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3.1 Children who are Exploited


HIPS Child Exploitation Strategy

Download the HIPS Child Exploitation Strategy

Here is a short overview of the strategy

HIPS Exploitation Resources for Professionals

These resources have been developed and agreed for use across all four of the HIPS LSCP areas. Professionals should use these tools with any child who is thought to be at risk of or known to be at risk of one or more forms of exploitation.

The full CERAF (Child Exploitation Risk Assessment Framework) is for use by all professionals from all agencies across HIPS (with the exception of health settings listed below). The accompanying guidance has been developed to support professionals in using and completing the CERAF. A CERAF should be completed as soon as potential concerns regarding any form of child exploitation are identified. This may include Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE), Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE), County Lines (CL), Modern Day Slavery (MDS) or child Trafficking concerns. The evidence may follow a missing episode, or increasing occasions of a child missing from school, staying out late, associating with new peers/associates where there may be some concerns or known intelligence of risk. Where possible a CERAF should be completed to inform ongoing referral to Children’s Services.

The CSERQ4 (Child Sexual Exploitation Risk Questionnaire) has been specifically designed for health professionals across the HIPS area who have ‘time limited’ contact with children. The tool should be used to quickly identify children at risk of exploitation. This tool should be used by:

  • Emergency Department staff                                                            
  • Opticians                          
  • Condom distributers   
  • Paramedics/ Ambulance service              
  • Dentists                            
  • GPs / Out of Hours service
  • Pharmacists                                                 
  • 111 Service
  • Urgent Treatment staff 
  • Unscheduled Care providers 

Other resources 

Leicestershire Police have created a video on raising awareness of CCE.

Child Sexual Exploitation


The sexual exploitation of children is defined as:

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. Working Together to Safeguard Children.

See also Child Sexual Exploitation: Definition and Guide for Practitioners (DfE 2017). This advice is non-statutory, and has been produced to help practitioners to identify child sexual exploitation and take appropriate action in response. This advice includes the management, disruption and prosecution of perpetrators.


The following are examples of the types of things children can experiene that might make them more susceptible to child sexual exploitation:

  • Having a prior experience of neglect, physical and/or sexual abuse;
  • Lack of a safe/stable home environment, now or in the past (domestic violence or parental substance misuse, mental health issues or criminality, for example);
  • Recent bereavement or loss;
  • Social isolation or social difficulties;
  • Absence of a safe environment to explore sexuality;
  • Economic vulnerability;
  • Homelessness or insecure accommodation status;
  • Connections with other children and young people who are being sexually exploited;
  • Family members or other connections involved in adult sex work;
  • Having a physical or learning disability;
  • Being in care (particularly those in residential care and those with interrupted care histories); and
  • Sexual identity.

Potential indicators

Children rarely self-report child sexual exploitation so it is important that practitioners are aware of potential indicators of risk, including:

  • Acquisition of money, clothes, mobile phones etc without plausible explanation;
  • Gang-association and/or isolation from peers/social networks;
  • Exclusion or unexplained absences from school, college or work;
  • Leaving home/care without explanation and persistently going missing or returning late;
  • Excessive receipt of texts/phone calls;
  • Returning home under the influence of drugs/alcohol;
  • Inappropriate sexualised behaviour for age/sexually transmitted infections;
  • Evidence of/suspicions of physical or sexual assault;
  • Relationships with controlling or significantly older individuals or groups;
  • Multiple callers (unknown adults or peers);
  • Frequenting areas known for sex work;
  • Concerning use of internet or other social media;
  • Increasing secretiveness around behaviours; and
  • Self-harm or significant changes in emotional well-being.

Practitioners should also remain open to the fact that child sexual exploitation can occur without any of these risk indicators being obviously present. Practitioners should also be alert to the fact that some risk assessments have been constructed around indicators of face-to-face perpetration by adults and may not adequately capture online or peerperpetrated forms of harm. It is also important to remember that risk assessments only capture risk at the point of assessment and that levels of risk vary over time, and that the presence of these indicators may be explained by other forms of vulnerability rather than child sexual exploitation. The first step for practitioners is to be alert to the potential signs of abuse and neglect and to understand the procedures set out by local multi-agency safeguarding arrangements.

Consequences of child sexual exploitation

The long-term consequences of any form of child abuse can be devastating and early identification and providing support as soon as problems emerge is critical. Child sexual exploitation damages children and like any form of abuse it can have longlasting consequences that can impact on every part of a child’s life and their future outcomes. Child sexual exploitation has been shown to affect:

  • Physical (including sexual) and mental health and well-being;
  • Education and training and therefore future employment prospects;
  • Family relationships;
  • Friends and social relationships, current and as adults; and
  • Their relationship with their own children in the future.

How to respond

Where the concerns about the welfare and safety of the child are such that a referral to Children's Social Care should be made the Referrals Procedure must be followed.

Working Together to Safeguard Children requires that following a referral Children's Social Care should ensure that the needs of all children who are being, or who are at risk of being, sexually exploited are assessed and that appropriate multi-agency engagement and interventions are undertaken. The duties under the Children Act 1989 apply to all children under the age of 18 years. Children's Social Care should also be alert to the possibility of sexual exploitation of children who are already in receipt of services.

Further information

Children affected by Gang Activity

The issue of most concern in the HIPS are is children and young people's involvement in the distribution of drugs. This could be through 'County Lines', a term used to explain gangs and organised crime groups from London and other areas using children and young people to traffic drugs. Or, it could mean young people's exploitation by criminal networks local to Hampshire.

It is important for professionals and parents to understand some of the wider behaviours associated with gang membership so they are able to effectively identify any emerging concerns.

Definition of a gang

Being part of a friendship group is a normal part of growing up and it can be common for groups of children and young people to gather together in public places to socialise. Belonging to such a group can form a positive and normal part of young people’s growth and development. These groups should be distinguished from ‘street gangs’ for whom crime and violence are a core part of their identity, although ‘delinquent peer groups’ can also lead to increased antisocial behaviour and youth offending. Although some group gatherings can lead to increased antisocial behaviour and youth offending, these activities should not be confused with the serious violence of a gang. (Safeguarding children and young people who may be affected by gang activity)

Gangs tend to fall into three categories:

  • Organised criminal group − A group of individuals for whom involvement in crime is for personal gain (financial or otherwise). For most, however, crime is their 'occupation'. These groups operate almost exclusively in the grey and illegal marketplace where market transactions are totally unregulated by the law.
  • Gang – Relatively durable group who have a collective identity and meet frequently. They are predominantly street-based groups of young people who see themselves (and are seen by others) as a discernible group for whom crime and violence is integral to the group's identity.
  • Peer group – A relatively small, unorganised and transient group composed of peers who share the same space and a common history. Involvement in crime will be mostly non-serious in nature and not integral to the identity of the group. School children will usually be part of a peer group.

(Hallsworth S and Young T (2004) Getting Real About Gangs. Criminal Justice Matters)

What are the risks?

The particular risks that young people face because of gang involvement differ from area to area. Not every gang is involved in the same activities – there is limited evidence of the use of initiation rituals or transactional sex for example but anecdotally these activities do occur, although prevalence varies across the country.

The statutory guidance, Safeguarding children and young people who may be affected by gang activity, outlines the risks of gang-related activity:

  • Violence and weapons. Young people who are involved in gangs are more likely to suffer harm themselves, through retaliatory violence, displaced retaliation, territorial violence with other gangs or other harm suffered whilst committing a crime. Young people involved in gangs are more likely to possess and use weapons, both knives and guns, than non-gang members.
  • Drugs. Many gang members also deal in drugs as a way to make money, either to fund their own use of drugs or for financial gain in its own right. The use of drugs by gang members again varies from area to area, with some gang members selling drugs but not using them themselves. This again brings gang members into contact with organised crime and can increase the threat of violence and violent situations to which members are exposed. 
  • Female gang members. The majority of gang members are male, although there are a number of female gang members or female gangs. Girls tend to be less willing than boys to identify themselves as gang members but tend to be drawn into male gangs as girlfriends of existing members. In such cases girls are more likely to be marginal, often being used to carry or stash weapons and drugs. It is not known the extent to which girls in gangs are subject to violence or pressure to have sex, although girls may be particularly vulnerable in some contexts.
  • Sexual exploitation. Rape by gang members, as a form of retaliation or as an act of violence in itself, is said to occur quite frequently in some areas and reports to the police are rare due to fear of intimidation or reprisal. Female relatives of gang members could also be at particular risk of either being under pressure to have sex with gang members or of being the victim of sexual violence by another gang.
  • Violent extremism. Experience suggests that young people from their teenage years onwards can be particularly vulnerable to getting involved with radical groups, through direct contact with members or, increasingly, through the Internet. This can put a young person at risk of being drawn in to criminal activity and has the potential to cause significant harm
  • Victims. Often those young people who become offenders in gangs following victimisation have similar risk factors to those who become involved in gangs more generally. Causes of the leap from victimisation to offending can include a retaliative attack on the offender or gang, joining a rival gang to seek revenge, or making friends or joining the offending gang or other gang to seek protection.

Identification and risk factors

The risks associated with gang / group activity include:

  • Child withdrawn from family
  • Sudden loss of interest in school or change in behaviour. Decline in attendance or academic achievement
  • Starting to use new or unknown slang words
  • Holds unexplained money or possessions
  • Stays out unusually late without reason
  • Sudden change in appearance - dressing in a particular style or 'uniform' similar to that of other young people they hang around with, including a particular colour
  • Dropping out of positive activities
  • New nickname
  • Unexplained physical injuries
  • Graffiti style 'tags' on possessions, school books, walls
  • Constantly talking about another young person who seems to have a lot of influence over them
  • Breaking off with old friends and hanging around with one group of people
  • Increased use of social networking sites
  • Starting to adopt certain codes of group behaviour e.g. ways of talking and hand signs
  • Expressing aggressive or intimidating views towards other groups of young people, some of whom may have been friends in the past
  • Scared when entering certain areas
  • Concerned by the presence of unknown youths in their neighbourhoods

Referral and assessment

Any agency or individual practitioner who has concerns that a child may be at risk of harm as a consequence of gang activity including child criminal exploitation should contact Children's Social Care or the police. The Referrals Procedure should be followed. 

If there is a risk to the life of the child or a likelihood of serious significant harm, agencies should secure the immediate safety of the child. Agencies with statutory child protection powers (local authorities, the police and the NSPCC) should act quickly to safeguard the child from immediate harm. Where there is a risk to the life of a child or the likelihood of significant harm, emergency action might be necessary to secure their immediate safety. 

Risk of harm to practitioners

Practitioners should be aware of any potential threats to a social worker’s safety during interaction with a child before, or during, the undertaking of enquiries under section 47 of the Children Act 1989 and should make a decision on the suitability of a home visit. It may be more appropriate to interview the child and/or parents and carers in a neutral setting.

The risk of harm may also exist for other practitioners, who may be visiting a household without knowledge of the gang context, or to follow up concerns about a child’s involvement in gangs. Information-sharing about high-risk families and individuals (such as those who carry lethal weapons) should be considered across all agencies that might have interaction with that individual, such as health, children’s social care and the police.

Further information

Children from Abroad, Modern Slavery, Trafficking and Exploitation

This procedure is concerned with children arriving into the UK:

  • in the care of adults who, whilst they may be their carers, have no parental responsibility for them
  • in the care of adults who have no documents to demonstrate a relationship with the child
  • alone
  • in the care of agents.

Unaccompanied migrant children and child victims of modern slavery, including trafficking, can be some of the most vulnerable children in the country.

Unaccompanied children are alone, in an unfamiliar country and may be surrounded by people unable to speak their first language. Modern slavery includes human trafficking, slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour.

Exploitation takes a number of forms, including sexual exploitation, forced labour, forced criminality, begging, organ harvesting and domestic servitude and victims may come from all walks of life.

Contextual safeguarding

As well as threats to the welfare of children from within their families, children may be vulnerable to abuse or exploitation from outside their families. These extra-familial threats might arise at school and other educational establishments, from within peer groups, or more widely from within the wider community and/or online. These threats can take a variety of different forms and children can be vulnerable to multiple threats, including: exploitation by criminal gangs and organised crime groups such as county lines; trafficking, online abuse; sexual exploitation and the influences of extremism leading to radicalisation. Extremist groups make use of the internet to radicalise and recruit and to promote extremist materials. Any potential harmful effects to individuals identified as vulnerable to extremist ideologies or being drawn into terrorism should also be considered.

Assessments of children in such cases should consider whether wider environmental factors are present in a child’s life and are a threat to their safety and/or welfare. Children who may be alleged perpetrators should also be assessed to understand the impact of contextual issues on their safety and welfare. Interventions should focus on addressing these wider environmental factors, which are likely to be a threat to the safety and welfare of a number of different children who may or may not be known to local authority children’s social care. Assessments of children in such cases should consider the individual needs and vulnerabilities of each child. They should look at the parental capacity to support the child, including helping the parents and carers to understand any risks and support them to keep children safe and assess potential risk to child.

National Referral Mechanism (NRM)

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

Modern slavery is a term that covers:

  • slavery
  • servitude and forced or compulsory labour
  • human trafficking

From 31 July 2015, potential victims of slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour in England and Wales recognised with a positive reasonable grounds decision may also have access to support previously only offered to potential victims of human trafficking. The child's details should be provided using the forms available on the National Referral Mechanism website.

Identifying children who are victims of modern slavery

Modern slavery includes human trafficking, slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour. Exploitation takes a number of forms, including sexual exploitation, forced labour, forced criminality, begging, organ harvesting and domestic servitude and victims may come from all walks of life.

There is a statutory duty on local authorities, under section 52 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, to notify the Secretary of State, through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), where there are reasonable grounds to believe that an individual may be a victim of modern slavery or trafficking. Potential child victims of modern slavery, including trafficking, must be referred as soon as practicable to the NRM by a first responder and assessed by a competent authority (a trained decision maker) within the UK. Having been assessed, children will be issued with a positive reasonable grounds decision indicating they are considered to be a potential victim of modern slavery or a negative reasonable grounds decision determining there are no reasonable grounds to believe they are a victim of modern slavery. 

Further information

This page is correct as printed on Tuesday 19th of October 2021 07:14:11 PM please refer back to this website ( for updates.