A new statutory definition of child sexual exploitation has recently been released by the Government to help to define the issue in clear terms for practitioners working to protect children at risk.After a consultation period that took place between February and March 2016, the new definition replaces the previous one that had been in use since 2009.

The updated version is as follows:

 “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.”

To accompany this, the Government has also declared that it will fund an independent £7.5 million Centre for Expertise to deal with child sexual exploitation (CSE), which is intended to be a hub of information and research into dealing with the issue.

The Department for Education has also updated its inter-agency safeguarding guidance document, Working Together to Safeguard Children, to incorporate the new definition.

Making progress

Tackling CSE is a complex and delicate matter. And with the true scale and nature of this crime against young people being revealed (think of the scale of the exploitation of the vulnerable girls in Rotherham we heard about in the news last year), the work to combat it is critical. A report into the Government’s intervention into CSE published on 16th February outlines the progress it has made so far, with the improvement of frontline social work practice being a significant contributor.

You can read the full report here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/tackling-child-sexual-exploitation-progress-report