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Key messages from research on child sexual exploitation: Strategic Commissioning of Police Services

This briefing paper brings together key messages from research on child sexual exploitation (CSE) and highlights implications for the strategic commissioning of police services. It should be read in conjunction with guidance for professionals on tackling CSE.

Key messages

  • Exploitation can happen to young people from all backgrounds. Whilst young women are the majority of victims, boys and young men are also exploited.
  • Commissioners should assume that CSE is a national issue, occurring in every police force area and across force boundaries. The police need to take a proactive intelligence led approach to identifying both victims and perpetrators and contributing to prevention.
  • Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse (CSA), and is linked in complex ways to other forms of violence and abuse. A strategic approach should embed these connections.
  • An audit of existing police training and professional development can ensure that frontline and investigative officers as well as call-handlers and senior leaders are appropriately skilled to respond to CSE and CSA.
  • Funding and support for specialist CSE and CSA services need to meet the safeguarding and welfare needs of victims in order to have positive impacts on criminal justice outcomes.
  • Crime data alone is insufficient to map the full extent of CSE. Commissioners taking the lead to build strategic partnerships locally can improve information sharing so that offender and victim profiles are more complete and feed into effective disruption and early intervention techniques.
  • Linked issues include running away/going missing/absence from education. Return home interviews by specialist services are able to sensitively explore what happened when the young person was away.