What is Child Sexual 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.

CSE can occur through the use of technology without the child’s immediate recognition, for example the persuasion to post sexual images on the internet/mobile phones with no 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.

There are 3 important and recognisable elements of child sexual exploitation:

  • Children are ‘groomed’ and there is power and control held by the perpetrator/s
  • An ‘exchange’ (such as gift, food, money, drugs etc.) is present, this could be to a third party and not always to the child themselves.
  • Sexual acts or the exchange of sexual images is present.

Avon and Somerset Constabulary have developed a campaign strategy to raise awareness of Child Sexual Exploitation. The first part of this strategy is aimed at raising awareness by targeting information at practitioner groups and has been developed using victim’s voices to inform its key messages. The campaign call to action is:

– Ask. Ask me again. Keep asking…
– CSE is happening

These posters are aimed at raising awareness of CSE with practitioners, and are therefore not designed to be displayed in public waiting areas etc.  Please ensure that the posters are displayed appropriately and to the intended audiences (e.g. staff coffee rooms, offices).

If you believe a child or adult is vulnerable or being exploited, you can use this form to provide intelligence or information that you think Avon and Somerset Constabulary should be aware of.

This is not a referral form or early help notification form and does not replace any pre-existing referral or notification mechanism.


This section aims to provide practitioners with a range of resources to help when dealing with sexual exploitation issues regarding children and young people.

There is lots of guidance available on the web, if you use anything that you find particularly useful and you feel would be useful for other practitioners, please email details to: 

SSCB Team – LSCB@somerset.gov.uk

Don’t forget, always use the Effective Support for Children and Families document to help inform your decision making!


This section aims to provide practitioners with resources suitable for children and young people, and parents/carers to find out more about child sexual exploitation and associated issues.

Resources for Children/Young People

Barnardo’s BASE project – The Bristol BASE (Barnardo’s Against Sexual Exploitation) Hub and Spokes Project works with children and young people across our local region providing specialist sexual exploitation work.

The Survivor Pathway – The survivor pathway is primarily a guide for anyone wanting to know more about specialist sexual violence services.

Somerset Survivors – information on other services which can offer support and advice regarding domestic abuse and sexual violence, together with those which can help with related issues.

Unseen – An organisation working towards a world without slavery.

Thinkuknow – Come in to find the latest information on the sites you like to visit, mobiles and new technology. Find out what’s good, what’s not and what you can do about it.

Barnardo’s Be Aware – So be aware, stay alert and keep safe – use our top tips to protect yourself from exploitation.

Stop CSE.org – Join us in the fight against Child Sexual Exploitation.

Resources for Parents/Carers

PaceUK – Pace is the leading national charity working with parents and carers of sexually exploited children.

MOSAC – Mosac is a voluntary organisation supporting all non-abusing parents and carers whose children have been sexually abused. We provide various types of support services and information for parents, carers and professionals dealing with child sexual abuse.

Thinkuknow/Parents – Protect your children from abuse online, help your children get the most out of the internet, keep your children safe

Barnardo’s spot the signs – Sexual exploitation affects thousands of children and young people every year. By knowing the tell-tale signs, we can all play an important role in reducing that number.

Barnardo’s spot the signs parents’ leaflet – What can I do as a parent or a carer?

Stop it Now! – Stop it Now! UK and Ireland is at the forefront of activity to prevent child sexual abuse. Campaigning and awareness-raising are essential tasks for local, regional and national projects in order to empower and enable adults to address personal, family and community concerns.

CE Screening Tool

The purpose of the screening tool is to enable professionals to assess a child’s level of risk of child exploitation (CE) in a quick and consistent manner. The screening tool can be applied to all children (male and female) under the age of 18 years. This Screening toolkit is to be used by anyone who has a concern that a child may be being sexually exploited.


Guidance and template for the Child Exploitation Analysis and Decision Making tool

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,


(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 (DfE Feb 2017)

Guidance on Completing the CE Analysis & Decision Making Tool

This CSE analysis and decision making tool replaces the Child Exploitation Risk Assessment. It is effective from (July 2017) and will be evaluated in 12 months by the Somerset Safeguarding Children Board – Child Exploitation and Missing Children Sub Group.

The decision making tool uses the term ‘child’ deliberately to remind us that a child at risk through exploitation is a child in need of protection.

The decision making tool is designed to help identify and assess the risks of abuse through CE and should be used where there are concerns about children remembering that for some children, such as disabled children, their abuse may be concealed.

Information and evidence from all sources should be included for example observations, what the child says and what other children may say. Where possible record the details of other children giving information as they too may be at risk. Be mindful that an effective professional is one who takes the time to build and maintain a trusting relationship with the child, who listens attentively to their wishes and feelings and ensures that appropriate safeguarding responses are in place, even where the child may be rejecting of help and support, too afraid or not knowing how to say and who to tell.

Where a professional has concerns about a child and their professional instinct is that ‘something is wrong’ they should exercise a high level of professional curiosity to try and understand what may be happening to the child. Professionals must listen carefully to what the child is saying as well as what their behaviours and non-verbal communications might be trying to communicate.

In order to incorporate this careful listening it may be necessary to complete the tool over a period of time as understanding of the child’s situation develops BUT if there are any immediate safeguarding concerns a referral into the police and/or Childrens Social Care must be made immediately.

It is really helpful where there are several professionals engaged with the child for there to be collaboration in completing a decision making tool to ensure all concerns are shared, explored and recorded. This might, for example involve school, family support and health practitioners working together as part of pastoral care within an education setting, Early Help/Team Around the Child/Team Around the School or a statutory intervention such as a Child Protection plan. It is also useful to talk through the decision making tool with parents and carers and in many cases with the child themselves.

Many of the indicators of CE are also part of normal teenage behaviours and decision making tool is not an appropriate response to every challenging teenager. It is sudden or recent changes in behaviour or a single high risk factor or multiple risk factors which may indicate that the child is a victim of abuse through sexual exploitation rather than a teenager experimenting with risk taking and independence. Professionals therefore need to exercise their judgement in completing the tool, taking advantage of the enhanced knowledge of their organisation safeguarding lead or child exploitation champion. Capturing your worries about the child and providing the evidence for those concerns is of paramount importance as it will help you and others to assess the likely risk. Factors such as the child’s age, additional vulnerabilities, their history and your knowledge of the child’s usual behaviour may suggest that the indicators for that child suggest a higher risk than would be the case for a different child. If that is the case you need to explain why in your analysis.

Professionals who have a concern about a child and think exploitation may be an issue must complete this decision making tool, if that process confirms there are concerns they should discuss the case with their line manager and where appropriate their organisational safeguarding lead and / or CE champion who will help advise on an appropriate response. This will be supported by partner agencies e.g. multi -agency CE champions cohort, Early Help advice hub 01823 355803, Childrens Social Care consultation line 0300 123 3078, Childrens Social care 0300 123 2224, Avon and Somerset police 101 or in an emergency 999.
SSCB Designated Safeguarding Leads Information: https://sscb.safeguardingsomerset.org.uk/designated-lead/

It is important that as much detail as possible is recorded on the decision making tool to document and inform judgment’s about the most appropriate course of action without needing to seek additional information which risks creating a delayed decision and response.

Concerns about the quality of decision making tools submitted will be escalated to the agency in line with the SSCB Resolving Professional Differences Protocol: https://sscb.safeguardingsomerset.org.uk/working-with-children/local-protocols-guidance/

If completion of the decision making tool does not indicate a risk of CE it should be kept securely, with the named department that is collating and auditing the tools for quality assurance within the individual organisation, if concerns persist a further decision making tool may need to be completed, mindful to carry forward past concern. Sometimes the pattern of concerns building over time may increase the risk assessment even when the individual factors are at a lower risk level.

Think about language when you are recording information. Children should not be referred to as ‘promiscuous’ streetwise, or ‘prostituting themselves’. Neither do they ‘choose to be’ in a position that makes them vulnerable to CSE. Please help change culture and views by challenging this language if and when you hear it. Use the CSE Quick Guide for useful conversation starters (scroll up and open Resources)