NSPCC. Cruelty to children must stop. FULL STOP

NSPCC inform.

Navigation menu list for sections above the current page
NSPCC inform
Case reviews
Disabled children
Looked after children
Minority ethnic children
Physical abuse
Sexual abuse
Sexual exploitation
Under ones

Policy and guidance on child sexual exploitation

Guidance for professionals working across the four nations of the UK

August 2013

There are a number of different policy initiatives across the UK and Europe with the aim of tackling child sexual exploitation.

Each UK nation has its own guidance for professionals about responding to child abuse and protecting children from harm, which includes sexual exploitation.

Each nation also has a legislative framework to protect children from adults who may pose a risk of sexual harm and to deal with adults who have sexually offended against children.

Below is a summary of the government policy and guidance for responding to child sexual exploitation in:

Northern Ireland
Related content
Further reading
Further help and information


The government guidance on child sexual exploitation is Safeguarding children and young people from sexual exploitation: supplementary guidance to Working together to safeguard children (PDF) (DCSF, 2009). This guidance is referenced in Appendix C of the 2013 Working together to safeguard children (HM Government, 2013) guidance.

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 introduced a range of offences, including grooming and statutory rape of children under 13, which can be brought against perpetrators in CSE cases. In August 2010, the Home Office announced that a child sex offender disclosure scheme would be rolled out across all 43 police areas in England and Wales. See our factsheet on the child sex offender disclosure scheme.

In 2011, the Home Office published a Missing children and adults strategy (PDF) which highlights the link between children missing school and the risk of sexual exploitation. It presents a number of strategies to prevent children going missing in the first place.

The Home Office has published a strategy to end violence against women and girls, which specifically includes combating sexual violence. In September 2011, the government launched a campaign about teenage relationship abuse aimed at preventing teenagers from becoming victims and perpetrators of abusive relationships.

In November 2011, the Department for Education published Tackling child sexual exploitation: action plan. In February 2012, the NSPCC, the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, NAPAC and Action for Children jointly wrote a Letter to Tim Loughton re: child sexual exploitation action plan (8 February 2012) (PDF, 969KB) calling for the action plan to make specific reference to abuse that occurs within families. The action plan was updated in July 2012 with a progress report (PDF).

In 2012, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults published a report examining issues relating to children who go missing from care (PDF), including their risk of sexual exploitation, and considered ways of protecting them more effectively. In December 2012, the Department of Education published a report by an expert group on improving the quality of children’s residential care which included recommendations on reducing risks to children in care such as sexual exploitation.

In June 2013, the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee published a report on child sexual exploitation and the response to localised grooming (PDF). In the same month, the Crown Prosecution Service published Interim guidelines on prosecuting cases of child sexual abuse including sexual exploitation. These are open to public consultation until September 2013.

Northern Ireland

Guidance specific to child sexual exploitation can be found in paragraphs 9.72 to 9.92 of the Area Child Protection Committee’s regional policy and procedures (2005) (PDF). This covers commercial sexual exploitation of children, adults involved in the sexual exploitation of children and the risks posed by developments in communication technology.

In 2011, Barnardo’s published 'Not a world away': the sexual exploitation of children and young people in Northern Ireland (PDF) which gives an overview of the legislative and policy context in Northern Ireland. 


The Scottish government has various legislation and guidance on protecting children from sexual harm.

'Section 4: Harm outside the home or in specific circumstances' of the National guidance for child protection in Scotland 2010 (PDF) covers a range of issues specific to child sexual exploitation. There is also specific National guidance: underage sexual activity: meeting the needs of children and young people and identifying child protection concerns (PDF) (2010).

In 2012, the Scottish Government published Exploring the scale and nature of child sexual exploitation in Scotland (PDF).


In 2010, the Welsh Assembly Government published Safeguarding of children and young people from sexual exploitation (PDF). This is supplementary guidance to Safeguarding children: working together under the Children Act 2004 (PDF) (2006).


In 2007, the Council of the European Union published their Convention on the protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. See also the leaflet explaining the convention (PDF).


HM Government (2013) Working together to safeguard children: a guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children (PDF). London: Department for Education (DfE).

Related content

Child sexual abuse homepage
See all of our resources for professionals on working to prevent child sexual abuse.

Child trafficking homepage
See all of our resources for professionals on working to prevent child trafficking.

Government guidance on child trafficking
Legislation, guidance and policy on child trafficking in the UK and worldwide.

News, policy, practice and research (CASPAR)
Keep up to date with the most recent developments in child protection from CASPAR, the current awareness service for child protection policy, practice and research.

Policy and guidance on child sexual abuse
Policy and guidance for professionals working across the four nations of the UK and Europe.

Further reading

Search the NSPCC Library Online for more publications and resources on child sexual exploitation policy and guidance.

Further help and information

NWG Network
The National Working Group (NWG) Network links over 1000 practitioners who are working on the issues of child sexual exploitation (CSE) and trafficking in the UK. The network provides support, advice, updates on the latest CSE developments, research, policy and practice resources. It also organises awareness raising activities and influences the development of national and local policy as informed by practice. The network has developed 'Our Voice' a forum for young people affected by CSE to enable their voices to be heard.

Contact the NSPCC's information service for more information about child sexual exploitation

Print this page