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Child Sexual Exploitation

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a form of child abuse involving children and young people receiving something, such as accommodation,​ drugs, gifts or affection, as a result of them performing sexual activities, or having others perform sexual activities on them.  It can occur without physical contact, when children are groomed to post sexual images of themselves on the internet.

CSE is a hidden issue taking place out of public view.  Practitioners often do not identify it and young people themselves frequently do not recognise themselves as the abused.  It can be difficult to get an accurate picture of the risk of sexual exploitation.

The link between children being sexually exploited and children going missing is very strong.  Some 140,000 children go missing from home or care in the UK each year and it has been estimated that running away places around a quarter of these at risk of serious harm.  Children and young people who run away may be ‘pushed away’ following abuse or other factors or ‘pulled away’ wanting to be near friends or because they are being exploited by adults.

Sexual Exploitation is one way in which children can be exploited. Other forms include criminal exploitation, cyber exploitation, radicalisation and trafficking & modern slavery. The SSP's Child Exploitation Strategy 2018 - 2020 sets out the way in which the partnership will GUARD against the risks of exploitation.  

Swindon Safeguarding Partnership has developed the Professional's Handbook for Tackling CSE​.  This has been designed to support professionals in the identification and assessment of CSE and also outlines Swindon's approach to tackling exploitation. The handbook advises practitioners to use this  Child Exploitation Initial Screening Tool​ when working with children about whom they have concerns.

Challenge Inappropriate Language

For trust to develop & ensure that children feel supported to disclose their experiences, they need to be listened to and their experiences accepted & recorded.  

​The use of inappropriate language to describe children at risk of CSE may judge the child and imply they could have acted differently or they are to blame.  It is important to remember CSE is a form of abuse – it is not a ‘lifestyle choice’.  ​​

If we talk about a child using inappropriate language what they (and other professionals) may hear is that they are in some way responsible for what is happening to them and therefore less deserving of our support. 

Challenge any inappropriate language, labelling and terminology about children:

Replace inappropriate terms with suggested alternatives ​​​


Underage Sexual Activity, CSE and Grooming - Know the Differences

Case reviews have found that there is confusion about sexual activity that can mean professionals struggle to distinguish between child abuse, grooming, CSE and/or underage sexual activity. This prevented concerns being identified and reported.  It is essential to be curious and inquisitive when you become aware of underage sexual activity as the child may view what’s happening as consensual, however, this does not mean that they are not being exploited.

Underage Sexual Activity Guidance

Underage Sexual Activity Briefing

Concerns About CSE? 

It is important ​that The Police & Social Care are made aware of any concerns or intelligence you have about child exploitation to enable them to build a bigger picture of any risks to children.  You may be aware of information that when considered in isolation may seem irrelevant but may be a key part of the jigsaw.  It is important that this intelligence is recorded on the child's file and shared with The Police / Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub.  

​If you have safeguarding concerns relating to a child contact The Police/Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) via or 01793 466903.​

If you have intelligence or any other concerns relating to Child Sexual Exploitation, Criminal Exploitation (gangs), trafficking (i.e. a suspicious car or activity) these can be shared with police click here

Identifying and disrupting perpetrators  is a central part of multi-agency work to protect children from exploitation. The Swindon and Wiltshire CSE Disruption Toolkit​ sets out the deterrent and enforcement tools available and includes advice on how to share information and 'intelligence' with the police.

Criminal, Civil and Partnership Disruption Options for Perpetrators of Child & Adult Victims of Exploitation

Policies, Procedures & Guidance 

Swindon Safeguarding Partnership has developed the Professional's Handbook for Tackling CSE. This has been designed to support professionals in the identification and assessment of CSE and also outlines Swindon's approach to tackling exploitation. The handbook advises practitioners to use this  Child Exploitation Initial Screening Tool​ when working with children about whom they have concerns.

Swindon Safeguarding Partnership promotes the South West Child Protection Procedures website as a source of information on a range of safeguarding issues. The pages on Child Sexual Exploitation can be found here.​

Swindon's Multi-Agency Risk Panel provides a framework that allows for regular action planning and information sharing for children who are assessed to be at high risk. The risks might be due to episodes of going missing, sexual exploitation or criminal activity. The ethos of MARP is to quality assure the plans in place to keep the child safe, to review the risks in the cases and to focus on the prevention and pursuing of perpetrators in relation to exploitation of children. For more information see MARP Operating Protocol and Terms of Reference​.

Safeguarding Children & Young People from Sexual Exploitation: Supplementary guidance to Working Together to Safeguard Children (2009) This guidance document sets out how organisations and individuals should work together to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people from sexual exploitation. It is supplementary to, and should be read in conjunction with, Working Together to Safeguard Children (HM Government, 2006).

The SSP has produced a CSE briefing paper ​which summarises the learning from recent case reviews and multi agency audits. The briefing is aimed anyone who works with children and families in Swindon and provides key findings, recommendations and links to guidance. ​


Training in CSE is available from the SSP and can be booked via the training pages of this website.  

Raising Awareness

Exploited Trailer.  A promotional trailer for CEOP's new educational resource aimed at preventing CSE

Exploited Full Version. A CEOP educational resource.

Exposed. A short CEOP film about a girl who sends images of herself on her mobile phone

The sexual exploitation of Children: can you recognise the signs?  A 20 minute film to raise awareness about grooming and sexual exploitation using the Eastenders story of Whitney
Innocence. Short film from Barnardo's​ about a girl that is groomed by an older man

Further Information

The NSPCC and Children's Society webpages provide useful information and resources.

Barnardo's The Tangled Web, How Child Sexual Exploitation is Becoming More Complex 

NPSCC Child Trafficking - Key statistics and Guidance