Child Sexual Exploitation

What is Child Sexual Exploitation?

Liverpool Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) 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.”

The Extent of the Problem Locally

To date no systematic data collection and analysis of the extent and nature of child sexual exploitation in Liverpool has been undertaken and this is an action to be addressed by the Pan Mersey Strategy. Nationally we know that the issue has not always been recognised and that the extent of the problem has been underestimated.

Research undertaken by Barnados (Puppet on A String) shows that nationally the reporting of abuse through child sexual exploitation is growing year on year with a 16% growth in reporting between 2008/09 and 2009/10. In 2009/10 there were 6291reported instances. As yet there is no national data on an estimated population. Barnados also report that the age profile of victims is reducing with girls as young as 10 years and boys as young as 8 years being identified as victims and the average age being 13 years.

What we do know is that a number of children and young people have been identified through joint working between the Council and the police, who are being or have been abused through child sexual exploitation, are suspected to have been or who have been identified at risk of this form of abuse.

We also know that locally the predominant Abuse Model appears to start with the “Boyfriend Model where young girls aged between 11 and 15 years are groomed and brought into a sexual exploitation situation. For some children the abuse continues to involve a single perpetrator but for others they are then further abused through “Organised Exploitation and Trafficking”.

We know that the victims identified locally are predominantly white British girls but that there are other victims or children identified as being at risk. We must have regard for specific factors such as the age, disability, race, ethnicity or cultural background of both suspected perpetrators and victims and will take these fully into account in our investigations and work with the victims.

We are aware that there are likely to be barriers to young people coming forward and reporting this type of abuse which means that children and young people from minority ethnic groups and boys are even more likely to be significantly under reported. To date Liverpool has not identified many boys at risk of child sexual exploitation but experience elsewhere tells us they will be out there and we need to take a proactive approach in identifying them.

Whilst most of the children identified as being abused in this way are aged between 12 and 15 years at the point at which the abuse started we were aware of concerns in relation to children as young as 10 years of age and on-going concerns about young people aged 15 years into their early 20’s.

We are also aware that some children and young people nationally are trafficked for the purpose of child sexual exploitation. This includes internal trafficking between different parts of a town or city or different parts of the UK and external trafficking where children and young people are brought into the UK from abroad.

Children and young people who are subject to child sexual exploitation need to be regarded as victims of an abusive situation and should not be treated as persons involved in prostitution or other criminal activities.

What Are We Doing?

Liverpool SCB 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. 

Monthly multi agency CSE Information Sharing meetings have been established to discuss high risk cases.

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.

Relevant Documents and Links