Child sexual exploitation

Exploitation terms graphic

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a form of sexual abuse that involves the manipulation and / or coercion of young people under the age of 18 years into sexual activity. This is often in return for food, somewhere to live, attention, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts or money. It can occur to any child or young person in the community. Perpetrators can be adults or peers (peer-on-peer abuse).  It can involve grooming or be opportunist. CSE occurs everywhere and all children and young people are vulnerable.

To protect and prevent this form of sexual abuse agencies must work together in partnership with families and young people to support the young person and to reduce risk. Please also watch these two videos about CSE:

Can you see it? and Can you stop it? (by NWG, Barnado's and Met Police)

Who is at risk?

Any child or young person may be at risk of sexual exploitation, regardless of their family background or other circumstances. This includes boys and young men as well as girls and young women. However, some groups of young people are particularly vulnerable.  These include:

  • children and young people who have a history of running away or of going missing from home and care
  • those with special needs
  • those in and leaving residential and foster care
  • migrant children, including those who do not have a legal immigration status
  • unaccompanied asylum seeking children
  • children who have disengaged from education
  • children who are abusing drugs and alcohol
  • those involved in gangs (see also Home Office guidance on County lines)
  • those engaged in risky internet use

Often the child or young person does not recognise the danger of the relationship and does not see themselves as a victim of exploitation, as they consider they have acted voluntarily. The reality is they have not consented and their behaviour is not voluntary. A child cannot consent to their own abuse.

Do you have a concern?

All professionals should use the CSE Risk Matrix to help identify and clarify their concerns. If you are concerned that a young person is being sexually exploited or is at risk of being exploited then you should make a referral to Children’s Social Care using the Multi Agency Referral Form (MARF) and send it with the CSE Risk Matrix to the Integrated Referral Hub at:  or (secure email).

Please ensure you password protect your referral if you can not use secure mail.

You can also call a duty social worker to discuss your concerns or contact the CSE Coordinator if you need further advice: 0207 926 8569

Lambeth Child Sexual Exploitation Strategy

The aim of the Strategy is to improve local knowledge about how to identify and respond to concerns about a child or young person who is at risk of or experiencing child sexual exploitation. Please see the CSE strategy in 'Resources' below, however a new Young People at Risk strategy is currently being finalised that will include CSE as well as other risks such as going missing from home/ care/ school, serious youth violence and gangs.

Pan London guidance on Safeguarding Children at Risk of Sexual Exploitation (issued January 2016) includes significant changes to the guidance in the Child Sexual Exploitation chapter of the London Child Protection Procedures. 

The changes are summarised in the introduction:

This guidance eliminates the need for Multi-Agency Planning Meetings [MAP] as referred to in the Metropolitan Police Service [MPS] Operating Protocol and in previous versions of chapters on child sexual exploitation in Part B, Practice Guidance, in the London Child Protection Procedures. Instead, this guidance recommends that Part A of the London Child Protection Procedures is followed in relation to all cases of child sexual exploitation. Children at risk of sexual exploitation should be referred to children’s social care and the normal processes of checks and information gathering, assessment, strategy discussions and review processes should be followed in line with the risk level identified – see the Thresholds document in the London Child Protection Procedures.

It is important to emphasise that this guidance suggests that cases should not be held outside of children’s social care unless they do not meet the threshold for a response under section 17 [child in need] or section 47 [child protection] of the Children Act 1989. It may be appropriate to discuss some individual cases at strategic meetings such as the Multi-Agency Sexual Exploitation [MASE] meetings but these meetings shouldn’t ‘hold’ the cases - they should continue to be managed by children’s social care.

Local authorities might find it appropriate to use child in need processes to protect children at risk of child sexual exploitation where there are no or very limited concerns relating to the family home and use child protection procedures where there are safeguarding concerns relating to the family - all such decisions should be recorded and the rationale explained. However, it should be noted that there is nothing in law that restricts the use of child protection procedures to cases where the risks are intra-familial.

Children’s social care should have a system in place to flag cases where there is a risk of sexual exploitation – any such system should enable cases to be flagged where risk is identified and to have the flag removed when that risk is no longer current. This will enable an assessment of the extent of CSE in each local authority and across London.


Stop CSE-Say Something is a national helpline for children, young people and their parents and carers to call to get support and advice if they are concerned regarding possible sexual exploitation Free posters can be found at

The Pan London procedures for all professionals who have a concern that a child or young person is at risk of CSE can be found at Safeguarding Children from Sexual Exploitation

These London CP procedures should be read in conjunction with:

Other publications: