CERAR Referral Pathway – Young Person Children open to Children’s Services where a consultation will be held and recorded on the child’s file. Please note that any child within the child’s wider network can contact the CERAR team.

Following screening and/or consultation, where there is identification of risk, this will result in a multi-agency Child Exploitation risk assessment being undertaken. Each initial Child Exploitation Risk Assessment will be chaired by the CERAR manager. All agencies involved with the child will be asked to contribute to the assessment process. Alongside the risk assessment a safety plan will be completed for each child identified at risk of or being exploited, this will include disruption activity.

A CE flag will also be added to the Child’s record. The Child Exploitation Risk Assessment enables professionals to assess the level of risk in relation to the exploitation of a child or young person. The assessment is designed to produce a risk grading of  the child or young people at risk of both criminal and sexual exploitation. This tool should be considered as being a live document and subject to regular reviews and updates in line with the timescales provided.

Any child identified as being at risk of exploitation will be added to the Child Exploitation Vulnerability Tracker (CEVT). The CEVT captures key data and information and uses a series of vulnerability indicators to measure potential risks. The CEVT produces an overall gravity score which in turn corresponds to an associated risk level. The gravity score is determined by considering a range of risk factors. These include whether the young person is a victim of modern day slavery or violent crime; their involvement in criminal behaviour; their involvement in County Lines; along with other risk factors such as non-attendance at school, frequently missing, social exclusion, and/or lack of parental engagement. There is significant expertise around the table when reviewing the tracker and this professional judgement will also apply when considering risk.

The CERAR team are responsible for the management and oversight of the CEVT, in terms of the adding of children at risk of exploitation. The CEVT is populated and updated following each risk assessment. Children or Young people placed onto the tracker are subject to regular reviews and any removal must be approved by the MACE CERAR chair at the Multi-Agency Child Exploitation MACE meeting.

Working Together to Safeguard Children requires that following a referral Children's Social Care should ensure that the needs of all children and young people who are being, or who are at risk of being, sexually exploited are assessed and that appropriate multi-agency engagement and interventions are undertaken. The duties under the Children Act 1989 apply to all children under the age of 18 years. Children's Social Care should also be alert to the possibility of sexual and criminal exploitation of children who are already in receipt of services.

If concerns about child exploitation remain and there are concerns that parents or carers are not engaging with the plan, a Strategy Meeting should be held.

For all children assessed to have been exploited, a referral into the National Referral Mechanism must be considered by a ‘First responder’. There will be agreement by partners at the initial child exploitation risk assessment as to who is best placed to undertake the NRM referral. Actions taken must be recorded on the child’s file and shared with the local authority nominated lead for Child Exploitation.

The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review statutory guidance (Out of Authority placement of Looked After Children: Supplement to The Children Act 1989 Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Care Review Guidance) and the associated regulations updated in 2013, outline the duties on Local Authorities to notify other Local Authorities if they place a LAC within their area.

This legislation also requires children’s homes to notify their host Local Authority when a child is placed with them by another authority. Where a child who is not looked after is placed in a health or education placement for three months or more, or with that intention, the placing authority or organisation also has a duty to notify the host Local Authority prior to the placement or as soon as practicable thereafter. The host Local Authority supported by relevant agencies must ensure that education and health partners are provided with information about placements of looked after children into and out of their area.

Any child placed into Cumbria for whom there are exploitation concerns will be placed on to the Child Exploitation Vulnerability Tracker. An overview of information relating to non-Cumbrian children looked after emerging trends, themes and analysis will be presented at the MACE meeting. The placing authority has overall responsibility for the management of child exploitation concerns.

Working with exploited children is a complex issue which can involve serious crime and investigations over a wide geographical area.

Children may be frightened of the consequences of disclosure and may need to be given time to discuss their experiences.

The need to share information discreetly in a timely fashion has been shown to be vital in these cases.

Agencies and practitioners involved with a child or young person experiencing child exploitation must consider disruption strategies which support the child or young person to leave the situation they find themselves in.

The prosecution and disruption of perpetrators is an essential part of the process in reducing harm. It is the responsibility of the police to gather evidence, investigate and interview perpetrators and prepare case files for consideration by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) with the intention of obtaining the successful conviction of offenders.

Many child exploitation cases cross police force boundaries and therefore there should be cross boundary cooperation and information sharing. This may involve the National Crime Agency's CEOP Command (formerly Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) who can support the police by helping to coordinate cross-boundary or international investigations involving child sex offender networks or in the management of high risk offenders which may involve grooming through chat rooms and social networking sites or involvement with paedophile rings.

Practitioners from statutory agencies and voluntary sector organisations together with the child or young person, foster carers, and his / her family as appropriate, should agree on the services, which should be provided to them and how they will be coordinated. The types of intervention offered should be appropriate to their needs and should take full account of identified risk factors and their individual circumstances. This may include, for example, previous abuse, missing incidents, involvement in gangs and groups and/or child trafficking. Health services provided may include sexual health services and mental health services. Advice can be sought from the CERAR Team.

For children who are Looked After issues raised and actions planned should be incorporated into the child's Care or Pathway Plan which will be reviewed as part of the child's looked after review and care team meetings. For children who are open at Early Help, Child in Need or Child Protection, any actions planned will run in conjunction with their Early Help, Child in Need or Child Protection plan.

The Review of Sexual Abuse in Schools and Colleges (Ofsted) identified substantial levels of sexual harassment and online sexual abuse for both girls (90%) and boys (nearly 50%). Significantly, this did not always appear to be recognised by the school or college.

Transitional Safeguarding is an "approach to safeguarding adolescents and young adults fluidly' and builds on the best available evidence, learns from both children's and adult safeguarding practice. The approach focuses on safeguarding young people from adolescence into adulthood, recognising transition is a journey not an event, and every young person will experience this journey differently. Bridging the gap: Transitional Safeguarding and the role of social work with adults.

Where young people are experiencing coercion and other forms of control and exploitation under 18, these experiences and the impact they have rarely stop when a person turns 18. The effects of child exploitation can last well into adulthood, support may be required over a long period of time. This procedure has been developed to provide a clear pathway in Cumbria between Children Services and Adult Social Care to safely support the transfer of a young person to Adult Services/ and or a Safeguarding Adults Enquiry where ongoing support or a safeguarding enquiry has been identified.

This procedure sets out the arrangements for young people aged 17.5 years and above, whose circumstances may mean that safeguarding adults' procedures would apply when they are 18. This would be young people who would meet the definition of an adult at risk when they turn 18 i.e they have needs for care and support (whether or not those needs are being met); and - are experiencing, or are at risk of, abuse or neglect; and - as a result of those needs are unable to protect themselves against the abuse or neglect or the risk of it. (Care Act, 2014)

Whilst turning 18 means that a young person legally becomes an adult overnight, the transition to adulthood is a process not an event - and this process differs from one person to another.  The Care Act statutory guidance states where someone is 18 or over but is still receiving children's services and a safeguarding issue is raised, the matter should be dealt with through adult safeguarding arrangements. There is provision within the Act for the Local Authority to consider undertaking 'non statutory' safeguarding enquiry. There is a need to see the person holistically, rather than defining their needs, vulnerabilities, or strengths according to eligibility or age.

It is agreed that when a Child is 17.5 years and has an ongoing Child Exploitation Pathway a Safeguarding Adult Referral should be made via the Single Point of Access (SPA) telephone.

For young people living in Cumberland the Single Point of Access (SPA) Tel No is 0300 373 3732.

For young people living in Westmorland and Furness the Single Point of Access (SPA) Tel no is 0300 3733301. 

The child's allocated children's Social Worker or plan holder will make the referral to the appropriate SPA . Adult Services can request information from the Complex Safeguarding Team who will track Child Exploitation referrals to adult social care via the MACE Meetings where transitions are a standing agenda item and a representative from adult services will be in attendance.  

Following the referral being made to the Safeguarding Adults SPA,  the Safeguarding Team and Advanced Practice Lead from Adults Social Care must be invited to the next Child Exploitation review and this will be actioned by the Complex Safeguarding Team by emailing the respective Safeguarding Team managers and the safeguarding team mailboxes:  

Cumberland -

Westmorland and Furness - 

The meeting will ensure a comprehensive discussion around Child Exploitation takes place and informs the decision making as to whether the young person should transfer to Safeguarding Adult Service, or a Safeguarding Adults enquiry is required to be undertaken. 

Where there is disagreement between Children Services and Safeguarding Adults service in relation to the transition process for the young person the CSCP Multi- Agency Escalation Policy must be used. Escalation Policy. If the young person is now an adult (Care Leaver or otherwise) then the CSAB escalation policy can be used CSAB Escalation Guidance January 2021.

The impact of exploitation and potential ongoing coercive influence of exploiters must be considered when exploring consent for services.  This requires us to take a nuanced approach to take account young adults' individual experiences and circumstances in how we understand their capacity to take decisions. When considering consent and capacity its imperative we remember that a person cannot consent to abuse. It is important to ensure that trauma-informed support is available for these young people and is offered in a way that affords them a sense of choice and control. This focus on empowerment is a key principle of the Care Act 2014 and is particularly important when people have experienced coercion and feelings of powerlessness. 

When a young person has been transferred, it is expected that the Safeguarding Adults Services would formally start working with the young person at least 3 months before their 18th birthday. Where there is a need for Children's Services to continue working with the young person, this must be clearly identified in the support plan agreed by both services.

The police and criminal justice agencies lead on the identification and prosecution of perpetrators. All practitioners, however, have a role in gathering, recording and sharing information with the police and other agencies, as appropriate and in agreement with them. Practitioners should use the Multi-agency information submission form for the sharing of non-urgent information by partner agencies relating to the exploitation of children for the purposes of identifying and mitigating risk (see Cumbria Constabulary website).

Practitioners and foster carers should bear in mind that exploitation often does not occur in isolation and has links to other crime types, including:

  • Modern slavery and human trafficking;
  • Domestic Abuse;
  • Sexual violence in intimate relationships;
  • Grooming (both online and offline);
  • Abusive images of children and their distribution (organised abuse);
  • Organised sexual abuse of children;
  • Drugs-related offences (possession, supply and cultivation;
  • Gang-related activity;
  • Immigration-related offences.

Where alleged perpetrators are arrested and charged with offences against children or young people, allocated practitioners and foster carers should ensure they are supported throughout the prosecution process and beyond. Specialist agencies should be involved in supporting the child or young person, as required. This may include using special measures to protect them when giving evidence in court for example. Independent Sexual Violence Advisers or specialist services, if available, may also have an important role to play.

Serious Violence Duty - Preventing and Reducing Serious Violence: Statutory Guidance for Responsible Authorities.

Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy (GOV.UK 2021)

Tackling Child Exploitation: Resources Pack (Local Government Association)

NSPCC Report Remove Tool - The tool enables young people under the age of 18 to report a nude image or video of themselves which has appeared online. The Internet Watch Foundation will review these reports and work to remove any content which breaks the law.

Working Together to Safeguard Children (DfE, 2018)

Child Exploitation: Definition and Guide for Practitioners (DfE, February 2017) - definition and a guide for practitioners, local leaders and decision makers working to protect children from child exploitation.

Child Exploitation: Practice Tool (2017) (open access) - further background information about child exploitation and additional commentary around some of the complexities of practically responding to the issue.

Contextual Safeguarding Network - This website provides an overview of the Contextual Safeguarding Research Programme, including its history, vision and mission, team, current suite of projects, and key publications

Keeping Children Safe in Education (Statutory Guidance for Schools and Colleges) (DfE, 2020)

Keeping Kids Safe - Improving Safeguarding Responses to Gang Violence and Criminal Exploitation (The Children’s Commissioner, 2019)

Counting Lives - Responding to Children who are Criminally Exploited (The Children’s Society, 2019)

Serious Violence Strategy April (HM Government, 2018) – sets out the Government’s response to serious violence and recent increases in knife crime, gun crime and homicide.

Home Office Child Exploitation Disruption Toolkit, 2019 – disruption tactics for those working to safeguard children and young people under the age of 18 from sexual and criminal exploitation

County Lines: Criminal Exploitation of Children and Vulnerable Adults (HM Government) – brings together documents and promotional material related to the Government’s work to end criminal exploitation.

Tackling Child Exploitation: A Resource Pack for Councils - includes case studies

Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse – aims to provide succinct relevant information from frontline practitioners and commissioners and brings together the most up to date research into an accessible overview, supporting confident provision of the best possible responses to child sexual abuse.

Last Updated: February 5, 2024