Children at risk of exploitation - information for professionals

Child exploitation relates to forms of child abuse including (but not exclusively) sexual and criminal exploitation of children under 18 years of age.

Children who are sexually or criminally exploited or at risk of it are victims of child abuse. As such, they must be referred to children’s social care and the police to implement safeguarding processes.

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.

Child sexual exploitation (CSE)

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) 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:

  • in exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and / or
  • 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.

View the government's child sexual exploitation: definition and guide for practitioners

Exploitation through criminal activity - child criminal exploitation (CCE)

Child criminal exploitation (CCE) is common in county lines and occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, control, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into committing criminal activity:

  • in exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and/or
  • for the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator or facilitator.

The victim may have been criminally exploited even if the activity appears consensual. Child criminal exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology.

County lines, is a term used to describe gangs and organised criminal networks involved in exporting illegal drugs into one or more importing areas within the UK, using dedicated mobile phone lines or other form of “deal line”.

They are likely to exploit children and vulnerable adults to move and store the drugs and money and they will often use coercion, intimidation, violence (including sexual violence) and weapons.

Criminal exploitation of children is broader than just county lines. It includes, for example, children forced to work on cannabis farms or to commit theft..

Children who go missing from home or care are at particular risk of risk of exploitation, and the link between children being sexually exploited and going missing from education, home or care is strong and should be explored. Consideration should be given to the completion of the Risk Assessment Toolkit when children go missing.

For more information and guidance, please view the following safeguarding procedures:

Children's social care should been involved in the assessment of all children who are considered to be at medium or high risk of exploitation as outlined in the Risk Assessment Toolkit (see the CRE guidance and toolkit).

Children at Risk of Exploitation (CRE) is assessed by Children's Social Care, under Section 17 Child in Need or Section 47, Child Protection of the Children Act 1989.

Derbyshire Police Operation Liberty form can be used to report any information or intelligence which relates to CSE to Derbyshire Police.  The Operation Liberty form can be downloaded from our documents library. Please note, that this form is not to be used to make a referral.

Partnership Arrangements

Partnership working between agencies and families is required to help prevent the escalation of risk and harm to children in the context of exploitation.

Locality partnership arrangements have been developed to ensure proportionate and coordinated plans are in place to reduce risk through a contextual safeguarding model

Please see the 'Children at risk of exploitation locality and missing partnership panels and the 'Operational workflow' attached to this page.