Skip to main content

Children at risk of exploitation includes information on child sexual exploitation, trafficking and county lines.

Child sexual exploitation

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a crime with devastating and long lasting consequences for its victims and their families. The first response to children, and support for them to access help, must be the best it can be from social workers, police, health practitioners and others who work with children and their families.

In February 2017, the government published a new definition of CSE:

‘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.’

This definition must be used from April 2017 onwards.

There is now a new crime of sexual communication with a child. The Act inserts a new section, 15A, into the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and will help protect children from adults communicating to groom them, as a prelude to carrying out sexual abuse. Scenarios likely to be covered by the offence include talking sexually to a child via a chatroom or sending sexually explicit text messages to a child as well as inviting a child to communicate sexually (irrespective of whether the invitation is itself sexual).

The new offence is designed to ensure that it does not criminalise, for example, ordinary social or educational interactions between children and adults or communications between young people themselves. The offence has a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment.

In cases of suspected or actual child sexual exploitation: Safeguarding procedures must be implemented and a referral made to social care in order to safeguard them from further or future harm. Further information is available from the Derby and Derbyshire Safeguarding Children Partnership safeguarding procedures.

Operation Liberty has been created by Derbyshire police to gather intelligence items, crimes and referrals, where there is an aspect of child sexual exploitation. This has now been revised to include all forms of exploitation (CRE) Practitioners can use the Operation Liberty form to provide details, however brief, of any concerns:

  • Adults who may pose a risk to, or target, groom or exploit children and young people.
  • When you are aware that a child or young person has been groomed and or exploited.
  • To provide information on places, locations and circumstances where you believe CRE may be taking place.

Derbyshire practitioners use a CRE toolkit to assess a child or young person’s level of risk of sexual exploitation in a quick and consistent manner. This has now been updated and revised to include all forms of possible exploitation, and renamed the CRE toolkit and covers all children and young people under the age of 18 (Children Act 1989) residing in Derbyshire.

The toolkit supports the implementation of the local Safeguarding Children Partnership procedures; in particular children abused through sexual exploitation, criminal, gangs , slavery and safeguarding children who may have been trafficked and children and families who go missing.

This toolkit will support agencies to:

  • Identify and protect those at risk of being exploited at the earliest opportunity.
  • Take action to promote the welfare of children and young people who are being or may be exploited.
  • Develop local prevention strategies.
  • Take action against those intent on abusing and exploiting children and young people in this way.

The toolkit should be used flexibly to take account of each child’s individuality, the uniqueness of their circumstances and the changes that may occur for them over time.

Online abuse

The sending of a sexual image or sexually explicit image and/or sexually suggestive messages or texts using the internet, messaging apps or live streaming services is known as sexting. As the practice is more common amongst young people, it has become known as youth generated sexual imagery. Young people interpret sexting as writing and sharing explicit images with people they know.

It's very hard to control what happens when a sexual image, sexually explicit image or text is sent and can lead to an image being distributed and harmful situations such as stalking, abuse or blackmail.

A useful guide for schools, Sexting in Schools created by ThinkUKnow, is recommended as reading for schools.

A research document detailing how young people use digital technology in their romantic relationships and love lives called Digital Romance 2017, has been created by ThinkUKnow, this is a highly recommended document for secondary schools and colleges.

Further resources available to schools and colleges include:


Responding to child sexual abuse and exploitation in the night-time economy - A publication from the Centre of expertise on child sexual abuse.

Consent – Cup of Tea an understanding of what consent means.

Safe and sound fighting CSE - Safe and Sound works to keep children and young people safe and sound from sexual exploitation.

The NSPCC has a number of suitable resources to help raise awareness. Let’s Talk PANTS is a primary school resource that teaches children important messages, like their body belongs to them and they should tell an adult if they're upset or worried.

Barnardos Wud U? App - Teachers and care professionals may interact with young people who might be at risk of sexual exploitation. These professionals might be interested in our award-winning smartphone app, designed to educate young people.

For Me: the Childline app - 'For Me' is the new app that puts Childline in your pocket. It's free, it's secure and it's designed by young people for young people.

Think you Know - The child exploitation and online protection centre has a wealth of information for all ages, parents and for those working with children - supporting all to deliver education and raise awareness of online child exploitation and abuse.

National Working Group - Helping stop child sexual exploitation and providing free web based services and resources for professionals.

CEOP - Child Exploitation Online Protection.

Safer Internet UK - The UK Safer Internet Centre has online safety tips, advice and resources to help children and young people stay safe online.

Also see