These risk and vulnerability matrices are intended to help you explore cases where you think children or young people you work may be experiencing or be at risk of sexual exploitation. It is intended to help you think about what the risks might be to the child or young person and what to do about the information you have. The toolbox must be used in the context of your organisation’s policy and procedures for child protection and safeguarding and cannot be treated as a substitute for these.
Firstly, identify who is involved in the case that you are working on, including any significant family members, friends or network of professionals including foster carers. This includes the child or young person you think may be at risk, anyone who may be putting the child or young person at risk and anyone who takes a part in trying to reduce the risk or protect the child or young person from being exploited.
Next, review the indicators of actual CSE present in the case. If you believe that a child or young person is being abused take immediate action, inform the police and children’s social care child protection team. Once you have raised these alerts complete the assessment instruments in this document and share these with the professionals involved in the case.
If there are no indicators of actual CSE in the case, consider any indicators of suspected CSE. The presence of these indicators could still result in information sharing with police and children’s social services, however, the urgency of this needs to be counterbalanced by the need to provide as clear and complete a description of the case as possible. Identify and describe any indicators of suspected sexual exploitation recording any information you have about the child or young person and their associates or persons of concern.
Besides identifying indicators of exploitation it is crucial to make notes about them too. For example, if you have received reports of the child or young person being taken somewhere by unknown adults it is essential that you record as much detail as possible about who reported this and where the child or young person was being taken.
Having reviewed and annotated the indicators of CSE you will need to describe the child or young person’s vulnerabilities. These make them more likely to be targeted for, and susceptible to, sexual exploitation. Vulnerabilities are acquired throughout our lives as a consequence of particular circumstances and personal history so they are hard to anticipate and categorise. For this reason, the vulnerabilities check list only provides an indication of the sorts of things that can make a child or young person vulnerable. If you believe there are other sources of vulnerability specific to the case make a note of these at the end of the intra-personal vulnerabilities checklist.
Once you have clarified indications of CSE and the vulnerabilities these combine with you will be able to make a balanced, summative risk assessment. In essence, high level risks are where there is evidence that the child or young person is associating with individuals who are known to have been sexually exploitative in other cases. Cases where there are indicators of involvement with individuals suspected of CSE are rated as medium level risk. All other cases are considered to be at the standard level of risk. These are the threshold conditions for the levels of risk, consequently, when making the summative assessment you should consider whether the child or young person’s vulnerabilities mean that they are significantly beyond these thresholds. If this is your judgment in cases where the indicators suggest standard or medium levels of risk then you should make your assessment at the next highest level. If the case already meets the threshold for high level risk and you consider the vulnerabilities to be significantly elevating the risk then you should act immediately and inform local children’s social services child protection teams and share your concerns with the police.
You should always bear in mind other services may have other information about the case. If any of the indicators in Section 5 appear to be an issue in the case, particularly if there is more than one or when it is compounded by vulnerabilities in Section 6, you should speak to other agencies and, where appropriate, the family during the assessment. You should also consider using this toolbox to support discussion with your Designated Officer or to supplement a CAF/Shared Family Assessment or referral to another service including referral pathway for CSE and/or Children’s Social Care.
Clearly, throughout the assessment process and whilst recording any information about the case it is important to bear in mind the need to treat sensitive information as confidential. However, it is also worth remembering that rights to privacy and reasonable expectations of confidentiality are not absolute and are limited relative to our duties to safeguard the vulnerable child or young person in our care.
If you suspect anyone is in immediate danger, call the Police on 999. If a child or young person is currently at risk of significant harm, including from CSE, refer immediately to your local Children’s Social Care