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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


K.2: Thematic inspections and reports

4. In 2015, Ofsted undertook a thematic inspection into the effectiveness of English local authorities’ responses to child sexual exploitation. Its report, The sexual exploitation of children: it couldn’t happen here, could it?, identified serious weaknesses in leadership, performance management, disruption, risk assessment, child protection and missing children.[1]

5. In England, the cross-government child sexual exploitation action plan included a commitment to a new system of multi-agency inspections. The first joint targeted area inspections (JTAIs) carried out in 2016[2] focussed on the theme of child sexual exploitation and missing children.[3] The findings were set out in a 2016 thematic report, entitled ‘Time to listen’ – a joined up response to child sexual exploitation and missing children.[4] It stated that since 2014 many areas had improved support for children at risk of, or subject to, sexual exploitation. Engagement with young people was good where professionals were persistent and understood their specific needs and strengths, as well as the impact of abuse and trauma. This was, however, not evident in all cases. There were particular concerns that frontline health professionals did not all have the skills needed to identify child sexual exploitation and not all children had easy access to sexual health services. The timeliness of police responses was variable and, in most areas visited, required improvement.[5] In most areas, responses to missing children required improvement.

6. An addendum to the Time to listen report was published in 2018, covering child criminal exploitation. It identified improvements in tackling child sexual exploitation and learning what could be taken from this.[6] Subsequent JTAIs have focussed on all forms of criminal exploitation, rather than specifically on child sexual exploitation. It is essential that joint inspections retain a clear focus on child sexual exploitation.

7. In 2014, HMICFRS began a national programme of child protection inspections. These have led to the publication of two thematic reports, the first in 2015 and the second in 2019.[7] By 2019, there had been some improvements in understanding child sexual exploitation. However, HMICFRS said that all police forces were at or above their capacity to deal with child protection work, risk was not being assessed properly and many investigations were still below an acceptable standard.[8]



  1. OFS012579_006-010
  2. Joint inspections carried out by Ofsted, HMICFRS, the CQC and HM Inspectorate of Probation.
  3. DFE003186_008 para 24; The inspections involved Central Bedfordshire, Croydon, Liverpool, Oxfordshire and South Tyneside.
  4. HOM003364
  5. ‘Time to listen’ – a joined up response to child sexual exploitation and missing children, Ofsted, September 2016, HOM003364_003-007
  6. Protecting children from criminal exploitation, human trafficking and modern slavery: an addendum, Ofsted, November 2018, HOM003360_001
  7. INQ005730; INQ005166
  8. National Child Protection Inspections: 2019 thematic report, HMICFRS, February 2020, INQ005166_009-012_ 013-015
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