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Child sexual exploitation

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a form of child abuse involving children and young people receiving something, such as accommodation, drugs, gifts or affection, as a result of them performing sexual activities, or having others perform sexual activities on them. It can occur without physical contact, when children are groomed to post sexual images of themselves on the internet.

CSE is a hidden issue taking place out of public view. Practitioners often do not identify it and young people themselves frequently do not recognise themselves as the abused. It can be difficult to get an accurate picture of the risk of sexual exploitation.

The link between children being sexually exploited and children going missing is very strong. Some 140,000 children go missing from home or care in the UK each year and it has been estimated that running away places around a quarter of these at risk of serious harm. Children and young people who run away may be ‘pushed away’ following abuse or other factors or ‘pulled away’ wanting to be near friends or because they are being exploited by adults.

Guidance from Department of Education 

The Department for Education (DfE) has published a definition and guidance on CSE for practitioners and managers

Further information

Local information on CSE

The Pan Bedfordshire CSE and Missing Strategy (PDF) 2018 to 2020 explains the approach to helping children and young people at risk.

CSE Risk assessment toolkit (Word) helps to make a risk assessment and helps those working with children and young people who may be at risk to consider the necessary information to assess and take appropriate action. A guidance (Word) has been developed to help practitioners undertake this risk assessment.

CSE Disruption Toolkit (PDF) has also been developed for use by local multi-agency partners.

Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation Procedure which should be read alongside the CSE Practice Guidance (PDF)

CSE Awareness raising posters (PDF)

Further local information and resources are also available on the Bedfordshire Against CSE website.

If you have any questions or would like more information please contact us at or telephone 01234 276512.

Girls and gangs 

The Police have noted the emergence of certain gangs in Luton and Bedford consisting of a greater increase in cohorts of males and females. There is limited intelligence relating to the structure of these gangs, and due to the size of some gang membership’s it is difficult to determine individual roles. However, some Intelligence does suggest that there are cohorts of girls associated to certain gang’s members and in some cases they are utilised for storing weapons, drugs and cash on behalf of the group. Some females have also been recruited, or used, for access to their bank accounts, in order to safely house or filter criminal proceeds.

Particular attention should also be given to females being recruited due to them being ‘isolated’ and away from family/friends, such as within Alternative Education Providers, University and College. Some females are also recruited through social media therefore, a worthy conversation to have with young females, during any engagement, is to ask what their social media activity looks like.

There are currently several intelligence gaps around the roles of these females and their involvement in criminality and exploitation. It has been noted that some females have been identified as being involved in violent incidents, the storing weapons and in some cases of being ‘ring-leaders’. This is believed to involve them recruiting other, possible younger, females who in turn are then exposed to possible criminal or sexual exploitation.

If you have an immediate concern over a young person please contact the Police on 101 or submit a Multi-agency Information submission form (Word) revised version August 2020. 

Pan Bedfordshire Child Exploitation Missing Panel (CEM)

The Child Exploitation Missing Panel (CEM) replaces the previous Child Sexual Exploitation Missing Panel (CSEM). The role of the multi-agency CEM is to ensure a co-ordinated multi-agency approach to concerns about all forms of child exploitation and missing and to maintain an overview of emerging child exploitation and missing issues in Bedfordshire

For guidance and procedures please go to the Pan Bedfordshire Interagency Child Protection Procedures.

If you have any queries regarding the CEM please contact your local CEM SPOC (single point of contact) or the Pan-Bedfordshire CE Co-ordinator:

Multi-Agency information submission form

To assist the Police in building a picture of what drugs, gangs, crime, CSE, missing, modern day slavery and other vulnerabilities look like in Bedford Borough, where it is happening and who is involved then they require your information.

For example if you have observed a car regularly being at a location where young people congregate share the details of the car and a description of the occupants. If a young person changes their appearance and appears to have money a new phone etc and talks about going out to parties, then share this information with the Police using the information reporting form below.

When considering whether a child or young person is at risk please consider whether any of the issues in the attached briefing places them at risk of or there is evidence to suggest they are being:
  • sexually exploited
  • trafficked for sex, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) or forced marriage 
  • forced to work
  • used as couriers of drugs and cash

Take a look at a practitioner briefing on Sexual Exploitation, Modern Day Slavery, Trafficking of Human Beings and County Lines (PDF)

Raising awareness

Bedfordshire Police, the University of Bedfordshire, Bedford Borough, Luton Borough and Central Bedfordshire Councils, Crimestoppers, and the three local safeguarding children boards are joining forces to tackle child sexual exploitation (CSE) with this campaign.

As part of the campaign, a new website has been launched which contains links and information about all of the agencies taking part, and explains how you can access help and support, as well as where to report CSE concerns.

Jenny Myers, Independent Chair of the Bedford Borough Safeguarding Children Board, said: “Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) can be tricky for people to recognise which is why a tip-off from someone who may have noted something which doesn’t seem quite right, can be so incredibly valuable. The joint website is a great resource for those seeking more information on CSE.”

If you are concerned about CSE, you can call police on 101 or visit for further information.

Child sexual exploitation is when people use the power they have over young people to sexually abuse them. In this video series experts explain who is most vulnerable, typical behaviour patterns of the abusers and how to spot the signs. You’ll also get advice on what you can do if someone you know is at risk or has been a victim of CSE.

Watch the video series about CSE

NWG report

Response to CSE in Bedfordshire in the Three Boroughs. View the full report (PDF)

View the Final Pan Bedfordshire NWG Health Check (PDF)

Download local raising awareness posters (PDF)

Exploited Trailer. A promotional trailer for CEOP's new educational resource aimed at preventing CSE

Exploited Full Version. A CEOP educational resource.

Exposed. A short CEOP film about a girl who sends images of herself on her mobile phone

The Sexual exploitation of Children: can you recognise the signs? A 20 minute film to raise awareness about grooming and sexual exploitation using the Eastenders story of Whitney.

Short films for practice - CSE research

These 12 films are aimed at anyone who wants to access learning from the latest research on child sexual exploitation (CSE), in a short accessible form.

The films share the findings of a range of studies undertaken by researchers in ‘The International Centre: Researching Child Sexual Exploitation, Violence and Trafficking’ at the University of Bedfordshire, as well as drawing on wider CSE literature.

Most of the films are under two minutes long. They can be watched in the office, shared with colleagues or friends, or used in training contexts.

Each film is accompanied by a short briefing document that outlines the evidence in more detail, with references and links to the original research, and questions for reflection.

National resource

The NWG Network and The Children’s Society have developed a campaign pack supporting local safeguarding children boards to work with retail, transport, leisure and hospitality businesses to protect children in their communities from child sexual exploitation.

The pack includes posters, leaflets and training materials for staff. It will help employees to look out for signs of exploitation, grooming and trafficking and provide information on what to do if they are concerned about a child. It will also assist employers to carry out risks assessments and vetting of staff.

Download the CSE pack (Word) 

Resource Pack for Councils - Local Government Association (PDF)

NSPCC Sexual Exploitation tools on YouTube

The NSPCC has produced three short animations, available on YouTube, which each deal with the subject of sexual exploitation in a different way. The animations attempt to clarify the complex issues involved and offer starting points for discussion with young people who might be experiencing similar problems. The animations can be found here: 'My story is real''When someone cares', 'Jay'

Protect and Respect NSPCC is for all young people aged 11 to 19 who have been, or are at risk of being, sexually exploited.

Serious Case Reviews around Child Sexual Exploitation

CSE training

Access training from the LSCB course catalogue which is updated daily and can be downloaded as a PDF if needed.

University of Bedfordshire films and resources have 12 films aimed at anyone who wants to access learning from the latest research on child sexual exploitation (CSE), in a short accessible form. Each film is accompanied by a short briefing document that outlines the evidence in more detail, with references and links to the original research, and questions for reflection A broad range of CSE themes are covered. 

Short video by NHS Choices on CSE

Webinars and briefings

Please see below webinars which have been produced by the University of Bedfordshire to further support CSE

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