Each of the four categories of risk have associated recommended actions.
Category 1 – not at risk of sexual exploitation (SERAF score 0-5)
Children and young people in Category 1 do not have indicators of risk in relation to sexual exploitation. However as children and young people who have had concerns raised about them in relation to CSE they may have some vulnerabilities present.
Children and young people assessed as being in this category need access to basic information that will enable them to develop an awareness of the risks that can lead to a situation in which they may be exposed to sexual exploitation.
They need access to information that will equip them to avoid risk situations and to protect themselves.
Use the School Personal Health and Social Education (PHSE) curriculum as a platform through which to deliver basic safeguarding information, to explore ideas around ‘healthy’ sexual relationships. This also needs to include opportunities for children and young people to understand the very real risks involved in staying out late, going missing from school, home or care and safe use of the internet. If children are not at school consider whether this escalates the risks to this child.
If other agencies are working with the child/young person consider accessing support from that agency.
Category 2 – mild risk (SERAF score 6-10)
Children and young people in Category 2 are likely to have multiple vulnerabilities such as problematic parenting and childhood experiences present.
One or two risk indicators may also be present. These vulnerabilities increase the risk of such children and young people being groomed for sexual exploitation. Early intervention and preventative work is needed to protect children and young people who have multiple vulnerabilities present.
Consideration should be given to convening a multi-agency meeting, using SAFeh process where consent is obtained, to ensure all information is shared and agree a plan to address risk and need. A planned programme to raise awareness of sexual exploitation and to provide tools for children and young people to self protect is required.
Consider a referral to preventative services to provide advice and support.
Such an intervention should raise risk awareness, provide information on keeping safe and address specific identified issues that pose a threat to safety. Such a programme should be delivered by a practitioner who has a good working relationship with the child or young person. It should include opportunities for children and young people to understand the very real risks involved in staying out late and going missing from school, home or care.
Risk needs to be regularly reassessed as part of the planned work undertaken with a child or young person. Any significant change in circumstances which might increase vulnerability or any incidence of behaviour associated with risk should result in an immediate re-assessment of risk.
Category 3 – moderate risk (SERAF score 11-15)
Children and young people identified as being in Category 3 are likely to have multiple vulnerabilities present as well as one or more indicators of risk.
The range of need within this category of risk is wide in terms of the difference between a child or young person with a SERAF score of 11 and a child or young person with a SERAF score of 15.
Children and young people at moderate risk may be groomed or targeted for opportunistic abuse and/or exploitative relationships by abusing adults.
It is in this category that any omitted information can have the greatest effect on accuracy of assessment and information sharing.
If the child is not an open case to a social worker a referral should be made to ART, who will consider if threshold is met for social care assessment. Such a referral, might result in checks being undertaken within the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub, or a Strategy Meeting being convened.
If there is an allocated social worker you should inform the allocated social worker, in relation to children and young people assessed as at moderate risk. There should be a record on the child’s file (usually a record of a discussion between a social worker and team manager) to consider whether there are reasonable cause to suspect the child is suffering/ likely to suffer significant harm in the form of CSE or any other form of abuse or neglect. If so, a strategy discussion must follow. If not a clear plan is needed regarding reducing the risks to the child.
If a strategy discussion is required the SWCPP procedures should be followed and the requirements of a strategy discussion (set out in Working Together to Safeguard Children) must be adhered to.
Category 4 – significant risk (SERAF score 16+)
Where children or young people are assessed as being in Category 4 there is a clear indication that they are at significant risk of sexual exploitation or that they are already being abused through sexual exploitation. This is likely to include cases where abuse is habitual, denied, and where coercion and control is implicit.
In these situations it is likely that there are reasonable cause to suspect a child is suffering/ likely to suffer significant harm in the form of CSE or some other form of abuse or neglect. In these cases the threshold is met to convene a strategy discussion. If the decision is made that there is not reasonable grounds to suspect a child is suffering/ likely to suffer significant harm a team manager must record the rationale for this decision on the child’s file.
As with Category 3, multi-agency strategy meetings should ensure the effective exchange of information between representatives of key agencies. If a strategy discussion is required the SWCPP procedures should be followed and the requirements of a strategy discussion (set out in Working Together to Safeguard Children) must be adhered to.
Principles of strategy meeting
Working Together to Safeguard Children explicitly sets outs requirements that should be followed in a strategy discussion. Multi-agency strategy meetings enable the effective exchange of information between representatives of key agencies. The meetings should include the individual who has identified risk or raised concerns in relation to the child or young person and representatives of children’s services, police, health, education, placements and the commissioned specialist CSE service. The multi-agency strategy meeting should agree a protection plan and action to include direct or therapeutic work with the individual child or young person. The focus of any protection plan and of direct interventions should be the reduction of specific risks which are causing concern. In particular where it is identified a child is staying out late and/or going missing from school, home or care is identified, the plan must address this as a priority. The safeguarding implications of staying out late and going missing should not be underestimated by any agencies.
The length of intervention required will be different in each case and is reliant on the specific circumstances of the child or young person and the nature of the risks which are being addressed. Individual children and young people may respond to intervention in different ways and this will also impact on the length of that intervention.
A change of circumstances such as a placement change for example, may serve to support the reduction of risks in a relatively short space of time; conversely a placement change could serve to quickly escalate risk. Risks should be carefully monitored and reviewed over time in relation to children and young people for whom there have been concerns as part of assessment and planning processes already in place within teams.
All agencies involved in working with the child or young person should address issues of sexual exploitation whether in relation to, for example, placements, offending behaviour, work with the child or young person’s family, education or sexual health as part of their work with that child or young person. A coordinated and synchronised approach by all agencies maximises the effectiveness of interventions and the impact of planned actions. All agencies should agree and adopt a consistent approach that does not shy away from or collude with risky situations. All agencies and professionals need to be aware of the intensive and long-term nature of the approach required. The presence of multiple vulnerabilities and risks in the lives of children and young people at significant risk often means that they are difficult to engage and that positive outcomes take time.
Young people aged 18 years and over, entitled to Aftercare services
Where there are concerns regarding risk of sexual exploitation in relation to a young person entitled to receive services under the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000, the associated actions set out above should be generally followed.
In relation to Category 1 and Category 2 cases, information and awareness raising actions should be addressed as part of the pathway planning process. Risk should be assessed and addressed as part of existing processes. Similarly where young people are assessed as Category 3 or Category 4 cases sexual exploitation should be addressed through the pathway or other work plan. Liaison between children’s services and the Safeguarding Coordination Unit (SCU) is also required in addressing the protection of the young person. It is essential that there is coordinated work between partner agencies to understand the individual’s additional vulnerabilities as care leavers.
Interventions with individual children and young people should be aimed at addressing the specific areas causing concern, beginning with the most risky or dangerous as well as those areas identified by the child or young person as areas where they are willing to work on making changes. This supports reduction of risks and progresses cases to positive outcomes.
Reducing risks for positive outcomes
Each of the areas which present risks for children and young people in relation to sexual exploitation can be dealt with to promote safeguarding and to achieve positive outcomes.
Reducing these risks involves a multi-agency approach which delivers a protective network and holistic package of care.