Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a hidden crime and not easily spotted by health professionals, parents or carers. On top of that, victims are often reluctant to report their perpetrators. The English Children’s Commissioner estimated that 16,500 were at risk in the year to March 2011 and a total of 2,409 victims were identified. However, official figures are likely to be much higher.
Sexually exploited children and young people are likely to come into contact with health services, so professionals are in a position to help identify, engage and support them so they can receive the help they need.
As a result, the Department of Health has produced its response to the health working group report about how to improve the health and wellbeing of such vulnerable young people.
Health working group report on child sexual exploitation: response to the recommendations lists the 13 recommendations and what stage the action plan strategies are at.
For example, one recommendation was that in order to combat CSE, local multi-agency teams need to be involved, including professionals from primary and secondary physical and mental health care.
Therefore, Public Health England has set up a Task and Finish group - the first meeting is on 3rd June. And in response to the recommendation that all relevant e-learning material has to be available to staff so they can be trained in recognising, identifying and making safe vulnerable children, the Department of Health has commissioned a digital tool for health services staff, to help them signpost and support victims. A series of videos on child sexual exploitation was also launched on the NHS Choices website in January 2014.
And in order to support health professionals in their child safeguarding education and training, there has to be a comprehensive section on sexual exploitation. The action plan includes Health Education England (HEE) planning to review its e-learning for Healthcare safeguarding modules, so they are current.
And regarding information sharing, it is recommended that staff are clear that safeguarding considerations override the usual requirements for confidentiality. As a result, NHS England is developing an information sharing solution so children can be offered a higher level of protection if they visit unscheduled healthcare settings such as A&E, and walk-in centres.
To read all the responses to the recommendations and the Health Working Group report on Child Sexual Exploitation, visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/health-working-group-report-on-child-sexual-exploitation