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Safeguarding Children and Young People from Criminal and Sexual Exploitation


The information in this chapter is taken from Government guidance documents as listed below. It should be read in conjunction with the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) procedures regarding sexual exploitation of children and young people and related procedures in this manual.


What to do if You're Worried a Child is being Abused: Advice for Practitioners - guidance to help practitioners identify the signs of child abuse and neglect and understand what action to take.

Barnardo's - Child Sexual Exploitation - resources and research on Child Sexual Exploitation

Child sexual exploitation: definition and guide for practitioners (DFE February 2017)

Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP)

Child Safety Online: A practical guide for parents and carers whose children are using social media

National Crime Agency - UK Human Trafficking Centre

Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation: Progress Report - gives an update on action the government is taking to deal with child sexual exploitation.

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

Responding to Child Sexual Exploitation - College of Policing

Preventing Child Sexual Abuse - The Children's Commissioner

Guidance for Undertaking Return Home Interviews


This chapter was extensively revised in September 2020 and information from CBC Criminal Exploitation Policy added.

1. Introduction

Child criminal exploitation (CCE) has historically been difficult to identify; however it is now increasingly recognisable as we learn more about grooming of children and young people and other methods of exploitation and as we take a pro-active and multi-agency approach to this type of child abuse. It is not yet known how prevalent it is, but child criminal exploitation has been identified across the UK in both urban and rural areas, and therefore it is happening in Central Bedfordshire. Child criminal exploitation is closely linked to child sexual exploitation (CSE) and in many cases and can be considered under the term of child exploitation.

This guidance informs Central Bedfordshire social care practitioners of the processes to follow where:

  1. A child or young person is identified as at risk of or a victim of CCE or CSE;
  2. They have any information about a potential perpetrator of CCE or CSE and /or concerns about particular locations.

A child or young person is defined as anyone who has not yet reached their 18th birthday.

2. Definition

Child Criminal Exploitation is not defined in law but is a term that has come to be associated with ‘county lines’. The government definition of county lines is set out below together with the Home Office definition of child criminal exploitation, which is increasingly used to describe this type of exploitation where children are involved.

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.

Child criminal exploitation occurs 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 in exchange for something the victim needs or wants; for the financial or other advantage of the perpetrator or facilitator achieved 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.

The criminal exploitation of children is not confined to county lines but can also include other forms of criminal activity such as theft, acquisitive crime, knife crimes and other forms of criminality.

Child sexual exploitation can be linked to child criminal exploitation. Equally child sexual exploitation can happen in isolation from criminal exploitation.

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.

Please see Child sexual exploitation: definition and guidance for practitioners.

The criminal exploitation of children (both CCE and CSE) includes a combination of:

  • Pull factors: children performing tasks for others resulting in them gaining accommodation, food, gifts, status or a sense of safety, money or drugs; often the hook is through the perpetrator supplying Class B drugs such as cannabis to the child or young person;
  • Push factors: children escaping from situations where their needs are neglected and there is exposure to unsafe individuals, where there is high family conflict or the absence of a primary attachment figure;
  • Control: Brain washing, violence and threats of violence by those exploiting the child particularly when the child or young person is identified by the police, they are expected to take full responsibility for the offences for which they are charged – i.e. possession and supply of illegal substances.

It is important to note that perpetrators of CCE and CSE may themselves be children who are criminally exploited and that the victims of CCE and CSE may also be at risk of becoming perpetrators.

It is paramount that we recognise that a child or young person may also be at risk or victim of both child criminal and sexual exploitation and this needs to be considered. We need to consider children and young people as children and victims first and then as perpetrators second.

During all of our work with children and young people that are at risk and or victims of CCE, the Home Office Child Exploitation Disruption Toolkit should be used as a guide to explore all forms of disruption that can be used.

A Child Exploitation Risk Assessment Tool should be completed for all children or young people where CSE and CCE concerns are identified to assess the level of risk.

3. How to Respond

1. A child or young person is identified as at risk of or a victim of CCE or CSE

Where the child or young person is not open to Children’s Services and comes to the attention of a professional a referral should be made to the hub.

For children and young people who are allocated to a social worker and deemed to be at risk of significant harm a strategy discussion should be held, resulting in an individual keep safe plan for the young person and a disruption plan for the alleged perpetrator and hot spot / location.

If the child or young person is open to Early Help and there are concerns identified that they are being exploited and at risk of significant harm, a referral to the hub is required. If the young person is allocated for assessment as a result of this, it is recommended that the Early Help worker remains involved as a co-worker until it is clear whether the case will step back down or not.

When working with young people at risk of CCE gathering information is essential, this information should be submitted on a multi – agency information submission form to support Children’s Services, Police and partners to develop intelligence and disruption opportunities. It is paramount that each individual working with the child submits the information that they gather on a multi-agency information submission form. It is the role of social care practitioners to remind partners sharing information that they are required to submit this directly. If the information is shared during a strategy or any other meeting where police are in attendance it is still necessary for the individual sharing the information to submit the multi-agency information submission form as this goes to the police intelligence team.

In many circumstances the concerns will be ongoing with new information and risk being shared, at different times. Practitioners need to consider whether it is appropriate to share this information at core groups, CIN meetings and LAC reviews, as it may be that the sharing of the information with members may increase the risk to young people. Where practitioners deem that the sharing of information will increase risk it is then appropriate to hold a multi-agency meeting, with professionals to ensure sharing of the information and updating of multi-agency young persons support and locality disruption plans.

The multi-agency information submission form also supports to demonstrate the wider picture around the exploitation the child or young person is suffering, which the police will then take into consideration. It is likely that the police will be aware that a child or young person may be committing offences but may not know the contextual issues surrounding them and therefore the information can support them to better understand our young people and the risks and harm that is posed to them.

Please see CSE Multi Agency Information submission form for the multi-agency information submission form and guidance.

2. They have any information about a potential perpetrator of CCE or CSE and /or concerns about particular locations

Where it is identified that we have more than one person who is being exploited and / or more than one alleged perpetrator exploiting then a complex strategy meeting should be held. The complex strategy will be parallel to the young persons individual plan as documented above in Section 1, Introduction.

The complex strategy meeting should be chaired by a Practice Manager, the aim of the meeting is to identify locations and individuals of concern and create disruption opportunities.

Partners who should be in attendance at the complex strategy meeting should be; allocated social care workers and managers, CSP, Police, YOS, involved schools, school nurses, involved youth workers and other community partners such as housing.

Meeting notes should be written up as word document with all YP details anonymised. Notes should be saved on each young person record as evidence of locality work undertaken under meetings on Mosaic SMART OPEN.

Each child or young person discussed as part of a complex strategy discussion will already have their own individual safeguarding and support plan. The aim of the complex strategy meeting is to develop a locality plan that shares information between partners and develops a disruption plan aimed at location and perpetrators of concern. This location and perpetrator disruption plan is developed using the contextual safeguarding approach.

Click here to view the Contextual Safeguarding Programme Website.

Following on from the multi-agency complex strategy meeting, a multi-agency contextual safeguarding group, chaired by the locality Practice Manager or Team Manager, will meet regularly (recommended to be at least once per month or more often if required) to review and develop the actions from the multi-agency complex strategy meeting and any new updates from partners. Membership of this group will be agreed at the complex strategy discussion.

Meeting notes should be written up as word document with all YP details anonymised. Notes should be saved on each YP record as evidence of locality work undertaken under meetings on Mosaic SMART OPEN.

Partners and resources

Safer Communities and Partnership Team (CSP)
Locality issues of concern can be referred and discussed at the Community Safety Partnership Tasking Meeting that is chaired by the Safer Communities & Partnership Manager. To refer please send an email with the information to

Bedfordshire OCG and county Lines Partnership Board Meeting
Locality issues can be highlighted at Bedfordshire Police OCG and County Lines Partnership Meeting if appropriate, by referring to the Exploitation and Missing Co-ordinator, Slavica Tobdzic and Safer Communities and Partnership Manager, Lisa Scott

Adult Services
If there have been vulnerable adults identified during any of the above meetings a safeguarding referral should be made.

See Protecting vulnerable adults from harm (Central Bedfordshire website).

National Referral Mechanism
Where there is information to suggest that a child or young person has been a victim of modern day slavery (including slavery or human trafficking) a referral should be made to the National Referral Mechanism by the allocated SW or EH worker

Trafficking includes; being moved from one part of the country / county to another, from one part of a town to another and being moved within the same building.

The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) is a framework for identifying and referring potential victims of modern day slavery and ensuring they receive the appropriate support.

The guidance explains how to complete the referral form before it is considered by the relevant Single Competent Authority (SCA) within the Home Office.

Please access the following link for guidance and referral:

Once the referral form has been submitted, the social care practitioner is required to submit a multi – agency information submission form to inform that a NRM has been submitted as there are concerns that the child or young person is a victim of modern day slavery.

Missing children and young people
During November 2016, the College of Policing released new guidance in relation to how missing people are categorised:-

MISSING: Anyone whose whereabouts cannot be established will be considered as missing until located, and their well-being or otherwise confirmed

Previously the Absent category applied was defined by “a person not at a place where they are expected to be”.

ABSENT is now included within the Risk assessment as no apparent risk.

Missing children and young people is an indicator that a child or young person may be at risk / victim of exploitation.

There have been cases where the child or young person has not been reported missing but parents are not aware of their whereabouts.

In CBC we have a process across Children’s Services to ensure that where we are aware that young people are missing from their family home but not reported to the police as such, families are encouraged to do so and we will report on their behalf if necessary.

In addition, where professionals are made aware that a young person has been missing from home and returned but has not been officially reported by parent/carer this information is sent to the Hub.

A RHI (return home interview) will then be triggered and offered to ensure that we are identifying and offering support to our ‘hidden’ missing young people. This is building our understanding of children missing from home as well as those missing from care.

If a professional is made aware that a child or young person has been missing but not reported it is necessary for that professional to send the information to the MASH and a RHI will be triggered.

If a professional has been informed that a child or young person has been reported missing but they have not received a missing notification from the hub, the professionals is also required to send this information to the hub and a RHI will be triggered.

Serious Youth Violence Panel (SYVP)
A referral to SYVP should be considered if an individual, school or agency has a concern regarding any behaviour or issues relating to gang association/ membership or any serious youth violence concerns, this will be investigated in relation to intelligence from Police, YOS or any other agency.

Please use the SYVP Referral Form, once completed this should be sent to Alison Owens ( and Slavica Tobdzic (

If a child or young person has been referred to SYVP a referral should also be made to YPST. For discussion about whether or not to refer to SYVP contact Exploitation and Missing co-ordinator or YPST team manager.

Link to Change
Link to Change are a CSE specialist service that offer support to a child or young person that is at risk / victim of exploitation (child sexual and criminal exploitation).

A referral should be considered if there have been CSE and CCE risks and concerns identified.

To refer an individual please complete the child exploitation tool and send to Kelly Panaghiston ( and Slavica Tobdzic (

For discussion about whether or not to refer to Link to Change contact Exploitation and Missing co-ordinator or YPST team manager.

4. Children and Young People who go Missing

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

Return interviews with the child or young person can help in establishing why they went missing and the subsequent support that may be required, as well as preventing repeat incidents. Information gathered from return interviews can be used to inform the identification, referral and assessment of any child sexual exploitation cases.

5. Guidance for Undertaking Return Home Interviews

Policies and Guidance

Click here to view the Guidance for Undertaking Return Home Interviews.


The National Police Chief's Council definition changed from April 2013:

  • Absent - not at a place where they are expected or required to be;
  • Missing - not at the place they are expected to be but the circumstances are out of character or the context suggests they may be subject of a crime or at risk of harm to themselves or others.

In CBC we offer the voluntary return home interviews to children and young people who have been absent or missing.

The interview

Structure of the interview:

  • Personal Details;
  • Name of Young Person;
  • Address visited the Young Person;
  • Time start;
  • Time finish;
  • Return Home Interview date;
  • Missing Details;
  • Date Missing;
  • Missing from;
  • Date Returned to;
  • Hours missing;
  • Young person: Account of circumstances whilst a runaway and reasons for running away;
  • Carer views;
  • Push Factors: (This is what is making the young person not want to be at home or in placement e.g. Domestic violence, bullying, poor parental relationship);
  • Pull Factors: (This is what is making that young person be pulled away from the home e.g. drugs, friends, relationship, exploitation);
  • Strength Summary: (What is going well for the child at this time);
  • Protective Plan: (How can the young person keep them self safe if they run away and what can the carers do to keep them safe e.g. call police etc);
  • Intelligence: (What helpful information have we found out about who they are with, where they are going, if there information about exploitation);
  • Recommendation.

Following on from the interview please record it as a case note on our database and forward a copy of the interview to:

  • The Return Home Interview service who are part of the Access and Referral Hub at cs.access&; or
  • The service gather intelligence to look at disruption planning with other agencies so please do liaise with us about information gathered.

Other information

Child sexual exploitation plan: Referrals to be made for young people where risks are showing as high on the risk assessment or professional judgement means presentation is.

See Missing Young Person's Protocol.

To share information on victims/perpetrators and/or ring the Police Central Intelligence Bureau on 01234 842757 (

6. Referring Cases of Concern

See Enquiries, Contacts and Referrals Procedure.

Where a member of staff or foster carer is concerned that a child or young person is involved in, or at risk of, sexual exploitation, they should contact the allocated social worker, or in their absence the social work team manager at the earliest opportunity. If neither can be contacted or no response is received, they should contact the referral and assessment team, children's social care. Staff or foster carers should also contact the police, if they are concerned a crime has been, or may be, committed.

If, following assessment, the social worker and their manager decide action needs to be taken to protect the child, local safeguarding procedures will be triggered. This may include notifying the police regarding possible criminal offences.

Foster carers should also contact their social worker / fostering agency at the earliest opportunity, or for advice if they first want to discuss their concerns.

If the child or young person is not deemed to be in need, the social worker should consider onward referral to relevant agencies. This should include liaison with the member of staff or foster carer who made the referral.

Further details of the CSE panel can be found on the Central Bedfordshire Safeguarding Children Board website.

7. Supporting Children and Young People Out of Child Sexual Exploitation

Staff 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 should be sought from the nearest specialist service which works with children and young people involved in child sexual exploitation. A referral should be made as appropriate, if the child or young person is in agreement.

Issues raised and action planned should be incorporated into the child's Care Plan and Placement Plan, and reviewed as part of the Looked After Child Review.

Because the effects of child sexual exploitation can last well into adulthood, support may be required over a long period of time. In such circumstances, effective links should be made between children and adult services and statutory and voluntary organisations. This should be incorporated into the child or young person's Pathway Plan. 

8. Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme

The Child Sex Offender Review (CSOR) Disclosure Scheme is designed to provide members of the public with a formal mechanism to ask for disclosure about people they are concerned about, who have unsupervised access to children and may therefore pose a risk. This scheme builds on existing, well established third-party disclosures that operate under the Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA).

Police will reveal details confidentially to the person most able to protect the child (usually parents, carers or guardians) if they think it is in the child's interests.

The scheme has been operating in all 43 police areas in England and Wales since 2010. The scheme is managed by the Police and information can only be accessed through direct application to them.

If a disclosure is made, the information must be kept confidential and only used to keep the child in question safe. Legal action may be taken if confidentiality is breached. A disclosure is delivered in person (as opposed to in writing) with the following warning:

  • "That the information must only be used for the purpose for which it has been shared i.e. in order to safeguard children;
  • The person to whom the disclosure is made will be asked to sign an undertaking that they agree that the information is confidential and they will not disclose this information further;
  • A warning should be given that legal proceedings could result if this confidentiality is breached. This should be explained to the person and they must sign the undertaking" (Home Office, 2011, p16).
If the person is unwilling to sign the undertaking, the police must consider whether the disclosure should still take place.

9. Identifying and Prosecuting Perpetrators

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.

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

  • Child trafficking (into, out of and within the UK);
  • Domestic violence;
  • 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 (dealing, consuming and cultivating);
  • Gang-related activity;
  • Immigration-related offences;
  • Domestic servitude.

Where alleged perpetrators are arrested and charged with offences against children or young people, allocated staff 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 voluntary sector services, if available, may also have an important role to play.

Trix procedures

Only valid for 48hrs