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Child sexual exploitation

Published: 18 Mar 2016 09:30

Update on action to tackle CSE on National Awareness Day.

More than 15,000 people have sought information on child sexual exploitation (CSE) in the first weeks of a multi media campaign to tackle the issue.

Minister for Children and Young People Aileen Campbell made the announcement on National CSE Awareness Day during a visit to Barnardo's Scotland, which is receiving funding to expand services for those at risk.

The campaign, the first of its kind in the UK, highlights how to spot the warning signs of CSE.

It is one of a range of actions the Scottish Government and partners are taking forward including:

  • Funding for the Moira Anderson Foundation to increase the support for young people who have experienced child sexual abuse
  • Expansion of peer education programmes to equip young people with skills to identify abusive and violent behaviours
  • Action to strengthen the response to CSE, including a new framework for Child Protection Committees and guidance on identification and risk assessment
  • Funding to Barnardo's Scotland to deliver 150 community events to raise awareness of the issue
  • Ensuring consistent information collection across Child Protection Committee areas
  • Work to improve understanding of the scale of CSE though a new police intelligence toolkit
  • Specialist support to child abuse investigations through Police Scotland's National Child Abuse Investigation Unit – child sexual exploitation accounted for 33 per cent of the Unit's resource hours between April 2015 and February 2016.

Ms Campbell said:

"Child sexual exploitation is a form of child abuse and some young people may not be aware that they are at risk of harm.

"The first step in tackling this abhorrent crime is understanding it can happen to anyone. It can take many forms – online, through social media or on phones, or in person through exploitative and damaging relationships.

"We launched the first TV campaign in the UK to raise awareness of how it can happen, and giving parents and young people access to the information they need to prevent it.

"This Government takes child protection seriously – that's why last month we launched a comprehensive review of the child protection system in Scotland to strengthen the steps taken when children have experienced, or are at risk from harm.

"Today we have published an update of the range of actions we are taking forward now and in the future with partners including police, local government and the third sector to address this abhorrent form of child abuse. We have made great progress and will continue to strive to protect our young people and keep them safe from harm."

Martin Crewe, Director of Barnardo's Scotland said:

"Today, on National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness day, it is worth remembering that this type of sexual abuse, especially when it takes place online, can happen to any child or young person, regardless of their upbringing or home environment.

"The funding from the Scottish Government will help us develop our services for young people in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee, as well as our nationwide research and policy development programme. This work is designed to fit into the overall direction of travel set out in the updated National Action Plan on CSE, which will help make sure that there is a concerted national effort to end this form of abuse in Scotland."

Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham, Police Scotland's Public Protection lead, said:

"Child sexual exploitation is happening in Scotland and it's happening now. Recognising the signs of exploitation early, sharing information and taking action will ensure that children are protected. This update of the CSE Action Plan comes at a crucial time as our knowledge and understanding of CSE continues to evolve.

"Young people often don't recognise that they are being sexually exploited nor do their families or communities. And as they increasingly keep in touch with friends and organise their lives through social media and chatrooms, the online threat cannot be underestimated.

"It is imperative that we educate children, their families and communities about CSE and staying safe online. We must also share information and intelligence that will lead to the early identification of perpetrators and prevent this abuse.

"We have worked closely with Scottish Government to develop the national CSE Action Plan. We are committed to working with partners and across communities to deliver it and to reduce the risk posed by those who sexually exploit children by continually developing tactics that assist the detection and disruption of offending behaviour, in particular the continued threat posed online, in order to protect children and young people from harm."

Children in Scotland chief executive Jackie Brock said :

"This action plan shows the determination of all agencies to get to the heart of the real scale and nature of child sexual exploitation in Scotland. If the commitments by all partners are all followed through, there will no longer be a question of avoiding the challenge or claiming child sexual exploitation couldn't happen in any of our communities.

"In addition, the plan shows a welcome commitment to investing in stronger local responses to support children, young people, their families, communities and practitioners. It can do this by preventing the underlying causes of child sexual exploitation, acting quickly when concerns emerge and tackling the behaviour and potential offending of those grooming or colluding to cause harm to children."

Matt Forde, National Head of Service for NSPCC Scotland said:

"We welcome the updated action plan which places renewed emphasis on our collective efforts to prevent child sexual exploitation. The action plan rightly emphasises the need to better equip children with the knowledge and skills to make safe and healthy choices, for which consistent and appropriate relationships, sexual health and parenthood education is fundamental.

"In particular, we are pleased to see that the action plan recognises the need for better support for child witnesses who are involved in criminal proceedings and we look forward to working with the Scottish Government to deliver improvements in this area."

John Fyffe, Senior Depute Chief Executive, Perth and Kinross Council and member of the Ministerial Working Group, said:

"We warmly welcome the updated plan which builds on the wide range of activity underway across Scotland to prevent and tackle child sexual exploitation. As a Council, we have made a firm commitment to developing a zero tolerance approach to abuse and exploitation and we are pleased to see the recognition given in the plan to the need for the local multi-agency response to be underpinned by strong leadership.

"We are particularly pleased to see the focus given to raising awareness of exploitation amongst parents and the wider public and to building the resilience of young people to keep themselves and their peers safe – both online and offline."

Notes to editors

Child sexual exploitation involves a young person under the age of 18 being manipulated, forced, pressurised or coerced into taking part in a sexual act in exchange for something. The updated action plan is available at

The TV advert launched on 28 January alongside outdoor advertising, PR, social media, partnership work with councils, schools, local police services, NHS and Girls Brigade. Campaign website has been visited by 15,755 unique users.

Barnardo's Scotland has been awarded three year funding from April 2016 - £300,000 in year 1 funding, years 2 & 3 to be confirmed. Moira Anderson foundation has been awarded three year funding - £25,000 from April 2016, with further funding to be confirmed.

The Ministerial and National CSE Working groups have agreed actions which aim to eliminate CSE in Scotland. Members are - Children in Scotland, Police Scotland, Barnardo's Scotland, Aberlour Child Care Trust, Care Inspectorate, Education Scotland, COPFS, Child Protection Committees and Child Protection Committees Scotland, NSPCC, Children 1st,, Action for Children,, NHS Health Scotland, WithScotland, ADES, SOLACE, Social Work Scotland, Roshni, Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People, Women's Support Project, and Health and Social Care Partnership representation.