‘Time to listen’: a joined up response to child sexual exploitation and missing children Key findings and recommendations from joint targeted area inspections of 5 local areas in England

CSE is a complex form of abuse, but it is possible to take action to prevent it.

This is the main message from a Time to listen report of the findings from 5 inspections looking at how local agencies are responding to child sexual exploitation (CSE) and missing children.

We’ve pulled out the keys messages from the report highlighting what works to improve practice in protecting children from CSE.


In 2015, the Home Office published a report on Tackling child sexual exploitation. This included plans for a new system of inspections to assess how local agencies work together to protect children.

Between April – August 2016, Ofsted, Care Quality Commission, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and HM Inspectorate of Probation carried out Joint Targeted Area Inspections (JTAIs) of the multi-agency response to CSE and children missing from home, care or education in South Tyneside, Oxfordshire, Central Bedfordshire, Croydon and Liverpool.

Key agencies which were inspected include children’s social care; the police; adult probation services; youth offending teams; health services; local safeguarding children boards (LSCBs). The Time to listen report presents the findings of these JTAIs.

What works to protect children from child sexual exploitation (CSE)

The inspections highlighted activities which can be successful in tackling CSE.

    • Mapping CSE requires a range of information to be shared effectively between agencies.
    • Identifying children who are at risk and understanding patterns of abuse enables agencies to target their resources effectively and develop specific approaches to tackle CSE.
    • Mapping is a continuous exercise as modes of offending and the profiles of children at risk can change over time.
    • It is recommended that a dedicated professional, who has access to a range of multi-agency information, is needed to map CSE, profile offenders and keep local areas informed.
    • A multi-agency approach to raising awareness of CSE in the community is key.
    • Successful work to raise children’s awareness of the risks of CSE includes:
      • drama performances in schools
      • involving young people in creating awareness-raising materials
      • supporting children to speak out about their own experience.
    • The most effective awareness-raising activities are informed by knowledge about local patterns of offending, e.g. training taxi drivers in spotting CSE or running a ‘hotel watch’ scheme.
    • A variety of factors can make a child vulnerable to CSE, and children can come into contact with different agencies. Professionals need to be well-informed, follow agreed procedures and work together to ensure children get the right support.
    • Effective work with young people at risk of CSE includes:
      • early identification of potential victims
      • listening to and respecting young people
      • having an understanding of CSE and the issues young people are facing
      • being sensitive and using appropriate language
      • a trusted individual building a good relationship with each child
      • building a picture of all aspects of a child’s life and the places they may be at risk
      • persevering, especially with children who go missing.
    • The views of young people should be used to inform and develop interventions.
    • Risk assessments for children who go missing should be consistent. All agencies should contribute to and share an understanding of the models being used. They should include:
      • the views of the child and their family
      • the day-to-day experiences of the child
      • the child’s wider needs and experiences outside of the family home.
    • Young people should have access to health services (including sexual health) and health professionals who are trained to recognise children at risk.
    • All professionals working with young people should be trained to carry out high quality assessments for children at risk using agreed tools and understand the thresholds and pathways for referral so that children and their families receive the right support at the right time.
    • Police should support victims of CSE in a consistent and timely way, regardless of whether a prosecution will take place. If children do not wish to engage with police, perpetrators can still be pursued to protect other children from abuse.
    • Leaders and managers across all agencies should make a commitment to tackling CSE and support professionals to meet the needs of children and young people.
    • All leaders including council members should have training on CSE and understand the local profile.
    • Strategic goals relating to CSE should be agreed across agencies, and the resources and training to achieve these must be made available. They should be implemented on the frontline.
    • Leaders should understand frontline practice, know what good practice looks like, and implement challenge and review processes which will lead to improvement.
    • Partnerships should be used as a source of learning and development to inform future practice. Areas to address include:
      • the links between child sexual exploitation and other areas of risk to children.
      • understanding how to respond effectively when children go missing.
    • To respond to CSE effectively, agencies should take responsibility for their own work as well as work collaboratively with each other.


Read the full report

Ofsted, Care Quality Commission, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and HM Inspectorate of Probation (2016)
‘Time to listen’: a joined up response to child sexual exploitation and missing children (PDF).
[London]: Ofsted 

More information about CSE


  1. HM Government (2015) Tackling child sexual exploitation (PDF). London: Cabinet Office.

  2. Ofsted, Care Quality Commission, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and HM Inspectorate of Probation (2016) ‘Time to listen’: a joined up response to child sexual exploitation and missing children (PDF). [London]: Ofsted