Harmful sexual behaviour framework An evidence-informed framework for children and young people displaying harmful sexual behaviours

Boy walking down a streetThis framework aims to help local areas develop and improve multi-agency responses to children displaying harmful sexual behaviours (HSB). It seeks to provide a coordinated and consistent approach to recognising both the risks and the needs of this vulnerable group.

The framework was developed by the NSPCC, Research in Practice and Professor Simon Hackett with input from a large number of national organisations, local authorities and subject experts.

Authors: Simon Hackett, Dez Holmes and Pat Branigan
Published: 2016

What is the harmful sexual behaviour framework?

Teenage girl talking to a womanThe framework aims to support local work with children and young people who have displayed HSB, and their families, by delivering and developing clear policies and procedures, and by refreshing local practice guidelines and assessment tools.

It seeks to provide a more coherent and evidence-informed approach for work with these children and young people, and to better understand how to improve outcomes.

Who is the framework for?

Practitioners in a staff meetingThe framework is a systemic tool to help develop a local area response to HSB. To get the most out of the framework we advise a joint local approach involving:

  • staff with a strategic role in coordinating child protection and local HSB responses
  • commissioners of local child protection and HSB services
  • those with a wider safeguarding remit and audit responsibility, such as chairs and members of Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs).

What does the framework do?

The framework seeks to:

  • support an integrated understanding of, and response to, HSB
  • identify a continuum of responses to children and young people dependent on levels of risk and need. Responses will range from early community-based identification and support to assessment, intervention and intensive work
  • promote effective assessment as key to preventing unnecessary use of specialist time and, where appropriate, to support earlier interventions
  • ensure children and families are offered the right level of support by suitably trained and skilled workers
  • promote the advantage of involving frontline agencies and workers, especially education services, in earlier recognition, assessment and intervention
  • encourage inter-agency work designed to reduce feelings of professional isolation and anxiety when making decisions, which may currently lead to under and over estimation of risk
  • promote the use of a shared language, skills and training exchange, and development of appropriate local peer support systems
  • promote the importance of evaluation and monitoring of outcomes for children and young people.

How is the framework organised?

The framework promotes 5 domains that cover the essential elements of developing and delivering an integrated and effective HSB service for children, young people and their families:

  1. A continuum of responses to children and young people displaying HSB.
  2. Prevention, identification and early assessment.
  3. Effective assessment and referral pathways.
  4. Interventions.
  5. Workforce development.

Each domain includes:

  • a summary of the latest evidence to back up practice and local decision making and the key issues being faced
  • an audit tool to help local areas assess the current state of their HSB offer and service responses
  • the key principles to consider when focusing on delivery, with practical examples.

How to use the audit tool

Each domain includes an audit tool to enable local areas to assess their practice, processes and leadership against the 5 key areas.

These tools provide a set of statements, based on research messages, against which a score between 0 (never/no evidence) and 4 (always/strong evidence) should be given.

Using the audit tool should enable local areas to focus their efforts on the domains where improvement is needed most. There are examples and resources which can be used to draft an action plan that reflects local needs and priorities.

Findings from the audit tool can be inputted into a star tool (XLSX) to help collate and produce a visual representation of the audit scores.

The audit should be repeated after an interval of 6 to 12 months to demonstrate progress and to inform any changes or developments required.

National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) HSB guidelines

The framework should be used alongside the NICE guidelines on harmful sexual behaviour among young people (NICE, 2016).

The guidelines make recommendations about:

  • roles of universal services
  • early help assessment and risk assessment
  • linking with families pre and post intervention
  • key principles and approaches for intervention.

The guidelines aim to ensure that children and young people who display HSB are assessed as soon as possible.

Please cite as: Hackett, S, Holmes, D and Branigan, P (2016) Operational framework for children and young people displaying harmful sexual behaviours, London, NSPCC.

Research and resources

Harmful sexual behaviour

Children and young people who develop harmful sexual behaviour harm themselves and others.
Read more about harmful sexual behaviour

Harmful sexual behaviour: seminar programme

Sharing what we've learnt from working with young people through our National Clinical Assessment and Treatment Service (NCATS)
Find out more

Turn the page: first evaluation

Our first evaluation report of Turn the page, our service for young people with harmful sexual behaviour. Part of the NSPCC's Impact and evidence series.
Find out more

Provision for young people who have displayed harmful sexual behaviour

Research into the service provision within the UK for young people displaying harmful sexual behaviour.
Find out more

Support for professionals

CASPAR

Our Current Awareness Service for Practice, Policy And Research delivers free weekly email alerts to keep you up-to-date with all the latest safeguarding and child protection news.

CASPAR is currently being upgraded but you can still sign up by contacting our Information Service.

Sign up to CASPAR

Information Service

Our free service for people who work with children can help you find the latest policy, practice, research and news on child protection and related subjects.

For more information, call us or email help@nspcc.org.uk.

0808 800 5000

Submit an enquiry

Follow @NSPCCpro

Follow us on Twitter and keep up-to-date with all the latest news in child protection.

Follow @NSPCCpro on Twitter

Library catalogue

We hold the UK's largest collection of child protection resources and the only UK database specialising in published material on child protection, child abuse and child neglect.

Search the library

New in the Library

A free weekly email listing all of the new child protection publications added to our library collection.

New in the Library is currently being upgraded but you can still sign up by contacting our Information Service.

Sign up to New in the Library

Helping you keep children safe

Read our guide for professionals on what we do and the ways we can work with you to protect children and prevent abuse and neglect.

Read our guide (PDF)

Impact and evidence hub

Find out how we evaluate and research the impact we’re making in protecting children, get tips and tools for researchers and access resources.

Our impact and evidence

Get expert training and consultancy

Grow your child protection knowledge and skills with CPD certified courses delivered by our experts nationwide and online.
Get expert training

Sharing knowledge to keep children safe

Read our guide to NSPCC Knowledge and Information Services to find out how we can help you with child protection queries, support your research, and help you learn and develop.

Read our guide (PDF)

References

  1. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) (2016) Harmful sexual behaviour among children and young people. [London]: National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).