The government has changed the statutory definition of child sexual exploitation after concluding the previous version was “unclear and out of date”.
The Department for Education has updated its Working Together child safeguarding guidance to reflect the changes, and issued a new guide for practitioners on working with child sexual exploitation.
The Home Office updated the statutory CSE definition following a consultation earlier this year. The previous definition had been in place since 2009.
The government announced the change alongside new funding for a Centre for Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse to help tackle CSE.
The £7.5 million centre will be independent of government and be an “authoritative source” of information, research, innovation, and best practice.
A progress report on the government’s strategy to tackle CSE, also published today, found steps taken to improve systems and frontline social work practice were part of key successes.
The report found a 14% increase in the number of defendants prosecuted for child sexual abuse-related offences, and a 19% increase in offenders convicted. A new whistleblowing helpline made more than double the number of referrals than the NSPCC made in the whole of 2015, the report added.
The government said it would continue to improve the first response to children at risk, “not least through the significant investment being made to bring better trained social workers into the children’s social care system”.
The new definition
“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.”