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Coventry and WarwickshireSafeguarding Children Board Procedures Manual

Safeguarding Children and Young People from Child Sexual Exploitation (Coventry)

RELATED CHAPTERS

Gang Activity, Youth Violence and Criminal Exploitation Affecting Children

Missing Child Policy (Coventry)

Missing Child Procedure (Coventry)

Joint Protocol Children Missing from Home, Care & Education (Warwickshire)

RELATED GUIDANCE

Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) For the 21st Century

This is advice for schools (written by Brook, the PSHE Association and the Sex Education Forum) which supplements, and should be read alongside the Sex and Relationship Education Guidance (DfE 0116/2000) which is statutory guidance for schools.

The new guidance provides information to teachers on topics that are missing from the 2000 Statutory Guidance, including issues about pornography, the safe use of technology, sexual consent, violence and exploitation.

Child abuse concerns: guide for practitioners - What to do if you're worried a child is being abused: advice for practitioners (GOV.UK)

National Crime Agency - UK Human Trafficking Centre

Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation: A Resource Pack for Councils - includes case studies

Responding to Child Sexual Exploitation - College of Policing

Preparing Children for Court

AMENDMENT

In November 2017 this chapter was extensively updated and should be re-read in its entirety.

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Definitions
    1. Child
    2. Sexual Exploitation
    3. Trafficking
    4. The Legal Age for Consent to Sex
  3. Principles
  4. Risks
  5. Indicators of Risk and Preventing Sexual Exploitation
    1. Risk Indicators
    2. Specific Risks Associated with Computers and Mobile Phones
  6. Taking Action if you are Concerned about a Child or Young Person
    1. Seeking Advice
    2. Making a Referral to Children's Social Care
    3. The Role of Children's Social Care
  7. Action Following a Referral
    1. Strategy Meeting and Discussion
    2. Assessment of the Child/Young Person
    3. Sharing Additional Information Received from the Child or Young Person
    4. Partnership with Children and Young People and their Parents or Carers
    5. Complex Investigations
    6. Looked After Children
    7. Criminal Investigations
    8. The Role of the Police
    9. Gathering Evidence and Recording and Sharing Information
  8. Providing Alternative Accommodation for Children and Young People
    1. Immediate Protection
    2. Accommodation for Sexually Exploited Children and Young People
    3. Residential Units
  9. Specialist Services in Coventry and Nationally Working with People at Rsk of Sexual Exploitation
  10. Appendices

1. Introduction

The purpose of this guidance is to assist professionals to understand sexual exploitation and how they best support and safeguard these children and young people who are identified as being at risk of being sexually exploited.

It is important that such professionals understand the impact of sexual exploitation and are able to:

  • Recognise the indicators of risk of sexual exploitation;
  • Assess the level of risk a child or young person may face;
  • Prevent children and young people from becoming exploited;
  • Work with children and young people who are at risk of and or victims of sexual exploitation;
  • Support children and young people and the Police to take action against perpetrators; and disrupt locations where children are targeted;
  • Know who to contact for advice;
  • Know how to make a referral to the appropriate services.

It is vital that professionals recognise the importance of recording their concerns and pass these to the Police/named contact within their organisation. Information about the circumstances and people involved will contribute to Police intelligence, and at a later stage may also contribute to the successful prosecution of people who sexually exploit children and young people.

Coventry Safeguarding Children Board (CSCB) promotes a multi-agency approach which emphasises the need to:

  • Recognise the problems of the sexual exploitation of children and young people;
  • Safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people;
  • Work together to provide children and young people with strategies to exit sexual exploitation;
  • Investigate and prosecute those who coerce, exploit and abuse children and young people in this way.

This protocol should be read in conjunction with other CSCB procedures and protocols in this manual including:

This document has been written in accordance with the Government guidance contained within Child Sexual Exploitation: definition and guide for practitioners which replaces the 2009 guidance Safeguarding children and young people from sexual exploitation. It should be read alongside Working Together to Safeguard Children. Professionals should familiarise themselves with this guidance and with the Child abuse concerns: guide for practitioners - What to do if you're worried a child is being abused: advice for practitioners (GOV.UK).

2. Definitions

2.1 Child

Under the Children Act 1989, a child is defined as anyone under the age of 18. However, The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) uses the following terms to describe children of different ages:

  • Child (under 13 years);
  • Young person (13 - 17 years).

These terms will be adopted for the purposes of this guidance.

2.2 Sexual Exploitation

Government Guidance "Child Sexual Exploitation – Definition and a guide for practitioners, local leaders and decision makers working to protect children from child sexual exploitation, February 2017" defines Child Sexual Exploitation as:

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.

Like all forms of child sexual abuse, child sexual exploitation:

  • Can affect any child or young person (male or female) under the age of 18yers, including 16 and 17 year olds who can legally consent to have sex;
  • Can still be abuse even if the sexual activity appears consensual;
  • Can include both contact (penetrative and non – penetrative acts) and non-contact sexual activity;
  • Can take place in person or via technology, or a combination of both;
  • Can involve force and/or enticement-based methods of compliance and may, or may not, be accompanied by violence or threats of violence;
  • May occur without the child or young person's immediate knowledge (through others copying videos or images they have created and posting on social media for example);
  • Can be perpetrated by individuals or groups, males or females, and children or adults. The abuse can be a one – off occurrence or a series of incidents overtime, and range from opportunistic to complex organised abuse; and
  • Is typified by some form of power imbalance in favour of those perpetrating the abuse. Whilst age may be the obvious, this power imbalance can also be due to a range of other factors including gender, sexual identity, cognitive ability, physical strength, status and access to economic or other resources.

Sexual exploitation occurs in a social context of violence towards women. However, it not just girls and young women who are sexually exploited; boys and young men may be victims too. Abusers and coercers often physically, sexually and emotionally abuse children and young people and in some situations, may effectively imprison them.

Children and young people make constrained choices against a background of social, economic and emotional vulnerability; it is not a 'free choice'. Because of either their age or their needs, they are unable to give truly informed consent to this activity.

2.3 Trafficking

There are two different types of trafficking of children and young people for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Firstly, there is trafficking from abroad into the United Kingdom. The second category is internal trafficking, where children and young people are moved from one place to another in the UK for the purposes of sexual exploitation. This may be from one room to another within the same property, one street to a neighbouring street, from one area of a town or city to another area, or across county borders. It is not the distance that is relevant in the definition of internal trafficking, but the movement of a child or young person for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) is a framework for identifying victims of human trafficking and ensuring they receive appropriate care. A range of agencies may be involved in a trafficking case including the police, the UK Border Agency (UKBA), local authorities and non-governmental organisations such as charities.

The NRM makes it easier for those agencies to co-operate, share information and facilitate access for advice, accommodation and support.

What is a first responder?

All agencies and organizations who find themselves with grounds for concern that a child may be a victim of human trafficking have a responsibility for ensuring the safeguarding needs of the child are assessed and addressed. They should also report their trafficking concerns to a first responder.

First responders are the agencies who will refer the child onto the NRM.

For children, a first responder may be:

  • A local authority;
  • UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI);
  • The police;
  • The National Crime Agency (NCA);
  • Barnardo's;
  • The NSPCC's Child Trafficking Advice Centre (CTAC);
  • An agency who deals predominantly with adults who have been trafficked (such as Gangmasters Licensing Authority, The Poppy Project, TARA, Migrant Help, the Medaille Trust, Kalayaan and the Salvation Army).

The National Crime Agency's website provides a full list of first responders.

Anyone who is concerned that a child may have been trafficked should contact one of these agencies.

See also Trafficked Children Procedure.

The Legal Age of Consent

Offences as a result of sexual activity with a child under the age of 16 are brought under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. These offences can include rape, if a child is under 13 years old, they cannot legally consent to sex and/or sexual activity. A defendant's belief that the child was over the age of 13 or 16 is not a legal defence. Children over the age of 13 years are still unable to consent to sexual intercourse however; defendants may state that they believed the young person was 16 years old as their defence.

It will be the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service and the Police as to what charges are brought against the adults involved. These charges can include rape, sexual activity with a child and inciting sexual activity with a child.

The fact that a young person is aged 16 or 17 and, therefore has reached the legal age to consent to sex should not be taken as a sign that they are no longer at risk of sexual exploitation.

They are still defined as children under the Children Act 1989 and 2004 respectively. They can still suffer significant harm as a result of sexual exploitation and their right to support and protection from harm should not be ignored or de-prioritised by services because they are over the age of 16, or are no longer in mainstream education or training.

Sexual Offences Act 1956

Lack of consent may be demonstrated by:

  • The complainant's assertion of force or threats;
  • Evidence that by reason of drink, drugs, sleep, age or mental disability the complainant was unaware of what was occurring and/or incapable of giving valid consent; or
  • Evidence that the complainant was deceived as to the identity of the person with whom (s)he had intercourse.

A boy or girl under the age of 16 cannot consent in law, (Archbold 2004, 20-152).

Consent should be carefully considered when deciding not only what offence to charge but also whether it is in the public interest to prosecute. Sometimes consent is given, or appears to be given, but the law does not treat it as effective consent.

The law does not allow a person's consent to sexual activity to have effect in the following situations:

  • Where the person giving consent did not understand what was happing and so could not give informed consent, for example in the case of a child or someone suffering from a severe mental disability;
  • Where the person giving consent was under the relevant age of consent.

These two situations are different. In the first, the apparent consent is not treated as real consent because the person consenting did not understand enough to give real consent. This is a question of fact. In the second, consent is real as a matter of fact but the law does not allow it to count.

Where the victim has consented in fact but not in law alternative offences may be appropriate. Examples include incest or unlawful sexual intercourse (in the case of a female victim) or, where consensual intercourse with a male under the age of consent, the offence of buggery.

3. Principles

The principles underpinning Coventry Local Safeguarding Children Board's multi-agency response to the sexual exploitation of children and young people are as follows:

  • Sexual exploitation includes sexual, physical and emotional abuse, and, in some cases, neglect;
  • Children and young people do not make informed choices to enter or remain in sexual exploitation, but do so due to coercion, enticement, manipulation or desperation;
  • Young people under 16 cannot consent to any forms of sexual activity. Sexual intercourse with children under the age of 13 is statutory rape;
  • Sexually exploited children and young people should be treated as victims of abuse, not as offenders;
  • Many sexually exploited young people have difficulty distinguishing between their own choices about sex and sexuality, and the sexual activities they are coerced into. This potential confusion should be handled with care and sensitivity by professionals;
  • The primary law enforcement effort must be made against the coercers and adults who sexually exploit young people. In some cases young people themselves may exploit or facilitate the exploitation of other young people, and in these cases law enforcement action may also be necessary;
  • Young people over the age of 16 are still defined as children under the Children Act, 1989 and 2004. They can still suffer significant harm as a result of sexual exploitation and their right to support and protection should not be ignored nor will their need for services;
  • The primary law enforcement effort must be made against the coercers and adults who sexually exploit young people. In some cases young people themselves may exploit, or facilitate the exploitation of others. It is crucial when working with children and young people who are victims of sexual exploitation that practitioners do not criminalise them and should view children and young people who exploit, or facilitate the exploitation of others as victims themselves.

4. Risks

Children and young people involved in any form of sexual exploitation face immense risks to their physical, emotional and psychological health. The environment in which sexual exploitation is located tends to have close links with criminal behaviour, drug and alcohol misuse and violence. Children and young people drawn into this kind of sexual abuse therefore become exposed to these risks. There has been a higher incidence of murder associated with commercial sexual exploitation than is the case in the general population, and they are also more vulnerable to other violent acts such as rape, physical and sexual assaults and coercion into pornography. Their physical health is placed at risk through the increased likelihood of contracting sexually transmitted infections, including HIV and AIDS. Other risk factors are common to other types of child sexual abuse, and can include physical injuries, non-attendance at school and / or educational under-achievement, missing from home/placement, depression, self-harm and attempted and actual suicide.

Anyone who has regular contact with children and young people is in a good position to notice changes in behaviour and physical signs which may indicate involvement in sexual exploitation. However, parents, carers, teachers, doctors and youth workers are particularly well placed to do so. They should also be able to recognise where children and young people are vulnerable to sexual exploitation and may need targeted measures to prevent such abuse. The primary concern of anyone who comes into contact with a child or young person who is vulnerable to being sexually exploited must be to safeguard and promote their welfare.

Practitioners should be aware of the potential signs that a child or young person is being groomed for sexual exploitation. They should also know of local areas and locations which perpetrators tend to target, for instance, school entrances, local parks, residential units, homeless units, playgrounds, transport interchanges and taxi ranks.

Careful consideration should be given to whether relationships which are presented as consensual by children or young people actually are, or whether exploitation is taking place. Professionals should be alert to the ways in which perpetrators can operate, especially where there is a large age-gap between the individuals involved. Professionals also need to be aware that the victims often see the perpetrators as younger than they actually are.

5. Indicators of Risk and Preventing Sexual Exploitation

5.1 Risk Indicators

The effects of sexual exploitation are harmful and far reaching for children and young people. In order to be able to prevent sexual exploitation it is essential that practitioners are familiar with the indicators of risk (listed below) and work to reduce these wherever possible.

In this context prevention will mean reducing the risks identified by:

  • Reducing children and young people's vulnerability to these risks;
  • Improving their resilience;
  • Disrupting and preventing the activities of perpetrators;
  • Reducing tolerance of exploitative behaviour;
  • Prosecuting abusers.

The earlier that sexual exploitation, or a risk of sexual exploitation, can be identified, the more likely it is that harm to a child or young person can be minimised or prevented. The indicators below are recognised indicators of sexual exploitation. It should not be read as a definitive list and the indicators should not be taken, in themselves, as proof of involvement or predictive of future involvement. They are intended as a guide, which could be included in a wider assessment of the child or young person's needs and circumstances. In effective practice, the facts for each child or young person should be considered separately.

An unsubstantiated allegation that a child or young person has established associations with sexual exploitation or sex work should be considered carefully. None of the following indicators, whether singly or in combination, should be viewed as conclusive proof of involvement in sexual exploitation, but a combination of them may be taken as suggestive of the possibility. The following indicators are for both girls / boys, and young women / men.

Child or Young Person's Developmental Needs

Health:

  • Physical symptoms (bruising suggestive of either physical or sexual assault);
  • Evidence of misuse of drugs / alcohol, including associated health problems;
  • A sexually transmitted infection (STI), particularly if it is recurring or there are multiple STI's;
  • Pregnancy and / or seeking an abortion;
  • Sexually risky behaviour;
  • Self-harming or eating disorders;
  • Weight loss;
  • Noticeable decline in young person's physical appearance.

Education:

  • Truancy / disengagement with education, or considerable change in performance at school.

Emotional and Behavioural Development:

  • Becoming angry, hostile if any suspicions or concerns about their activities are expressed;
  • Volatile behaviour exhibiting extreme array of mood swings or abusive language;
  • Aggressive or violent;
  • Getting involved in petty crime such as shoplifting or stealing;
  • Secretive behaviour;
  • Entering or leaving vehicles driven by unknown adults;
  • Anti-social behaviour;
  • Sexualised language;
  • Sexually offending behaviour;
  • Excessive use of reliance on mobile phones.

Identity:

  • Low self image;
  • Low self esteem;
  • Self-harming behaviour - cutting, overdosing, eating disorder, promiscuity;
  • Sexually explicit behaviour.

Family and Social Relationships:

  • Hostility in relationship with parents / carers and other family members;
  • Physical aggression towards parents, siblings, pets, teachers or peers;
  • Placement breakdown;
  • Reports that the child / young person has been seen in places known to be used for sexual exploitation;
  • Detachment from age-appropriate activities;
  • Associating with other young people who are known to be sexually exploited;
  • Known to be sexually active;
  • Sexual relationship with a significantly older person;
  • Unexplained relationships with older adults;
  • Possible inappropriate use of the Internet and forming relationships, particularly with adults, via the Internet;
  • Phone call, texts or letters from unknown adults;
  • Persistently missing, staying out overnight or returning late with no plausible explanation;
  • Returning after having been missing, looking well cared for in spite of having no known home base.  It is often the case that the child or young person will present as unkempt, under the influence of substances or hungry after a missing episode;
  • Missing for long periods, with no known home base;
  • Going missing and being found in areas where the child or young person has no known links;
  • Accounts of social activities with no plausible explanation of the source of necessary funding.

Social Presentation:

  • Change in appearance;
  • Leaving home / care setting in clothing unusual for the individual child (inappropriate for age, borrowing clothing from older young people);
  • Wearing an unusual amount of clothing (due to wearing more sexualised clothing underneath);
  • Possession of excessive numbers of condoms.
Family and Environmental Factors

Indicators which might increase a child or young person's vulnerability to the risks of sexual exploitation are:

A history of:

  • Physical Abuse;
  • Sexual Abuse;
  • Emotional Abuse;
  • Neglect.

Housing:

  • Pattern of street homeless;
  • Having keys to premises other than those known about.

Income:

  • Possession of money with no plausible explanation;
  • Acquisition of expensive clothes, mobile phone or other possession without plausible explanation;
  • Accounts of social activities with no plausible explanation of the source of necessary funding;
  • Always have credit on their mobile phones, despite having no access to money.

Family's social integration:

  • Reports that the child has been seen in places known to be used for sexual exploitation;
  • Adults loitering outside the child / young person's usual place of residence.

5.2 Specific Risks Associated with Computers and Mobile Phones

  • Spending increasing amount of time on social networking sites (for example Bebo, MSN, My Space, Facebook);
  • Accessing dating agencies via mobile phones (for example 2 flirt line);
  • Unexplained increased mobile phone / gaming credits;
  • New contacts with people outside of town;
  • Spending increasing amount of time with online friends and less time with friends from school or neighbourhood;
  • Increased time on web cam;
  • Going online during the night;
  • Being secretive using mobile phone for accessing Bebo etc, more than computers;
  • Unwilling to share / show online contacts;
  • Concerns that a young person's online friendship has developed into an offline relationship;
  • Concern that inappropriate images of a young person are being circulated via the internet / phones;
  • Arranging to meet people they have met on line;
  • Receiving gifts through the post from someone the young person does not know;
  • Concern that a young person is being coerced to provide images;
  • Concerned that a young person is being bribed by someone for their inappropriate online activity;
  • Concern that a young person is being drawn into providing increasingly provocative / sexualised images in exchange for payment;
  • Concern that a young person is selling sexual services via the Internet;
  • Being bullied / threatened, pressured.

The forming of a close relationship with an older boyfriend, or female 'friend' who may in fact be or become a coercer; Adults who exploit young people in this way are adept at the 'grooming' process and target those who are vulnerable. They may offer them the affection they crave and / or material gifts; they may introduce them to drugs / alcohol and inspire intense loyalty. Parents and social workers may find that convincing the young person to return home or to end the relationship is extremely difficult to achieve. The young person often does not view themselves as a victim and may not be prepared to make any complaint to the police, for example if it is thought that unlawful sexual intercourse is taking place between the young person and the older male.

The fact that a young person is 16 or 17 should not be taken as a sign that they are no longer at risk of sexual exploitation. Young people of this age are still covered by statutory duties under the Children Act 1989 and 2004, and they can still be subject to significant harm as a result of sexual exploitation. Their needs must not be ignored or de-prioritised by services.

6. Taking Action if you are Concerned about a Child or Young Person

If you are concerned that a child or young person is at risk, or is being sexually exploited you should always contact the Police or the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) to make a referral.

6.1 Seeking Advice

Professionals, or parents / carers, can seek advice from the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) on 02476 788555

6.2 Making a Referral to Children's Social Care

Any practitioner who is concerned or receives information, that a child or young person is involved in sexual exploitation, should make a referral to the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH), whether or not they have already been allocated a social worker. This is to ensure, following the Bichard Inquiry, that information about adults of concern, as well as other children / young people, is recorded on agency systems, e.g. PNC/Liquid Logic.

6.3 The Role of Children's Social Care

When a professional, parent, or another person contacts Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) with concerns that a child or young person is being sexually exploited, Children's Social Care should decide on its course of action within 24 hours.

As well as information about the child or young person, it is also important that anything known about the adults or other alleged perpetrators involved, such as names, nicknames, addresses, is included as part of the referral. Information about other children / young people should also be recorded. This information should be referred to the police by Children's Social Care using an Information Intelligence Form and e-mailing to FIB@west-midlands.pnn.police.uk. It may be that they are already known to agencies as a Person who Poses a Risk to children (PPRC) and young people, or that their details are recorded as Someone of Concern.

The referrer should be informed of the decision taken and any proposed action by Children's Social Care within seven working days. If no feedback is received, the referrer should contact them to follow up on the outcome.

7. Action Following a Referral

As in all cases of suspected abuse and neglect, Children's Social Care should respond by making a decision within 24 hours. This should take into account all the available information. Actions may include:

  • Referral to Early Help Services;
  • Child's Assessment.

Where a presenting contact or referral or Child's Assessment indicates concerns regarding sexual exploitation then a MASE meeting or Strategy Meeting would be convened.

7.1 Strategy Meeting and Discussion

Where there are concerns regarding sexual exploitation, the Strategy Discussion would take place at the Strategy Meeting. The meeting will establish the level of risk and the appropriate way forward in order to safeguard the child and/or young person. However, there may be occasions where the Strategy Discussion is a telephone contact between the Police and Social Care prior to the Strategy Meeting, because of the need for immediate action to safeguard a child or young person. Such a discussion would always be followed by a formal Strategy Meeting involving professionals who are involved with the young person.

It is the role of the Strategy Meeting to set the level of the risk the young person is deemed to be at as a result of sexual exploitation. There are actions set at the meeting; actions which can be taken against adults, medical examinations and achieving best evidence (ABE) interviewing. The meeting will also agree who the best person is to support the young person through this process.

The following agencies should attend the meeting:

  • Social Worker;
  • Police;
  • Youth Worker;
  • School;
  • Health e.g. school nurse, youth clinic;
  • Other agencies already involved with the child or relevant adult(s) (e.g. Youth Offending Services or Probation for the adult).

Photographs of injuries received as a result of abuse or other types of evidence should not be taken by professionals other than those involved in an investigation such as a Police Officer or by a medical photographer when requested by a paediatrician. Professionals should always inform Children's Social Care or the Police of the presence of such injuries or other factors that may be useful for evidential purposes.

The more detail that can be recorded, the more useful it will be. This information should be shared with the relevant agencies. Information is useful in relation to individual cases, but also in building up pictures of wider networks that may be in operation.

If the child or young person is not willing to make a complaint, consideration will be given to using the Child Abduction Act 1984, Section 2.

The Child Abduction Act 1984 S2 states that an offence is committed by taking or detaining a child under 16, so as to keep the child from the lawful control of someone who has or is entitled to have, the lawful control of the child. An offence may be committed if a child goes willingly with an abductor as a result of an inducement. A child's parent or carer can make a statement to the police stating that they do not give permission for the child to be with a particular adult.  The Police have powers under this section to issue a Child Abduction Warning Notice and if breached to make an application for a Child Abduction Warning Order.

A Child Abduction Warning Notice (CAWN) may be issued (by a Superintendent of the police force) to a person aged 18 years or over where (a) that person has without lawful authority or reasonable excuse been found in the company of a child; and (b) the child is reported missing and is found on two or more occasions to be in the company of that person; or (c) there is reason to suspect that the child's behaviour is, by reason of association with that person, giving significant cause for concern.  The CAWN must prohibit the person from being in the company of the child; the CAWN must state that the person will be arrested should the CAWN be breached and an application for a Child Abduction Warning Order will be made within 48 hours.

If a child or young person is on a Care Order (that is they are a Looked after Child), Abduction Orders apply up to the age of 18.

The Initial Strategy Meeting, on a multi-agency basis, should:

  • Assess the level or information received about the child or young person to decide whether or not threshold has been met for a Section 47 investigation;
  • Decide if plans are required to be put in place to safeguard the child or young person;
  • Decide the feasibility of identifying and taking action against any suspected abusers. This may include the Police implementing Child Abduction Order procedures;
  • Decide whether support services are required for the child / young person;
  • Decide whether there should be no further action.
MASE meeting (multi agency sexual exploitation)

A MASE meeting is a forum to share and clarify information, establish risk, consider disruption and develop a multi-agency safeguarding and support plan to meet a young person's needs (including support for parents / carers) who are at risk of sexual exploitation and work towards a recovery strategy.

The child's interest are kept as top priority, and their involvement ensures that they have a say in how they are being protected and cared for, acknowledging they need to be informed of any issues that affect them throughout.

It also ensures that families and carers who can safeguard and support a child or young person who is at risk of or is being sexually exploited are involved in the planning and can see the support that is being offer; support is delivered through a partnership approach.

The meeting will complement and enhance the current process for supporting young people focusing on the child sexual exploitation and building resilience.

The MASE meetings will be a vehicle to complete and review risk assessments of young people, and will be a forum where professionals relevant to the young person come together with the young person and family to share information establish concern, risk, consider the disruption and prosecution of perpetrators and develop safeguarding and support plans and work towards a recovery strategy.

Where appropriate, the MASE can be combined with the TAF or Think Family planning meeting/care planning meeting or initial or child protection case conference.

Were the child/young person is looked after CSE should be part of the child/young person's care planning process/reviews.

Critically there should only ever be one plan for the child/young person, which encompasses all of the relevant requirements/actions/interventions and desired outcomes and which is then regularly reviewed by the MASE/relevant multi-agency review meetings working closely together.

The MASE meeting should conduct focused discussions for each case concentrating on:

  • Whether the child is a child in need of early help (when a CAF / Early Help Assessment or TAF process is required), is a child in need (Section 17) and/or is suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm (Section 47);
  • Ensuring that a multi-agency assessment of need (ie. CAF / Early Help Assessment, a child in need assessment or child/young person in need single assessment) has been or will be carried out, involving the young person and their family to inform the plans for working with the child/young person, their family or primary carers.  These plans can be a TA/YOS Plan, a Think Family or Family Support Plan, a Children in Need Plan or Child Protection Plan going forward;
  • Ensuring that the child/young person has been spoken to alone and their views and desired outcomes are recorded;
  • Ensuring that the child/young person's family have been engaged and their views, strengths and support needs taken into account;
  • Sharing and clarifying information in order to complete the CSE risk assessment;
  • Analysing their needs and/or the nature and level of any risk and harm being suffered;
  • Understanding risk for any other children, including siblings;
  • Sharing information pertaining to a suspected perpetrator(s);
  • Considering all possible powers and options to protect the victim and disrupt the offenders;
  • Consider a referral using the National Referral Mechanism in cases where a child/young person may have been trafficked;
  • Ensuring a multi-agency plan is in place which provides support to address the child/young person's needs to improve the child's outcomes to make them safe;
  • Co-ordinating actions, where appropriate, with other processes such as MARAC and MAPPA.

The outcome of the meeting may be that:

  • The young person and family can be supported through Early Help services;
  • The young person will be supported through a Child in Need Plan;
  • There is a need to invoke Child Protection procedures or review the existing Child Protection Plan;
  • There is a need to review and change the existing Care Plan;
  • There is a possibility of criminal action against an adult;
  • Co-ordinated multi-agency support is required to support and divert the child from involvement in sexual exploitation, this will be outlined in a plan/or added to existing plans with clear lead officers and timescales;
  • There is insufficient information at this stage, but concerns remain, interim action needs to be taken and further assessment is required.

All outcomes, context, plans, interventions and their rationale of case management meetings must be clearly recorded on the child/young persons' file.

In every case, the local Threshold Guidance should be followed and the relevant pathways to assess, plan and intervene agreed.  All the professionals involved with and working with the child/young person should have a very clear understanding of the pathways, processes and plans being made.

Where a child is known to Social Care, CSE should be managed and assessed through local Social Care processes. Local Social Care pathways and processes, together with a good/shared understanding of thresholds, need to be very clear to professionals working with the child/young person.

If a decision is made during the MASE meeting that a Section 47 Enquiry should be initiated, then the status of the meeting should change to that of a Strategy Discussion and as above, local pathways should be clear and the statutory process will take on the responsibility for managing and assessing the CSE risks. CSE Lead Officers should attend or advise any of the relevant multi-agency case management meetings, in particular prioritising child protection case conferences and care planning meetings for children in care.

The Child's Plan must set out which agencies will provide which services to the child and family, what direct work or interventions will be used, how and with whom and should set clear measurable outcomes for the child and their parents/carers and for those professionals involved.  The aim should always be to give children/young people, their parents and carers, the skills knowledge and ability to manage on their own or to cope with support.  The plan should reflect the positive aspects of the family situation as well as any weaknesses.

A template Terms of Reference for a MASE is available.

7.2 Assessment of the Child / Young Person

Where an assessment identifies concerns, there needs to be a multi-agency discussion about how best to protect the child or young person. The social worker, in partnership with other involved professionals, will complete a Child's Assessment.

The information collated in the assessment should facilitate an analysis of the child / young person's involvement in sexual exploitation and should focus on the following effects upon the child or young person's wellbeing:

  • Emotional, physical and sexual health;
  • Their educational needs;
  • Their relationship with parents and carers and with any identified abusing adults.

The purpose of the assessment is to:

  • Establish the seriousness of the exploitation;
  • Gather information to assist the police in the identification and prosecution of offenders; and
  • Implement the strategy agreed to assist the person to exit sexual exploitation safely and successfully.

It may be that after the Child's Assessment the Social Worker needs to progress to Section 47 Enquiries. This could be established after the Child's Assessment and or as a result of the Strategy Meeting.

As part of the Child's Assessment process Social Work practitioners should take into account the following when they believe a child or young person is a victim of sexual exploitation:

  • The age of the child. Sexual activity at a young age is a very strong indicator that there are risks to the welfare of the child and possibly others;
  • The level of maturity and understanding of the child;
  • What is known about the child's living circumstances or background;
  • Age imbalance in relationships with others;
  • Change in friendship groups;
  • Overt aggression or power imbalance in relationships;
  • Grooming, Coercion or bribery indicators;
  • Familial child sex offences;
  • Behavioural changes in the child;
  • The misuse of substances.

Discussion should also take place in relation to informing the parents / carers as to the level of their child's involvement and the source of the referral.

7.3 Sharing Additional Information Received from the Child or Young Person

After the initial referral has been made to Children's Social Care, the professional, or parent or carer, may continue to receive information about the sexual exploitation. All information should continually be passed to Children's Social Care and the police, professionals must forward any information to the police by completing the Information Intelligence Form and sending to FIB@west-midlands.pnn.police.uk as it will help develop a more accurate account of the extent of the abuse.

7.4 Partnership with Children and Young People and with their Parents or Carers

Young people and parents or carers will be invited to Child In Need (CIN) or Multi Agency Sexual Exploitation (MASE), however, there may be a confidentiality section held in the meeting that they will not be able to take part in. The exceptions are when it is not considered to be in the young person's best interest or there are concerns that parents or carers are implicated in the abuse.

Children and young people and their parents and carers should be encouraged to contribute to the multi-agency plan agreed at the meeting.

7.5 Complex Investigations

Where there is knowledge or strong suspicion that children / young people are involved in sexual exploitation together, or are being controlled by the same person or a group of people, consideration should be given to implementing the Complex Abuse procedures.

7.6 Looked After Children

Children and young people who are Looked After by the local authority and are living in foster care or in residential care may be particularly vulnerable to being sexually exploited. Whenever concerns arise regarding a Looked after Child being at risk of being sexually exploited, the Social Worker and or Independent Reviewing Officer should discuss this with the Sexual Exploitation Team Manager if they are in any doubt after completing a screening tool. If after this there are concerns then consideration for a MASE or strategy meeting should be made.

In addition the following factors should be taken into account:

  • Risks to other children / young people in the placement;
  • Whether the child / young person should remain in their present placement;
  • To establish the level of risk in order to protect the child / young person.

If the child or young person is a Looked after Child, carers should be asked to take positive action to clarify and record their suspicions.

Staff should ensure that all relevant information is recorded in their Care Plan. The Care Plan should clearly indicate the level of risk the child or young person faces as a result of sexual exploitation and how these risks can be reduced and monitored.

Some other examples of information which should be included in the child or young person's Care Plan are listed below:

  • Adults or other children and / or young people who are involved in the exploitation – names, street names, descriptions, addresses and other information;
  • Cars – colour, models, registration numbers;
  • Telephone calls – to and from whom, with numbers if possible;
  • Missing from care episodes and locations where the child or young person has been found;
  • Gifts or money that the child or young person has received;
  • Injuries – including small scratches or bruises etc – location on body, colour, shape etc.

Residential care home staff can confiscate mobile phones from Looked after Children to give to the Police, if there is concern that there is an issue of child sexual exploitation. This can legally be examined by the Police as part of an investigation into crimes that may have been committed. However, the child or young person should be given another mobile phone to use until it is returned to them.

7.7 Criminal Investigation

If a child or young person is prepared to give an Achieving Best Evidence (ABE) interview and a criminal case is brought forward the Police in conjunction with the Crown Prosecution Service should take into consideration the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 to ensure that Special Measures are taken into to account in the giving of evidence in criminal proceedings by witnesses under 17 years old or those whose evidence is likely to be affected by fear or distress.

Practitioners should also be aware of the guidance on 'Provision of Therapy for Child Witnesses Prior to a Criminal Trial' Crown Prosecution Services, 2001 and Preparing Child for Court, before offering independent counselling to the children and young people involved in an on-going Police Investigation. Social Care Practitioners should work closely with the Police and Crown Prosecution Service to ensure that any help and support leading up to a criminal trial supports the child or young person but does not hinder the criminal process. Practitioners should also use the Trial Risk Assessment & Support Plan (Intranet).

The CPS has issued Guidelines on Prosecuting Cases of Child Sexual Abuse, which are designed to set out the approach that prosecutors should take when dealing with child sexual abuse cases.

7.8 The Role of the Police

The Police have a number of different roles when dealing with sexual exploitation. This includes having a duty of care to the child or young person, preventing and investigating any crimes, and arresting and prosecuting offenders. Coventry Public Protection Unit (PPU) investigate child abuse allegations and are actively involved in all child sexual exploitation operations.

The Police Procedure in Respect of Children and Young People Involved in Sexual Exploitation
  1. When Police Officers have found a child or young person in the above circumstances they should be taken to their home address for the purpose of checking the suitability of their home circumstances;
  2. If the Officers feel that their home and family circumstances are adequate, and that the child or young person will not suffer any significant harm by remaining at that address, then they will be left there;
  3. Either the same day or the following morning the officers should make telephone contact with the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) to inform them of the incident / circumstances. A short written report should then be sent to Children's Social Care confirming the information that the officer provided verbally;
  4. Should officers feel that the child / young person's home circumstances are inadequate, or they are of no fixed abode and may suffer imminent harm because of the circumstances in which they were found, then the police should make contact with social care / emergency duty team (out of hours) and consider if it is necessary to take the child / young person into Police Protection, under Section 46 of the Children Act 1989;
  5. Police Officers should then contact the relevant Children's Social Care locality office or the Emergency Duty Team with a view to them being found suitable accommodation. A verbal telephone and follow up written report should be provided;
  6. If a child or young person comes to the attention of the Police under these circumstances, a record on the Operational Intelligence System (OIS) will be made of the individual and the circumstances in which they were found and a referral will be made to the Coventry Public Protection Unit;
  7. The individual circumstances of each case must be considered and if Officers are in any doubt whatsoever then they should seek advice from Children's Social Care;
  8. The Police Protocol requires that a child or young person should be given advice about such behaviour on two occasions. Police Officers will endeavour to engage multi-agency partnerships to prevent the young person becoming further involved in this behaviour.

7.9 Gathering Evidence and Recording and Sharing Information

An Officer who receives and investigates a complaint of sexual exploitation should ensure that vital evidence is not lost. As with every investigation time is often critical, and any delay could result in partial or total loss of evidence. This may result in being unable to prosecute the perpetrator for the abuse, but more importantly could leave the child or young person, and any potential future victims, exposed to further danger.

The Investigating Officer should attempt to preserve witness evidence as soon as possible, which may include obtaining the child's or young person's clothing. This includes taking statements from the child or young person, and any other witnesses. However any witness needs must be taken into consideration. The Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 define vulnerable and intimidated witnesses, and how to obtain 'Best Evidence'. Police Officers should familiarise themselves with this document.

Photographs of injuries received as a result of abuse or other types of evidence should not be taken by professionals other than those involved in an investigation such as a Police officer or by a medical photographer when requested by a paediatrician. Professionals should always inform Children's Social Care or the police of the presence of such injuries or other factors that may be useful for evidential purposes.

8. Providing Alternative Accommodation for Children and Young People

8.1 Immediate Protection

Sometimes it is clear that emergency action should be taken to safeguard a child or young person. Such action should normally be immediately preceded by a Strategy Discussion between the Police, Children's Social Care, and other agencies as appropriate. This may result in either ensuring that the child / young person remains in a safe place, or removing them from the home of the person who is exploiting them to a place of safety.

8.2 Accommodation for Sexually Exploited Children and Young People

If a child or young person needs to be accommodated away from their family home, the following options should be considered:

  • Extended family carers who may provide safe accommodation;
  • Foster care;
  • A residential unit – consideration should be given to the identification of a CSE Therapeutic unit.

A fourth option of secure accommodation is often discussed but placing a child or young person in secure accommodation should only be considered in extreme circumstances and where legal advice has been sought to confirm whether threshold is met for a Secure Accommodation Order.

Children and young people who are being sexually exploited need good quality placements, with staff or foster carers who have experience of building trusting relationships and have skills at containing young people. These placements do not have to be secure.

8.3 Residential Units

Residential units are sometimes targeted by persons who exploit Children and Young People, therefore staff need to be aware of the indicators of risk with respect to sexual exploitation. As well as following internal Children's Social Care procedures relating to Looked after Children, if a child / young person is at risk of sexual exploitation and living in a residential unit, the following steps should be taken:

  • Trying to dissuade the child / young person from leaving the unit to engage in sexual exploitation;
  • Monitoring telephone calls and letters; confiscate a mobile phone that is being used inappropriately;
  • Monitoring callers to the home or adults who collect children / young people by car. This may involve refusing visitors entrance to the unit; monitoring any suspicious activity in the vicinity of the unit and passing information direct to the police about people and vehicles via the Information Intelligence Form and sending via FIB@west-midlands.pnn.police.uk;
  • Where these efforts fail and the child / young person leaves, staff should follow them and encourage them to return;
  • If they will not return, staff should inform the police immediately and pass on all relevant information.

Staff can confiscate mobile phones from Looked after Children to give to the police, if there is concern that there is an issue of child abuse. This can legally be examined by the police as part of an investigation into crimes that may have been committed. However, the child / young person should be given another mobile phone to use until the original is returned to them.

9. Specialist Services in Coventry and Nationally Working with People at Risk of Sexual Exploitation

Local

National

Appendices

Appendix 1: Identifying Offences Committed

Appendix 2: Regional Sexual Exploitation Screening Tool

This is a checklist that you can use to help you decide whether a child or young person may be at risk of CSE (Child Sexual Exploitation) this tool is to be used when working with children up to their 18th birthday.

Appendix 2A: Coventry Child Sexual Exploitation Screening Tool

Appendix 3: Child Sexual Exploitation Practitioners Toolkit

Appendix 4: 5x5x5 - Information Intelligence Report

Appendix 5: NWG Risk Assessment Tool

Appendix 6: Safety and Disruption Plan

Appendix 7: Multi-Agency Sexual Exploitation Meeting - Initial Agenda

Appendix 8: Multi-Agency Sexual Exploitation Meeting - Review Agenda

Appendix 9: Criminal injuries Compensation

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme is a government funded scheme designed to compensate blameless victims of violent crime in Great Britain. For full details regarding eligibility and how to access, please follow the link above.

Appendix 10: Information Sharing Tool

Appendix 11A: Child Abduction Warning Notice - Under 16's

Appendix 11B: Child Abduction Warning Notice - Under 18's

Appendix 12: CMOG Terms of Reference

See also:

Coventry Safeguarding Children Board - Child Sexual Exploitation Multi Agency Delivery Plan

National Referral Mechanism: guiadnce for child first responders (GOV.UK)