Publication - Strategy/plan

National action plan to tackle child sexual exploitation: progress report 2016-2017

Published: 31 Mar 2017

Update on the action plan which was initially published in 2014 and updated in March 2016.

National action plan to tackle child sexual exploitation: progress report 2016-2017
Progress Since March 2016

Progress Since March 2016

1. The risk that children and young people are sexually exploited is reduced through a focus on prevention and early identification

We know that awareness is a key tool to enable prevention and early identification and further to the Scottish Government's national awareness campaign, aimed at parents, children and young people, was the revision of the definition of CSE, resulting in a quality definition and practitioner paper that provided clarity and support to the workforce of Scotland.

Education Scotland has reviewed how it supports schools, colleges and education services in undertaking their safeguarding responsibilities, enhancing provided support. Barnardo's Scotland, has received funding through the Scottish Government's Children, Young People & Families Early Intervention and Adult Learning & Empowering Communities Fund, helping to support their work on child sexual exploitation and abuse and tackle the issue of CSE. The award covers core and infrastructure funding to continue the reach of their frontline CSE services, to ensure that children and young people at risk of or affected by sexual exploitation are identified early and receive appropriate support. Examples of work undertaken by Barnardo's Scotland supported through the fund include:

  • Working directly with young people and their parents (1-2-1 sessions).
  • Supporting practice and Scottish Government policy.
  • Delivering awareness raising events on CSE to the community and professionals.
  • The development and dissemination of practitioner guidance on CSE and learning disability.
  • The the facilitation of three practitioner events regarding CSE and learning disability.
  • The Development of materials for the industries and businesses trading in the night time economy.

Also, as part of action to ensure that practitioners are equipped with the knowledge to recognise and respond to those who may be victims or at risk of CSE, guidance for health practitioners has been developed. The National CSE Group has developed a framework of indicators to test the success of the action plan, which going forward will help to measure the impact of the actions within the national action plan. It is anticipated that the 17/18 report will include evidence from this work.

Progress against this first outcome is good and there are several actions underway, including: the creation of a data template to ensure consistent local information on CSE is gathered; a framework for Child Protection Committees; and a series of CSE regional workshops across Scotland, to share best practice, learning and developments.

2. Children and young people at risk of or experiencing sexual exploitation and their families receive appropriate and high quality support

The Scottish Government provides direct support to victims and those identified as vulnerable via Barnardo's Scotland, NSPCC and the Moira Anderson Foundation, through the Children, Young People & Families Early Intervention and Adult Learning & Empowering Communities Fund.

Children 1 st have been funded by RS MacDonald Charitable Trust to test the project Stop to Listen. All four pathfinders have developed their project plans and are moving towards implementation - plans include:

  • 'whole' school workshops facilitated by multi-agency staff in the local area on the Stop to Listen approach.
  • further training for social work and education staff on raising awareness of child sexual abuse.
  • development of materials to raise awareness for children and young people on healthy relationships.
  • training developments in trauma informed practice for social work and police staff undertaking joint interviewing.
  • scrutiny of current processes and practice to ensure that responses to children and young people are child centred.

The National CSE Group asked Child Protection Committees ( CPCs) to complete a self-evaluation of their existing practices and processes in relation to child sexual exploitation ( CSE) and abuse. We are very grateful to the CPCs who committed wholeheartedly to this task; we received responses from the majority of CPCs, covering 28 of Scotland's 32 local authorities. The information provides us with an invaluable insight into how CSE is being tackled locally and the range of activity underway. We hope that completing the self-evaluation was also a useful process for CPCs.

CPCs reported feeling most confident in their provision of practitioner guidance, tools and training. CPCs described a wide variety of activities in these areas, such as multi or single agency work, or different types of training for different staff groups. CPCs reported much lower levels of confidence in working with local data around CSE, consulting with young people on the development of services, their experience of working with victims of trafficking and incorporating diversity in their CSE work. The findings have in the first instance helped inform the development of the CSE regional workshops, that the National CSE Group are taking forward in 2017.

Other work includes a partnership with Children 1 st, the NSPCC and the West of Scotland Managed Clinical Network for Child Protection, who have scoped trauma recovery services, and final reports now produced for the four pathfinder areas. Future developments include scoping out models of promoting healthy sexual relationships for children and young people and consulting with young people on their views of the changes being tested in the pathfinder areas.

The Care Inspectorate have also been instrumental in demonstrating progress against this outcome, reporting on emerging themes in relation to CSE from children's services inspections in the last 12-18 months and this crucial information is helping to inform future service planning and delivery.

Other developments include the work with local authorities, Police Scotland and the National Steering Group on the issue of missing people, as we know about the links between missing children and young people, CSE and trafficking. This action continues and specifically involves return interviews, training, prevention planning and helpline services. The Scottish Government has also consulted on the children's element of Scotland's first Human Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy and this work will be progressed over 2017/18.

Current developments include the NHS Education Scotland, Scottish Government and stakeholder development of a skills and knowledge framework for those working with adults and children and young people affected by trauma and abuse. The framework will help practitioners identify the risk of abuse and respond to keep children and young people safe. Finally, research reveals that disabled children and young people are more likely to be abused than their non-disabled peers and that abuse is more likely to go undetected or unreported. The CSE National Group are considering this research and what further action can be taken to provide better protection for this specific group of children and young people following the work already taken forward.

3. Perpetrators are stopped, brought to justice and are less likely to re-offend

Under Scotland's Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements ( MAPPA), Police, Local Authorities and other agencies work together to fully risk assess and monitor registered sex offenders to reduce the risk they pose. The Joint Thematic Review of MAPPA in Scotland (published 26th Nov 2015) provided assurance that MAPPA in Scotland is effective and makes a critical contribution to keeping people and communities safe. Notwithstanding, the report made 10 recommendations which are of a strategic nature, requiring a national response. Among other thing it recommended that Scottish Government in partnership with Responsible Authorities should develop a strategy to address the risks posed to children and young people from 'sexting' in order to build healthy respect and avoid the potential for exploitation and criminalisation. The National CSE Group will closely monitor the outcomes of MAPPA.

The Scottish Government is currently working across government and with key stakeholders to update the internet safety action plan, ensuring it is linked to the Digital Participation Strategy, and also taking steps to ensure the refreshed plan is linked to work being taken forward in schools.

As a result of the increasing number of internet related sex offenders becoming subject to MAPPA, the Thematic Review also noted that "early intervention and diversionary approaches aimed at addressing the risk posed by such offenders should be further scoped by Responsible Authorities in partnership with the Scottish Government." The Scottish Government is currently working across government and with key stakeholders to update the child internet safety action plan to ensure that we have appropriate frameworks of training, support and information in place for professionals and families, including children and young people

As a result of the increasing number of internet related sex offenders becoming subject to MAPPA, the Thematic Review also noted that "early intervention and diversionary approaches aimed at addressing the risk posed by such offenders should be further scoped by Responsible Authorities in partnership with the Scottish Government." The Scottish Government will therefore be providing funding to:

  • Sacro for their Challenging Harmful Online Images & Child Exploitation ( CHOICE) programme. It is a programme suitable for those downloading illegal images of children from the internet where there is a low risk of sexual harm and the offences are 'non-contact' in nature. The service is aimed at males aged 18 and over, who may be considered suitable to be diverted from prosecution, or who are subject to a structured deferred sentence, community pay-back order or other community order or licence.
  • Stop It Now! Scotland and Barnardo's Scotland through the Survivor Scotland Innovation and Development Fund to build local partnerships in order to identify and support children and young people who use the internet in a way that may be harmful to themselves or others.
  • Stop it Now! Scotland through the Children, Young People and Families Early Intervention Fund to pilot and roll out their prevention toolkit of practical materials which people can use whenever they identify concerns or worries that makes them think that a risk of child sexual abuse exists.

Work is also underway to ensure that certain sexual offences committed in the rest of the UK can be prosecuted in Scotland, by working towards commencing Section 8 of the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act, 2016. The Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016 will strengthen and streamline our system of civil orders available to protect communities from those who may commit sex offences.

Other actions currently being progressed include those with a focus on developing child-centred approaches. The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service are involved in exploring how evidence is taken from children and vulnerable witnesses. We will also use the findings of the evaluation of the National Child Abuse Investigation Unit to inform future developments in this area.

4. Cultural and social barriers to preventing and tackling child sexual exploitation are reduced

The Scottish Government's definition of gender based violence, as contained in the Equally Safe strategy, recognises the full range of violence against women and children including domestic abuse, rape, child sexual abuse and exploitation. The strategy adopts a gendered analysis, identifying the contribution of societal constructs of gender, of masculinity and femininity, to violence against women and children.

Awareness is key to tackling cultural and social barriers and general awareness around the complexities and pervasiveness of CSE was addressed during 2016 with a successful Scottish Government integrated marketing campaign, aimed at parents and the general public, as well as children and young people. The campaign was qualitatively evaluated by an independent research agency ( TNS) which found a substantial increase in spontaneous awareness of CSE when asked pre-wave and post-wave, and the campaign website was visited by 10,000 users in the first 2 weeks of the campaign launch. The Snapchat Bad Romance episodes achieved viewing figures of 11,375 on YoungScot's channel, and the release onto other social media channels have reached over 15,000 more. Furthermore, the Snapchat episodes of Bad Romance won three awards at the Drum Scottish Creative Award for: online video/film; online campaign; and most creative use of media.

The first Police Scotland campaign on CSE 'Grooming a child for sex? We're on to you' was launched in August 2016 and had a perpetrator focus with a partnership approach to ensure victims received all the support they needed. The majority of communications with the public on the subject of CSE concentrates on spotting the signs of a victim of CSE and reporting it. Police Scotland's campaign had a different focus; a perpetrator focus - with a view to preventing people ever becoming a victim.


As this report demonstrates, substantial work has been taken forward since the publication of the National Action Plan to Prevent and Tackle Child Sexual Exploitation update in March 2016, with significant impact. Detection and prevention are key and our workforce have been supported with a revised definition along with supporting documents, and medical guidance has been enhanced. There has been public and third sector awareness campaigns and information circulated, via various channels, providing messages of awareness, support and signposting across Scotland. Extensive work has been taken forward that will influence future improvements, including the Care Inspectorate's children's services report and the CPC self-evaluation tool - giving us benchmarks to measure against going forward and monitor improvement. And finally, we have made considerable links to other policy areas - strengthening some which we already knew about and forging new ones - ensuring strengthened joined up work to continue going forward.

Taking forward the indicators work in 2017/18 will allow us to gather firm evidence against actions carried out, measuring the impact and informing future work - the intention is to report on this aspect in the next annual report. We will also have taken steps to test and implement our data template, so anticipate that we will be on the way to having a better understanding of the scale and nature of CSE in Scotland.

Next Steps

This is the first annual report from the National CSE Group on progress against the National Action Plan to Prevent and Tackle Child Sexual Exploitation update that was published in March 2016. The intention is to follow this report with one in March 2018 for progress against 2017/18, with a final 2018/19 report in March 2019. This final report from the group will include recommendations going forward based on what we have learned between now and then and building on the understanding of the issues in Scotland.


Email: Deborah Gallagher