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Child exploitation

Child sexual exploitation is a serious issue affecting young people and it can be difficult to identify.

'Child exploitation' (CE) or 'children at risk of exploitation' (CRE) are terms which encompass all the ways by which children and young people can be exploited.

Child exploitation 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 or criminal 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 or criminally exploited even if the activity appears consensual. Exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology.

Child exploitation includes the following.

Child sexual exploitation (CSE)

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a type of sexual abuse. When a child or young person is exploited they're given things like gifts, drugs, money, status and affection, in exchange for performing sexual activities. Children and young people are often tricked into believing they are in a loving and consensual relationship. This is called grooming. They may trust their abuser and not understand that they're being abused.

Sometimes child sexual exploitation (CSE) victims become rebellious or display challenging behaviour, which can make it hard for the signs of CSE to be spotted in the early stages of abuse. In all cases, those exploiting the child or young person have power over them by the virtue of their age, gender, intellect, physical strength or economic or other resources.

Indicators of CSE are:

  • behavioural changes
  • physical symptoms
  • mental health issues
  • substance misuse
  • unexplained gifts or money
  • truanting or going missing
  • repeat offending
  • perpetrator activity

Children and young people can be trafficked into or within the UK to be sexually exploited. They're moved around the country and abused by being forced to take part in sexual activities, often with more than one person. Young people in gangs can also be sexually exploited. Sometimes abusers use violence and intimidation to frighten or force a child or young person, making them feel as if they've no choice. They may lend them large sums of money they know can't be repaid or use financial abuse to control them.

Anybody can be a perpetrator of CSE, no matter their age, gender or race. The relationship could be framed as friendship, someone to look up to or romantic. Children and young people who are exploited may also be used to 'find' or coerce others to join groups.

Further information about CSE, along with details of some of the organisations involved, can be found at the following websites:

Child criminal exploitation (CCE)

Whilst there is still no legal definition of ‘child criminal exploitation’ it is increasingly being recognised as a major factor behind crime in communities across the UK, as well as simultaneously victimising vulnerable young people and leaving them at risk of harm.

As with CSE, CCE often occurs without the victim being aware that they are being exploited and involves young people being encouraged, cajoled or threatened to carry out crime for the benefit of others. In return they are offered friendship or peer acceptance, but also cigarettes, drugs, alcohol or even food and accommodation.

The criminal exploitation of children is an issue which is gaining more of a national focus and is closely related to county lines.

Further information about CCE can be found at the following websites:

How to report child exploitation

Concerns about a young person must be reported in order to coordinate a response. You can contact:

  • police tel: 101 (or 999 in an emergency)
  • Call Derbyshire tel: 01629 533190 or 01629 532600 (out of hours)
  • Childline tel: 0800 1111
  • Derbyshire Safeguarding Board tel: 01629 532181
  • Safe and Sound tel: 01332 362120
  • #saysomething - anonymously text or call, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, for free tel: 116 000

In cases of suspected or actual child exploitation, safeguarding procedures must be implemented and a referral made to children’s services in order to safeguard the child from further or future harm. Further information is available from the Derby and Derbyshire Safeguarding Children Partnership safeguarding procedures.

Operation Liberty has been created by Derbyshire police to gather intelligence items, crimes and referrals, where there is an aspect of child exploitation. Practitioners can use the Operation Liberty form to provide details, however brief, of any concerns regarding:

  • adults who may pose a risk to, or target, groom or exploit children and young people
  • a child or young person who is believed to be experiencing grooming and/or exploitation.
  • provision of information on places, locations and circumstances where it is believed child exploitation may be taking place

Derbyshire practitioners use a CRE toolkit to assess a child or young person’s level of risk of exploitation in a quick and consistent manner. The CRE toolkit now covers all children and young people under the age of 18 (Children Act 1989) residing in Derbyshire. The toolkit supports the implementation of the local Safeguarding Children Partnership procedures; in particular children abused through sexual exploitation, criminal gangs, slavery and safeguarding children who may have been trafficked and children and families who go missing.

This toolkit supports agencies to:

  • identify and protect those at risk of being exploited at the earliest opportunity
  • take action to promote the welfare of children and young people who are being or may be exploited
  • develop local prevention strategies
  • take action against those intent on abusing and exploiting children and young people in this way

The toolkit should be used flexibly to take account of each child's individuality, the uniqueness of their circumstances and the changes that may occur for them over time.