Top menu

Child Exploitation

What is Child Exploitation?

Children and young people may be vulnerable to exploitation from within their family and from individuals they come across in their day-to-day lives. These threats can take a variety of different forms, including parents or carers encouraging children to sell drugs and other commodities for financial gain or exploitation by criminal gangs and organised crime groups; trafficking; online abuse; sexual exploitation and the influences of extremism leading to radicalisation.

Children who are exploited can be vulnerable because of chaotic or traumatic experiences in their lives, making them targets for perpetrators, gangs and networks. However, it can happen to anyone and perpetrators use a variety of means to coerce and control their victims, sometimes without them realising they are being exploited.

Some potential indicators of child exploitation include:

  • Persistently going missing from school or home and / or being found out-of area;
  • Unexplained acquisition of money, clothes, or mobile phones;
  • Excessive receipt of texts / phone calls;
  • Relationships with controlling / older individuals or groups;
  • Leaving home / care without explanation;
  • Suspicion of physical assault / unexplained injuries;
  • Carrying weapons;
  • Significant decline in school results / performance;
  • Gang association or isolation from peers or social networks;
  • Self-harm or significant changes in emotional well-being and / or their behaviour.

Definition of Child Sexual Exploitation

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.(DfE 2017).

Definition of Child Criminal Exploitation

Child Criminal Exploitation occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of a person under the age of 18 and may coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under that age into any 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 and/or (c) Through violence or the threat of violence. The victim may be exploited even if the activity appears consensual (i.e. moving drugs or the proceeds of drugs from one place to another). Child Criminal Exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology. (Home Office 2018)

To tackle Child Exploitation Cheshire West and Chester are adopting and embedding a Contextual Safeguarding approach to practice. This is being supported at a Pan Cheshire level so you may notice a change in the titles on some already familiar documents such as the Child Exploitation Screening and Assessment Tool which are now referred to as Contextual Safeguarding Screening and Assessment Tools. We are in the early stages of testing and developing pathways to fit with this new approach. A new web-page with more information about Contextual Safeguarding will be available in the New Year (2021).

Contextual Safeguarding Assessment Tool (formerly the Child Exploitation Screening Tool)

This assessment tool should be used in any instance where you are concerned that a child is being exploited, through sexual or criminal means. The tool should help you to identify and evaluate the cause of your concerns and reflect on whether further safeguarding investigations are needed. The tool should also be used to evidence improvement when professionals are working with a child and risk is assessed to be reduced. It can be used with parents, young people and other professionals. To access the assessment tool click on the link below:

Contextual Safeguarding Assessment Tool

Children at risk of significant harm or in need of protection must be referred to i-ART so that the appropriate safeguarding processes can be initiated.

The Contextual Safeguarding Assessment Tool should be submitted alongside a Multi-Agency Referral Form (MARF) to support decision-making

Online referral form for Integrated Access and Referral Team

As with all tools, they are most useful when they support best practice. We recommend that when there are a number of agencies supporting a child and family that all professionals contribute to the assessment tool to help develop the fullest picture of what is happening to the child. It is not a task that lies solely with the Lead Worker for a plan, and should only be completed by a single agency when children are not already being supported by a multi-agency plan, e.g. TaF or Social Work led support.

Supporting Children at risk of, or experiencing child exploitation

It is imperative that children considered to be at risk of exploitation always receive support that is commensurate with the risks they face. This can range from prevention work for those children considered low risk; raising awareness and educating them about the risks of exploitation through to direct intervention with the child with the aim to reduce their current risk or to provide therapeutic support and interventions if a child has been exploited.  It is also important to consider the role of parents and the support that they may require to enable them to better inform, support or protect their child.

Queensberry AP (QAP) are commissioned by Cheshire West and Chester Local Authority to  offer advice and guidance to professionals supporting young people who are either at risk of or have been exploited.  The service will work with professionals involved with a child to ensure that an effective and robust plan is in place once an assessment tool has been submitted.

There is also a range of interventions available to children and young people at risk from exploitation which includes: 

  • For low risk – Youth Service led support from the Young People’s Service, Cheshire West and Chester Council, or a place on the Youth Endowment Fund project delivered in schools by Queensberry AP and funded through the Home Office. (Please note that all LOW Risk Assessment Tools require the CONSENT of the child or family before submission to iART).
  • For medium or high risk, Queensberry AP will offer intervention to the child (and where appropriate siblings and family members). This will take the form of an 8-week intervention, the frequency of contact during this period will be agreed after the initial contact between QAP and the child/family.

To request support you must complete a Contextual Safeguarding Assessment Tool and submit this, as per instructions, to

If you require more information about the interventions available please send a message to Furaha Madumbi, Contextual Safeguarding Co-Ordinator at

Child Exploitation (CE) Operational Group and the New Contextual Safeguarding Hub (October 2020)

Individual children at risk from sexual, criminal or both forms of exploitation are discussed by professionals from a wide range of organisations at our established monthly operational group meeting. We are also trialling a weekly Contextual Safeguarding Hub meeting which focuses on directing the child to the most appropriate intervention for their needs (reducing the need for them to wait for the monthly meeting). There will be further updates when the test phase completes in January 2021.

For children who are due to be reviewed at the CE Operational Group the lead professional will be asked to complete a Review or Closure Form to enable the members of the group to establish what work has been completed with the child and family and what the nature and current level of risk is considered to be. This form must also be completed, alongside an updated Assessment Tool, when risk is reduced to Low and there is a request to close the CSE/CCE flag on the child’s record.

If you have concerns about individuals that could be exploiting children or locations where exploitation maybe occurring (be that a physical or online location) then please complete the Persons of Interest/Locations Information Sharing Form and submit this to

Pan-Cheshire Supporting Documents

NHS England CSE Pocket Guide

NHS England CSE Pocket Guide

Safeguarding Children Partnership support the ‘Together We Can Tackle Child Abuse’ National Campaign

Together, we can tackle child abuse. Showcase: local authority campaign delivery (PDF, 927KB)