A consultation seeking views on a new definition of child sexual exploitation was launched on Friday.
There are currently a number of definitions of child sexual exploitation in use by voluntary organisations and agencies. This has led to some confusion and additional challenges for practitioners working with children and families, creating inconsistencies in risk assessment and data collection.
The government aims to provide clarity so all professionals are using the same definition of child sexual exploitation in their work to prevent abuse and investigate offending.
The proposed definition is:
‘Child sexual exploitation is a form of child abuse. It occurs where anyone under the age of 18 is persuaded, coerced or forced into sexual activity in exchange for, amongst other things, money, drugs/alcohol, gifts, affection or status. Consent is irrelevant, even where a child may believe they are voluntarily engaging in sexual activity with the person who is exploiting them. Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact and may occur online.’
Minister for Preventing Abuse, Exploitation and Crime Karen Bradley said:
Tackling child sexual abuse and exploitation is a top priority for this government, and victims and survivors of abuse are more than ever feeling confident to report their experiences.
The government is clear that protection from abuse and neglect is a fundamental right for all children.
The proposed definition is intended to remove any ambiguity and ensure that everyone working to prevent abuse and child sexual exploitation is using the same definition.
Children and Families Minister, Edward Timpson, said:
Nothing is more important than keeping children safe and abuse or exploitation must be tackled in all its forms.
By introducing this new definition, we can raise awareness and make sure that those working with families are better able to provide help and support to vulnerable children.
The government is proposing to bring the revised definition into effect on 1 April 2016 and including it within the statutory guidance, ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’.