Child sexual exploitation is a major child protection issue across the UK.

Hidden from view and going unnoticed, vulnerable children are groomed and then abused, leaving them traumatised and scarred for life.  

Sexual exploitation of children under 18 involves exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where children (or a third person or persons) 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 can occur through the use of technology without the child's immediate recognition; for example being persuaded to post sexual images on the Internet/mobile phones without immediate payment or gain. In all cases, those exploiting the child have power over them by virtue of their age, gender, intellect, physical strength and/or economic or other resources.

Violence, coercion and intimidation are common, involvement in exploitative relationships being characterised in the main by the child 's limited availability of choice resulting from their social/economic and/or emotional vulnerability.

The common issues and reasons why young people can be vulnerable to Child Sexual Exploitation can be due to a number of factors including a child's low self-esteem and a poor self-image.

Vulnerabilities are identified and targeted by the abuser, whether the child is living with their family, looked after, away from home or they have run away.

Sexual exploitation can be linked to other issues in a child's life and so it is very important that we are all able to recognise the warning signs that a child may be suffering sexual exploitation.

There are no stereotypical victims of CSE, male and females can be a victim of CSE, but the below warning signs are indications that a child may be being exploited:

  • Regularly missing from home or school and staying out all night

  • Change in behaviour – becoming aggressive and disruptive or quiet and withdrawn

  • Unexplained gifts or new possessions such as clothes, jewellery, mobile phones or money that can't be accounted for

  • Increase in mobile phone use or secretive use

  • A significantly older 'boyfriend' or 'friend' or lots of new friends

  • Spending excessive amounts of time online or on their mobile and becoming increasingly secretive about this activity

  • Sudden involvement in criminal behaviour or increased offending

  • Sexual health problems

You can read Holly’s story

Pan London CSE safeguarding Mnemonic

This is a helpful tool for understanding the signs and symptoms of CSE that you can download.

If you are concerned that a child is subject to Child Sexual exploitation please contact your Safeguarding Children team for further advice and support:

  • Mental Health/ Learning Disability Safeguarding Children team – 0151 244 4588

  • Community Health Services Safeguarding Children Team – 0151 244 3321

Each of the Local Authorities that serve the communities that NWBH delivers services in has a different route of referral. To assist you in making the referral and to act as a link throughout the referral process we have a number of people nominated to act as the "Single Point of Contact" (SPOC).

Area SPOC Contact details
Knowsley community health

Kevin Redmond

Looked after child specialist nurse

0151 244 3321

Knowsley and St Helens


Brigette Hamlet

CAMHS  - Team Manager

0151 489 6137

Amanda Archer

CAMHS  - Team Manager

01928 568 162

Amanda Archer

CAMHS  - Team Manager

01928 568 162



Kathryn Helsby

CAMHS – Team Manager


Child sexual exploitation risk assessment meetings

Each of the Local Authorities that serve the communities that NWBH delivers services in has a multi-agency risk assessment meeting. Although each area has some differences the main aim of all of the groups are to ensure that the risk for each child identified as in need of assessment is correctly assessed and that a multi-agency plan of care is in place to reduce this risk. The SPOC for each area represents the organisation at these meetings.

Referral process

Download the "what to do if you are worried about a child" flow chart.

In addition to following the flow chart a CSE referral needs to be accompanied by a completed assessment tool.

Area ​Assessment tool ​Referral form

MACSE (Multi Agency CSE) meeting

Knowsley CSE referral form

St Helens

MACSE (Multi Agency CSE) meeting

Pan borough CSE screening tool ​St Helens CSE referral form


Missing Child Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking Operational group (MCSETO)

Pan borough CSE screening tool MCSETO referral form


CSE operational group

Pan borough CSE screening tool Halton CSE information sharing


Sexual Exploitation and Missing (SEAM)

SEAM flowchart SEAM referral tool