Child Exploitation – resources for practitioners & volunteers

Child exploitation refers to the use of children for someone else’s advantage, gratification or profit often resulting in unjust, cruel and harmful treatment of the child. These activities are to the detriment of the child’s physical or mental health, education, moral or social-emotional development.

Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is illegal activity by people who have power over young people and use it to sexually abuse them.

This can involve a wide range of exploitative activity, from seemingly ‘consensual’ relationships and informal exchanges of sex for attention, accommodation, gifts or cigarettes, through to very serious organised crime.

In Greater Manchester the Programme Challenger website at  and the It’s Not Okay website at  contains information for young people, parents, carers, and professionals.

Links with running away
A significant risk factor for young people is the link between running away or being reported missing from home or from care.  For more information see our missing children resource.

What is Child Sexual Exploitation?

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a form of child abuse involving children and young people receiving something, such as accommodation, drugs, gifts or affection, as a result of them performing sexual activities, or having others perform sexual activities on them. It can occur without physical contact, when children are groomed to post sexual images of themselves on the internet.

CSE is a hidden issue taking place out of public view. Practitioners often do not identify it and young people themselves frequently do not recognise themselves as the abused. It can be difficult to get an accurate picture of the risk of sexual exploitation.

The link between children being sexually exploited and children going missing is very strong. Some 140,000 children go missing from home or care in the UK each year and it has been estimated that running away places around a quarter of these at risk of serious harm. Children and young people who run away may be ‘pushed away’ following abuse or other factors or ‘pulled away’ wanting to be near friends or because they are being exploited by adults.

Key facts about CSE

Sexual exploitation often starts around the age of 10 years old. Girls are usually targeted from age 10 and boys from age 8.

It affects both girls and boys and can happen in all communities.

Any person can be targeted but there are some particularly vulnerable groups: Looked After Children, Children Leaving Care and Children with Disabilities.

Victims of CSE may also be trafficked (locally, nationally and internationally).

Over 70% of adults involved in prostitution were sexually exploited as children or teenagers.

Sexual violence or abuse against children represents a major public health and social welfare problem within UK society, affecting 16% of children under 16. That is approximately 2 million children.

What are the signs and symptoms of child sexual exploitation?

Grooming and sexual exploitation can be very difficult to identify. Warning signs can easily be mistaken for ‘normal’ teenage behaviour and/or development. However, parents, carers, school teachers and practitioners are advised to be alert to the following signs and symptoms:

  • inappropriate sexual or sexualised behaviour
  • repeat sexually transmitted infections; in girls repeat pregnancy, abortions, miscarriage
  • having unaffordable new things (clothes, mobile) or expensive habits (alcohol, drugs
  • going to hotels or other unusual locations to meet friends
  • getting in/out of different cars driven by unknown adults
  • going missing from home or care
  • having older boyfriends or girlfriend
  • associating with other young people involved in sexual exploitation
  • truancy, exclusion, disengagement with school, opting out of education altogether
  • unexplained changes in behaviour or personality (chaotic, aggressive, sexual)
  • drug or alcohol misuse
  • getting involved in crime
  • injuries from physical assault, physical restraint, sexual assault
    (Barnardo’s, 2011; CEOP, 2011; Berelowitz et al, 2012).

For more information see our CSE Signs of risk and vulnerability fact sheet in the resource list below.

This is not an exhaustive list and indicators can change over time. For a fuller list and more information about what to do, visit the NSPCC website at    and

Guidance for practitioners

National guidance
Guidance relating to CSE can be found on the government website at

Local guidance
The Greater Manchester Safeguarding Partnership (GMSP) has developed a standardised approach to dealing with children and young people abused through sexual exploitation across Greater Manchester – the GMSP procedures found at and should be used by all practitioners.

The GMSP procedures are supported locally by the MSB CSE Strategy  published in July 2017.

CSE referral process 

If you believe a child is at risk of, or is being sexually abused through exploitation, please refer via the Manchester MASH – details on our concerned  page.

The Greater Manchester Phoenix CSE Measurement Tool and Guidance is available from the GM procedures manual at   and

CSE Intelligence Reporting

To assist the Police in building a picture of what CSE looks like in Manchester, where it is happening and who is involved then they require intelligence.

So for example if you have observed a car regularly being at a location where young people congregate, share the details of the car and a description of the occupants.

If a young person changes their appearance and appears to have money a new phone etc. and talks about going out to parties, then share this information with the Police.

Email your information to Manchester MASH – details on our concerned  page.

CSE Policy and procedures

Practitioners should refer to the relevant  GMSP Procedures in the first instance; these are supported by the MSB CSE Strategy (July 2017)

Home Office Child Exploitation disruption toolkit

The toolkit is primarily aimed at front-line staff, including law enforcement, social care, education, housing and the voluntary sector, working to safeguard children and young people under the age of 18 from sexual and criminal exploitation – it can be found on the Home Office website at

The toolkit is also intended to help all safeguarding partners to understand and access existing legislative opportunities at their disposal and to target specific risks and threats.

The use of existing legislative powers, such as orders and injunctions, are an essential part of the safeguarding process. The toolkit aims to set out many of the tools useful for police and other safeguarding professionals to disrupt the sexual and criminal exploitation of children and young people, break the cycle of abuse and send a signal to perpetrators about the consequences of their actions. The toolkit incorporates relevant legislation to address:

  • abduction and trafficking
  • sexual offences
  • victim care
  • unusual or harmful behaviour
  • locations of specific concern.

In addition, the toolkit includes best practice in information sharing and multi-agency working as well as intelligence and evidence gathering.

Website resources relating to CSE

It’s not okay campaign
Greater Manchester Police, the ten GM local authorities and ten GM Local Safeguarding children Boards, GMSP, Crimestoppers and third sector partners have joined forces to tackle CSE with the It’s not okay campaign – the campaign website contains information for practitioners and volunteers and the public and can be found at

The campaign aims to educate people on the signs that someone is being exploited, and increase the number of cases that are reported.

The website contains links and information about all of the agencies taking part, and explains how to access help and support, as well as where to report CSE concerns.

The organisations will also be using social media to target young people directly, to help them recognise the signs that their friends, or indeed themselves, may be being exploited.

Campaign materials such as posters can be found on the campaigns page  of the website.

Other useful sites
Know about CSE
For resources such as awareness raising materials visit the website

The NHS have produced a video series in which experts explain who is most vulnerable; typical behaviour patterns of the abusers; and how to spot the signs. You will also get advice on what you can do if someone you know is at risk or has been a victim of CSE.

Watch the video series about CSE  at

Barnardo’s – Spot the signs
Barnardo’s has published a video and a series of of advice leaflets for parents, professionals and young people on the signs of sexual exploitation and how to keep safe. These are available to view or download on their website at

Barnardo’s have also produced some short films:

The Real love Rocks programme is a key resource for use in schools and can be found on the website at

CEOP / Thinkuknow 
The CEOP (Child Exploitation & Online Protection) website at hosts a range of resources and links.

The Thinkuknow programme provides a range of free educational resources – films, lesson plans, presentations, practitioner guidance, games and posters – for professionals working with children and young people.

Through the use of these educational materials you can help to empower and protect young people from the harm of sexual abuse and exploitation, both online and off.

Exploited is one resource pack which aims to help prevent child sexual exploitation by educating young people about how to stay safe. It was produced by CEOP with input from a range of national partners including the NSPCC, Brook, the Sex Education Forum and Barnardo’s.

The learning is based around an 18-minute film which helps young people avoid sexual exploitation and is supported with a resource pack of adaptable session plans, photocopiable resources and advice on delivery.

Find all the resources on the Thinkuknow website at and view the films using the links below:

  • Exploited Trailer is a promotional trailer for CEOP’s educational resource aimed at preventing CSE
  • Exploited Full Version  (18 minutes) is a CEOP educational resource
  • Exposed (10 minutes) is a short CEOP film about a girl who sends images of herself on her mobile phone.

Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children – child sexual exploitation resources from the Children’s Society
As part of an initiative in West Yorkshire, the Children’s Society have been looking at how Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities can keep their young people safe from child sexual exploitation.

As a result of this, a range of resources were produced to support communities and professionals and carers working with them. These included an animation which was the idea of a group of young people working on the project; an accompanying workbook; and some posters and leaflets translated into the main community languages of Romanian and Slovak.

These resources are available on their website at

More information is also available in our Gypsy, Roma & Traveller children resource.

The NSPCC CSE page contains key statistics, official guidance, and learning from practice.

The NSPCC has published a thematic briefing highlighting learning from Serious Case Reviews where CSE was a key factor.  Find these resources on their website at  and

The NSPCC has produced three short animations, available on YouTube, each of which deal with the subject of sexual exploitation in a different way. These animations attempt to clarify the complex issues involved and offer starting points for discussion with young people who might be experiencing similar problems. The animations can be found using the link below:

National Working Group (NWG)
The NWG Network and the Children’s Society have developed a range of resources to support local safeguarding children boards and practitioners to work with retail, transport, leisure and hospitality businesses to protect children in their communities from CSE. Visit their website at  for more information.

The resources include posters, leaflets and training materials for staff. These will help employees to look out for signs of exploitation, grooming and trafficking and provide information on what to do if they are concerned about a child. They will also assist employers to carry out risks assessments and vetting of staff.

Local versions of these resources can be found in our licensing resource.

Local Government Association (LGA)
The LGA resource aims to help councils raise awareness of CSE within their own organisation, with their local partners and in their communities. It brings together and shares a set of resources to provide ideas and materials that can be adapted to suit local needs; includes briefings, communications support, training materials and case studies.  Find these resources on the LGA website at

Parents against child exploitation (Pace)
Pace have developed an information and advice centre and information library for parents whose children are at risk of, or are being, sexually exploited. This is available on their website at

The Pace relational safeguarding model demonstrates best practice in working with families affected by CSE and can be downloaded from the website at (PDF)

Practitioners can also use the ‘trauma model’ to understand the impact of sexual exploitation on children. Information about this can be downloaded from the websites of cse (PDF) and Model (PDF).

A guide to therapeutic assistance for children and young people recovering from sexual abuse can be found on the NSPCC library website at (PDF).

University of Bedfordshire
The University of Bedfordshire has produced a number of short films as part of its CSE research programme. These 12 films are aimed at anyone who wants to access learning from the latest research on child sexual exploitation (CSE) in a short accessible form.

The films share the findings of a range of studies undertaken by researchers in the ‘International Centre: Researching Child Sexual Exploitation, Violence and Trafficking’ as well as drawing on wider CSE literature.

Most of the films are under two minutes long. They can be watched in the office, shared with colleagues or friends, or used in training contexts. Each film is accompanied by a short briefing document that outlines the evidence in more detail, with references and links to the original research, and questions for reflection.

The films are available from the University website at

Wud U?
Wud U? is an educational tool for teachers and care professionals who interact with young people who might be at risk of sexual exploitation.

The app aims to educate young people about behaviour that could put them at risk of being sexually exploited, through illustrated, interactive stories.

Wud U? enables practitioners to present sensitive issues to a group of young people and discuss the decisions that they would make if they were in the same situation as the characters within the stories. The app also offers advice about their decisions.

Through the Wud U? app you can:

  • demonstrate how young people can make safe decisions
  • provide your group with more information about sexual exploitation from a trusted source
  • help raise awareness of sexual exploitation by sharing the Wud U? app.

Find out more about the app and supporting information on Barnardo’s website at

The app can be downloaded from Windows Store, Windows Phone, Google Play Store or Apple Store.

My Dangerous Loverboy
My Dangerous Loverboy is a pioneering campaign from Eyes Open Creative aiming to raise awareness of the sexual exploitation and trafficking of young people.

Using the My Dangerous Loverboy short film alongside the Love or Lies Education Resource, this campaign aims to open up people’s eyes to the harsh realities of sexual exploitation. The resource is available from the website

Reports and research about CSE

The NSPCC has a comprehensive resource providing a selection of child protection research, leaflets, guidance, evaluations and safeguarding resources on child sexual exploitation. This is available on their website at
Child sexual exploitation: definition and guide for practitioners provides the definition of child sexual exploitation, potential vulnerabilities and indicators of abuse and appropriate action to take in response and can be downloaded from the website at

Barnardo’s have produced a number of useful reports for download including: The tangled web: How child sexual exploitation is becoming more complex  (PDF) and Running away from hate to what you think is love.

These reports and more are available from their website at

Children’s Commissioner
The Children’s Commissioner has produced a number of key reports in relation to CSE. More information and the reports can be found on their website at

CEOP / Thinkuknow
Various useful publications and resources can be found on the Thinkuknow website at

University of Bedfordshire
The International Centre: Researching child sexual exploitation, violence and trafficking at the University has  published a number of reports, including What’s Going on (PDF) a review of how local partnerships respond to CSE.

A full list of research publications can be found on their website at

Real voices: child sexual exploitation in Greater Manchester
The former Greater Manchester Police & Crime Commissioner (GMPCC) published the report ‘Real voices: child sexual exploitation in Greater Manchester’ following an inquiry by Ann Coffey MP. The report is available to download from the website

(Note: Greater Manchester no longer has a Police and Crime Commissioner however, the GMPCC website will remain online temporarily for reference purposes.)

The NSPCC published a useful  briefing summarising the key findings and recommendations from the Coffey report.

Living on a railway line. Turning the tide of child abuse & exploitation in the UK & overseas is a report published in 2014 which makes key recommendations to improving the safeguarding of vulnerable children.

Real Voices: Are they being heard?
This light touch review followed up the initial work undertaken by Ann Coffey MP in relation to the Greater Manchester response to CSE and demonstrated that while improvements had been, and continued to be, made, there is always more that can be done.

The report highlights some excellent practice and it is clear from the investment that Greater Manchester has made in this area of work that effective partnership working has been developed.

The reports are available on the BASW website at  

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse
The Inquiry was established to investigate failings by institutions to protect children from sexual abuse and to recommend changes that will help keep children safer now and in the future.

In addition to its investigations into a range of institutions, the Inquiry is leading a programme of research and analysis and will host seminars to gather information and views on a range of important topics. Alongside this, the Inquiry’s Truth Project gives victims and survivors of child sexual abuse the opportunity to share their experiences, which will help inform the Inquiry’s findings and recommendations.

Find out more about the Inquiry and the Truth Project and view publications and updates on their website at

Serious Case Reviews around CSE

The NSPCC Library  has published a summary of risk factors and learning for improved practice around child sexual exploitation.

Case reviews highlight that child sexual exploitation (CSE) can be particularly hard for professionals to recognise and respond to. Confusion around young people’s rights and their capacity to consent to sexual activity means both young people and professionals often wrongly view exploitative relationships as consensual. This means that sexual exploitation often goes unidentified, and young people can be reluctant to engage with services.

Find the briefing and other links on the NSPCC Library website at

Learning & development relating to CSE

Face to Face Training: the MSB delivers face to face training sessions on CSE – visit the MSB training website for more information.

Online learning: ‘Basic Awareness of Child and Adult Sexual Exploitation’ and ‘Safeguarding Children and Young People from Abuse by Sexual Exploitation’ available as part of our online learning provision with Virtual College.

Downloads available on this page:


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