In the second of our CSE factsheets we take a look at the numerous warning signs which may indicate a child is being groomed or is already being exploited.
The failings in Rotherham, Rochdale and Oxfordshire have quite rightly seen a huge focus on identifying young people who are at risk of sexual exploitation. We ourselves see reports upon reports daily, which are undoubtedly proper cases of CSE. However, it is our view that the same fallout from these scandals has pushed many professionals in law enforcement, care provision and social care into raising CSE concerns as a matter of course, particularly where a child shows sudden behavioural problems or begins to go missing on a regular basis.
Care must be taken where a child hits certain CSE indicators as it doesn’t necessarily mean they are being exploited sexually. For example, we are often sent risk assessments that state the child must be a CSE victim because they returned to placement after being missing, wearing a new coat or trainers. Whilst these may well be signs that CSE is taking place, they may be a warning of a different safeguarding issue. The child could be involved in shoplifting or county lines drug supply. An inducement of new trainers is often a recruitment method used by county lines criminal networks. In this scenario, the child will still be exploited, alarm bells should ring and there will need to be immediate interventions. However, if the same child returns with new clothes and a new hair-do, then the CSE alarm bell will get louder, for you can’t steal a haircut. It is a ‘picky’ point because many vulnerable children can be at risk of multiple safeguarding issues, but it is important to pinpoint particular risk factors , so that you are in a better position to get the interventions right. We also see many examples where the term ‘exploitation’ is misunderstood. There has to be some form of exploitative situation.
Having indicators is essential, but they are just that, a signpost that something is wrong. You then have to be intrusive and proactive in establishing what the problem is. Many of the indicators associated with CSE also fit into other types of abuse. Risk assessments should not be a ‘tick box’ exercise and need to be specific the individual, so the exact safeguarding issues can be identified and tackled.
Below is our second CSE Factsheet which we hope you will find of use in the fight to prevent the sexual exploitation of children and young people.