Child Sexual Exploitation

Definition of CSE

‘Child sexual exploitation is a form of child abuse. It occurs where anyone under the age of 18 is persuaded, coerced or forced into sexual activity in exchange for, amongst other things, money, drugs/alcohol, gifts, affection or status.

Consent is irrelevant, even where a child may believe they are voluntarily engaging in sexual activity with the person who is exploiting them.

Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact and may occur online.’

(Revised Definition DfE 2016)

What you should know

  • Sexual exploitation can take many forms; from the seemingly ‘consensual’ relationship where sex is exchanged for attention, affection, accommodation or gifts, to serious organised crime & child trafficking
  • What marks out exploitation is an imbalance of power within the relationship
  • The perpetrator always holds some kind of power over the victim, increasing the dependence of the victim as the exploitative relationship develops
  • Victims of CSE can be from any background and can be male and female.
  • Young people with learning disabilities share many of the same vulnerabilities to CSE that are faced by all young people, but the evidence indicates that they face additional barriers to their protection, and to receiving support to address CSE.
  • It is important to note that children and young people without pre-existing vulnerabilities can still be sexually exploited.

CSE can happen to anyone………from any background.

What to do if you’re worried about a child

If you are a professional concerned about child sexual exploitation you should refer to the Responding to Need Guidance.

Where appropriate your concerns to Children's Advice & Support Service (CASS) using a Multi-Agency Referral Form MARF.

If you have concerns a child is already suffering significant harm or is at risk of significant harm you should contact the CASS Customer Services team on a new number – 0151 459 2606 (this must be followed up in writing using the MARF within one working day).

You should always discuss your concerns with the senior person in your organisation who is responsible for safeguarding and child protection.

If you are worried about the immediate exploitation of children and young people, please report it to the Police on 999


Going missing is a dangerous activity. A child or young person who goes missing just once faces the same immediate risks as those faced by a child or young person who regularly goes missing. However, children who go missing when they are young, and/or more frequently are more likely to face longer-term problems.

The Pan Merseyside Missing Children Procedure has been created to provide a joined up multi agency response to children and young people who are missing or have gone missing from home and care.

Pan Merseyside Missing Children Protocol 2022

Pan Merseyside Missing Children Procedure 2018

Pan Merseyside Child Exploitation Protocol 2020


Within the training section of this website within the e-learning resources there are links to free online e-learning modules for parents and professionals. 

Relevant Documents and Links