Top tips on how to prevent and raise awareness of child sexual exploitation

Engage with wider community, recognise diversity of exploited children, and focus on those who are often overlooked

Image of teenager looking sadly towards window (credit: fizkes / Adobe Stock)
(credit: fizkes / Adobe Stock)

This article highlights some key messages from Community Care Inform Children’s guide to awareness raising, prevention and strategic and operational responses to child sexual exploitation, written by Emilie Smeaton. Inform Children subscribers can view the full guide by clicking here. The guide is part of
Inform Children’s knowledge and practice hub on child sexual exploitation.

Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day takes place on 18 March.

  1. Direct your awareness-raising and preventative measures at children, parents and carers, the wider community, and professionals who work directly with children and their families. You should inform local communities that CSE can affect children from any background including boys, black and ethnic minority children, and those with learning disabilities. Public awareness-raising activities in your area may have to consider public attitudes to children who experience CSE, and ensure factual information is presented in such a way to promote understanding that children who experience CSE are victims of child sexual abuse (CSA) and require protection.
  2. Awareness raising with the business community (including licensed premises, hotels, public transport, retail and leisure) is particularly important. The Say Something if you See Something toolkit, developed by NWG Network and The Children’s Society, provides awareness-raising materials for the business community including hotels, nightclubs, public transport, taxi companies, retail and leisure. The aim of the toolkit is to help recognise signs that CSE may be taking place and how to report suspicious activity.
  3. Engage with populations of children who are often overlooked. Take a strategic approach to protecting looked-after children who are sexually exploited, including arrangements for supporting children in out-of-area-placements when they require leaving care services. Ofsted suggests the establishment of a targeted prevention and self-protection CSE programme for looked-after children. Also, improve oversight of alternative provision for children excluded from school. Ofsted recommends that schools and the local authority cross-reference absence information with risk assessment for individual children.
  4. Local safeguarding children boards should ensure that partners routinely follow child protection procedures for all children who experience, or are at risk of, CSE. Ofsted’s thematic inspection of local authorities’ responses to CSE revealed that local authorities and police do not always follow formal child protection procedures with children at risk of CSE. Managers should oversee all individual CSE cases and sign off assessments, plans and case review arrangements to assess the level of risk and ensure appropriate progression of plans. Contingency plans should be developed in case the initial plan is not successful.

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