What is Child Sexual Exploitation?

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a form of sexual abuse that involves the manipulation and / or coercion of young people under the age of 18 years into sexual activity. This is often in return for food, attention, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts, somewhere to live or money. It can occur to any child or young person in the community. Perpetrators can be adults or peers (peer-on-peer abuse).  It can involve grooming or be opportunist. CSE occurs everywhere and all children and young people are vulnerable.

To protect and prevent this form of sexual abuse agencies must work together in partnership with families and young people to support the young person and to reduce risk. Please also watch these two videos about CSE:

Watch: Professionals' guides for CSE

Who is at Risk?

Any child or young person may be at risk of sexual exploitation, regardless of their family background or other circumstances. This includes boys and young men as well as girls and young women. However, some groups of young people are particularly vulnerable. 


These include:

  • children and young people who have a history of running away or of going missing from home and care

  • those with special needs

  • those in and leaving residential and foster care

  • children who have disengaged from education

  • children who are abusing drugs and alcohol

  • those involved in gangs and county lines (see also Home Office guidance on County lines)

  • those engaged in risky internet use

  • migrant children, including those who do not have a legal immigration status

  • unaccompanied asylum seeking children

Often the child or young person does not recognise the danger of the relationship and does not see themselves as a victim of exploitation, as they consider they have acted voluntarily. The reality is they have not consented and their behaviour is not voluntary. A child cannot consent to their own abuse.

Support and Resources



If a child is at immediate risk of significant harm, please dial 999.

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Make a referral

Please call or email and follow up with a Multi-agency Referral Form.

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CSE Coordinator

For advice and guidance, please contact Lambeth's CSE Coordinator. 

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CSE Operating Protocol

Use the London CSE Operating Protocol to guide your decision-making. 

Exploitation Risk Matrix

Use the Lambeth Child Exploitation Risk Matrix to help identify and clarify concerns and actions.

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Early Intervention Service

Contact the Gaia Centre to make a referral for early intervention.

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Child Exploitation Disruption Toolkit

Support for front-line staff to safeguard children from sexual and criminal exploitation