Lambeth Children's Social Care Child Sexual Exploitation


This chapter details a range of issues around sexual exploitation and contains the update definition of 'sexual exploitation' in an amended Working Together, (see Appendix 1: Definition of Child Sexual Exploitation) and DfE guidance, to which there is a link. The chapter contains a range of useful tools, including Assessing Level of Risk of Child Sexual and the Exploitation and CSE Risk Matrix Tool, together with information around a range of local Lambeth resources. (See Appendices).


Child sexual exploitation: definition and guide for practitioners (GOV.UK)

Child abuse concerns: guide for practitioners (GOV.UK) - guidance to help practitioners identify the signs of child abuse and neglect and understand what action to take.

London Child Protection Procedures: Safeguarding Children from Sexual Exploitation

Lambeth LSCB: Prevention of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) – Lambeth Strategy 2014 – 2017


Missing from Home and Care Protocol


This chapter was reviewed in October 2021 and should be reread in its entirety.

1. Introduction

Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is a form of child abuse and, when appropriate, will be subject to statutory child protection procedures. See Appendix 1: Definition of Child Sexual Exploitation.

Lambeth's policies closely follow the Pan London CSE Procedures, which also contain further helpful guidance and should also be consulted, see London Child Protection Procedures: Safeguarding Children from Sexual Exploitation

2. Determining Whether to Refer to Children's Social Care

Agencies that have a concern that a child or young person may be at risk of CSE should refer to the Lambeth LSCB Threshold of Needs Chart to help decide if the concerns meet the referral threshold for Children's Social Care or whether the concerns can be managed in universal or targeted services. Advice can be sought from the Integrated Referral Hub (020 7926 3100).

3. Referring to Children's Social Care

Referrals should be made on the MARF (multi-agency referral form), and emailed to: or telephone 020 7926 3100. Any concerns for actual harm to a child or young person that require immediate investigation and response should be referred immediately.

4. Social Care Response to Referrals

If concerns arises about a child or young person that has an allocated social worker, then the social worker should update the CSE Risk Matrix Tool and discuss the new information with their Team Manager. The CSE Co-ordinator should be informed and can offer case consultation on how to respond to the concerns.

A decision will be made whether the concerns meet the threshold for a Strategy Meeting.

For all referrals for children not open to Children's Social Care, the Integrated Referral Hub will consider the referral. New referrals will be screened using the Pan London Threshold of Need and categories of child sexual exploitation risk.

5. Section 47 Enquiries and Strategy Meetings

The relevant Team Manager will need to review if the concern meets the threshold for a Section 47 investigation. Some referrals may come from the police, and in many of those cases the situation will already meet this threshold. Where a joint or single agency Section 47 investigation is required, a Strategy Meeting should be held. Safeguarding concerns regarding CSE that meet Section 47 threshold should be the subject of a multi-agency statutory meeting rather than a telephone discussion, as the investigation and immediate safeguarding intervention will need to be a multi-agency approach.

Where it is not possible to hold a full meeting within 24 hours of the referral, a strategy discussion should take place between social care, police, health and schools where relevant to agree any immediate investigatory and safeguarding actions. A further meeting should however be scheduled, to be chaired by the Team Manager, and recorded as a Strategy Discussion on Mosaic by the Team Manager, and follow the agenda outlined in Appendix 2: Strategy Meeting Guidance. The social worker or duty social worker in most cases will establish all the involved agencies to be invited to the meeting, coordinate the invitations, seek information from agencies unable to attend, and ensure that minutes are sent out to all attendees.

Consideration should also be given to inviting the subject and family to a part of the statutory meeting where appropriate.

As a general principle all persons who may hold significant information, or who can contribute to safeguarding the child, should be invited to attend, or else should contribute relevant information, and should be sent minutes of the meeting.

The meeting will need to consider the individual circumstances of the child /young person and should follow the agenda in Appendix 2: Strategy Meeting Guidance. The meeting will determine the current level of risk to the child or young person based on the information shared at the meeting. Risk assessment should consider the context of risk factors for the individual child but a general guidance is that a child/young person will be considered:

  • No risk - if there are no identified risk factors at the current time;
  • Low risk - there are identified vulnerability factors but no presenting evidence of actual abuse;
  • Medium risk - there are identified risk factors that suggest the child/young person may be the victim of grooming or abuse;
  • High risk - there is evidence that the child/young person is a victim of ongoing child sexual exploitation.

In consultation with other agencies, the team manager will consider the need for a Section 47 investigation and actions required, allocate for a Children & Families assessment or review (C&F assessment), and determine whether a review strategy meeting is required, or whether the next review should take place as part of a Child In Need review meeting or Core Group.

If the child is Looked After and placed out of borough, discussion should be had with the local police as to how they can attend the strategy meeting, including by conference call, and support a possible Section 47 investigation.

The resulting plan for the child or young person, or the updated plan, should ensure that every risk factor and vulnerability identified for a child/young person is specifically addressed in their plan, i.e. Child Protection Plan, Child in Need Plan, Early Help Plan, Looked After Child or Pathway plan.

6. Sexual Harm and Exploitation Involving more than one Young Person

The team manager will also need to consider if the incident involves more than one young person, either as victims or perpetrators. Where more than one young person is involved, they will all need to be considered individually as part of the strategy meeting. If the alleged perpetrator is a child or young person, the Chair and all professionals will need to ensure that they follow the London Child Protection Children Harming Others procedures.

Where the other young people involved have allocated social workers, from within Lambeth or other local authorities, they should be invited to the meeting. Where there is no allocated worker for a child or young person, the team manager must ensure that that appropriate referrals have been made for them to FRT, and a duty worker from CAT will need to be allocated to attend the strategy meeting. Relevant Team Managers should also attend where possible, and YOS should also always be invited. If the young people are in the same school, the Safeguarding Manager in the Education team needs to be invited, please see Appendix 2: Strategy Meeting Guidance for full invite list.

7. Cases which do not meet the Section 47 Threshold

Where concerns are identified that a child or young person is at risk of CSE but this does not meet the threshold for a Strategy Meeting, a multi-agency professionals meeting should still be held to consider the needs and risks of the child or young person, and to determine the safeguarding and support strategies.

As before, the resulting plan for the child or young person, or the updated plan, should ensure that every risk factor and vulnerability identified for a child/young person is specifically addressed in their plan, i.e. Child Protection Plan, Child in Need Plan, early Help Plan, LAC or Pathway plan.

8. The Role of the CSE Coordinator

All cases where CSE is identified as a possible concern should be alerted to the CSE Co-ordinator.

The CSE coordinator will:

  1. Provide case consultation;
  2. Provide support and advice to managers chairing strategy meeting;
  3. Manage CSE cohort list;
  4. Quality assure plans to ensure risk is being addressed and reduced;
  5. Provide support to social workers where required to ensure that plans continue to best meet the needs of the child, and to support complex direct work with young people and/or parents, and support analysis in ongoing assessment of progress, need and risk.

9. Ongoing Social Work Assessment

The risks to the child in relation to CSE will need to be considered as part of the holistic assessment, and protective actions or support included in the relevant plan. The assessment will need to consider risks outside of the family and within the social context of the child/young person. As above, progress in relation to these actions should be reviewed in review strategy meetings where appropriate, or as part of existing CIN meetings, core group meetings or LAC meetings.

10. Children Place out of Borough, known to Visit other Boroughs or Transferred

Where placement moves are planned, in considering the most appropriate placement of a child known to be at high risk of CSE, where possible the social worker should contact the local CSE coordinator of the authority where the potential placement is located to explore if there are known additional risks within the area. Careful consideration also needs to be paid to the needs of any other young people in the placement, and any existing known risks. Lambeth's CSE coordinator can assist in obtaining contact details of coordinators in other local authorities.

If any child /young person considered to be at high risk of CSE is placed out of borough, or if there are concerns arising linked to their travelling to another borough, then the host Local Authority should be informed of the CSE risk. The social worker should have a discussion with the local CSE Coordinator to determine if a referral should be made to the local MASE panel and to identify local resources.

The Lambeth CSE Coordinator should be informed of any out of borough placements for CSE medium-high risk cases and can support the communication with the host Local Authority.

11. Multi-Agency Child Exploitation Panel (MACE)

The Multi-Agency Child Exploitation Panel (MACE) meets monthly. Lambeth MACE panel is a strategic meeting and is not focussed on individual case discussion. MACE reviews data and information to identify the local profile and to plan disruption and prevention of contextual harm. The CSE coordinator will seek to identify any patterns or hotspots and present this information to MACE, to support coordinated strategic action.

12. Closure of Cases

Through appropriate protective actions and multi-agency support, over time the assessed current risks to young people should decrease. For the majority of cases which remain assessed as Level 2 or 3 risk, ongoing social care involvement is likely to be appropriate. In some Level 2 risk cases the young person may be sufficiently safeguarded through positive engagement and ongoing involvement of specialist services that does not require further social care monitoring or support. Where children/young people who have previously been identified as medium or high risk have had a Child & Family assessment completed and a decision is made to close the case, then consideration should be made to referring or signposting the child/young person to a local support service. The CSE Coordinator should be notified before any medium/high risk CSE case is closed so a case discussion can be held with the social worker and team manager to ensure the child/young person is safeguarded.

Appendix 1: Definition of Child Sexual Exploitation

It is important to emphasise that child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse. The definition of child sexual abuse in Working Together, the government's statutory guidance on inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, is as follows:

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.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, not necessarily involving a high level of violence, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including assault by penetration (for example, rape or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching outside of clothing. They may also include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, sexual images, watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways, or grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via the internet). Sexual abuse is not solely perpetrated by adult males. Women can also commit acts of sexual abuse, as can other children.

This guidance also uses the nationally agreed Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) definition of child sexual exploitation - this underpins the Metropolitan Police Service's Pan-London Child Sexual Exploitation Operating Protocol (MPS, 2015).

  • Sexual exploitation of children and young people under 18 involves exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where the young person (or third person/s) receive 'something' (e.g. food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts, money) as a result of them performing, and/or another or others performing on them, sexual activities;
  • Child sexual exploitation (CSE) can occur through the use of technology without the child's immediate recognition; for example being persuaded to post images on the internet / mobile phones without immediate payment or gain;
  • Violence, coercion and intimidation are common. Involvement in exploitative relationships is characterised by the child's or young person's limited availability of choice as a result of their social, economic or emotional vulnerability;
  • A common feature of CSE is that the child or young person does not recognise the coercive nature of the relationship and does not see themselves as a victim of exploitation.

Appendix 2: Strategy Meeting Guidance

Please see Missing from Home and Care Protocol, Appendix 3: Strategy Meeting Guidance.