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Safeguarding Children & Young People from Harm Outside of the Home

Children & Young People can experience harm and abuse within their families, as well as outside of their homes, within their communities, peer groups and online. This might include exploitation, serious violence and peer to peer abuse. These harms are child abuse. Children are never responsible for their own abuse. Partners in Lambeth are committed to continuously improve our responses to children & young people at risk out of the harm. Information, resources and links on this page will be updated regularly.  

How are young people harmed outside the home?

Image by Matt Walsh

What is Child Sexual Exploitation? 

When a child or young person is sexually exploited they're given things, like gifts, drugs, money, status and affection, in exchange for performing sexual activities. Children & young people may be tricked into believing they're in a loving and consensual relationship. This is called grooming. They may trust their abuser and not understand that they're being abused.

Image by Karsten Winegeart

Types of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)

CSE can happen online and in person. An abuser might gain the child's trust and use violence, manipulation and threats to control them. Children and young people have reported that they thought their abuser cared about them. They may have shared sexually explicit images or been recorded engaging in sexual activity - only for the abuser to use this material to blackmail and control them. 


Spotting the Signs

Going missing from home or care. This might involve returning late or not returning overnight

Avoiding or missing school or college

Unexplained new possessions, money, or access to drugs, alcohol or even fast food

New bank accounts, a frozen bank account or unexplained deposits

Multiple phones, constant calls or messages that the young person is anxious to miss

Sudden change in mood, behaviour, friendship groups & activities

Repeated sexually transmitted infections 

Having marks or injuries on their bodies which they try to conceal. These might be physical signs of abuse, like bruises or bleeding in their genital or anal area

Becoming withdrawn, worried & anxious

Uncharacteristic outbursts of anger

Becoming anxious, hyper-vigilant and worried about their safety

Becoming secretive about where they're going or who they're spending time with

An intense attachment to a new area or group of peers, this may include online spaces

Coming to Police attention

Spot the Signs

Responding to Contextual Harm

How to respond


Build an effective relationship with the young person


Every interaction is an intervention: be trauma-informed 


We do not blame children for their own abuse. Use language that reflects this


Work together to identify & assess risk & strengths


Work with partners to make locations & peer groups safer


Create a Safety Plan with the young person, their family, and other professionals


Ensure there is a plan to disrupt any exploitation


Find the right service, at the right time


Explore creative solutions - and get help when needed


Never stop learning, & never, ever give up hope

  • Make time to really listen to really the young person. They are the expert of their experience

  • Find a way to connect - from food, to sports or music

  • Build trust. Be transparent about your concerns and your work. Do what you say you will. Avoid overpromising. 

  • Prioritise physical, psychological and emotional safety. Ask what someone needs to feel safe. 

  • Those who have experienced trauma may feel powerless to control what happens to them. Work to empower them. 

  • Reflect on own experiences & biases & how systems & processes can perpetuate oppression. Recognise & address power dynamics. 

  • When talking about young people & exploitation, language matters. It can be the difference between a child being properly safeguarded or put at further risk of exploitation.

  • Download the Children's Society Language Toolkit.

  • Use the Levels of Need guidance to identify needs

  • If not open to Social Care, make a referral

  • Complete an eco-map with the young person to map the contexts they spend time in, as well as their relationships 

  • Use the Exploitation Risk Matrix to analyse risks

  • Use the Traffic Light Tool to explore safe & unsafe locations with young people

  • To safeguard young people outside of the home, we need to create safety in the locations young people spend time in. If you identify a location or group of concern, email

  • Use the Safety Plan template to support a young person to reflect on situations they may feel unsafe in. How do they know they feel unsafe? What are the physical signs?

  • There are several practical steps that families, young people, and professionals can take to safety plan. Use this helpful parent/carer leaflet. 

  • Call a Professionals' meeting for young adults or a Strategy meeting for a child to agree a multiagency plan

  • Refer to the Contextual Safeguarding Service for support. Use this form to refer to Lambeth's Multiagency Violence  & Exploitation (MAVE) panel to escalate concerns

  • Refer to the Harmful Sexual Behaviour Forum, or Young People Who Harm Others Forum for clinical input (details coming soon)

  • Helpful research: Building Safety for Black Boys & Young Men in Lambeth; more research here

  • Helpful resources: see resources section below

  • Book multiagency training here

Video Learning