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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.


These procedures should be read in conjunction with:

KSCB Adolescent Risk Management Procedures - to follow

KSCB Working with Sexually Active Young People

National Standards for Youth Justice Services

In 2014, Kent adopted the AIM model of risk assessment for children who display sexual behaviour. Specialist Children’s 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.


Minor revisions were made to this chapter in October 2016.


  1. Purpose
  2. Threshold for Referral
  3. Harmful Behaviour and New Technology
  4. Education and Youth Settings Role in Recognition of Harmful Behaviour
  5. Response
  6. Strategy Discussions
  7. Outcome of Enquiries
  8. Child Protection Conference
  9. Criminal Proceedings
  10. Multi-Agency Child in Need Meetings
  11. Assessment of Children and Young People Exhibiting Harmful Sexual Behaviour
  12. Adolescent Risk Management Panels
  13. Providing Interventions
  14. Monitoring

    Appendix A: Checklist for Understanding Children Under 12 Years Old

1. Purpose

This practice guidance has been developed to set out a multi-agency strategy and framework for effectively addressing 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.

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.

2. Threshold for Referral

Severe harm may be caused to children by the abusive and bullying behaviour of other children, which may be of a physical, sexual or emotional nature.

Such harmful behaviour must be taken as seriously as that perpetrated by an adult.

The same signs and symptoms that pertain to the abuse of children by adults are applicable to the harmful behaviour of children toward other children (see the Recognition of Significant Harm Procedure of this manual). The effect on the victim of intimidation and peer pressure may make disclosure difficult.

Professionals must decide in the circumstances of each case whether or not behaviour directed at another child should be categorised as harmful or not.

It will be helpful to consider the following factors:

  • The child’s development, and family and social circumstances;
  • Relative chronological and developmental age of the two children (the greater the difference the more likely the behaviour should be defined as harmful);
  • A differential in power or authority e.g. related to race or physical or intellectual vulnerability of the victim;
  • Actual behaviour (physical and verbal factors must be considered);
  • Whether the behaviour could be described as age appropriate or involves inappropriate sexual knowledge or motivation;
  • Physical aggression, bullying or bribery;
  • The victim’s experience and perception of the behaviour;
  • Attempts to ensure secrecy;
  • An assessment of the change in the behaviour over time (whether it has become more severe or more frequent);
  • Duration and frequency of behaviour;
  • The risks to self and others, including other children in the household, extended family, school, peer group or wider social network.

If there is sexual activity between children it is important to determine what is developmentally normal sexual experimentation and what is coercive (see also Working with Sexually Active Young People Procedure).

See checklist for understanding adolescent behaviours at Appendix A: Checklist for Understanding Children Under 12 Years Old or find Brook sexual behaviours traffic light tool at

When there is suspicion or an allegation of a child or young person displaying sexually harmful behaviour or being a victim of sexually harmful behaviour by another child, it should be referred immediately to Specialist Children’s Services or the Police Public Protection Unit.

Adult Victim

If allegations concern harmful behaviour toward an adult by a child, the Police would normally undertake the criminal investigation. A referral to Specialist Children’s Services should be made for any allegation of harmful behaviour by a child, irrespective of the age of the victim.

The possibility the perpetrator is or was also a victim should be considered.

3. Harmful Behaviour and New Technology

The growing use of new technology has led to potential cyber risks of harm to children and young people both as victims and perpetrators of abuse. Practitioners need to be aware that the issues and considerations in terms of harmful behaviour need to be considered as child protection and/or criminal issues. The technology is just another means by which abuse can be perpetrated.

Cyber bullying (also called 'online bullying') is when a person or a group of people uses the internet, email, online games or any other kind of digital technology to threaten, tease, upset or humiliate someone else. See or for more information.

Online sexual abuse may include the deliberate exposure of other children to adult material online, coercing other children into performing sexual acts or sharing images online (sexting), acting in a sexualised way online that is considered to be problematic or harmful and could put themselves or others at risk.


Sexting generally refers to the sending of sexually explicit images via text, email, MSN or through social networking sites. See and for more information.

4. Education and Youth Settings Role in Recognition of Harmful Behaviour

Concerns about possible harmful behaviour toward one child by another are frequently first considered within a school or youth environment and it may often be unclear if the circumstances should be considered under child protection procedures.

If there is a clear child protection concern there should be no delay in the referral to Specialist Children’s Services or the Police Public Protection Unit via the usual referral process e.g. if there has been a disclosure or someone witnessed sexual abuse or allegation of physical assault has been made.

A distinction between behaviour which is inappropriate or undesirable but not harmful, and behaviour which is harmful and warrants child protection intervention will need to be considered. The Area Education Safeguarding Advisors should be contacted for advice and consultancy to assist in these considerations.

When further consideration is required prior to deciding the extent and nature of concerns the organisation’s role is that of clarification not investigation. Staff should follow their own safeguarding protocols and give the child/ren the opportunity, in their own words, to record or dictate their version of events, confirm the accuracy of the record, record any disagreement and keep a written, signed and dated record of pertinent information including date, time and who was present.

Staff must assess the management of any risk immediately and consider the range of sanctions available to ensure the alleged victim, alleged perpetrator and all other children and staff members within the setting are safe.

5. Response

The immediate safety of the identified victim must always be the paramount consideration. However, whenever a child may have harmed another, all agencies must be aware of their responsibilities to both individuals and multi-agency management of the case must reflect this.

It is likely that the child understood to have shown harmful behaviour toward another may pose a significant risk of harm to other children. They may have considerable needs themselves and may also be or have been the victim of abuse.

6. Strategy Discussions

On receipt of a referral, if there is reasonable cause to suspect a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer Significant Harm, Specialist Children’s must hold a Strategy Discussion (see Strategy Discussion/Meetings Procedure for further information). This may take place following a referral or at any other time when concerns emerge.

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. It may be helpful for separate meetings to be convened for the victim and the child alleged to have manifested harmful behaviour.

A different social worker should be allocated for the victim and the child 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 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 Specialist Children’s Services and a record made. The following individuals should be invited to the meeting:

  • Social worker for the child 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 alleged to have been harmed;
  • Social workers’ first line manager/s;
  • Police Public Protection Unit;
  • Youth Justice representative if the child is alleged to have harmed another (an AIM trained representative/specialist in assessing harmful sexual behaviour if there are concerns of this nature);
  • Early help representative where the child is already known to the service;
  • Education representative/s (particularly if the concerns suggest that other children 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 when relevant the family) e.g. CAMHS forensic professionals.

The discussion will be conducted with a Signs of Safety approach and will consider:

  1. What we are worried about:
    The causes for concern, past harm, future danger and complicating factors;
  2. What’s working well:
    Existing strengths, people, plans and actions;
  3. What needs to happen – future safety and safety goals.

The meeting must plan in detail the respective roles of those involved in enquiries and ensure that:

  1. Information relevant to the protection needs of all children involved is gathered;
  2. Any criminal aspects of the harm are investigated to inform the understanding of the level of risk and how this will most effectively be managed e.g. : using Youth Justice options at the remand stage;
  3. Any information relevant to any harmful experiences and protection needs of the child understood to have manifested harmful behaviour is obtained;
  4. How and who will complete the risk assessments (for sexually harmful behaviour AIM assessments see section 9 Assessment of Children and Young People exhibiting harmful sexual behaviour).

In planning the investigation the following factors should be considered in the strategy discussion:

  1. Chronological age and developmental stage of both children;
  2. Seriousness of the alleged incident;
  3. Effect on the victim and their own view of their safety/any assessed needs as a result of their experience;
  4. Parental attitude and ability to protect their child from harm and manage any risk;
  5. Parental advice that should be offered;
  6. Advice to be given to educational and/or youth establishments regarding managing any considered risk;
  7. Arrangements to protect the victim and other children, especially if victim and the other child are in the same household or class;
  8. Whether there is suspicion the child apparently manifesting harmful behaviour has also been harmed;
  9. Consideration of the alleged perpetrators/victims risk to others or risk to self e.g.: self-harm, Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) or risk of going missing;
  10. Whether there is reason to suspect that adults are also involved;
  11. 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 N.B.: this may include certain Youth Justice decisions.

The child sexual abuse pathway ( should be followed when there are concerns about possible sexual abuse. When there is suspicion that the child has manifested harmful behaviour and is 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, Specialist Children’s will not normally be involved other than in performing any statutory responsibilities to the child e.g. as appropriate adult.

Throughout the enquiry, the immediate protection of the child/ren must be ensured. Any relevant information from this interview should be shared by Police to aid in any risk assessments being completed (normally during a further strategy discussion or outcome of s47 enquiries discussion).

7. 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 further s47 enquiry or criminal investigation, the details of the referral and the reasons for the decision must be recorded.

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 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 meeting or child protection conference must be considered in relation to the alleged victim.

8. 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;
  • As well as carrying out all of its normal functions the Child Protection Conference must consider how to respond to the child’s needs implied by her/his harmful behaviour.

9. 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.

Best practice suggests criminal proceedings should not be taken if:

  • Criminalising certain types of behaviour might be detrimental to the interests of all concerned;
  • It is inappropriate to pursue the criminal aspects of the case because the professionals are satisfied that sexual activity took place but that it was not harmful.

If the child is convicted, a referral must be made to MAPPA (see Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) Procedure).

10. 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.

Young people with inappropriate sexual behaviour who are re-entering the community following remand/a custodial sentence or time in secure accommodation must have had joint consideration between SCS and Youth Justice during the resettlement planning meeting. Youth Justice must notify SCS when children are leaving these accommodations in order to ensure a joint assessment and co-ordination of SCS and Youth Justice.

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

Kent Safeguarding Children Board suggest using the AIM assessment process to assess and develop perspective around children’s behaviours and to develop interventions.

AIM 1 - Under 12 Years & Children below the age of criminal responsibility or lacking competence (e.g. with learning difficulties / a learning disability)

Cases involving children either under the age of 12 years or who have learning difficulties / a learning 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.

In the cases meeting any of the above criteria / outcomes it is vital that clear multi-agency based decisions are made concerning:

  • The perceived origins of the sexually harmful behaviour;
  • A description of the behaviour, i.e. what is understood to have actually happened;
  • Where the knowledge of the sexual behaviour may have come from;
  • An assessment of the family circumstances including, on an interim basis, the issue of the safety of others within the home;
  • The extent of any identified risk posed by the young person to others;
  • The objectives of the plan and their related activities designed to safeguard both the child and other children;
  • The information which can be shared with other parties involved in the day to day care and support of the young person;
  • The advice and support available from specialist services e.g. CAMHS.

The AIM initial and core assessment process for the Under 12 year’s age group should be used by social workers. Youth Justice would not generally be involved in this assessment (other than for general advice) given the child is under the age of criminal responsibility.

The AIM manual includes a checklist “Understanding Children Under the Age of 12 Years” which can be used by a range of professionals in addition to those in SCS and Youth Justice, such as those working in Education and in Foster Care, to inform their decision making (see Appendix A: Checklist for Understanding Children Under 12 Years Old).

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

Youth Justice will be responsible for providing a case manager to support a joint assessment process with Specialist Children’s Services for a child aged 10 years plus (i.e. above the age of criminal responsibility).

12. Adolescent Risk Management Panels

See Kent Safeguarding Children Board website.

A referral to the Adolescent Risk Management Panel will follow when the outcome from an AIM Under 12 (for those aged 10 years plus) AIM2 assessment indicates the child / young person presents an ongoing risk to other children.

Representation at the Panel will include staff from Youth Justice, Police, Education provider (if the child is of statutory school age) and SCS reflecting the services likely to have the core responsibilities for the management.

13. Providing Interventions

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.

Helpful websites: Brook Sexual Behaviours Traffic Light Tool.

Consideration should always be given to the need for a specialist risk assessment.

14. Monitoring

The AIM assessment must be recorded on the case management systems of both Specialist Children’s Services (Liberi) and Youth Justice (Careworks).

For Specialist Children’s Services the Child and Family Assessment tool should be used to detail the AIM assessment with additional headings being used where necessary.

The cases will be considered using management oversight. Cases where there are children displaying sexually harmful behaviour will be subject to regular audit as part of the Specialist Children’s Services and Early Help and Preventative Services including Youth Justice auditing protocols.

Appendix A: Checklist for Understanding Children Under 12 Years Old

Click here to view Appendix A: Checklist for Understanding Children Under 12 Years Old.