Child sexual exploitation

Redcar & Cleveland Council seeks to create an environment where child sexual exploitation is prevented, identified and challenged by communities and professionals.

The vision is to ensure that children, young people and families whose lives are affected by child sexual exploitation receive an appropriate level of support to address their needs, that perpetrators are held to account for their actions, and where possible brought to justice.

The definition of child sexual exploitation as identified in Working Together to Safeguard Children (2015) and the National Working Group for Sexually Exploited Children and Young People is:

‘situations, contexts and relationships where young people (or a third person or persons) receive ‘something’ (e.g. food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts, money) as a result of them performing, and/or another or others performing on them, sexual activities. Child sexual exploitation can occur through the use of technology without the child’s immediate recognition; for example being persuaded to post images on the internet/mobile phones without immediate payment or gain.  In all cases, those exploiting the child/young person have power over them by virtue of their age, gender, intellect, physical strength and/or economic or other resources. Violence, coercion and intimidation are common, involvement in exploitative relationships being characterised in the main by the child or young person’s limited availability of choice as a result of their social/economic or emotional vulnerability’.

Sexual exploitation can take many forms from the seemingly ‘consensual’ relationship where sex is exchanged for attention, affection, accommodation or gifts, to serious organised crime and child trafficking.  What marks out exploitation is the imbalance of power within the relationship.  The perpetrator always holds some kind of power over the victim, increasing the dependence as the exploitative relationship develops.  Perpetrators of child sexual expolitation are found in all parts of the country and are not restricted to particular ethnic groups.

Last updated: 2016-01-08 11:11:19
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1. What are the key issues?

Child sexual exploitation, particularly group offending, has featured significantly in the media over recent years, with a number of national reports, assessments and case reviews published since 2011. The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) published their ‘Threat Assessment of Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse’ in July 2013, in which they highlight research conducted by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) that indicates that around 5% of UK children suffer contact sexual abuse at some point during childhood.

Adjusting for the two-thirds of children who will have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of another child or a parent or guardian (intra-familial abuse), CEOP infer that about 190,000 UK children (one in every 58) will fall victim to contact sexual abuse before age 18. This represents an average of more than 10,000 new child victims of contact sexual abuse in the UK every year.  In addition, CEOP receives reports from around 1,000 children each year concerning online victimisation by adults.

The Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC) in the most recent report ‘If it’s not better, it’s not the end’ (2015) is concerned that too many children are at risk of becoming victims, or who are already victims of CSE, are still not being identified.  This is despite evidence published which demonstrates the risk of CSE is prevalent in many parts of England.  In response to the questionnaire issued for gathering data for that report, 70 LSCBs (48% of the 148 LSCBs in England) identified 2,092 known victims of CSE in 2013. When comparing the number of identified CSE victims in similar local authorities, this revealed a considerable disparity, which is more likely to reflect the under-identification of victims than the actual incidence of CSE.

A thematic inspection carried out by Ofsted (2015) to evaluate the effectiveness of local authorities responses to child sexual exploitation found that that until recently, child sexual exploitation has not been recognised or responded to in a sufficiently skilled or robust manner by local authorities and partner agencies. 

The key issues for Redcar & Cleveland are:

  • The increase in the awareness of child sexual exploitation and demand for services.
  • The unknown impact on any potential increase in historical abuse.
  • The need to ensure robust early intervention and preventative mechanisms.  
  • The effective sharing of information between partner agencies and the voluntary sector.
  • Impact on agencies and services of the increase in child sexual exploitation.
  • The disruption of perpetrators through effective partnership working (for example licensing and Night Watch).
  • The ongoing awareness raising of child sexual exploitation particularly in education settings with parents and families, to be able to measure the impact of this on outcomes for children and young people.
  • The impact of the running and missing protocol.
  • Effective cross-referencing of information and soft intelligence with missing and child sexual exploitation.
  • Exploitation of children and young people through social media.
Last updated: 08/01/16

2. What commissioning priorities are recommended?


Review the VEMT Practitioner Group action plan to ensure effective implementation. 


Improve the practical application of gathering accurate intelligence.


Continue to train frontline staff to safeguard and refer children who are sexually exploited or are at risk of child sexual exploitation. 


Undertake a CSE mapping exercise to determine the levels of awareness training required within education settings.


Develop awareness raising activities for children and young people in respect of child sexual exploitation, social media and healthy relationships, as well as work with parents, through education settings.


Improve information sharing, systems and processes relating to running and missing children, using data to inform early identification.


Develop an effective performance management data set that comprehensively manages child sexual exploitation performance.


Ensure elected members and senior managers understand the impact of child sexual exploitation on the victim’s life and be prepared to advocate and respond to any resource demands.


Promote and support the disruption of child sexual exploitation through partnership operations with third sector agencies and services, including licensing and night workers.

Last updated: 08/01/16

3. Who is at risk and why?

All vulnerable young people are at risk of sexual exploitation.

In all cases, those exploiting the child/young person have power over them by virtue of their age/gender/intellect/physical strength and/or economic or other resources. Violence, coercion and intimidation are common. Involvement in exploitative relationships is characterised in the main by the child or young person’s limited availability of choice as a result of their social/economic or emotional vulnerability.

Child sexual exploitation doesn't always involve physical contact and can happen online.  The NSPCC recognises that when sexual exploitation happens online, young people may be persuaded, or forced, to: 

  • send or post sexually explicit images of themselves
  • take part in sexual activities via a webcam or smartphone
  • have sexual conversations by text or online.

Abusers may threaten to send images, video or copies of conversations to the young person's friends and family unless they take part in other sexual activity and these images or videos may continue to be shared long after the exploitation has stopped.

The National Crime Agency's CEOP Command (formerly the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) works with child protection partners across the UK and overseas to identify the main threats to children and coordinates activity against these threats to bring offenders to account. CEOP protects children from harm online and offline, directly through NCA-led operations and in partnership with local and international agencies.

Practitioners often do not identify the sexual exploitation and young people themselves frequently do not recognise themselves as victims of abuse. 

The work of Barnardo’s identifies younger victims are being targeted and the perpetrators of child sexual exploitation are becoming increasingly sophisticated, using the internet to protect their identity and trafficking children around the country to avoid detection. 

Nationally children and young people at risk of child sexual exploitation may:

  • Go missing for periods of time or regularly come home late.
  • Regularly miss school or education or not take part in education.
  • Appear with unexplained gifts or new possessions.
  • Associate with other children and young people involved in CSE.
  • Have older boyfriends or girlfriends
  • Suffer from sexually transmitted infections.
  • Have mood swings or changes in emotional wellbeing.
  • Misuse alcohol and/or drugs.
  • Display inappropriate sexualised behaviour.
  • Use mobile phones excessively and inappropriate use of the internet.
  • Display secretive behaviour.
  • Get involved in petty crime. 


  • 90% of all local authorities have seen rises in police recorded child sex offences in the last two years (between 2011/12 and 2013/14).
  • Police forces nationally have identified a 40% increase in the recording child sexual exploitation offences.

Redcar & Cleveland

  • Child sexual exploitation cuts across all ages, race and gender.
  • There has been a rise in child sexual exploitation cases which is in line with the national average.  Offenders are predominantly male and white European, although gender is not an obstacle.
  • Victims are predominantly female and white European.
  • The highest number of victims are aged 14 – 15 years, closely followed by 16 – 17 years. There are very low numbers of children aged under 12 years experiencing or at risk of sexual exploitation.

The largest proportion of offences are committed by lone male offenders against female victims.

Last updated: 08/01/16

4. What is the level of need in the population?

In Redcar & Cleveland for the year period 01/04/14 – 31/03/15 the following vulnerable, exploited, missing and trafficked (VEMT) data was identified:  

81 children/young people were discussed at the practitioner group and were recognised as potentially being sexually exploited, vulnerable, missing or trafficked, or at risk of these concerns.  A small number were identified as being at risk and went on to receive services.  When compared against the population for children and young people in the borough, this represented 0.29% of the population.

Of these 81 children/young people, 62 were female (76.5%) and 19 were male (23.5%).

There were 389 absent or missing episodes recorded in Redcar & Cleveland within the year (not individual children as children may have had more than one missing episode recorded in that period).

325 return interviews were completed within the year, which represented a response rate of 83.5% against the recorded absent or missing episodes.

Recording systems have since been developed and reporting mechanisms are now more robust and effective, resulting in more accurate and meaningful data.  

Last updated: 08/01/16

5. What services are currently provided?

Services provided within Redcar & Cleveland include:

Barnardo’s SECOS: Counselling services are provided through specialist play therapist and talking therapies to assist healing from child sexual exploitation and the criminal justice process.

ISVA (Independent Sexual Violence Advocate Service): Working with anyone under 18 who has experienced sexual violence and reported it the police.  Workers support young people through the criminal justice process and offer emotional support and help the victim deal with the effects of rape, sexual assault or childhood sexual abuse.

Bridgeway: Therapeutic Service, Sexual Harmful Behaviour Work - Healing work for young people who have experienced sexual abuse. Working with young people who exhibit sexually harmful behaviour.

Night Watch: Work is underway with colleagues in licensing to raise awareness for protecting children from child sexual exploitation after dark. 

Missing From Home: The missing from home service allows early identification of risk and in Redcar & Cleveland there is an effective system in place to ensure return interviews are conducted in a timely fashion following a missing episode.  Advice is offered to the family and the child may be referred to support services where appropriate.

Targeted Youth Support: Targeted Youth Support (TYS) deliver Risk Taking Roadshows to all secondary schools in Redcar & Cleveland.  In years 8 & 9 TYS discuss child sexual exploitation, including internet grooming, sending inappropriate images and child pornography.  TYS also deliver child sexual exploitation group work to schools and have specific six week courses, which can be tailored to girl or boy groups and target young people where the school has concerns.  TYS also work 1:1 with young people covering all aspects of child sexual exploitation and also signpost young people to access further support.

Strategic and operation plans:

Tees Strategic VEMT (Vulnerable, Exploited, Missing, Trafficked) Group:

The Tees Strategic VEMT Group was established in early 2013 which provides a strategic direction across Tees for professionals working with children/young people who may be at risk of or vulnerable to exploitation or who by way of going missing may be at risk.  The group developed a strategy to support work undertaken with children, young people and communities to safeguard vulnerable, exploited, missing or trafficked children, wherever they live in the Tees area. 


The primary function of the sub group is to undertake a responsive and proactive role to identify good practice and areas for development on behalf of the RCSCB.  The purpose of such a role is to promote the safety and wellbeing of all children and young people in Redcar & Cleveland and to ensure they are provided with efficient and effective services. 

This may include identifying what services are available and to review the effectiveness and improvement of these services.  The group is chaired by the Service Manager with lead responsibility for VEMT, and supported by representatives from all safeguarding agencies including the various health agencies, Police, education, licensing, neighbourhoods and communities, as well as the local voluntary agencies.  The group has the responsibility for implementing the VEMT Strategy and work plan within the borough and to oversee the work of the VEMT Practitioners Group.

Redcar & Cleveland VEMT Practitioner Groups (VPG):

VPG is a multi-agency forum for discussion of individual children and young people either at risk of, or who have experienced child sexual exploitation.  The meeting provides an opportunity to share information and intelligence from services within the Redcar & Cleveland area in respect of children who are:

  • At risk due to their vulnerability.
  • At risk of sexual exploitation.
  • At risk due to missing episodes.
  • At risk of or have been trafficked.

This group is charged with reviewing and providing direct support to those children and young people identified as being at risk.  The VPG looks to enhance and support the practitioner(s) in their role supporting the child or young person by formulating an action plan to support the existing plan for the child.  The group is based upon partnership problem-solving and ensuring positive outcomes for children and young people. 

The VPG also provides an opportunity to share information and intelligence as follows:

  • Multi-agency response to operational issues.
  • Review progress on individual cases.
  • Oversee local prevention strategy.
  • Review the profile of local child sexual exploitation.
  • Identify any local trends or “hotspots” where child sexual exploitation appears to be a particular issue.
  • Ensure the disruption and prosecution strategy is implemented and effective.
  • Ensure coordinated approaches with other boroughs where required, including where looked after children are placed out of authority and at risk of sexual exploitation.

TSVSG – Tees Sexual Violence Strategic Group

This group has responsibility to ensure full engagement from all key partners in setting the strategic direction of sexual violence services and to facilitate a strategic approach to commissioning of sexual violence services.  The group will define and agree a shared strategy and vision for the future model of sexual violence services for adults, adolescents and child victims from Teesside and will lead on raising awareness of sexual violence in Teesside.

TSVIG –  Tees Sexual Violence Implementation Group

The TSVIG brings together service providers and other stakeholders to deliver a collaborative approach to address the operational elements of the Sexual Violence Business Plan, 2015 -2018.

In addition child sexual exploitation will form an integral part of the Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) curriculum in schools and academies in Redcar & Cleveland.

Last updated: 08/01/16

6. What is the projected level of need?

Nationally, it is very difficult to say how many children and young people are being sexually exploited in the UK.

This belief is mirrored in Redcar & Cleveland, in that because of the nature of child sexual exploitation it is hard to predict the projected level of need in the borough.

Last updated: 08/01/16

7. What needs might be unmet?

There is insufficient mapping of intelligence concerning child sexual exploitation including victims, perpetrators and known locations of activity.

There is a gap in training for recognising, protecting and referring children, for practitioners in respect of child sexual exploitation, particularly relating to children missing from home and the effective use of data.

If elected members and senior managers are not given a level of understanding of child sexual exploitation, they will not be able to understand the impact of this on the victim’s life.

There is a need to build awareness and resilience in children and young people to help prevent them being sexually exploited.

There is a need for communication strategies to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation, including risks when using social media, with children and their families and the general public.

If third sector agencies and services are not involved in promoting the disruption of child sexual exploitation through partnership operations then perpetrators may not be identified and prosecuted.  

Last updated: 08/01/16

8. What evidence is there for effective intervention?

To ensure strategic and operational responses to child sexual exploitation are effective there must be a targeted response to the issue.  The ‘See Me Hear Me’ Framework (January 2014 Inquiry into Sexual Exploitation in Gangs and Groups, Office of the Children’s Commissioner) recommends four strands for effective intervention:

  • Preventing the abuse from happening
  • Protecting young people who are victims or at risk of sexual exploitation
  • Prosecuting offenders wherever possible
  • Publicising this activity, including how people can report sexual exploitation.

The Tees Strategic VEMT Group and Redcar & Cleveland VEMT Sub-Group will work together to reduce the level of, and harm from, child sexual exploitation equally and have developed a strategy and work plan based on these four strands of activity.

‘Working together to Safeguard Children’ (HMG 2015) places the duties on agencies for effective multi-agency working to safeguard the child.  The Office of Children’s Commissioner endorses this by stating there is evidence to suggest that successful joint working results in more victims of child sexual exploitation being identified. 

The Department for Education (2012) highlight the importance of spotting and interacting in child sexual exploitation early, to enable a proportionate response and intervention.  There is a recognised link between child sexual exploitation and children who go missing and therefore there is a need to ensure missing child interviews are both qualitative and quantitative.  In addition it is good practice, wherever possible, that interviews should be undertaken by a person who is known by the child and whom the child trusts. 

The thematic review into child sexual exploitation by Ofsted (2015) concluded that ‘children and young people are more effectively protected from child sexual exploitation when LSCBs have an effective strategy and action plan that supports professionals to work together and share information well.  This activity, when combined with a whole system approach of awareness raising, the early identification of both victims and perpetrators and disruption and prosecution, is the only route to the effective protection of children and young people from child sexual exploitation in our towns and cities.   

In Redcar & Cleveland there are dedicated child sexual exploitation champions across agencies to ensure a good response to the prevention and protection of child sexual exploitation.

Evidence from the learning of case audits will be effective if it is then used to shape future practice as too will any outcomes from Police investigations.

Last updated: 12/02/16

9. What do people say?

Obtaining the views of children and young people who are experiencing child sexual exploitation is extremely difficult due to the complexities on a number of levels.

In some instances they may also be threatened with, or subjected to, violence or they may have been manipulated to feel that what is happening is their fault. Some young people do not even realise what is happening to them.

Barnardo’s, the largest provider of child sexual exploitation support services in the UK, say that children at risk of sexual exploitation are some of the most vulnerable in our society. Many have experienced abandonment or have suffered from physical and mental abuse.  For victims, the pain of their ordeal and fear that they will not be believed means they are too often scared to come forward.  Sadly, many young people are too frightened to ask for help because they fear they might get into trouble.

The NSPCC report ‘How safe are our children’ (2015), recognise child sexual exploitation is a hidden crime and young people often trust their abuser and don't understand that they're being abused. They may depend on their abuser or be too scared to tell anyone what's happening.  Child sexual exploitation can involve violent, humiliating and degrading sexual assaults.  In some cases, young people are persuaded or forced into exchanging sexual activity for money, drugs, gifts, affection or status. Child sexual exploitation doesn't always involve physical contact and can happen online.

A theatre play about child sexual exploitation has proved effective in promoting internet safety and healthy relationships both nationally and locally.  Redcar & Cleveland Safeguarding Children Board commissioned this performance and this is what people said:

  • Issues raised and being brought out through Chelsea’s choice opened up disclosures. This needs to raise the profile and be on everyone’s agenda.
  • We have a duty to protect, educate and keep young people safe.
  • Powerful, disturbing, emotional!!
  • It was fantastic to see the young people presenting their findings and being so proactive in the safeguarding of the community.
  • If there was an outstanding box I would have ticked it.
  • This was hugely emotive, informative and it was clear from the audience response that even the most senior safeguarding professionals were affected.
Last updated: 08/01/16

10. What additional needs assessment is required?

It has been recognised by Ofsted (2015) that until recently, child sexual exploitation has not been recognised or responded to in a sufficiently skilled or robust manner by local authorities and partner agencies.  Resource demands in Redcar & Cleveland are currently being met through the Children and Families Service. However, it should be noted that the future level of demand cannot be determined with certainty.

Last updated: 08/01/16

Key contact: Mrs Wendy Rudd

Job title: Service Manager Review and Inspection


Phone number: 01642 771500


Local strategies and plans:

Tees VEMT Strategy 2015-17

Tees VEMT Strategic Action Plan 2015

RCSCB VEMT Sub Group Strategy 2015-17

RCSCB VEMT Sub Group Work Plan 2015

Redcar and Cleveland VPG Action Plan 2015 

National strategies and plans:

‘Safeguarding children and young people from sexual exploitation’ DCSF 2009

‘What to do if you suspect a child is being sexually exploited’ DfE 2012

‘The sexual exploitation of children: it couldn’t happen here could it?’ Ofsted Thematic Report 2014

Sexual Offences Act 2003 amended 2013

DCSF statutory guidance 2009

DfE Tackling CSE Action plan 2011 & progress report 2012

Working Together 2015

Safeguarding children and young people who may have been trafficked 2012

ACPO action plan 2012

OCC report CSE in gangs 2013

OCC report ‘If it’s not better, it’s not the end’ − Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Gangs and Groups: one year on 2015

Safeguarding children in schools 2014

School Nurse Programme - Helping school nurses to tackle child sexual exploitation 2015

United Nations convention on the rights of the child

Other references:

‘How safe are our children’ NSPCC 2015