Child Sexual Exploitation

What is Child Sexual Exploitation?

Liverpool Safeguarding Children Partnership (LSCP) has adopted the definition of sexual exploitation that is set out in Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation, Supplementary Guidance to Working Together to Safeguard Children.

"Sexual exploitation of children and young people under 18 involves exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where young people (or a third person or persons) receive "something"  (e.g. food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts, money) as a result of them performing, and/or another or others performing on them, sexual activities. Child sexual exploitation can occur through the use of technology without the child’s immediate recognition; for example being persuaded to post sexual images on the Internet/mobile phones without immediate payment or gain.  In all cases, those exploiting the child/young person have power over them by virtue of their age, gender, intellect, physical strength and/or economic or other resources. Violence, coercion and intimidation are common, involvement in exploitative relationships being characterised in the main by the child or young person’s limited availability of choice resulting from their social/economic and/or emotional vulnerability."

What We Know About Children and Young People at Risk

It is important to recognise that all children and young people may be at risk of child sexual exploitation. This includes children and young people in strong and loving family units. Perpetrators can and do target a wide range of children and practitioners should be alert to this issue whenever concerns about a child are noticed.

There are however some children and young people who have greater vulnerability and these include:

  • Children who are looked after, especially those living in residential care
  • Children who have a history of physical, sexual, emotional abuse or neglect
  • Children who have a disability, mental health problem or sensory impairment
  • Children who are young carers
  • Children who are excluded from school or missing education
  • Children who use drugs or alcohol
  • Children who go missing from home or care
  • Children involved in crime
  • Children with parents/carers who have mental health problems, physical or learning difficulties or sensory impairment, who abuse drugs and/or alcohol
  • Children living in households where there is domestic abuse
  • Children who associate with others involved in child sexual exploitation

There are a number of indicators which should alert parents, carers and practitioners to the possibility that a child is being abused through or at risk of child sexual exploitation:

  • adults or older youths loitering outside the child's home, care placement or school
  • persistently missing, staying out overnight or returning late with no plausible explanation
  • leaving home/care setting in clothing unusual for the individual child (inappropriate for age, borrowing clothing from older young people);
  • acquisition of expensive clothes or clothes which are inappropriate (skimpy clothing, underwear etc.) mobile phones or other possessions without plausible explanation
  • truancy/disengagement with education or considerable change in performance at school;
  • volatile behaviour exhibiting extreme array of mood swings or use of abusive language;
  • getting involved in petty crime such as shoplifting, stealing;
  • entering or leaving vehicles driven by unknown adults;
  • hostility in relationship with parents/carers and other family members;
  • returning after having been missing, looking well cared for in spite of having no known home base.
  • returning after having been missing in a dishevelled state, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, hungry, dirty, dehydrated, distressed etc.
  • Showing signs of sexual activity/abuse, including sexually transmitted infections, terminations and pregnancy scares;
  • Being picked up from outside home, school or on the street in unknown cars or taxis which have not been booked

What Are We Doing?

Liverpool SCP have developed an action plan in order to tackle child sexual exploitation.

A specific post has been created to co-ordinate the approach to CSE in the region.

Fornightly multi-agency CE Information Sharing meetings have been established to discuss high risk cases.

Weekly multi-agency CE Information Sharing meetings have been established to promote early identification of child exploitation and action planning.

Monthly multi-agency meetings have been established with Police to identify and disrupt perpetrators of child exploitation and locations of concern.

A Pan Mersey Strategy has been developed to ensure a consistent approach to child sexual exploitation across Merseyside.


Our aim is to prevent children and young people from abuse through child sexual exploitation by:

  • Reducing their vulnerability
  • Improving their resilience
  • Reducing tolerance of sexually exploitative behaviours

We will do this by:

  • Undertaking an assessment of the size of the problem within Liverpool
  • Awareness raising and preventative education to equip children and young people with the skills they need to make safe and healthy choices and to avoid situations which put them at risk of child sexual exploitation.
  • Ensuring children and young people know who they can turn to if they are worried, need advice or support.
  • Awareness raising for parents and carers so they are aware of the risks, understand the patterns of abuse, know about key indicators and where to access advice and support.
  • Awareness raising in communities - geographic, communities of interest, faith communities etc
  • Awareness raising and training for professionals working in universal, targeted and specialist services, including a focus on known risk factors.

Helpful documents and links for Parents and Carers