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Contextual safeguarding

Child sexual abuse and exploitation

See information and resources relating to child sexual abuse and exploitation.

The definition given for child sexual abuse (CSA) in Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018 is:

Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, not necessarily involving a high level of violence, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including assault by penetration (for example, rape or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching outside of clothing.

"They may also include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, sexual images, watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways, or grooming a child in preparation for abuse. Sexual abuse can take place online, and technology can be used to facilitate offline abuse. Sexual abuse is not solely perpetrated by adult males. Women can also commit acts of sexual abuse, as can other children."

CSA can take many forms including:

  • abuse by trusted adults (inter and extra familial)
  • organised and complex abuse
  • abuse within exploitative personal relationships
  • abuse by another child or young person

Further information is available on the following websites:

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Child Exploitation is a type of abuse. When a child or young person is exploited they’re groomed by being given things, like gifts, drugs, money, status and affection. This is usually in exchange for carrying out a criminal activity, known as Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE) or performing sexual activities, known as Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE).

The CYSCP Child Exploitation Screening Tool is to be used as an aid by practitioners to help them consider the level of risk a child or young person might be at, through thinking about their individual needs via their behaviour and known information.

Ivison Trust (formally known as Parents Against Child Exploitation – PACE) have produced a video which demonstrates how parents spotted the signs when their children were being exploited.

Children and Young People can also be groomed and exploited online. See further information and resources relating to online safety.

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A Multi Agency Child Exploitation Meeting (MACEM) process was established by Children’s Social Care jointly with North Yorkshire Police and on a multi-agency basis. It is a monthly meeting focusing on all aspects of child exploitation and young people transitioning to adult services. Its membership consists of partners from health, education, drug services, mental health among others and it helps to reduce the chances of agencies working in silos or duplicating work or resources.

Fortnightly risk assessment intelligence sharing (RAM) meetings take place between North Yorkshire Police exploitation team, Children’s Social Care, Education, Health. This meeting is pivotal to sharing intelligence to develop a picture of the young person at the centre of the exploitation concerns and develop ways to mitigate the exploitation risk.

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City of York Council has a dedicated Child Exploitation Team. Alongside Police, health, Education and YJS colleagues, the team’s focus is:

  • to identify those children most at risk of exploitation in the city through chairing the MACEM and RAM processes
  • where MASH referrals indicated an exploitation concern, social workers will undertake single assessment with a specific focus around exploitation
  • to undertake initial missing from home interviews with young people who are not open to children's services in order to ensure early identification of any exploitation concerns and signpost
  • to co-ordinate mapping activity
  • to share and collate intelligence
  • to develop approaches to the investigation of exploitation and vulnerability such that offenders are identified and young people are effectively helped

This is achieved through direct work and engagement with young people and their families, as well as carefully planned work, with persistent and skilled workers who will engage with young people and their carers, to help understand their specific needs and strengths, as well as the impact of abuse and trauma.

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The Department for Education define Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) as follows:

Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse ... 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.

Children and young people, who are being sexually exploited, or may be at risk of this, can come to the attention of any practitioner in any agency.

Child sexual abuse (CSA) is when a child is forced or persuaded to take part in sexual activities. This may involve physical contact or non-contact activities and can happen online or offline.

The NSPCC website explains the different types of physical and non-contact activities:

Further information is also available on the CEOP website

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Child criminal exploitation involves exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where children (under 18) receive or are promised ‘something’ tangible such as food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, gifts or money, or ‘something’ intangible such as affection, respect, status or protection, in return for committing a criminal act for the benefit of another individual or group of individuals or be threatened, coerced or intimidated into committing that criminal act.

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. The child may be being exploited, even if the activity appears consensual and does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology. A defining feature of CCE is the lack of choice available to the child either as a result of the child’s social/economic/emotional vulnerability and or the violence, coercion, intimidation exerted upon them.

Criminal exploitation takes many forms, the most common relating to the supply and movement of drugs (often referred to as “County Lines”), offences in relation to guns and other weapons, money laundering, violent offences and in some cases “cuckooing” where criminals forcibly take over control of a person’s home.

North Yorkshire and City of York Criminal Exploitation and County Lines Guidance 2019 can be found on our CYSCP Practice Guidance page.

Further information is available on the following websites:

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‘County lines’ is the police term for urban gangs supplying drugs to suburban areas, market and coastal towns using dedicated mobile phone lines or “deal lines”. Among young people it is known as 'going country'.

It involves child criminal exploitation as gangs use children and vulnerable people to move drugs and money. County lines is a major, cross-cutting issue involving drugs, violence, gangs, safeguarding, criminal and sexual exploitation, modern slavery, and missing persons. Once caught up in County Lines, exploited individuals are at risk of extreme physical and/or sexual violence, gang recriminations and trafficking.

County lines activity and the associated violence, drug dealing and exploitation has a devastating impact on young people, vulnerable adults and local communities.

If you're concerned that a child is being criminally exploited - a 'County Lines' victim - whether from York or found in York, this is a safeguarding matter and you should follow normal safeguarding procedures:

Further information about County Lines is available on the following websites:

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North Yorkshire County Council and City of York Council are one of 10 local areas who were successful in their joint bid to the Home Office to deliver a pilot to test the devolving responsibility to make National Referral Mechanism (NRM) decisions for children.

The NRM is a framework for identifying and referring potential victims of modern slavery and ensuring that they receive appropriate support.

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The following services are available for children and young people who have been exploited and further information about these services are available on our York services for children and young people page.

Child Sexual Assault Assessment Service (CSAAS) - Mountain Healthcare

The CSAAS provides crisis support and forensic medical services to collect any evidence for all child victims of rape or sexual assault.

Trusted Relationship Mentor

A one-to-one mentor meeting once a week with a young person who is vulnerable to or being exploited.

YorSexual Health

YorSexual Health deliver sexual health services within York and North Yorkshire with face-to-face clinical care and virtual care.

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Research in Practice have produced ‘Tackling Child Exploitation’ principles. The multi-agency Practice Principles for responding to child exploitation and extra-familial harm are designed to support effective partnership working across different local contexts; providing a common language and framework to better respond to child exploitation and extra-familial harm.

The Research in Practice website also hosts a wealth of information, research, recorded and forthcoming webinars.

Barnado’s have recently published a briefing paper: including recommendations on how children who have been, or are at risk of being, sexually abused and/or exploited, can be safeguarded and supported:

Ivison Trust (formally known as Parents Against Child Exploitation – PACE) have produced a number of publications:

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) published a report into child sexual abuse in the Anglican Church.

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