Child Sexual Abuse & Exploitation


Child Sexual Abuse (CSA)

The definition given in Working Together 2018 for child sexual abuse is:

‘Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, not necessarily involving a high level of violence, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including assault by penetration (for example, rape or oral sex) or non penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching outside of clothing. 

They may also include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, sexual images, watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways, or grooming a child in preparation for abuse Sexual abuse can take place online, and technology can be used to facilitate offline abuse. Sexual abuse is not solely perpetrated by adult males. Women can also commit acts of sexual abuse, as can other children.'


CSA can take many forms including:

  • Abuse by trusted adults (inter and extra familial)
  • Organised and complex abuse
  • Abuse within exploitative personal relationships
  • Abuse by another child or young person
 CSA Centre on Twitter: "Today we're pleased to launch the next in ...


CSA Key Messages from research on Intra-Familial Child Sexual Abuse 


 CSA Centre on Twitter: "Today we're pleased to launch the next in ...


CSA Key Messages from research on Institutional Child Sexual Abuse


 PDF) "Everyone deserves to be happy and safe" A mixed methods ...


Report on the Impact on Children of online and offline child sexual abuse written by NSPCC, CEOP, University of Bath and University of Birmingham



The Brook Traffic Light Tool supports professionals working with children and young people by helping them to identify and respond appropriately to sexual behaviours and can be found on our Tools webpage.

Child Exploitation (CE)

Child Exploitation is a type of abuse. When a child or young person is exploited they’re groomed by being given things, like gifts, drugs, money, status and affection. This is usually in exchange for carrying out a criminal activity, known as Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE) or performing sexual activities, known as Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE).

The CYSCP Child Exploitation Screening Tool is to be used as an aid by practitioners to help them consider the level of risk a child or young person might be at, through thinking about their individual needs via their behaviour and known information, and can be found on our Tools webpage.


A Multi Agency Child Exploitation Meeting (MACEM) process was established by Children’s Social Care jointly with North Yorkshire Police and on a multi-agency basis. It is a monthly meeting focusing on all aspects of child exploitation and young people transitioning to adult services. Its membership consists of partners from health, education, drug services, mental health among others and it helps to reduce the chances of agencies working in silos or duplicating work or resources.

Weekly intelligence sharing meetings take place between the Community Safety team, North Yorkshire Police and Children’s Social Care involving only those staff who are police vetted. Membership will soon be extended to include Adult Social Care. This meeting is pivotal to the increase in speed at which the community safety team are able to take enforcement action in order to disrupt local county lines activity and share any patterns or impact on children and young people.

For further information please see the Terms of Reference.

Missing and Exploitation Team 

The City of York Council Safeguarding Board launched its initial Child Sexual Abuse Exploitation Strategy in 2012.  During 2018, the City of York Council Children and Young People Services created a Social Work post (Child Sexual Exploitation Senior Social Worker).  The post was co-located within the assessment team, and aimed at increasing the co-ordinated response to CSE/CCE across the city. 

In 2018 York and North Yorkshire were successful in a combined bid for DfE Trusted Relationships Funding. This funding is being used to enhance schemes such as the Volunteer Mentor Programme and other support work, including family group conferencing work, for vulnerable young people at risk of exploitation or being exploited. 

During 2019/2020, the focus on improving social work practice across the service identified that significant work was needed to strengthen the partnership responses to missing children and those vulnerable to exploitation.  During early 2020 senior managers within the Council committed to creating a larger, more specialist resource to engage directly with these children, aimed at reducing risk and increasing resilience.  

In response, a specialist Missing and Exploitation Team was formed. Alongside Police, health, Education and YJS colleagues, the team’s focus is to: 

  • identify those children most at risk of exploitation in the city,
  • co-ordinate mapping activity,
  • share and collate intelligence,
  • develop approaches to the investigation of exploitation and vulnerability such that offenders are identified and young people are effectively helped. 

This is achieved through direct work and engagement with young people and their families, as well as carefully planned work, with persistent and skilled workers who will engage with young people and their carers, to help understand their specific needs and strengths, as well as the impact of abuse and trauma

Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)

The Department for Education defined CSE in 2017 as: 

'Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse ... 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’

Children and young people, who are being sexually exploited, or may be at risk of this, can come to the attention of any practitioner in any agency.




DfE Child Sexual Exploitation Definition and Guidance for Practitioners 2017

Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE)

Child criminal exploitation involves exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where children (under 18) receive or are promised ‘something’ tangible e.g. food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, gifts or money or ‘something’ intangible e.g. affection, respect, status or protection in return for committing a criminal act for the benefit of another individual or group of individuals or be threatened, coerced or intimidated into committing that criminal act.

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. The child may be being exploited, even if the activity appears consensual and does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology. A defining feature of CCE is the lack of choice available to the child either as a result of the child’s social/economic/emotional vulnerability and or the violence, coercion, intimidation exerted upon them.

Criminal exploitation takes many forms, the most common relating to the supply and movement of drugs (often referred to as “County Lines”), offences in relation to guns and other weapons, money laundering, violent offences and in some cases “cuckooing” where criminals forcibly take over control of a person’s home.




North Yorkshire and City of York Criminal Exploitation and County Lines Guidance 2019 can be found on our CYSCP Practice Guidance pagepage


 The Children's Society | UK Children's Charity


The Childrens Society - Tackling Criminal Exploitation

County Lines

‘County lines’ is the police term for urban gangs supplying drugs to suburban areas, market and coastal towns using dedicated mobile phone lines or “deal lines”. Among young people it is known as 'going country'.  It involves child criminal exploitation (CCE) as gangs use children and vulnerable people to move drugs and money. County lines is a major, cross-cutting issue involving drugs, violence, gangs, safeguarding, criminal and sexual exploitation, modern slavery, and missing persons. Once caught up in County Lines, exploited individuals are at risk of extreme physical and/or sexual violence, gang recriminations and trafficking.

County lines activity and the associated violence, drug dealing and exploitation has a devastating impact on young people, vulnerable adults and local communities.

If you are concerned that a child is being criminally exploited - a 'County Lines' victim - whether from York or found in York, this is a safeguarding matter and you should follow normal safeguarding procedures: Concerned About a Child  

 Home Office County Lines Partner Pack  



More information and government guidance

Home Office Guidelines for Frontline Professionals

Updated November 2018 Home Office Guidelines

National Crime Agency advice

The Children's Society website has resources, information including advice for parents and a Toolkit for professionals

Fearless is a service that allows you to pass on information about crime 100% anonymously


Trafficking and Modern Slavery



Trafficking is defined as ‘the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons (including children) by means of threat, force or coercion for the purpose of sexual or commercial sexual exploitation or domestic servitude’ (United Nations).

Children may be trafficked into the UK from abroad, but children can also be trafficked from one part of the UK to another.

Modern Slavery is the condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the rights of ownership are exercised. People are treated as commodities and exploited for criminal gain. It is a global crime which transcends age, gender, ethnicity, and borders. Victims of modern slavery may have being brought legally or illegally from overseas, or they may be British citizens living in the United Kingdom. Unaccompanied and/or intentionally displaced children are at particular risk.  



Read the NSPCC advice to help you spot the signs of Child Trafficking and report your concerns

If any suspicions are raised that a child or young person is a victim of Modern Slavery or of being trafficked, or at risk of this, immediate action to safeguard the child or young person is required. See the Concerned about a Child page.

Organisations like Local Authorities, the Police and the NSPCC are “first responder” organisations. When the Children and Family Service and the Police have assessed the indicators of trafficking and arrangements have been put in place to safeguard the child, first responders should refer the child to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) using the NRM Referral Form. See our Trafficking and NRM Bitesize guide.

Useful Links:



National Referral Mechanism Guidance for Child First Responders

Modern Slavery Act 2015 

Home Office Modern Slavery training resource page

Hope For Justice

UNSEEN Modern Slavery Confidential Helpline 

Independent Modern Slavery Commissioner

Local Guidance, Forms and Procedures

The Trusted Relationships Project is a multi-agency collaborative approach to identification and support for children and young people who are primarily at risk of or subject to Child Criminal Exploitation, including County Lines, Child Sexual Exploitation and Modern Slavery. Details can be found on our Bitesize Guides page

Trafficking and the NRM Bitesize Guide

National Guidance and Research





The CSA Centre guidance on The Scale and Nature of Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation

 Government guidance on Children Using the Internet    
 The Home Office Child Exploitation Disruption Toolkit for those working to safeguard children and young people under the age of 18 from exploitation.     


Child Sexual Abuse in the Anglican Church

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) published a report during October 2020.  



The Research in Practice website hosts a wealth of information, research, recorded and forthcoming webinars. 



It's Not OK

The "It’s not ok" campaign took place during 2015/16 as a joint initiative between CYSCP, NSPCC and York St John University to raise awareness of CSA and CSE across the city with public and professionals. The materials created during the campaign are still used in schools and the campaign was nationally acclaimed.  The It’s Not Ok play and workshop have now been turned into new digital resources for secondary schools, community groups and practitioners. You can find the free resources here:

Online Sexual Harm Reduction

The Marie Collins Foundation in partnership with the National Working Group have developed a new resource to support professionals with regards to how to respond when it is discovered that a child has been harmed online. Please see the CYSCP Tools page for more information. 


CYSCP provides online and face to face training for practitioners.