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2.2.2 Children Who Exhibit Harmful Behaviour including Sexual Harm (Assessing and Providing Interventions) - Kent Only

Please note – At present this procedure only relates to Kent. The Medway version is currently under review.

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

These procedures should be read in conjunction with:

KSCMP Adolescent Risk Management Procedures - to follow

KSCMP Working with Sexually Active Young People

National Standards for Youth Justice Services

Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Between Children in Schools and Colleges

In 2014, Kent adopted the AIM model of risk assessment for children who display sexual behaviour. Children Social Work Services and Youth Justice have AIM trained Champions’. These trained staff should either undertake the assessment or support staff/co-work with staff in the completion of the assessment.

AMENDMENT

In November 2021 a link to Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Between Children in Schools and Colleges was added.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Level for Request for Support
  3. Establishing Whether a Child or Young Persons Sexual Behaviour is Harmful
  4. Children and Young People Who Display Harmful Sexual Behaviour
  5. Early Help
  6. The Role of Education Establishments
  7. Children’s Social Work Service
  8. Strategy Discussions
  9. Outcome of Enquiries
  10. Child Protection Conference
  11. Criminal Proceedings
  12. Multi-Agency Child in Need Meetings
  13. Assessment of Children and Young People Exhibiting Harmful Sexual Behaviour
  14. Planning
  15. AIM Review Meeting
  16. Providing Interventions
  17. Home Safety Planning


1. Introduction

This practice guidance has been developed to set out a multi-agency strategy and framework for effectively addressing sexually harmful behaviours; including the identification, assessment and intervention of such behaviours. It has been developed to support professionals to safeguard children at the earliest stage following concerns being raised regarding harmful behaviour.

The procedure is written with the understanding that some staff within the Children’s Social Work Service (CSWS) and Youth Justice have been trained in using AIM.

This practice guidance provides the responses required when there are allegations that a child has harmed another child and / or an adult including:

  • Within their household e.g. siblings; and
  • Outside of the child’s immediate household inclusive of school/ education settings and youth services.

These procedures should be read in line with the ‘Harmful Sexual Behaviour Among Children and Young People’ NICE guideline published September 2016.


2. Level for Request for Support

Professionals must decide in the circumstances of each case whether or not behaviour directed at another child should be categorised as harmful or not. Children who are displaying behaviours that are considered problematic or harmful should be referred to the Kent Front Door Service in order for consideration to be given to the child or young persons need for a service via Early Help and / or Children’s Social Work Service.

Any professional who is unsure of the need for a request for support much seek advice from the safeguarding lead within their agency or contact the Front Door Service for a consultation.


3. Establishing Whether a Child or Young Persons Sexual Behaviour is Harmful

Carson (2014) suggests professionals use the checklist below to gather relevant information to make a decision about the immediate level of concern about a child or young person who is acting out sexually.

  Healthy Problematic Harmful
Type of sexual behaviour Age appropriate, mutual and exploratory. Not age appropriate, some sexual language or self-masturbation as the only form of comfort and regulation of arousal.
Result of peer pressure.
Adult sexual activity e.g. intercourse, oral sex etc.
Extreme self-masturbation causing pain or injury.
Sex with animals.
Context of behaviour Open, light-hearted and spontaneous. No secrecy or force or intent to cause harm, but children and young people involved seem uncomfortable.
Masturbation is in public or becoming more noticeable.
Behaviour is planned, secretive – there are elements of threat, force and coercion.
Masturbation which involves high levels of intense emotions for the child e.g. anger, sexual arousal, insecurity and their main means of regulating emotions.
Child and young person’s emotional response when challenged about their behaviour Happy, embarrassed, able to take responsibility for their behaviour and its effects on others (dependent on age and understanding). Child ashamed, may initially struggle to take responsibility for their behaviour but can demonstrate remorse and empathy. Child angry, fearful, aggressive, distressed or conversely passive, lacking in understanding why anyone would be worried.
Cannot take responsibility for their behaviour, blames others and does not show empathy.
Response of other children, young people and adults targeted Engaging freely, happy Uncomfortable, unhappy with behaviour but not fearful or anxious.
If behaviour directed at adults, they feel uncomfortable.
Unhappy, fearful, anxious and / or distressed. Could be physically hurt.
Adults may feel intimidated.
Power dynamics Similar age, ability and would normally play together.
There are no factors to suggest a power imbalance.
Children and young people who would not normally play together or there may be some subtle factors or dynamics which suggest one child or young person is more in control than the other. Children and young people who would not normally play together or there are clear power differences e.g. due to age, size, status, ability, strength etc.    
Frequency of the behaviour Behaviour is age appropriate, ad-hoc and not main focus for the child or young person.
The child or young person is interested in other things.
Some inappropriate sexual behaviour for age, however the child or young person has interest in other things, behaviour is intermittent, but may be increasing in frequency. Frequent incidents and child or young person seem focussed on behaviour, from which they seem to seek comfort / reassurance or control.
It is disproportionate to other aspects of their life.
Persistence of the behaviour  Behaviour is age appropriate, ad-hoc and not main focus for the child or young person.
The child or young person is interested in other things.
Behaviour is recurring and there are some difficulties in distracting and redirecting behaviour.
The child or young person is responsive to some intervention.
Child or young person cannot be distracted from the behaviour easily and returns to the behaviour.
Focus on the behaviour is disproportionate to other aspects of their life.
It appears to be compulsive and the main way they seek comfort / attention or control.
Parental relation Accepting of the concern and supportive of their child. Parents / carers struggling with accepting the behaviour / seeking alternative explanations. Denial, minimisation of the behaviour.
Blaming of the victim, threatening victim and family.
Rejecting the child or young person.
Harsh punishment of the child.


4. Children and Young People Who Display Harmful Sexual Behaviour

Children and young people who display harmful sexual behaviour are often developing their own sexuality and understanding of relationships. Research clearly indicates that good assessment and early intervention, which addresses risk and builds resilience for the child or young person, produce the best outcomes for this kind of behaviour.

Principles of Working with Children and Young People who have Harmful or Problematic Sexual Behaviour

  • Work with children and young people who harm others must recognise that such children and young people are likely to have considerable needs themselves, and also that they may pose a significant risk of harm to other children and young people;
  • The needs of the children and young people who sexually harm should be considered separately from the needs of their victims;
  • Evidence suggests that children and young people who abuse may have suffered considerable disruption in their lives, been exposed to violence within the family, may have witnessed or been subject to physical or sexual abuse, have problems in their educational development and may have committed other offences. Such children and young people are likely to be Children in Need, and some will in addition be suffering from, or at risk of, significant harm and may themselves be in need of protection;
  • The reasons why young people sexually abuse is multi-faceted, and to explore these further a full risk assessment and an assessment of need must be carried out in every case. Different agencies will have separate assessment criteria’s, so assessments must be shared between relevant professionals and the understanding of why a young person is behaving as they are should be formulated through a multi-agency discussion;
  • Children and young people who sexually harm others should be held responsible for their abusive behaviour;
  • Early and effective intervention with children and young people who sexually harm others may play an important part in protecting children and young people, by preventing the continuation or escalation of abusive behaviour;
  • Young people who sexually harm others have a right to be consulted and involved in all matters and decisions that affect their lives. Their parents have a right to information, respect and participation in matters that affect their family;
  • The complex nature of the problem requires a coordinated, multi-disciplinary approach, which addresses both child protection and criminal justice issues.


5. Early Help

Early Help teams are likely to receive a small number of requests for support where there are some behaviours which are of a sexual nature, and which may be considered problematic.

In these circumstances, Early Help workers would be expected to utilise their skills and knowledge of working with a range of approaches to support children, young people and families to address these behaviours including:

  • Direct work with the child or young person – getting to know the child or young person, working on concept of good touch / bad touch, child and young person’s victimisation, life skills, personal boundaries, sex education;
  • Work with the family – empowering parents / carers, dealing with their feelings about sexual behaviour, education, boundary setting, strategies to deal with the unwanted behaviour, creating a family safety plan, exploring parents / carers own experiences of abuse / victimisation;
  • Work with wider family and network – education and provision of support, multi-agency involvement in developing the safety plan, disengaging unhealthy networks and developing healthy networks, sharing responsibility among the professional network i.e. schools, residential setting etc.

If there is a worry that the escalating behaviours are becoming harmful, or there is an incident of sexual harmful behaviour then advice should be sought from the Unit Lead and / or Service Manager with a view to escalating the matter to the Children’s Social Work Service.

Youth Justice workers may receive requests for support where sexually harmful behaviours are present through the Out of Court Disposal process or when a young person has been sentenced at Court. There is an expectation that, where the behaviours are suspected to be harmful, a Youth Justice worker will be allocated the case and a case discussion between staff from Youth Justice and the Children’s Social Work Services will be arranged. This conversation may well take place during a Strategy Discussion should a decision be made to initiate Section 47 (S47) inquiries but may be held as a separate planning meeting.


6. The Role of Education Establishments

Requests for support from education establishments form a significant proportion of requests into the multi-agency process. Schools and colleges may be involved at many stages to manage cases of harmful sexual behaviours.

Successful achievement of educational outcomes has been shown as a key factor in desisting from further sexually abusive behaviours and in promoting positive life outcomes for children and young people who have displayed harmful sexual behaviours.

All establishments should have a Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) who coordinates and develops safeguarding arrangements and ensures staff are fully trained (NSPCC 2019).


7. Children’s Social Work Service

The Children’s Social Work Service will provide support to children, young people and their families where there are concerns about high problematic and harmful sexual behaviours. Children and young people may be considered a Child in Need (S17 The Children’s Act 1989) or a Child in Need of Protection (S47 The Children’s Act 1983).

On receipt of a request for support, if there is reasonable cause to suspect a child or young person is suffering, or is likely to suffer significant harm, the Children’s Social Work Service must convene a Strategy Discussion. This may take place following a request for support or at any other time when concerns emerge.


8. Strategy Discussions

In cases where the child suspected of harmful behaviour is below the age of criminal responsibility (under 10), those involved in the Strategy Discussion should agree whether or not Police involvement in the enquiry is necessary (for example where there is suspicion that a child’s harmful behaviour stems from abuse from adults e.g. physical/sexual abuse or exposure to inappropriate sexual behaviours or material).

The Strategy Discussion must consider the needs of both/all involved children and young people. It may be helpful for separate meetings to be convened for the victim and the child or young person alleged to have manifested harmful behaviour.

A different social worker should be allocated for the victim and the child or young person alleged to have manifested harmful behaviour even when they live in the same household, to ensure both are supported through the process of the enquiry and that both their needs are fully assessed. When the children and young people concerned are the responsibility of different local authorities, each must be represented at the Strategy Discussion, which will usually be convened and chaired by the authority in which the victim lives.

The Strategy Discussion will be convened and chaired by Children’s Social Work Services and a record made. The following individuals should be invited to the meeting:

  • Social Worker for the child or young person who is suspected or alleged to have harmed another person (an AIM trained representative/specialist in assessing harmful sexual behaviour is necessary if there are concerns of this nature);
  • Social Worker for the child or young person alleged to have been harmed;
  • Social Workers’ first line manager/s;
  • Police
  • Youth Justice representative if the child or young person is alleged to have harmed another (an AIM trained representative/specialist in assessing harmful sexual behaviour if there are concerns of this nature);
  • North East London Foundation Trust (NELFT) Complex Pathway Lead from the child or young person’s district;
  • Early Help representative where the child or young person is already known to the service;
  • Education representative/s (particularly if the concerns suggest that other children and young people in the setting may have been or may be at risk of being harmed);
  • School Nurse or other health services staff as required;
  • Representatives of fostering or residential care as applicable;
  • Area Education Safeguarding Advisor;
  • Any other professionals with significant involvement with the child or young person (or when relevant the family) e.g. CAMHS forensic professionals.

Factors for Strategy Discussion to Consider

The Strategy Discussion should ensure that there is an agenda which allows all attendees to contribute. It is recommended that the agenda includes:

  • What are the concerns and risks? Who is at risk? How imminent is the risk?
  • What do we know and what we suspect / not know?
  • What are the strengths and protective factors in the family / families?
  • What do we need to do to ensure everyone is safe? Who needs to be involved?
  • What do we need to know? Who will find this out?
  • Who will be the lead agency?
  • Actions and date to review progress.

Planning of Investigation

In planning the investigation, the following factors should be considered in the Strategy Discussion:

  • Chronological age and developmental stage of both children and young people;
  • Seriousness of the alleged incident;
  • Effect of the victim and their own view of their safety / any assessed needs as a result of their experience;
  • Parental attitude and ability to protect their child from harm and manage any risk;
  • Parental advice that should be offered;
  • Advice to be given to educational and / or youth establishments regarding managing any considered risk;
  • Arrangements to protect the victim and other children and young people, especially if the victim and others are in same household or class;
  • Whether there is suspicion the child or young person apparently manifesting harmful behaviour has also been harmed;
  • Consideration of the alleged perpetrators / victims’ risk to other or risk to self e.g. Self-Harm, Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) or risk of going missing;
  • Whether there is reason to suspect that adults are also involved;
  • The likelihood and desirability of criminal proceedings and relevance of Police bail conditions or possible opposition to bail / remand options within the Court setting.

An immediate safety plan must also be agreed to ensure that both alleged perpetrator and victim are safeguarded.

The Child Sexual Abuse Pathway should be followed when there are concerns about possible sexual abuse. When there is suspicion that the child or young person has manifested harmful behaviour and is also a victim of abuse, the Strategy Discussion must consider the order in which interviews will take place.

If Police decide to conduct a separate ‘offender’ interview, the Children’s Social Work Service will not normally be involved other than performing any statutory responsibilities to the child or young person e.g. as an appropriate adult.

Throughout the enquiry, the immediate protection of the child or young person must be ensured. Any relevant information from this interview should be shared by the Police to aid in any risk assessments being completed (normally during a further Strategy Discussion or outcome of S47 Enquiries Discussion).


9. Outcome of Enquiries

Outcomes of enquiries will be as described in Child Protection (Section 47) Enquiries Procedure and outcome of S47 procedures. The position of the alleged victim and the child understood to have manifested harmful behaviour must be considered and assessed separately.

Alleged Perpetrator

In terms of the alleged perpetrator, when the decision is reached that the alleged behaviour does not constitute harm and there is no need for a further S47 enquiry or criminal investigation, the details of the referral and the reasons for the decision must be recorded. The outcome of S47 discussion should consider which professional is best placed to inform the child, young person or family of the decision and any follow up plan.

In these circumstances consideration should be given to the need for any further assessment or support from any agency and the use of multi-agency Child in Need planning meetings to agree and then implement a Child in Need plan.

If the information gathered in the course of enquiries suggests that the child or young person manifesting harmful behaviour is also a victim, or potential victim, of harm including neglect, the need for a Child Protection Conference must be considered.

Alleged Victim

In terms of the alleged victim, their needs must be assessed separately in their own outcome of S47 enquiry and using the Child and Family Assessment. The need for a Child in Need meeting or Child Protection Conference must be considered in relation to the alleged victim.


10. Child Protection Conference

Standard Child Protection Conference procedures should be followed (see Child Protection Review Conferences Procedure) and in addition:

  • A Youth Justice representative must, in the case of a child aged 10 or over understood to be manifesting harmful behaviour, be invited to the conference and Youth Justice must, in the case of a younger child, be informed of the meeting;
  • A representative from NELFT should they have been requested to undertake an AIM Assessment.


11. Criminal Proceedings

The decision as to how to proceed with any criminal aspects of a case will be made by the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). This decision will take into account any recommendations of Youth Justice and the views of other professionals.


12. Multi-Agency Child in Need Meetings

Where there are insufficient grounds for holding a Child Protection Conference, or where one has been held but it was concluded that a child protection plan was not required, a multi-agency approach will still be needed if the child’s needs are complex and/or there are issues of public protection that need to be considered. The decision around the level for child protection will be made by the Front Door. In these cases, a Child in Need meeting should be held.


13. Assessment of Children and Young People Exhibiting Harmful Sexual Behaviour

Regardless of age, when a child or young person displays sexually harmful behaviour, they should be referred to NELFT for assessment and support, and the local NELFT Complex Pathway Lead should be invited to meetings where the risks and concerns are being discussed. An AIM assessment may be completed as part of this.

The request for NELFT assessment and support can be found at NELFT, How to get in touch and refer.

Consultations regarding the referred child or young person can be requested via NELFT by telephoning 0300 123 4496.

Under 12’s (AIM assessment)

Cases involving children either under the age of 12 years or who have learning difficulties / disability meaning that their mental capacity is below the age of 12 years:

  • May result in a decision not to instigate criminal proceedings due to their lack of maturity and/or the degree of their understanding of the consequences of their sexually harmful behaviour;
  • Will result if under the age of criminal responsibility in no Police or Court action being taken.

Whilst the AIM assessment will be undertaken and led by a NELFT professional, there is an expectation that the allocated Social Worker will support the assessment by:

  • Introducing the assessor to the child or young person and their family;
  • Providing information such as a completed child and family assessment etc. which will inform the AIM assessment.

N.B. for those Social Workers who are trained in AIM assessment, a decision should be with NEFLT about sharing the assessment process jointly.

AIM 2 - Children Aged 12 years and above (above the Age of Criminal Responsibility)

If an AIM 2 assessment is required and there is not Youth Justice involvement, the allocated Social Worker should make a referral to NELFT who will lead the assessment. The allocated Social Worker should support NELFT in undertaking the assessment by:

  • Introducing the assessor to the child or young person and their family;
  • Providing information such as a completed Child and Family assessment etc. which will inform the AIM assessment.

N.B. for those Social Workers who are trained in AIM assessments, a decision should be made with NELFT about sharing the assessment process jointly.

If an AIM 2 assessment is required and the case is within the criminal justice process (i.e. there is an allocated Youth Justice Worker), agreement should be reached between the allocated Social Worker and Youth Justice Worker about who is best placed to make the referral to NELFT for assessment.

N.B. For those Social Workers and Youth Justice Workers who are trained in AIM assessments, a decision should be made at the point of referral with NELFT about sharing the assessment process jointly.

The assessed level of risk will inform the Youth Justice assessment and Child and Family assessment.


14. Planning

Once the assessment is completed and there is an understanding of the level of risk, a draft safety and intervention plan should be prepared by the assessment author(s) with input from young person and their family / carers and discussed at the AIM Review Meeting. The plan will be:

  • Designed with the young person and their supporters (family, carers etc.);
  • Focused on developing the strengths of the young person;
  • Inclusive of the needs to repair harm towards all affected by the offence(s);
  • Alive to the risk of harm to other, and will include steps to reduce any identified risks.


15. AIM Review Meeting

Following the AIM assessment, a multi-agency meeting will be convened (these conversations could be held as part of a Child in Need Meeting, Child Protection Conferences / Core Group etc.) to discuss the assessment and draft intervention / safety plan.

If the child or young person is a Look After Child, the Independent Reviewing Officer should attend the meeting.

Parents / Carers and their child will be invited to attend the meeting and will only be excluded in exceptional circumstances. Reasons for any exclusion should be clearly discussed with all attendees to the meetings and minuted. The meeting should be attended by the assessors and any other relevant professionals involved with the child or young person and their family.

The meeting should share the draft plan and produce a final version, which addresses:

  • Child protection concerns for the child or young person;
  • The safety of potential victims;
  • Risk management at home, in school and in the wider community;
  • Immediate living arrangements for the child or young person;
  • School attendance and related education issues;
  • Individual health needs, including emotional health needs;
  • Support for the child or young person and their family to promote their social, emotional and behavioural development;
  • The needs of the child and young person;
  • Relevant victim issues – whether the needs of the victim and their family are supported;
  • Intervention / treatment issues / identification;
  • Roles, tasks and expectations for different professionals / agencies;
  • Any need for further assessment;
  • Inclusion of the child or young person’s name on the Disclosure and Barring Service Barred list;
  • The timing and frequency of meetings to review the plan;
  • Minutes of the meeting will be circulated to those present and those with responsibility for action as soon as possible.


16. Providing Interventions

Consideration should be given to the necessity of ongoing support being supported by NELFT. NELFT are commissioned by the Children’s Social Work Service to provide services following assessments being completed with young people and their ongoing involvement needs to be addressed within the AIM Review Meetings.

Details of their services and a copy of the referral form can be found at NELFT Support.

The AIM assessment handbooks provide a large amount of advice regarding interventions where children/young people continue to pose a risk of harmful sexual behaviours. This includes direct interventions with the child and/or family about managing risks/safety planning, meeting needs, working with denial, motivational interviewing, understanding and supporting change etc.


17. Home Safety Planning

It is possible that a decision will need to be made to remove a child or young person from the family home as a protective measure for siblings. If a decision is made that a child or young person can remain at home a Home Safety Plan should be undertaken by the professionals involved to provide some rules and guidelines about what is permissible. It should also be completed in any other setting where a child or young person is placed – whether that is in a residential setting or a foster placement or with other family members.

End