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Caption: main heading

4.4.1 Children and Young People at Risk of Sexual Exploitation


  1. Introduction
  2. Aim of this Guidance
  3. Principles
  4. Understanding Sexual Exploitation
  5. Vulnerability and Risk Factors
  6. Risks to Sexually Exploited Young People
  7. The Complex Safeguarding Team
  8. The Police
  9. The Legislative Framework
  10. Bolton’s Framework for Action Assessment and Intervention
  11. Admission to Local Authority Accommodation
  12. Looked After Children
  13. Advice and Guidance for all Professionals

    Appendix 1: Practice Guidance for Staff and Carers Responding to Children and Young People at Risk of Sexual Exploitation

    Appendix 2: RUNA: Remember You are Not Alone

    Appendix 3: Key Contacts

1. Introduction

Caption: table Introduction
1.1 Sexual Exploitation of children / young people (defined as anyone under age of 18) is a criminal act which causes trauma to the victim and can have lifelong consequences for the child / young person and their family. All sexually exploited children are Children in Need of Services under the Children Act 1989. They are also children in need of safeguarding. Bolton Framework for Action should be used in all cases where sexual exploitation is suspected including appropriate use of Child Protection Procedure as defined in this Guidance.

2. Aim of this Guidance

Caption: table Aim of this guidance
2.1 This, Bolton’s Children and Young People at Risk of Sexual Exploitation Guidance, sets out how all agencies should work together to address the needs of children and young people identified as ‘at risk of’, or being, sexually exploited. All reference in this guidance to children or young people refers to those under the age of 18 as defined in the Children Act 1989 and 2004. This guidance therefore applies to all children and young people up to the age of 18, both male and female.
2.2 The fact that a child has reached the age of 16 or is living independently does not change their status or entitlement to services or protection under the Children Act 1989.

This guidance aims to aid the implementation of positive prevention, protection and re-integration strategies for children abused through exploitation by:

  • Early identification of potential risk or actual abuse through sexual exploitation;
  • Prompt consistent and effective responses from all services;
  • Working in partnership with other agencies and exchanging information to ensure pro-active approach to disruption and prosecution of coercers / abusers and others who conspire to sexually exploit young people.

The Guidance provides a framework for professionals to:

  • Gain an understanding of sexual exploitation;
  • Assess levels of vulnerability and risk to make informed decisions;
  • Ensure early assessment and intervention;
  • Safeguard the child or young person and promote their welfare;
  • Ensure joint multi-agency working to prevent abuse and provide children and young people with opportunities and strategies to recover from sexual exploitation;
  • Formalise the exchange of information and working arrangements between Children’s Services, the Police and relevant agencies working with children and young people where they are at risk of sexual exploitation;
  • Aid investigations into individuals who sexually exploit, abuse or procure children and young people for sexual purposes and control that activity.

3. Principles

Caption: table Principles

This policy adheres to the following principle:

  • It should be a fundamental working assumption of all staff and managers that sexual activity between an adult and a child under the legal age of consent is non-consensual and unlawful.
3.2 A young person under 18 years engaged in sexual activity with an adult will be treated primarily as the victim of abuse. Issues of coercion, intimidation or manipulation should be considered thoroughly as part of any intervention.
3.3 A multi-agency assessment of need should be undertaken to determine a plan for the provision of appropriate services and / or protection.
3.4 The welfare of the child of young person will always be the paramount importance.
3.5 All agencies in Bolton have a zero tolerance policy to sexual exploitation and will work pro-actively to eradicate sexual exploitation of children and young people.
3.6 Bolton’s Framework for Action shall be used throughout by all services at all levels of vulnerability to identify and respond to sexual exploitation.
3.7 It is essential that all agencies work together to protect and promote the welfare of children and young people by reducing their vulnerability; improving their resilience, disrupting and preventing the activities of perpetrators.
3.8 The criminal process will concentrate on disrupting and where possible prosecuting those who are suspected of procuring and controlling sexual exploitation of children and young people.

4. Understanding Sexual Exploitation

Caption: table Understanding Sexual Exploitation

The National Working Group on Sexual Exploitation has developed the following definition:

DfE Child sexual exploitation: definition and guide for practitioners (2017) defines child sexual exploitation 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.

What to do if you're worried a child is being abused (DfE) - gives clear legal information:

  • A child under the age of 13 is not legally capable of consenting to sex, (it is statutory rape), or any other type of sexual touching;
  • Sexual activities with a child under 16 is also an offence;
  • It is an offence for a person to have a sexual relationship with a 16 or 17 year old if they hold a position of trust or authority in relation to them;
  • Where sexual activity with a 16 or 17 year old does not result in an offence being committed, it may still result in harm or the likelihood of harm being suffered;
  • Non-consensual sex is rape whatever the age of the victim;
  • If the victim is incapacitated through drink or drugs, or the victim or his or her family has been subject to violence or threat of it, they cannot be considered to have given consent and therefore offences may have been committed.
4.3 The growth of the internet and in particular social media which are popular among children / young people creates opportunity of on-line grooming and there is an increased awareness about the need to keep children safe on line and to prevent perpetrators drawing the child / young person away from home and safety networks.
4.4 Perpetrators of sexual exploitation can be male or female. They can act alone or in groups. Victims can be male or female, from any ethnicity, able or disabled, living at home with their family, in local authority care, moving from friend to friend for accommodation or homeless.
4.5 It is known that children / young people have been trafficked into the country to be sexually exploited. Some children / young people born in Britain have been trafficked between towns specifically for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Practitioners should be alert to this possibility.
4.6 The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee - Child Sexual Exploitation and the ‘Responses to Localised Grooming (6 June 2013) states: ‘we caution against focusing just on one particular model of child sexual exploitation. We have heard evidence that models vary within and between different types of child sexual exploitation’. (p70)
4.7 On the matter of ethnicity the report states: ‘there is no simple link between race and child sexual exploitation. It is a vile crime which is perpetrated by a small number of individuals, and abhorred by the vast majority, from every ethnic group. However, evidence presented to us suggests that there is a model of localised grooming of Pakistani-heritage men targeting young White girls’. (p57)

The complexity of identifying and responding to each individual case is significantly increased when groups of abuser’s operate together. Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) ‘Out of Mind, Out of Sight’ (June 2011) notes:

‘Sexual exploitation demands a multi-faced response; victims may be identified by a number of different agencies including specialist services providers in the community and voluntary sector, children’s services and police forces. Each agency is likely to possess varying intelligence on individual cases and the wider picture of child sexual exploitation within the region, and each agency provides a particular aspect of the wider response to child exploitation from the:

  • Investigation and prosecution;
  • Dispensation of therapeutic services for victims.
It is therefore essential that these agencies are able to come together to share information and intelligence, and to response to individual cases. No one agency can deliver a complete response. By working together outcomes for victims are improved’.

5. Vulnerability and Risk Factors

Caption: vulnerability and risk factors

Professionals should maintain an open mind when considering whether a child / young person is being exploited, using skill and judgement to make informed decisions. However research shows that young people are more vulnerable to sexual exploitation where any of the following factors are present:

  • Going missing regularly / frequently;
  • Family breakdown;
  • Not in full time education;
  • Associating with older people;
  • Domestic violence within the family;
  • Family involvement in sexual exploitation;
  • Parents with high level of vulnerabilities including drug / alcohol, mental health issues;
  • Children with substance misuse or mental health issues;
  • Experience of physical abuse and emotional deprivation;
  • Experience of child sexual abuse;
  • Experience of being bullied in school;
  • Looked after children in residential care;
  • Involved in the criminal justice service.

Possible personal and behavioural indicators to consider when concerned about a child being at risk of or experiencing sexual exploitation:

  • Physical symptoms e.g.: bruising suggestive of either physical or sexual assault; sexually transmitted infections;
  • Possession of large amounts of money, acquisition of expensive clothes, mobile phones or other possessions without plausible explanation;
  • Low self-image, low self-esteem, self-harming behaviour, cutting, overdosing, eating disorder;
  • Accounts of social activities with no plausible explanation of the source of necessary funding.

The above lists are not exhaustive and need to be considered alongside information gathered within an assessment, including situational indicators:

  • Reports the child / young person has been seen in places known to be used for sexual exploitation;
  • Phone calls or letters from adults outside the usual range of social contacts;
  • Adults loitering outside the child’s usual place of residence;
  • Persistently missing, staying out overnight or returning late with no plausible explanation;
  • Returning after having been missing, looking well cared for in spite of having no known home base;
  • Missing for long periods, with no known home base;
  • Going missing and being found in areas where the child or young person has no known links;
  • Entering or leaving vehicles driven by unknown adults.
5.4 Children / young people being drawn into or being sexually exploited are sexually, physically and emotionally at risk of suffering or likelihood of suffering significant harm, in the short and long term; they may never overcome the trauma of what they will / have been subjected to. Professionals need to develop fully an understanding that these children / young people do not make informed choices to enter or remain in sexual exploitation but do so from coercion, enticement, manipulation or desperation because they can see no alternative.
5.5 All children and young people at risk of or who are being sexually exploited are in need of Services under the Children Act 1989 and within Bolton’s Framework for Action. Staff in all agencies, and in particular health professionals, school staff, Stay Safe staff and youth workers are in a key position to identify these young people. Staff must take action to safeguard and to ensure that they are supported to achieve a lifestyle appropriate to their age and stage of development.

6. Risks to Sexually Exploited Young People

Caption: Risks to Sexually Exploited Young People

There are significant risks to young people associated with being sexually exploited; these can be outlined as follows:

  • Children abused through sexual exploitation face immense risks to their physical, emotional and psychological health. The environment in which child sexual exploitation takes place may have close links with criminal behaviour, drug and alcohol misuse and violence. Children drawn into this kind of sexual abuse therefore become exposed to these added risks;
  • Sexually exploited children and young people also become more vulnerable to other violent acts such as rape, physical and sexual assaults, coercion into pornography or prostitution. There has been a higher incidence of murder associated with prostitution than is the case in the general population;
  • The individual’s physical health is placed at risk through the increased likelihood of contracting sexually transmitted infections including HIV and AIDS;
  • Other risk factors are common to child sexual abuse generally and can include physical injuries, non-school attendance and / or underachievement, depression, self-mutilation and attempted or completed suicide;
  • The risks to children from abuse through sexual exploitation can be extremely high, sometimes life threatening and therefore, must be considered as a child protection issue.
6.2 In order to aid practitioners to assess the level of concern it is useful to consider, alongside issues outlined above the attached Sexual Exploitation Indicator Tool.

7. The Complex Safeguarding Team

Caption: the exit team

Bolton SCP recognises the importance of a dedicated response in meeting the needs of children and young people at risk of sexual exploitation. As such they have invested in establishing a team dedicated to working with this vulnerable group since 2009, and has been known as the EXIT Team. In December 2013, the existing Children's Services staff joined with officers from Greater Manchester Police under the Greater Manchester Safeguarding Partnership Project Phoenix. The Team offers a Multi-Agency Co-located approach to dealing with the problems of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) in the Bolton Area. The services has now been restructured and become the Complex Safeguarding Team (CST) and have expanded it role in also working with CCE and a hub of professionals who work together to address exploitations. Supplemental Guidance is available explaining how the service works to facilitate meeting the expectations and standards as defined in this chapter. See also: How the Complex Safeguarding Hub Works in Bolton.

The Team allows for increased prosecutions of perpetrators, enforcement, investigation and disruption of CSE related activity, and more effective intelligence gathering from a shared knowledge base.

The Team is co-located at Scholey Street Police Station, Bolton with access to Achieving Best Evidence interview facilities.


The Complex Safeguarding Team play a central role in working with children and young people as well as the central point for the collation of information relating to sexual exploitation, The Complex Safeguarding Team should be informed of any young person considered to be sexually exploited and any adult considered to be a risk to young people, in regard to sexual exploitation.

7.3 The Team, alongside partner agencies aims to prevent sexual exploitation and to help to protect Bolton’s children and young people from sexual exploitation and to assist in the disruption and prosecution of adults who seek to abuse children and young people through sexual exploitation.
7.4 The Complex Safeguarding Team is a key resource in assisting in the identification, assessment and planning for children and young people referred. However, it requires the focused efforts of all agencies involved to help safeguard and act against those who seek to exploit them. Early intervention is essential to prevent escalation of harm, it is vital therefore that all agencies support staff to intervene to reduce risk factors and boost protective factors long before a young person can be identified as being exploited.
7.5 Complex Safeguarding Team will offer advice and guidance to professionals in the child in need arena to assess, support and protect young people who are identified as at risk of sexual exploitation. The Team do not work with young people engaging in unhealthy or inappropriate relationships unless there are risk factors indicating this is sexual exploitation.
7.6 The Complex Safeguarding Team will offer also advice and guidance in relation to child exploitation to targeted groups such as parents or carers, the Police, the Judiciary, Schools, Youth and Community groups.
7.7 The Complex Safeguarding Team will work alongside an allocated Social Worker to assess and intervene where there is evidence or suspicion of sexual exploitation. It remains the allocated social workers responsibility to ensure risk factors within the wider family are addressed enhancing any focused Complex Safeguarding Team intervention with an individual young person. Our experience in Bolton shows that a robust social work plan with the Complex Safeguarding Team can work specifically with the victim of exploitation and co-ordinate any required Police response resulting in positive outcomes for the young person.
7.8 The Complex Safeguarding Team offer a speedy sexual health service to young people referred, who may otherwise be ‘hard to reach’. Sexual and wider health assessments are co-ordinated by a designated specialist workers in the Complex Safeguarding Team via the Parallel Sexual Health Service. This integrated ‘easy access’ often acts as a conduit to engagement with the wider team.

8. The Police

Caption: the police
8.1 The close working relationships between Social Care Staff and the Police making up the Complex Safeguarding Team will be crucial to the successful prevention of sexual exploitation the protection of children and young people and the prosecution of those seeking to exploit.
8.2 As investigators of criminal activity the Police will have a key role in working with Children’s Services and others to ensure effective protection of children and young people.
8.3 Children’s Services and Complex Safeguarding Team will share information that will assist police investigations. This may enable the prosecution of those who encourage and control child sexual exploitation or abuse children and young people.
8.4 The Police data will help inform a response to any child reported missing from home, recognising this as a risk factor for sexual exploitation.
8.5 The Police will act as lead agency in regard to activity aimed at the disruption and prosecution of offenders but will do so supported by a foundation of shared intelligence and expertise from key Partners.
8.6 With Police and Social Care staff as part of the Complex Safeguarding Team there is a co-ordinated service which ensures a timely and effective response to the disruption and prosecution of those who attempt to sexually exploit young people.

9. The Legislative Framework

Caption: legislative framework table
9.1 The Sexual Offences Act 2003 aims to protect the safety and rights of young people and to make it easier to prosecute people who pressure or force others into having sex they don’t want or cannot give informed consent to.
9.2 The Act also covers offences relating to prostitution, child pornography, and trafficking. Part 2 of the Act contains measures for protecting the public from sexual harm with previous legislation being combined into a new civil preventative order. See also Serious Crime Act (2015) and Sexual Harm Prevention Orders and Sexual Risk Orders.
9.3 Serious Crime Act (2015): an offence of sexual communication with a child was introduced. This applies to an adult who communicates with a child and the communication is sexual or if it is intended to elicit from the child a communication which is sexual and the adult reasonably believes the child to be under 16 years of age. The Act also amended the Sex Offences Act 2003 so it is now an offence for an adult to arrange to meet with someone under 16 having communicated with them on just one occasion (previously it was on at least two occasions).
9.4 The Child Abduction Act 1984 makes it a criminal offence for anyone connected with a child under the age of sixteen to take or send that child out of the United Kingdom without appropriate consent.
9.5 Although the age of consent remains at 16, it is not intended that the law should be used to prosecute mutually agreed teenage sexual activity between two young people of similar age, unless it involves abuse or exploitation.
9.6 Young People Under the Age of 13 years. In all cases where the sexually active young person is under 13 years there must be a referral made to Social Care and considered by the the MASSS (R& Tel: 01204 331 500 for consideration as to whether there is evidence of sexual exploitation or not. In such cases disclosure of the personal details of both parties should be shared.

Young People Between 13 up to 16 years. The Sexual Offences Act 2003 reinforces that, whilst mutually agreed, non-exploitative sexual activity between teenagers does take place and that often no harm comes of it, the age of consent should still remain at 16. This acknowledges that this group of young people are vulnerable, even when they do not view themselves as such. Sexually active young people in this age group where there are additional concerns will require their needs assessed using this protocol. Discussion with Children’s Services is not mandatory and will depend on the level of need assessed by those working with the young person. The same considerations as to making a criminal complaint apply as set out above. The difference in process is explained by acknowledging that whilst sexual activity under 16 remains illegal, sexual activity may occur as part of exploration, personal development, understanding relationships and identity. However, due to their stage in development young people can be particularly vulnerable.

9.8 Young people between 16 - 18 years. Although consensual sexual activity itself is not an offence between young persons over the age of 16, it is an offence to pay for the services, or cause or incite a young person, under the age of 18 years, into prostitution (Sections 47, 48, 49 and 50 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003). Young people, under the age of 18, are also offered the protection of Child Protection Procedures under the Children Act 1989. Young people, of course, can still be subject to offences of rape and assault and the circumstances of an incident may need to be explored with a young person.
9.9 Young people over the age of 16 yet under the age of 18 are not deemed able to give consent if the sexual activity is with an adult in a position of trust or a family member as defined by the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
9.10 Any girl, either under or over the age of 13, who is pregnant, should be offered specialist support and guidance by the relevant services. These services will also be a part of the assessment of the girl’s circumstances.

In order to determine whether the relationship presents a risk to the young person, the following factors should be considered:

  • Whether the young person is competent to understand, and consent to, the sexual activity they are involved in;
  • The nature of the relationship between those involved, particularly if there are issues of power imbalances as outlined above;
  • Whether overt aggression, threats, coercion or bribery was involved including misuse of substances as a dis-inhibitor;
  • Whether the young person’s own behaviour, for example through misuse of substances, places them in a position where they are unable to make an informed choice about the activity. Note this can render an otherwise assertive young person vulnerable to exploitation;
  • Any attempts to secure secrecy by the sexual partner beyond what would be considered usual in a teenage relationship. Consider the young person’s relationships with family and friends, have they deteriorated since meeting this partner? Does the young person have a healthy support network?
  • Whether the sexual partner is known by agencies as having other concerning relationships with similar young people. Consider if there is a pattern emerging?
  • Whether methods used to secure compliance and / or secrecy by the sexual partner are consistent with behaviours considered to be ‘grooming’ as per sexual exploitation. Note the young person may state the relationship is consensual but may not see actions taken as grooming or manipulation. Practitioners should therefore still attempt to explore the relationship in order to understand if they are exploited.
9.12 There is a range of offences to tackle exploitation of sexually exploited young people, relating to coercion, procuring, running a brothel or living on immoral earnings. Additionally, there are other offences relating to Sexual Abuse, Physical Abuse and Emotional Abuse of children. Whilst the most serious charges that can be brought should always be used, lesser charges should be considered if it is the only course of action to safeguard the young person.
9.13 Offences relating to the sexual exploitation of young people may involve other offences such as abduction, trafficking, kidnapping, drug offences, gang related sexual activity, tax evasion or social security fraud.
9.14 In dealing with children abused through sexual exploitation the emphasis should be on preventing their entry into exploitation including selling sex, to protect them from further abuse and to support them out of exploitative circumstances.


Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme


The Child Sex Offender Review (CSOR) Disclosure Scheme is designed to provide members of the public with a formal mechanism to ask for disclosure about people they are concerned about, who have unsupervised access to children and may therefore pose a risk. This scheme builds on existing, well established third-party disclosures that operate under the Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA).

Police will reveal details confidentially to the person most able to protect the child (usually parents, carers or guardians) if they think it is in the child’s interests.

The scheme has been operating in all 43 police areas in England and Wales since 2010. The scheme is managed by the Police and information can only be accessed through direct application to them.

If a disclosure is made, the information must be kept confidential and only used to keep the child in question safe. Legal action may be taken if confidentiality is breached. A disclosure is delivered in person (as opposed to in writing) with the following warning:

  • 'That the information must only be used for the purpose for which it has been shared i.e. in order to safeguard children;
  • The person to whom the disclosure is made will be asked to sign an undertaking that they agree that the information is confidential and they will not disclose this information further;
  • A warning should be given that legal proceedings could result if this confidentiality is breached. This should be explained to the person and they must sign the undertaking’ (Home Office, 2011, p16).
If the person is unwilling to sign the undertaking, the police must consider whether the disclosure should still take place.


Sexual Harm Prevention Orders and Sexual Risk Orders


These orders were introduced by the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. They replace the previous Sexual Offences Prevention Order, Risk of Sexual Harm Orders and Foreign Travel Orders which were introduced by the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

The court needs to be satisfied that the order is necessary for protecting the public, or any particular members of the public, from sexual harm from the defendant; or protecting children or vulnerable adults generally, or any particular children or vulnerable adults, from sexual harm from the defendant outside the United Kingdom.

The Orders prohibit the defendant from doing anything described in the order, and can include a prohibition on foreign travel (replacing Foreign Travel Orders which were introduced by the Sexual Offences Act 2003).

Failure to comply with a requirement imposed under an Order is an offence punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment.

Sexual Harm Prevention Orders

Sexual Harm Prevention Orders can be applied to anyone convicted or cautioned of a sexual or violent offence, including where offences are committed overseas. They replace the previous Sexual Offences Prevention Orders.

A prohibition contained in a Sexual Harm Prevention Order has effect for a fixed period, specified in the order, of at least 5 years, or until further order. The Order may specify different periods for different prohibitions.

Sexual Risk Orders

Sexual Risk Orders can be made where a person has done an act of a sexual nature as a result of which there is reasonable cause to believe that it is necessary for such an order to be made, even if they have never been convicted. They replace the previous Risk of Sexual Harm Orders.

A prohibition contained in a Sexual Risk Order has effect for a fixed period, specified in the order, of not less than 2 years, or until further order. The Order may specify different periods for different prohibitions.

10. Bolton’s Framework for Action Assessment and Intervention

Caption: boltons framework for assessment and intervention
10.1 All children and young people who are considered to be at risk of sexual exploitation will be deemed a Child in Need and an assessment of their needs will be undertaken using the Early Help Assessment.
10.2 It is the responsibility of any practitioner recognising a young person is at risk of sexual exploitation to proactively address the concerns with the young person, their parent or carer and other professionals involved.
10.3 Bolton’s Framework for Action must be adhered to in all situations where a young person is identified as at risk of or being sexually exploited. Services working at all levels of vulnerability should contribute to an assessment utilising the Early Help Assessment and identifying a Lead Professional. At lower levels of vulnerability this will not necessarily require a social worker.
10.4 Early identification of child sexual exploitation is crucial in preventing an escalation of risk. Some young people may be vulnerable in many ways but be diverted from the risk of sexual exploitation by timely and focused child action interventions.
10.5 Where exploitation is felt to be present and under the framework has been accepted as a Child in Need, all services are responsible for participating in multi-agency Child in Need Meetings where required and should ensure there is a Young Person’s Action Plan arising from this meeting which is reviewed regularly.

The information collated from a Child and Family Action assessment alongside use of the CSE Risk Indicator Tool should include an analysis of the child / young person’s abuse through exploitation. Please note any Child Action Plan in relation to sexual exploitation should include:

  • Assessment of risks to the young person;
  • Actions to meet the identified needs of the young person and reduce risks;
  • Key tasks allocated to specific individuals (who will do what and when);
  • Specific outcomes indicating activity has reduced risks and safeguarded the young person.
10.7 Where there have been concerns, agencies should continue to work together to support the young person using the Framework for Action guidance to plan and review progress until such time that the young person is considered safeguarded. Consultation with the Complex Safeguarding Team is available.
10.8 Evidence indicating suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm or the need for a formal child protection response must be referred to the MASSS. In the case of immediate danger the Police should be called straight away or if concerns come to light out of office hours the Emergency Duty Team should be contacted.
10.9 A child or young person accepted for a service by the Complex Safeguarding Team will be subject to a specialist assessment for exploited children and young people which will inform and understanding of the risks and will be discussed with the Social Worker resulting in the Plan and intervention recommended updated. The assessment tool will be updated every 12 weeks or following a significant incident.
10.10 Once sexual exploitation has been identified as a specific risk for a young person an appropriate response must be activated using either Child in Need or Child Protection procedures depending on the level of need. Any decisions regarding the level of response arising from a social work assessment must be recorded on the child’s file with clear analysis showing the reasons why such action was agreed.
10.11 The assessing social worker is responsible for the assessment of the whole family circumstances, If involved, the Complex Safeguarding Team staff will co-work the assessment and intervention with a focus on the individual young person considered at risk of exploitation.
10.12 The assessing social worker should, before closing a child sexual exploitation referral as not requiring on-going social work intervention, ensure that an effective Early Help Plan is in place, if required, specifically addressing the sexual exploitation factors and a Lead Professional is named.
10.13 If the level of suffering or likelihood of suffering significant harm or complexity of the situation indicates the need for a Strategy Meeting to address child protection issues arising from sexual exploitation, this should be called and the Complex Safeguarding Team Manager should be called to request whether a participant from the CST can attend. Police will themselves also refer to the Police in the Complex Safeguarding Team.
10.14 The Strategy Meeting should include as a minimum: the Police, a Complex Safeguarding Team representative and the investigating Social Worker. Information should be sought from any other relevant agency or service to ensure a thorough analysis of the situation and to plan an effective Child Sexual Exploitation Specific Safeguarding Plan. This should include any Police activity required.
10.15 ‘All multi-agency partners should follow the guidance set out in Working Together, for example taking part in strategy discussion and child protection conferences.’
DfE Child sexual exploitation: definition and guide for practitioners (2017)

Factors to be considered in determining the need for a Child Protection Conference should include:

  • The age of the child or young person;
  • Whether a person in parent / carer position is involved in the abuse, in particular whether a parent is knowingly failing to protect the young person or actively encouraging sexual exploitation;
  • Whether the evidence suggests a young person is in need of a formal multi-agency safeguarding plan;
  • Assessment of the child / young person’s co-operation. Older young people may respond adversely to being the subject to child protection procedures but cooperate with a Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Specific Safeguarding Plan;
  • The use of legislation is required to protect the young person and or disrupt the behaviour of the perpetrator.
10.17 Where there are multi-faceted, complex situations involving children or young people across all areas of Bolton or across Local Authorities the Staying Safe Head of Service should chair the Strategy Meeting to ensure a co-ordinated and consistent response from all services areas.
10.18 Children subject to a Child Protection Conference should have a specific CSE Specific Safeguarding Plan. This may only be required for one individual child within a family as a significant risk factor to be considered. The CSE Specific Safeguarding Plan should be reviewed by the Independent Reviewing Officer with the relevant members of the Core Group.

11. Admission to Local Authority Accommodation

Caption: Admission to local authority Accommodation

The available practice evidence suggests that admission to Local Authority accommodation is unlikely, on its own, to break an established pattern of swapping or selling sex. Indeed for some young people living in Local Authority accommodation may exacerbate the risk factors. However, when considering the need to accommodate, the following additional factors should be taken into account:

  • The length of time the child / young person has been abused through sexual exploitation;
  • The frequency of the abuse;
  • The evidence that protection cannot be provided by other means;
  • The child / young person’s perception of accommodation as a means to keep them safe;
  • The resources available, the likely effect on other residents of the admission, and the likely response of the residents to the child / young person;
  • Level of substance misuse, self-harm and mental health needs;
  • Potential risks / threats to the young person from coercers / exploiters / associates.
11.2 If a young person aged 16 - 18 years is subject to sexual exploitation or at risk and they are homeless or otherwise have no suitable accommodation, assistance can be provided under the Council’s Protocol for Working with Young People (16/17 year olds) presenting as Homeless Between Children's Services (Leaving Care Team) and Community Housing Services (Homeless Welfare). The protocol provides for a joint approach between Children Services and Community Housing Services Homeless Welfare teams. Following assessment it may be appropriate to provide temporary and supported accommodation and assistance or to secure longer term accommodation as necessary.
11.3 Whilst a young person is placed away from home robust and focused efforts should be made to disrupt the activity of anyone seeking to exploit them and to secure family relationships so that successful reintegration is possible.

12. Looked After Children

Caption: looked after children
12.1 The role of carers will be vitally important to the success of any intervention in regard to sexual exploitation and should, therefore be aware of this guidance and the Joint Protocol for Children and Young People Missing from Home and Care.
12.2 All looked after children and young people must have an up to date Looked After Young Person Care Plan. For those at risk of sexual exploitation the Care Plan should specifically address the issue of sexual exploitation aimed at reducing risk and boosting protective factors. This aspect of the young person Care Plan should be reviewed by the Independent Reviewing Officer and Team Managers to ensure robust activity aimed at improving the life circumstances of the young person.
12.3 Regulation 33 Visits and management audits should include oversight of looked after children’s care plans relating to child sexual exploitation.
12.4 Social Workers, Residential staff and foster carers should ensure they are aware of and understand the issues pertinent to the wellbeing of looked after children being sexually exploited.

13. Advice and Guidance for all Professionals

Caption: advice and guidance for all professionals
13.1 When a child / young person is identified by a member of staff as being at risk of abuse through sexual exploitation, but they are unsure of their judgement or the evidence collated, the member of staff should in the first instance consult with their own manager.
13.2 If, following discussion with a manager, it is deemed necessary for Children’s Staying Safe to become involved in the assessment of need, contact should be made to the MASSS d by the agency raising the concern and this referral will be followed with a CAF, which has been completed as part of the collation of information and discussion with the parent and where possible the young person.

The Referral and Assessment Team will collate further information to inform their decision using the Children and Family Assessment and record their analysis. The Referral and Assessment Team may advise there is no further Social Work intervention required the referring agency will be advised with advice and guidance if required.

13.4 If advice and guidance is required at lower levels of vulnerability the Complex Safeguarding Team will offer support to Lead Professionals in undertaking a risk assessment, collation of appropriate information and appropriate interventions.
13.5 If the outcome of a social work assessment confirms the child sexual exploitation concern the allocated Social Worker will work co-operatively with the Complex Safeguarding Team and other services to complete a focused analysis of the family and young person’s circumstances to inform further intervention.

Appendix 1: Practice Guidance for Staff and Carers Responding to Children and Young People at Risk of Sexual Exploitation

It is important to avoid seeing ‘selling sex’ as something which sets a child apart from the rules and routines of normal life. Every effort should be made to give the child a safe home base with a standard of care which reinforces their self-respect.

The actions of carers and staff must be guided by the child’s best interests at all times and should make every effort to reinforce the child’s positive behaviour and divert them from damaging behaviour such as selling sex.

While the child’s behaviour and attitude may on occasion present difficulties to staff and carers, they must avoid any rejection of the child or use of sexual innuendo or sexist terminology. Staff caring for the child, or coming into contact with him or her, should be aware of the implications of their own behaviour and language.

The involvement of children in sexual activity with adults can naturally evoke strong feelings. These feelings can include anger and revulsion. It can also lead carers and staff to transfer these negative feelings towards the child. Carers and staff will need to remain aware of their own reactions to the child and the activity they have experienced.

Staff will need to raise such feelings with their line manager or supervisor who should provide appropriate support and guidance. The subject should also be addressed within staff meetings and unit training events.

The child’s social worker and the Family Placement supervising social worker should offer guidance and support to foster carers when needed. The Complex Safeguarding Team will offer guidance to Family Placement staff and carers when required.

Residential social workers should seek support from their managers and the Complex Safeguarding Team When required.

Staff and carers will need to be sensitive to the emotional impact on the child as a result of the sexual activity. Children may react in different ways ranging from self-harm and low self-esteem, to apparent unconcern or presenting in a powerful or controlling way.

Children being sexually exploited or felt to be at immediate risk of exploitation should be:

  • Referred to the appropriate Social Work team;
  • Made known the Complex Safeguarding Team;
  • Have their Looked After Children ‘Care Plan’ updated to address the sexual exploitation, identifying a package of support including where appropriate: referral to the Complex Safeguarding Team, sexual health care, individual work on safer sex, risky adults and various activities to boost their self-esteem.

Consideration should be given to who is the most appropriate person to offer specific direct work, however all working with the young person have a responsibility to offer positive re-enforcement and clear messages in regard to safety and being valued.

If residential staff have suspicions that children / young people may be involved in selling sex these must be discussed with the Manager and responsible social worker.

In agreement with the head of establishment / service manager, staff should take preventative steps such as:

  • Offering advice about the importance of age appropriate relationships, safe sex; friendships etc.
  • Maintaining a watching brief on contacts, car number plates and number of telephone calls;
  • Alerting the Complex Safeguarding Team of any information useful to the disruption of exploitation;
  • Trying to persuade children / young people from leaving the establishment;
  • If they do leave, offering reasonable efforts to return them safely;
  • Ensuring children / young people are aware of the health and legal issues involved;
  • Ensuring children / young people are provided with information on services that can support and help them, including voluntary services.

There may be some circumstances where residential staff would want to monitor visitors to the establishment or letters and telephone calls received. In some circumstances it may be appropriate to turn visitors away or notify police of their presence.

In consultation with the child / young person, their Social Worker, the Manager of the Children’s Home and, where appropriate, the child / young person’s parents a decision may be made to monitor some telephone calls and letters received. This may include being present when calls are received or letters opened and in some circumstances may mean that calls and letters are not passed on to a child / young person or that mobile phones are removed.

Any decision to withhold telephone calls, letters, to turn visitors away or remove a young person’s mobile phone should be clearly recorded including which calls, letters, visitors are being restricted and why.

Appendix 2: R.U.N.A: Remember You Are Not Alone

A Dedicated Service for Child Runaways

Early intervention and prevention is the key to reducing risks for children and young people who run away or are regularly reported Missing from home. Raising awareness with children and young people of the risks posed through schools and other forums or via publicity campaigns should be an important aspect of the strategy to keep children safe.

The RUNA project works closely with the Police, accessing the Police data for all reported missing young people. All young people have a risk assessment completed using a weighting system to map the risk elements. This informs the response of RUNA. The project writes to all the young people and their families offering support following the first incident of running. Any further incidents will be followed up by a phone call and a letter offering support and will include a home visit and an interview with the child. The interview attempts to establish the reason for the absence and focus on ways of resolving the cause. An assessment is completed and the child and family helped to access appropriate services. The project provides support and advice to children and their carers assessed at all levels of vulnerability in line with Bolton’s Framework for Action.

RUNA has close links with Bolton’s Schools, providing:

  1. A range of services for vulnerable, hard to reach children and young people, including referral links with the Police;
  2. Direct support to young people and their families including links to appropriate support services, to help prevent the need for specialist services;
  3. Raising awareness sessions for teachers and pupils using information in various formats;
  4. Face to face contact with every child who is reported missing to the Police;
  5. Outreach services in conjunction with other support services i.e. 360, GAP.

The project is linked into relevant Bolton’s strategies and works very closely with the Complex Safeguarding Team. Any young person known to RUNA who is at risk of sexual exploitation will be referred to the Complex Safeguarding Team.

Anyone concerned about a young person can contact RUNA, who will check information they hold. RUNA will also record the concerns around a young person for future intelligence. Any worrying addresses can also be recorded and mapped against other missing reports.

Contact Details

Manager: Dave Bagley

Tel: 01204 385 848 / 399 938

Appendix 3: Key Contacts

Caption: Appendix 5: Key Contacts
Children's Services

Bolton People Services Department 
Castleton Street

Tel: 01204 331 500
Early Interventions and Career Connect Service

360 Marsden Road
Civic Centre

Tel: 01204 334 000

Complex Safeguarding Team

Complex Safeguarding Team
Police Station
Scholey Street

Tel: 01618 569 640

District Manager
National Probation Provider
St Helena Mill
St Helena Road

Tel: 01204 387 699

Complex Safeguarding Team
Police Station
Scholey Street

Tel: 0161 856 7947