What is Child Exploitation?

Child Exploitation is an umbrella term for the abuse and crimes against children.  This can take the following forms:

  • Child Sexual Exploitation
  • Child Criminal Exploitation, including County Lines
  • Peer on Peer Abuse
  • Online grooming and abuse
  • Radicalisation
  • Modern Slavery and Trafficking for the purpose of Child Exploitation

In all forms of exploitation it can sometimes appear to the untrained eye that the child or young person is complicit in their abuse.  Professionals should be actively reflecting on the language that they use, as it will impact on their interventions and their ability to engage the child / young person and their family.  A child who is exploited is not making a ‘lifestyle choice’, ‘putting themselves at risk’, or ‘engaging in risk taking behaviours’.  It is our job to identify that they are being exploited and navigating harmful environments.

It is crucial that we look at what the perpetrator(s) is gaining from the child’s exploitation and also what the child appears to gain.  This exchange could also be the ‘absence of a negative’ and this may mean that the child or young person performs an act to prevent something from happening, such as the assault of a friend / family member.

When thinking about the choices that a young person is making, please consider the fact that their choice will be constrained, ie there is a power imbalance, and a child may feel unsafe to leave the location that we feel is unsafe.

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.
What is Modern Slavery?

“Modern Slavery is a serious and often hidden crime in which people are exploited for criminal gain. The impact can be devastating for the victims. Modern slavery comprises slavery, servitude, forced and compulsory labour and human trafficking.” (Home Office, 2019)

What is Trafficking?

Recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons.

By means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person; (where a child is involved, the above means are irrelevant).

For the purposes of exploitation, which includes (but is not exhaustive):

  • Prostitution (Adult’s only)
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Forced labour
  • Slavery (or similar)
  • Servitude etc.
  • Removal of organs

Harmful Sexual Behaviour 

If you’re unsure about whether the sexual behaviour of a child or young person is healthy, Brook provide a helpful, easy to use traffic light tool. The traffic light system is used to describe healthy (green) sexual behaviours, potentially unhealthy (amber) sexual behaviours and unhealthy (red) sexual behaviours.

The tool suggests what kind of attention and response you should give to each type of behaviour. And it suggests what kind of help might be necessary to ensure the child’s safety. The tool can be used by parents and professionals.


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.



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 Tools

Child Exploitation Initial Screening Tool, updated May 2018

Child Exploitation Analysis and Decision Making Tool, updated May 2018

Somerset have a shared response across agencies as to how we identify and assess risk and vulnerability in relation to a Child’s experience of Exploitation.

The first document is an initial screening tool, which helps you to consider the known risks and vulnerabilities identified in Child Exploitation. It will also support you to find out more information that may be missing from your knowledge of the child/ young person’s current situation.

The second tool is designed to support your analysis and decision making and help you to decide what response the young person requires from the various children’s services in Somerset.

These documents are not limited to Child Sexual Exploitation and should also support you to identify child criminal exploitation. These documents should be informed by multiple sources and include the voice of the child. These tools should not ‘screen out’ children, for example, if there is only one element of risk identified in the screening tool, but it is highly significant, please continue to use your professional judgement and work in line with Somerset’s Child Protection Procedures, use the guidance in the effective support document and contact the police in an emergency. Please discuss your assessment with your Child Exploitation Champion/ Designated Safeguarding Lead.

What is good practice?

‘Professionals should draw on evidence and research as well as support from their supervisors/managers, apply professional judgement and be supported to critically

reflect on the information gathered. Above all, professionals should listen to children and young people and strive to see the world through their eyes, while recognising that the child or young person’s perception may be clouded by the abusive nature of their experience.’

(Beckett, Holmes and Walker 29:2017)

When completing your screening and analysis of exploitation, you should be considering the following:

  1. What does this young person need?
  2. What does this young person need me to think about?
  3. What does this young person need me to do?
  4. How will I know risks are reducing?
  5. What support do I need?