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Definition of child sexual exploitation Government consultation response

The Government is committed to keeping children and young people safe from child sexual exploitation. We are clear that all cases of child sexual exploitation must be thoroughly and properly investigated and those responsible brought to justice.

The current definition of child sexual exploitation was published in the 2009 statutory guidance ‘Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation’ but is widely considered by practitioners to be unclear and out of date. Voluntary organisations, devolved administrations and local agencies have responded over time by developing a number of alternative definitions. Partners have told us that this has led to local agencies using different definitions or using the terms ‘child sexual abuse’ and ‘child sexual exploitation’ interchangeably, resulting in ineffective multi-agency working, inconsistent risk assessments and poor data collection.

The ‘What to do if you’re worried a child is being abused’ (WTDI) advice to practitioners published in March 20151, provided a definition of child sexual exploitation which was welcomed by the practitioners we spoke to as being more simple and concise. There has, however, been inconsistent take-up of the WTDI definition, partly because it is not included in statutory guidance.

In recognition of these issues, the Government committed in the report ‘Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation’ published in March 2015 to ‘make sure that for the first time all professionals work to the same definition of child sexual exploitation, so that they can more easily create joint risk assessments and work together to target disruption and investigate offending’.

On 12 February 2016 the Government consulted on revising the current definition of child sexual exploitation.
The aim of the consultation was to agree a clear, common definition of child sexual exploitation which would be used by practitioners across all sectors. The consultation paper also sought views on whether the revised definition should be included in the statutory guidance ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’2.
The consultation closed on 11 March 2016. This document provides a summary of the responses to the consultation document and sets out a new, revised definition of child sexual exploitation:

Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse. It 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.