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Social care role in identifying, preventing and responding to all children and young people at risk of sexual exploitation in relation to a child currently receiving a social work service

When a parent, professional, or another person contacts the allocated social work team with concerns that a child is being sexually exploited, children’s social care will complete a SERAF and decide on the course of action within 24 hours.

Agencies with statutory child protection powers must, at all stages, consider whether the child may be in need of urgent action to secure his/her safety because of the risk to the child’s life or likelihood of serious harm.

The South West Child Protection Procedures (SWCPP) sets out the process which must be followed if there are concerns that a child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm.  One of the ways in which a child could suffer significant harm is through sexual exploitation.

Consideration needs to be given as to whether there is reasonable cause to suspect that the child is suffering/ likely to suffer significant harm. If this is the case a strategy discussion between the statutory agencies must take place to consider whether the criteria for initiating a Section 47 inquiry are met. Consideration should also be given to consulting and including the commissioned specialist service.

A separate strategy discussion should be convened to consider the safeguarding needs of the perpetrator if they are under the age of 18. (For further information see section – When the perpetrator of CSE is under 18.)

Any assessment of a child who may be/ has been sexually exploited must involve obtaining relevant information from professionals and others in contact with the child and family. It should include professionals who have expertise in working with children and young people involved in sexual exploitation.

The single assessment needs to ascertain:

  • is this a child in need? ( S17 of the Children Act 1989)
  • is there reasonable cause to suspect that this child is suffering, or is likely to likely to suffer significant harm? (S 47 of the Children Act 1989)
  • If there is reasonable cause to suspect a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm at the end of section 47 enquiries the South West Child Protection Procedures must be adhered to. An ICPC must be convened in these circumstances including when the child is a looked after child.

Social workers should be particularly aware when undertaking single assessments of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) of the risk of sexual exploitation and child trafficking.