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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: 

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.

Oxfordshire Youth’s Young Women and Girls Project (Y.W.G.P.)

For those working with young women and girls affected by gang violence, exploitation and sexual assault in Banbury/ Bicester areas

Oxfordshire Youth (OY) has launched its Young Women and Girls Project, taking a youth work and trauma-informed approach to support. They invite referrals for 11-25-year-olds who are victims of gang associated harms or at risk of becoming victims. This project will operate in Banbury and Bicester areas.

This initiative is funded by Cherwell District Council. Partner agencies on the Y.W.G.P. include: Thames Valley Police, youth justice, probation and social services, schools and colleges, pupil referral units, alternative education providers, violence reduction units and voluntary sector organisations including SAFE! Oxford and Oxfordshire Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre.

OY’s highly skilled and well trained case worker will be supporting young women and girls between the ages of 11 and 25, for up to 12 months at a time. The young women they work with can expect:

  • weekly one-to-one meetings
  • regular group work activities
  • the opportunity to explore relevant issues
  • space to reflect on their own identity
  • access to peer groups and networks and the positive influence these can have in our own lives and the local community
  • support to overcome barriers to accessing services
  • financial help with transport if required
  • improved confidence and self-esteem
  • access to regular positive activities with clear progression opportunities.

How to refer

Refer via the statutory referrals route, Inform. Referral forms will be sent and received securely and can be found on our website:

Please email or call 01865 767899 to kickstart the process, express an interest or find out more.

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.