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Child Exploitation

Child Exploitation

Child exploitation refers to the use of children for someone else’s advantage, gratification or profit often resulting in unjust, cruel and harmful treatment of the child. These activities are to the detriment of the child’s physical or mental health, education, moral or social-emotional development. It covers situations of manipulation, misuse, abuse, victimisation, oppression or ill-treatment. Source: Save the Children

Oxfordshire Youth Justice & Exploitation Service

The Youth Justice & Exploitation Service are a multi-agency service made up of youth justice, social workers, Police, Health, Probation and Education. Our practitioners work holistically with children, families, and partners to assess, plan and deliver tailored interventions to reduce the risk of offending and exploitation.

The principle aims of the youth justice and exploitation service are to:

  • Prevent youth crime
  • Reduce the number of first-time entrants to the system
  • Reduce re-offending
  • Reduce the number of young people within the youth secure estate
  • Safeguard young people from harm
  • Protect the public from harm
  • Repair the harm caused by youth crime

In line with the Youth Justice Board’s “child first” ethos we are very mindful of language to reduce stigmatization and labelling. We do not use language such as “offender” and rehabilitative and restorative principles are at the heart of our practice, which is why we use the term ‘justice’ in our name instead.

Exploitation Social Work

Our social workers work with children and families to assess, plan and deliver interventions that reduce the risks around exploitation and harm to children outside of their family home. We use holistic, ‘Contextual Safeguarding’ approaches and work closely with children, parents/carers and key partners to do this. This is a statutory function of the service and we work with children and families across a range of planning frameworks from Child in Need, Child Protection through to legal proceedings if a child needs to come into the care of the Local Authority. The primary aims of this work are to safeguard children and families, disrupt and enforce against exploiters of children and divert children away from exploitation by building on their strengths, interests and skills. The service is developing the following projects:

  • Parenting Group to support parents of exploited children
  • Weapons Awareness Group
  • 1:1 and Group Mentoring

For further information on the service, please visit Oxfordshire County Council’s Youth Justice and Exploitation Service webpage

What to do if you think a child is at risk of exploitation

Immediate danger

If you think a child is in immediate danger, call the police on 999.

Immediate concern

The Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) is the front door to Children’s Social Care for all child protection and immediate safeguarding concerns. If there is an immediate safeguarding concern where a child is deemed at risk or has potentially suffered significant harm, the MASH team should be contacted immediately on 0345 050 7666 during office hours (8.30am – 5pm, Monday to Thursday, 8.30am – 4pm, Friday)

Outside office hours call the Emergency Duty Team on 0800 833 408

Before making a referral

Before you complete a MASH referral form you must have read the Threshold of needs in reference to the case. You should also have completed the Child Exploitation Screening Tool

You will need to have:

  • decided the level of risk related to the case
  • determined it to be level 3 or 4
  • inform the parents or carers using the MASH leaflet (pdf format, 154Kb) (unless informing parents/carers may increase the risk)
  • consider if the child or young person’s needs can be met by services from within your own agency, or by other professionals involved with the family already

Oxfordshire Partnership Responses and Provision to Safeguard Children at Risk of Exploitation

If the Threshold has not been met for statutory services, you can make a referral to the following services: 

Step Out

Started by Donnington Doorstep in June 2011, Step Out Project works with young people who are being, or are at risk of being, exploited. The project aims to raise children and young people’s awareness of Child Exploitation (CE); giving them the support they need to make informed, safe choices and to have appropriate, healthy and safe relationships.

Step Out works in partnership with children’s social care, police and schools, and alongside parents and carers to support and upskill them to appropriately and effectively safeguard their children. Initially focused on child sexual exploitation, Step Out now works with all forms of child exploitation (e.g. criminal exploitation, County lines, modern slavery, trafficking) and offers:

  • Outreach and one-to-one support, long-term if needed
  • Preventative group work in schools and community settings
  • Advocacy and participation work to ensure the voices of the children and young people are heard
  • Signposting and support to access other agencies
  • Preventative work including information on healthy relationships, Child Exploitation (CE) awareness, keeping safe and building self esteem
  • Participation in the coordination and facilitation of information sharing, networking, multi-agency working on CE across the County
  • Support, resources and training for professionals
  • Research and development of models of good practice

How Step Out works

For further information click on Step Out resource library

To contact the project, email:  or  telephone:01865 727721

Victims First

Victims First Specialist Service, provides specialist support for victims and witnesses of serious crime including Rape & Sexual Abuse and Exploitation & Modern Slavery. Commissioned by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, the service is available to those living in Oxfordshire and other areas within the Thames Valley.

Offering a holistic approach, the service helps those with longer term or more complex needs, provides crisis intervention and ongoing support to help those with multiple and/or historical experiences of crime, and those who have had a traumatic response to a single recent crime. When appropriate, the service will provide, family-oriented support when several members of the same family (or a couple) have been directly or indirectly affected by crime. For further information please click on the link above.

Further information and guidance on child exploitation

Appropriate Language, Child Sexual and/or Criminal Exploitation guidance for professionals: This document has been developed by the Children’s Society, Victim Support and the NPCC. It can be used by professionals when discussing the exploitation of children and young people, including when escalating intelligence and delivering training.

National Referral Mechanism guidance: The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) is a framework for identifying and referring potential victims of modern slavery and ensuring they receive the appropriate support. This guidance explains what the NRM is, which organisations are first responders, how to make an NRM referral and sets out the role of the Independent Child Trafficking Guardians.

Home Office: Child Exploitation Disruption Toolkit

Catch 22 resources:

NHS resources:

Witney Family Solutions Service: short video on Child Drug Exploitation (CDE)

For further information on forms of Child Exploitation, Modern Slavery and Trafficking see the pages listed to the right.