Protecting children from sexual abuse requires everyone with a stake in working with children to prevent abuse to get involved.
Disruption is a powerful weapon for combatting crime and is key to the UK Government’s 2021 Strategy for tackling child sexual abuse. Disruption, alongside enforcement and prevention, is one of the principal ways in which police respond to criminality and criminal activity. While enforcement focuses on the prosecution of past crimes, and prevention aims to stop whole groups of suspects or protect potential victims, disruption is a more flexible and dynamic approach which seeks to interfere with offenders’ networks, lifestyles, and routines so that it is harder for them to commit crime.
Our research in this area is presented in two parts: a new study highlighting police perspectives on the disruption of child sexual abuse, its effectiveness and practice experiences; and a supporting scoping review of the existing literature on the subject.
Complex safeguarding is an approach responding to criminal activity, or behaviour associated with criminality, involving children and adults, where there are concerns of exploitation and/or safeguarding concerns.
In this small-scale exploratory study we looked at the extent to which all forms of child sexual abuse feature in the work of professionals working within a complex safeguarding team. Conducted through a combination of semi-structured telephone interviews across one team, a small online focus group with participating social workers and an online survey to more than 60 individuals, the findings highlight the complexities of language used around child sexual abuse and child sexual exploitation and the challenges professions face in addressing concerns of child sexual abuse – especially without verbal disclosure – while endeavouring to build and maintain relationships of trust with young people.
Understanding risk tools
A number of tools and checklists are widely used to identify young people at risk of child sexual exploitation. Earlier research identified many issues, including a lack of consistency in the risk indicators featured in different tools, and varying thresholds for being identified as a potential victim of exploitation.
In this exploratory study we sought to build on this research, exploring the purposes for which tools and checklists are used and the ways in which they do or do not support good practice in the developing field of child sexual exploitation prevention. This work combines findings from an online survey with interviews with professionals to examine how and when tools and checklists for risk assessment are used, the value attached to them by professionals, and variations in practice.