Government changes statutory definition of child sexual exploitation

Working Together guidance will be updated with a new definition of child sexual exploitation after the previous one was considered "out of date"

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changed the statutory definition of child sexual exploitation after concluding the previous version was “unclear and out of date”.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.”

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6 Responses to Government changes statutory definition of child sexual exploitation

  1. Keith Thomas February 17, 2017 at 9:03 am #

    It is a pity the new definition specifies:
    “the increased status of the perpetrator or facilitator.”
    In many cases, particularly of long-term abuse, it is done to maintain rather than increase status.

  2. Pete Morgan February 17, 2017 at 2:33 pm #

    I think Keith would be correct if the definition read ‘to increase status’; ‘increased status’ allows for the maintenance of an existing increased status as well as for increasing a current level of status. It seems to me that this is another example of non-joined up thinking by the government: why not have s ingle definition of sexual exploitation that covers adults and children? It would reduce possible confusion and recognise that children and young people who are sexually exploited will often continue to do so after their 18th birthday

  3. Kate Nicholls February 18, 2017 at 2:54 pm #

    I agree with Pete Morgan as there is no consideration for SEN either

  4. David Sleet February 18, 2017 at 7:24 pm #

    It is disappointing that it doesn’t not take into account CSE being used as a means of controlling or the connective nature of grooming for further abusive environments.

  5. Rosie Flatman February 19, 2017 at 12:57 am #

    The idea of a center and more funding sounds great but will this actualy trickle down to local goverment . Funding has been promised in the past , but local CSE teams are over worked . Also the statement – child or young person. The C in CSE stands for child . The definition of children needs to be clear to refere to some one as a young person , but yet still as a child , confuses them and also takes away from there vunrablity .

  6. Manda Cull February 19, 2017 at 9:47 am #

    It makes it sound like the young people always get something that there is an exchange of goods which isn’t true with the want or need in the statement but the predators that prey on young people are that manipulative that sometimes just using spoken language and attention is enough.