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IICSA published its final Report in October 2022. This website was last updated in January 2023.

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual exploitation by organised networks investigation report


F.2: Early identification of the signs of child sexual exploitation and information-sharing

2. Sexually exploited children are likely to be in contact with frontline services such as GPs, contraceptive and sexual health services, and hospitals. These healthcare professionals have an important role in detecting early warning signs and intervening in child sexual exploitation cases, by acting to refer and protect children.[1] However, in 2016, five joint targeted area inspections noted that many frontline health professionals lacked the skills needed to identify child sexual exploitation and, when provided with the means to identify sexual exploitation, “they do not always use them”.[2]

3. Schools are also well placed to identify changes in the daily behaviour of exploited children, such as deterioration in school work, coming into school in an exhausted state or showing a lack of engagement. It is important that school staff have the confidence to identify the warning signs of sexual exploitation and take a proactive approach to safeguarding.[3]

4. An audit of nine cases in Bristol identified some good practice in respect of referrals but also examples of cases where different teams in children’s social care services (such as those dealing with initial referrals and the early help team) and the police had not correctly identified the risk of sexual exploitation and referred the children to children’s social care quickly enough.[4]

5. Research by Parents Against Child Exploitation (Pace) in 2019 identified delays between parents raising their concerns and receiving a response from children’s social care, as well as parents frequently feeling left alone in managing threats to their child and putting safety measures in place. In seven locations (none in the Inquiry’s case study areas), Pace is commissioned to provide a parent liaison officer programme where officers are co-located with multi-agency teams and are able to gather and record relevant intelligence from parents.[5] Pace’s evidence shows that, with this programme, safeguarding outcomes are much improved, with a reduction in episodes when children go missing, a reduction in children going into care and an increase in disruption and conviction of perpetrators.[6]


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