Child exploitation & online grooming

What is child exploitation?

A child or young person can be groomed or coerced into an exploitative situation. This could be in the form of sexual exploitation or criminal exploitation.

Exploitative relationships are characterised by an imbalance of power. The use of controlling behaviours are used to keep the child or young person in a dependent position.

What is child sexual exploitation (CSE)?

Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse.

Sexual abuse may involve physical contact, including:

  • assault by penetration (for example, rape or oral sex) or
  • non-penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching outside clothing.

It may include non-contact activities, such as:

  • involving children in the production of sexual images,
  • forcing children to look at sexual images or watch sexual activities
  • encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways
  • grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via the internet).

CSE can affect any child or young person (male or female) under the age of 18 years, including 16 and 17 year olds who can legally consent to have sex.

Some children and young people are trafficked into or within the UK for sexual exploitation. Sexual exploitation can also happen to young people in gangs.

Sexual exploitation affects thousands of children and young people every year. We can all play an important role in reducing that number, helping to cut children free from this abuse.

What are the signs?

Children and young people that are the victims of sexual exploitation often do not recognise that they are being exploited. But there are some tell-tale signs that a child may be being groomed for sexual exploitation. These include:

  • Going missing for periods of time or regularly returning home late
  • Regularly missing school or not taking part in education
  • Increased use of mobile phone and/or internet activity
  • Increased secretiveness around behaviours
  • Appearing with unexplained gifts or new possessions
  • Associating with other young people involved in exploitation
  • Having older boyfriends or girlfriends
  • Suffering from sexually transmitted infections
  • Mood swings or changes in emotional wellbeing
  • Drug and alcohol misuse
  • Displaying inappropriate sexualised behaviour.

Report it

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) can happen to anyone under the age of 18 and it is often a hidden crime. Young people may trust their abuser and don't understand that they are being abused. Or they may depend on their abuser and be too scared to tell anyone what's happening.

If you suspect a child is at risk, or have any information relating to child sexual exploitation, we would prefer to speak to you on the phone. Please call us on 101.

Dial 999 straight away if you know or suspect a child is in immediate danger.

You can also visit in person at a police station or report via our online crime reporting tool.

Sexual abuse in an educational setting

If you have been a victim of any form of sexual abuse in an educational setting you can get advice and support before speaking to the Police by contacting the dedicated phoneline operated by NSPCC 0800 136 663 or emailing

If you are an adult or professionals that also need help, support and guidance you can also contact this number.

See details of more dedicated helplines on the NSPCC website.

We are here for anyone who needs to report a crime.

Information for professionals working with children

If you are a professional who works in a children's setting, then you should be aware of the following reporting procedures for child exploitation.

Child Exploitation Screening Tool

You should complete a Multi-Agency Child Exploitation Screening Tool if you are worried that a child may be involved in, or at increased risk of entering, an exploitative relationship or situation.

Please complete the form with the child or young person unless it is unsafe to do so.

Please read the Multi Agency Child Exploitation Guidance before completing your screening.

Weekly MACE

The weekly MACE meeting draws together information from different partner agencies to explore the options available for tackling child exploitation in the community. 

You should make a referral to MACE if:

  • the child has links to a known or suspected perpetrator of either sexual or criminal exploitation
  • there is a significant risk of exploitation to the child from an unknown perpetrator

Use the referral section at the end of the CE Screening Tool to inform MACE of your concerns.

Strategic MACE

The key purpose of the Strategic MACE is to provide an overview of child exploitation in Lincolnshire.

Partnership Information Report

If you have information about a person at risk, complete a Partnership Information Report on the Lincolnshire County Council website. This is known locally as Operation Insignia.

This multi-agency system allows the sharing information with us. It helps to support vulnerable children and adults. 

Your information will help form a picture around their situation. It will also allow police to take further action in investigating an issue.

This could include but is not limited to information that is indicating:

  • child exploitation (criminal and sexual)
  • human trafficking
  • modern slavery
  • county lines
  • cuckooing
  • knife crime

Complete a Partnership Information Report

This form is for low-level information only, to enable Lincolnshire Police to build a picture on concerns. It is not to report crimes.  To report a crime call 999 in an emergency or 101 or use the online crime reporting form.

It is not to answer current safeguarding concerns or matters of urgency, and the form is not a means to ensure safeguarding actions. 

If it is about significant harm to a child or vulnerable adult, normal safeguarding procedures apply.

Once received we will grade the information based on reliability, accuracy and origin. 

Never assume someone else has passed on the information you have.

If you have any queries about completing the form, contact

se call 999 in an emergency, 101 or use our online crime reporting form.

Visit the Instagram account for advice dedicated to children and young adults.  

More help and support


CEOP ‘Think U Know’

Pace – Parents against child sexual exploitation

Child Exploitation & Online Protection (CEOP)

Lincolnshire Family Services Directory

28 May 21 11:50 AM

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