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4.13 Working with Sexually Active Young People


  1. Introduction
  2. Under 13 Year Olds
  3. Under 16 Year Olds
  4. Between 16 and 17 Years
  5. Allegations
  6. Checklist

1. Introduction

1.1 Cases of underage sexual activity are likely to raise difficult issues for practitioners, and need to be handled with particular sensitivity. The  Sexual Offences Act 1992 sets out the law in relation to all children and young people under 16 who legally cannot consent to sex, but makes a separate distinction for children under 13 for whom any sexual activity should be considered to put a child at risk of serious harm.

2. Under 13 Year Olds

2.1 Under the Sexual Offences Act 1992 penetrative sex with a child under the age of 13 is classed as rape, regardless of the age of the perpetrator(s).
2.2 Where the allegation is of penetrative sex or other intimate sexual activity with a child under 13, there would always be reasonable cause to suspect that they are suffering or are likely to suffer Significant Harm. In this situation the child must be referred to Social Services.

3. Under 16 Year Olds

3.1 Sexual activity with a child under 16 is also an offence.  Where the child is aged 13 and up to their 16th birthday, the practitioner should discuss their concerns with their nominated child protection lead and consideration should be given in every case as to whether there should be a discussion with other agencies and whether a referral should be made to Social Services – see Referral to Social Services Procedure for more information. 
3.2 When an agency has decided that they do have concerns about a child involved in underage sexual activity and they have information about the partner/s, they should check with other agencies, including the Police, to establish what else is known. The Police should normally share the required information without beginning a full investigation, if the agency making the check requests this.

4. Between 16 & 17 years

4.1 Where a child is aged 16-17, sexual activity may still involve harm or risk of harm. The Checklist should be used to inform decisions. Concerns and requests for information sharing should be treated in the same way as for those from 13 years up to their sixteenth birthdays.
4.2 It is an offence for a person to have a sexual relationship with a person under the age of 18 if they hold a position of trust or authority in relation to them. If any professional is aware of such activity they should pass the information to the Police child protection team. Decisions not to refer must be fully documented, with detailed reasons given. Such a decision must be supported by a manager and follow a full and thorough assessment using the checklist below.

5. Allegations


The Allegations of Abuse made Against a Person who Works with Children Procedure must be initiated in situations where a person working on a paid or unpaid basis, has during the course of their work:

  • Behaved in a way that has harmed a child, or may have harmed a child;
  • Possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child;
  • Behaved towards a child or children in a way that he/she is unsuitable to work with children.

6. Checklist


The following checklist should be used to assess the extent to which a child may be suffering or at risk of Significant Harm:

  • The age of the child. The younger the age the greater the likelihood of cause for concern;
  • The level of maturity and understanding of the child;
  • What is known about the child’s living circumstances or background;
  • Age imbalance – particularly where there is a significant age difference;
  • Overt aggression or power imbalance;
  • Coercion or bribery;
  • Familial child sex offences;
  • Behaviour of the child (e.g. withdrawn or anxious);
  • The misuse of substances as a dis-inhibitor;
  • Whether the child’s own behaviour, because of the misuse of substances, places him/her at risk of harm so that he/she is unable to make an informed choice about any activity;
  • Whether any attempts to secure secrecy have been made by the sexual partner, beyond what would be considered usual in a teenage relationship;
  • Where the child denies or minimizes the concerns;
  • Whether the methods used are consistent with grooming;
  • Whether the sexual partner/s is/are known to one of the agencies.