Child Sexual Exploitation

A focus on child sexual exploitation (CSE) has been in place in Middlesbrough for some years, with the commissioning of Barnardos in 1998 to work with children and young women caught up in what was then described as prostitution.

The key touchstone for strategy in Middlesbrough is the Tees-wide Vulnerable, Exploited, Missing and Trafficked (VEMT) strategy (2013 - 2016), which is delivered at sub-regional and local tier with a VEMT strategy group for each of the four local authority areas.  CSE is also a part of the Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCB) plan and accountability for delivery is both to the Teesside wide cross agency group and to each of the LSCBs.

In October 2014, a review of the implications of the Jay Report and the outcome of a CSE scrutiny by the Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny panel, led to further consideration of the work in Middlesbrough and further actions being agreed by the Executive. Work is underway to refresh the governance and to consolidate the VEMT with the other emergent action plans into a revised strategy and plan. This includes a focus on the development of a quality assurance and performance framework, a clear area for development.

CSE is an important local issue. In addressing the issue, local partners are clear that perpetrators should be targeted regardless of ethnic origin. In the context of challenging media responses and actions from English Defence League (EDL) local elected members endorse the actions being taken to address CSE and the lead member takes an active interest. Successful prosecutions in 2014 were against men from BME communities and there is an on-going focus on groups of BME and eastern European men identified as emerging risks to young people. However most perpetrators are white men acting alone. The model of CSE includes the grooming of children by men from BME communities and emergent Eastern European communities but the majority are white men who contact children on line, at parties and hotspots.

Attitudes towards victims of CSE have rightly moved away from disbelief and blame. The local response to CSE requires professionals to ensure that the voice of the child informs improvements in local practice. Work is underway to build on the opportunities provided by Barnardos for children to talk safely about their experiences and the services they are offered, possibly through the Children in Care Council and other avenues.


Last updated: 2015-12-10 12:12:08
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1. What are the key issues?

Child sexual exploitation (CSE), 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 is likely that around 190,000 UK children (one in every 58) will fall victim to contact sexual abuse before the age of 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 key issues in Teesside are as follows:

  • The increase in prevalence of CSE;
  • Potential increase in the reporting of historic abuse;
  • Need to increase early intervention and preventative efforts;
  • the effective sharing of information between health visitors and particularly GPs; and
  • Impact on agencies and services of the increase in CSE.
Last updated: 30/11/15

2. What commissioning priorities are recommended?

A Home Office-led project involving 12 local authorities, including Middlesbrough, identified a number of areas for further development in its final report in March 2015:

  1. All elected members undertake the CSE training.
  2. Refresh of governance, strategy and planning;
  3. Consideration of a MASH model; and,
  4. The next stage on:
    1. Listening to the child
    2. Data and performance framework
    3. Schools strategy and community engagement
    4. Sharing soft intelligence to enhance disruption activity
    5. CCG / LA commissioning strategy



Ensure the implementation of CSE referral form/risk assessment Tool.


Ensure the assessment of multi-agency intelligence submissions regarding CSE concerns to the Police.


Train frontline staff to recognise, protect and refer children who are, or are at risk of CSE.


Ensure the delivery of CSE presentations to schools across Tees.


Develop a coordinated VEMT awareness raising and communication strategy to increase public understanding of CSE and increase confidence in a VEMT approach.


Develop an effective performance management data set and reporting arrangements to manage CSE performance effectively.

Last updated: 30/11/15

3. Who is at risk and why?

Sexual exploitation of children and young people under 18 involves exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where the young person (or third person/s) 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.

CSE 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.

The term online child sexual exploitation is used to describe a genre of internet offending which includes, but is not defined by, traditional notions of online grooming. In this context, online CSE includes the much broader threat from online communication between an adult and a child for the purposes of sexual exploitation, whether the intention is to meet offline or otherwise.


  • 90% of all Local Authorities (LAs) 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 CSE offences.

The Teesside picture is as follows:

  • Teesside has seen a rise in line with the national average over an increase in this rate between 2011/12 and 2012/13.
  • Offenders were predominantly male and white European.
  • Victims were predominantly female and white European.
  • The age of the victims ranged between four and 17 years with the majority aged between 13 and 15.
  • The largest proportion of offences are committed by lone male offenders against female victims,
Last updated: 30/11/15

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

The Home Office identified a set of 7 risk factors to be used to identify potential CSE activity. Middlesbrough was ranked the 17th highest, out of 152 local authority areas, on these victim based risk factors.

Middlesbrough was ranked amongst the top 10% of local authorities for:

  • Rate of under-18s in treatment for substance abuse; and
  • Rate of persistent absence among secondary school pupils.

Middlesbrough was ranked amongst the top 25% of local authorities for:

  • Rate of missing persons;
  • Rate  of mental health admissions for under-18s; and
  • Rate of care homes in the local area.

Middlesbrough was ranked amongst the top 50% of local authorities for:

  • Rate of repeat abortions amongst young women up to the age of 25.

Whilst the Home Office acknowledged that measuring the unknown number of CSE victims was challenging, it posed the hypothesis that Middlesbrough’s high scores on multiple indicators suggested there was potentially a large number of young people at risk of CSE victimisation. Middlesbrough’s relative position against the indicators reflects the high proportion of vulnerable young people in the area, which is in turn reflected in the high level of poor outcomes in education, health and well-being, and social care. Young people presenting a number of risk factors would be vulnerable to CSE victimisation in the same way that they have a heightened risk of experiencing other poor outcomes.

Last updated: 30/11/15

5. What services are currently provided?


  • Tees VEMT (Vulnerable, Exploited, Missing, Trafficked) Group : the Tees Strategic VEMT Group was established in early 2013 to provide 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 that was designed to safeguard vulnerable, exploited, missing or trafficked children / young people wherever they live in the Tees area.
  • Locality Strategic VEMT groups - is chaired by the Deputy Director Safeguarding & Specialist Services, Wellbeing, Care & Learning with representation from all safeguarding agencies including the various health agencies, police, education, licensing, neighbourhoods and communities (or Street Wardens), as well as the local voluntary agencies.  The groups charged with reviewing and providing direct support to children / young people identified as at very high to high and medium to high risk are addressed through the Locality VEMT Practitioner Groups.
  • Locality VEMT Practitioner Groups - VPG is a group of multi-agency professionals that consider the sharing of information from services within the Middlesbrough area in respect of children who are:
  • at risk due to their vulnerability;
  • at risk of sexual exploitation;
  • at risk due to missing from home episodes;
  • at risk of or have been trafficked.

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.


  • SECOS: Counselling services are provided through specialist play therapist and talking therapies to assist healing from CSE and the criminal justice process.
  • CSE Hub
    • Outreach: As part of our 4 As model (attention, assertive outreach, advocacy, access) we engage in assertive outreach to allow us to work with some of the most hard to reach groups.
    • Youth Crime Action Plan (YCAP) – Outreach : YCAP outreach highlights specific hot spot ‘hang-outs’ of young people, spend at least 4 weeks engaging with young people on their territory before working with them through positive activities at the SECOS centre. This work incorporates partner working and integrating reward sessions such as overnight residentials at outward bound centres. This work helps early identification of vulnerabilities which may add to CSE risk indicators.
    • Music: Working in partnership with the SAGE at Gateshead to deliver music groups to vulnerable young people who have been identified as likely to benefit from improved self-esteem activities and have an interest in music.
    • Accommodation: Supporting young people in properties which house previous CSE clients. The accommodation service links directly with CSE and children missing from home as it provides stabilisation to previous ‘sofa-surfers’ with the added value of a key worker who assists with independent living skills and provides emotional support, in addition some young people also have a specialist CSE worker.
    • Arts Award: Working with Tees Valley Arts to apply for funding to re-run this project which allows young people to engage in a programme working with professional artists to achieve a qualification.
    • Boxing: Developing an opportunity for service users to access boxing as a source of exercise and personal safety strategies.
    • Identity Group Work: Provide opportunities for young people to explore identity within a safe group environment. This allows young people a safe place to express their thoughts and feelings.
  • Missing From Home: Barnardo’s research showed that 97% of young people who were at risk of sexual exploitation had at some point been missing from home or care. Our MFH service allows early identification of risk.
  • Families and communities against sexual exploitation: A 2 year pilot project working holistically with the whole family based on the family group conference model. This project also provides training and support for the wider community. This project addresses early prevention of CSE at a lower need level than the SECOS CSE hub.
  • ISVA (Independent Sexual Violence Advocate Service): - Working with anyone under 18 who has experienced sexual violence and reported it to the police. Workers support young people through the criminal justice process, we also have a specialist worker who supports therapeutically.
  • 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
  • Stay Safe Project - Operation Stay Safe – supporting young people on the streets at risk of CSE. Working in partnership with police social care and 0-19 year olds. The priority of this operation is to identify vulnerability in under-18s on the streets of Middlesbrough (usually Friday nights 10pm-4am).
  • TSVSG – Tees Sexual Violence Sub Group - Sexual Violence and SARC

The additional activity being carried out across Middlesbrough includes:

  • Police led mapping and data framework that started six months ago and creates a platform for the disruption work.
  • Health colleagues - there was concern that whilst hard information on protection should clearly be shared, the case for sharing soft intelligence and the use of “flags” where concern was at a lower level was less compelling.
  • Police are visiting victims and suspects jointly with Barnardos or Social Services, where they are known.
  • Disruption is delivered on “enforcement days” when abduction notices and other orders are pursued. However it seems as though this is in a relatively early stage and the initial performance framework was not yet populated with the relevant data on ancillary orders (Child Abduction notices, Risk of sexual harm orders).
  • Big Lottery funding for Headstart offering emotional resilience in two schools and a risk and resilience project that is street-based.
  • There is a sexual health service with a Teesside Hub.
  • There is a hospital-based service which supports people attending A&E.
  • A Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS) service offering therapeutic support which again covers a wider geography.
Last updated: 30/11/15

6. What is the projected level of need?

Based on figures over the past year of 100 young people being linked to CSE and with a built in increase of 10% per year in line with national and local trends, it is estimated that therapy and other services should be commissioned or provided for at least 110 young people in Middlesbrough for the forthcoming year.

Last updated: 30/11/15

7. What needs might be unmet?

There is a need to establish clear referral pathways for all agencies to identify CSE concerns.

Lack of assessment/collation and development of intelligence concerning CSE for victims/perpetrators/locations.

There is a gap in training regarding recognising, protecting and referring children for practitioners in respect of CSE.

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 to develop a communication strategy to raise awareness of CSE.

There is currently no effective performance management data set and reporting arrangements to manage CSE performance effectively.

Last updated: 30/11/15

8. What evidence is there for effective intervention?

Given that targeted approaches to tackling CSE are still relatively new, there is limited evidence about ‘what works’.

Following a thematic review across 8 local authorities nationally and drawing on feedback from over 150 children and young people, 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’.

These principles underpin the VEMT arrangements across Tees.

Last updated: 30/11/15

9. What do people say?

No information at present.

Last updated: 30/11/15

10. What additional needs assessment is required?

Relationship mapping for potential victims against links to identified victims and perpetrators

Last updated: 30/11/15

Key contact: Neil Pocklington

Job title:


Phone number:



Local strategies and plans:

Tees CSE Multi-Agency Strategy 2015-17

Tees Strategic CSE Action Plan 2015

Children and Young People Select Committee Task and Finish Review of CSE 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 2015

Other references:

‘How Safe Are Our Children’ NSPCC 2015