Tackling child sexual explotation
Merton's children's services is committed to a multi-agency approach to tackling child sexual exploitation (CSE).
The CSE Strategy, which was updated in April 2017 sets out our local multi-agency arrangements, under the Merton Safeguarding Children’s Board (MSCB) and the Merton Children and Young People’s Partnership, to tackling CSE. It promotes a multi-agency approach to addressing CSE through a shared understanding that supports prevention through better information sharing and improved identification. The strategy also promotes a shared multi-agency response to improve effective interventions to protect those most at risk of being sexually exploited and robustly pursue the prosecution of perpetrators.
The key principles underpinning Merton's multi-agency responses to tackling the sexual exploitation of children and young people are:
- The primary concern of anyone who comes into contact with a child or young person who has been or is at risk of being sexually exploited must be to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child;
- It is important that the child or young person is assisted to participate as fully as possible in all decisions that are made in respect of them. Parents or carers should also be as fully involved as possible in the work.
- Children and young people do not make informed choices to enter or continue to be sexually exploited, but do so from coercion, enticement manipulation or desperation. They may have difficulty distinguishing between their own choices around sex and sexuality and the sexual activities into which they are being coerced. Their experiences and circumstances mean that they have constrained choices.
- Sexually exploited children and young people should be treated as victims of abuse.
- Children and young people should be enabled to make realistic choices and whenever possible be supported with effective provision for “exiting” from the circumstances where they are being sexually exploited.
- The professionals involved in making judgements on the levels or risk should be clear on the basis of those judgements and the sources of information and should make those assessments as part of a multi-agency approach.
- There should be equal importance given to the issues of prevention, protection and prosecution. Legal action should be taken against the perpetrators of sexual exploitation, but where prosecution is unlikely, disruption strategies should be employed.
- Where the police are considering criminal action against children and young people and the final decision rests with the police, they should consult with partner agencies through the CSE meetings to ensure that all alternative and appropriate actions have been considered for that child or young person in line with ensuring adherence to ACPO guidance in relation to not criminalising young people where possible.
- Professionals involved in working with children and young people subject to sexual exploitation will need to show professional resilience and be prepared to take a pro-active approach in engaging the child or young person as they do not always engage easily.
Other information in the strategy includes: referral and consultation; role of the Multi-agency Sexual Exploitation Panel (MASE); agency roles and responsibilities; and key documents and contacts.
In addition this year, we have updated the CSE Protocol April 2017 which sets out the multi-agency arrangements for identifying and responding to children, young people and families affected by child sexual exploitation in the London Borough of Merton. The document includes information on: referral and consultation; reporting suspicions of CSE; categories of risk; and referral and assessment pathways flowchart.
The MSCB provides training for those who work with children and families on understanding and tackling CSE. Please see the MSCB Training Programme 2017/18.