3.5.2 Child Exploitation


Tackling Child Exploitation: Resources Pack (Local Government Association)


In March 2022, the above link was added to Tackling Child Exploitation: Resources Pack (Local Government Association).

1. Introduction

Child exploitation is about children who are being used for someone else’s advantage, gratification or profit which results in harm of the child. This incorporates both sexual and criminal exploitation. The commonality is that these activities involve manipulation, misuse, abuse, victimization and ill-treatment. All of which are detrimental to the child’s physical and mental health and well-being, their education, and their social-emotional development.

Exploitation in the wider definition 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 completing a task on behalf of another individual or group of individuals; this is often of a criminal or sexual nature.

Child exploitation often occurs without the child’s immediate recognition, with the child believing that they are in control of the situation. 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.

2. Grooming

All forms of child exploitation can involve a ‘grooming stage’. The term ‘grooming’ describes the variety of methods that are used to manipulate and control victims. This can include:

  • The giving of gifts or presents;
  • Rewards - like mobile phone top-ups or games credits;
  • False promises of love and/or affection;
  • The provision of alcohol and drugs.

Grooming is a way of developing an exclusive bond between abuser and victim. Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to grooming where the abuser deceptively constructs a connection between sought after love and affection, increased status, or offers a sense of belonging.

As a result of this process, children and young people rarely recognise the coercive and abusive nature of the relationship and will prioritise their attachment and loyalty to the offender over their own safety and wellbeing.

The early stages of the grooming process can seem an exciting time for a child or young person - particularly if they are given high status gifts or are taken to parties, pubs, or clubs that they wouldn’t normally get into.

3. Places and Spaces

It is acknowledged that exploitation usually takes place outside of the family home, often is social spaces and communities.  Pro-active and preventative work is undertaken by the Safeguarding Licencing Manager to work with some of places and spaces most commonly associated with exploitation e.g. businesses, taxi firms and hotels.

Where concerns about places and spaces do not relate to identifiable (known) young people, the information should be shared by calling 101.

4. Information Sharing Agreement for Child Exploitation

Effective information sharing underpins integrated working and is vital for early intervention and safeguarding. Each partner can hold different pieces of information which need to be placed together in order to enable a thorough assessment to be made.

The sharing of information must have due consideration with the law relating to confidentiality, data protection and human rights. Having a legitimate purpose for sharing information is an important part of meeting those legal requirements.

Six key documents provide the main national framework for information sharing:

  • Information Sharing: Advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers;
  • Data Protection Act 2018 - This act provides the main legislative framework and information sharing issues and stipulates the conditions under which information may be shred i.e. the legal justifications;
  • Human Rights Act 1998 - This act incorporates article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights which provides states that everyone has the right to respect for their private and family life;
  • Caldicott Guidance - Caldicott Standards are applicable to Children's Social Care and Health. These standards have applied to NHS organisations for some time. They have more recently been extended into councils with social care responsibilities, in order to provide a framework for working within the Data Protection Act 2018 and to promote appropriate information sharing. See Implementing the Caldicott Standards into Social Care Department of Health 2002;
  • NHS Confidentiality Code of Practice - The code was issued in July 2003 and applies to all NHS organisations. It is a guide to the practice on confidentiality, security and disclosure of personal information;
  • Crime and Disorder Act 1998 - The Act is the primary legislative tool, common to all crime reduction protocols. It does not override existing legal safeguards on personal information.