Sheffield’s Multi-Agency Response to the Assessment and Intervention of Children and Young People with Harmful Sexual Behaviour


Harmful Sexual Behaviour Support Service for the Children’s Workforce (Marie Collins Foundation)


In October 2022, a link was added to Harmful Sexual Behaviour Support Service for the Children’s Workforce (Marie Collins Foundation).

1. Introduction

The aim of this procedure is to establish a consistent referral pathway for children and young people in Sheffield who display Harmful Sexual Behaviour and to ensure they receive a consistent and appropriate response that involves interventions both in relation to safeguarding concerns and public protection.

The purpose is to provide a clear operational framework for the management of, and response to, children and young people where it is believed they present with, or have engaged in, harmful sexualised behaviour. This will enable a swift, consistent and coordinated multi agency approach to the identification, assessment and planning for the most appropriate intervention for children and young people who present with this behaviour.

2. Principles

The complex nature of the problem requires a co-ordinated multidisciplinary approach, which addresses both child protection and criminal justice issues.

The needs of the children and young people who sexually harm should be considered separately from the needs of their victims. Children and young people who sexually harm others are in need of help and are entitled to appropriate services.

The reasons why young people sexually harm are multi-faceted and to explore this further a full risk assessment and an assessment of need must be carried out in every case.

The primary objectives of intervention must always remain the protection of victims and potential victims and the avoidance of any repetition of the harmful sexual behaviour. The young person will be held accountable for his or her behaviour.

Wherever possible, young people who sexually harm have a right to be consulted and involved in all matters and decisions which affect their lives. Their parents / carers have a right to information, respect and participation in matters that concern their family/children in their care.

3. Multi Agency Screening Process

The process will enable professionals working with children in Sheffield to identify sexualised behaviour in young people and assess its appropriateness. Where this behaviour is deemed problematic or harmful the process will provide a referral pathway to a multi-agency screening process.

Relevant professionals in partnering organisations will use the Hackett Continuum Model (see Appendix 1: Hackett Continuum Model) which divides young people’s sexualised behaviour into Normal, Inappropriate, Problematic, Abusive and Violent behaviours. All require a response of some kind. Abusive and Violent Behaviours always require immediate referral.

All concerns in relation to children and young people who display sexually harmful behaviour will be referred to the Sheffield Safeguarding Hub (SSH).

This could be done either by a worker from an agency who considers that the behaviour of a young person of any age is a concern in relation to sexually harmful behaviour or by the police through the criminal justice route.

The initial contact details will be taken by a Social Worker in the Sheffield Safeguarding Hub, who will use the Hackett Continuum Model to identify cases which require further assessment and intervention.

When it is unclear whether a case requires a Social Care Assessment (for example with Inappropriate or Problematic behaviours) a telephone consultation can be held between the Safeguarding Hub Senior Fieldwork Manager, and Safeguarding Service Manager. This discussion will be recorded within the Referral Record.

There will be two potential responses depending on whether the concern is deemed as a Child Welfare concern under Section 17 or a Child Protection concern under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989.

S.17 Child Welfare Concern:

If the child/young person is deemed to be a Child in Need, a decision will be made regarding whether a Social Care Assessment is required at this stage or whether advice could be given to the referrer/family, including sign posting to any other appropriate agencies or services. The Social Worker in the Safeguarding Hub will inform the referrer of the decision made in writing.

When the decision is made that further assessment is required, a Social Worker in the area will be allocated to undertake a Social Care Assessment.

S.47 Child Protection Concern:

If the criteria for initiating a S.47 investigation have been met, then a Strategy Discussion/ Meeting will be held between the Safeguarding Hub Senior Fieldwork Team Manager and Protecting Vulnerable People PVP Sergeant.

The Strategy Discussion will decide whether an investigation will be a ‘joint agency’ or ‘single agency’ investigation. If it is decided that there should be no further action regarding a S.47 enquiry, then consideration should be given as to whether an assessment is necessary under S.17.

If it is decided that a joint investigation is required then the case will be reassigned to a Safeguarding Hub Social Worker and Protecting Vulnerable People officer will undertake any necessary enquires.

Social Care Assessment

When completing the Social Care assessment, the Hackett Continuum Model will be used to determine the risk of the behaviour being presented – see Appendix 1: Hackett Continuum Model.

At the beginning of assessment, the social worker will work with the child and carers to implement a safety plan to reduce the risk of (further) harm to other people. The plan will take into consideration the details of the known behaviour, the needs and vulnerabilities of actual or potential victims, and will put in place realistic measures to prevent or reduce the likelihood of reoccurrence of the behaviour, whilst endeavouring to minimise unnecessary restriction on the young person who has displayed harmful behaviour.

When the social care assessment is complete the assessment should be presented to the Harmful Sexual Behaviour Panel who will consider the assessment and recommendation determine the most appropriate outcome.

4. HSB Operational Group

The HSB Operational group has been set up to ensure that young people with harmful sexual behaviour in Sheffield receive a consistent and appropriate response that involves interventions both in relation to safeguarding concerns and public protection. The HSB Operation group meet on the first and third Monday of every month to progress and quality assure HSB cases. Complex cases are discussed with the allocated social worker on the third Monday of the month. Therefore, all social care assessments must be presented to the HSB Operational group before cases are referred to other agencies or closed.

Referrals should be emailed to If it’s a social care referral then it should include a Single Assessment. Other agencies should send a referral giving as much detail as possible about the behaviour of concern along with other information about the child/family. Ideally this would be a recent assessment.

The HSB operational group is made up of representatives from the following agencies:

  • Social Care Senior Fieldwork Manager;
  • Clinical Psychologist, Forensic CAMHS;
  • MAST - Social Worker for Prevention and Intervention (SWIPI);
  • Community Youth Team;
  • Amber Project;
  • YJS – Team Manager;
  • YJS – Seconded Police Officer.

Panel members will deal with pre-referral queries about suitability for panel by email or telephone.

Following the meeting a Harmful Sexual Behaviour Discussion form will be completed on Liquid Logic to reflect the multi-agency discussion and recommendations.

The representative from each agency at the HSB Operational Group will be responsible for taking any information, recommendations and agreed actions back to their service area for appropriate dissemination and allocation.

The following recommendations will be considered dependent of the circumstance of the case and the complexities. More than one service can become involved:

No Further Action

The decision of no further action will be made when the initial concern has not been substantiated or when appropriate support is already in place from universal services.


Multi Agency Support Teams (MAST) work locally with children, young people and families to provide a range of services which help improve well-being, school attendance, learning, behaviour and health.

The aim is to promote the early identification of additional needs and deliver preventative and supportive services that enable children to continue living successfully with their families and communities.

MASTs provide advice and support for children and families on a range of issues including:

  • Parenting skills - helping parents build a close relationship with children and encourage better behaviour.
  • Being healthy and happy - supporting families to be healthier, happier and more confident
  • Help with children’s learning and behaviour - supporting children through school which can help improve the way they behave.
  • Attending School - helping to improve both children’s attendance at school and their performance.
  • Finding services - helping families to find out what services are available

A referral to MAST will be made when it is determined that the child/young person or parents/carers would benefit from such support.

Community Youth Team

A referral to the CYT will be made when ‘keep safe’ and educational work has been identified as appropriate for the child/young person or parents/carers. The referral will be made by the social worker via the MAAM panel.

Aim 3 Assessment

For eligible cases a joint Aim 3 Assessment will be undertaken when the concerns in relation to harmful sexual behaviour have been confirmed. The assessment will be completed by two Aim 3 trained Social Workers or a Social Worker and a Youth Justice Worker/Officer.

If the young person is in the Criminal Justice System this could be as part of the preparation for a Pre-Sentence Report for either Youth or Crown Court or as part of a Youth Conditional Caution.

This assessment will determine what intervention is required and will be implemented alongside any child in need/child protection plan and/or Youth Justice intervention. Where appropriate, the intervention plan will be co-worked between the Children and Family Services and the Youth Justice Service.

Criminal Justice Route

The AIM assessment process can apply to males between the age of 10 -18 years who have admitted or been convicted of a sexual offence against children, adolescents, and adults, within the family, outside the family or against a stranger. If there are SEND issues, then an alternate assessment is likely to be more appropriate.

Young people who have been subject to no further action or who have been found not guilty following an allegation of harmful sexual behaviour may be considered as appropriate for referral if there are concerns about future behaviour.

Whilst key decision-making regarding charging and the progression of cases will sit clearly with the Police / Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), this multi-agency process is designed to improve informed decision making across partners to achieve the most appropriate outcome for both victims and perpetrators.

Forensic CAMHS Intervention

A referral to the Forensic CAMHS will be made when:

  • Significant concerns have been identified in relation to a child/young person’s mental and emotional needs, alongside the harmful sexual behaviour;
  • There are ongoing forensic CAMHS or learning issues in relation to ongoing complex cognitive behaviour;
  • There are psychotic issues and need for medication;
  • The child or young person is on the Autistic Spectrum;
  • There are callous and unemotional traits;
  • The sexually harmful behaviour is of significant complexity.

Child in Need / Child Protection Plans

Further social care assessment and intervention may be required under either a Child in Need, Child Protection or LAC plan. The case will remain open to Social Care, potentially alongside other agencies.

Click here to view the flowchart for different agencies.

Appendix 1: Hackett Continuum Model

Click here to view Appendix 1: Hackett Continuum Model

Appendix 2: Harmful Sexual Behaviour Support Service

See: Harmful Sexual Behaviour Support Service – A national support service for professionals in tackling harmful sexual behaviours

In January 2022 this advisory service funded by the Home Office and run by SWGfL and The Marie Collins Foundation was launched. With a particular focus on supporting schools, early years and education establishments, it also is available to wider safeguarding partners including police, social workers and health care professionals.

This service will supplement advice available and does not replace local safeguarding action.

hssb contact details