Underage sexual activity: identifying child protection concerns

National guidance on meeting the needs of children and young people and identifying child protection concerns in relation to underage sexual activity.


For all professions, there are legal powers and duties, professional protocols, quality standards and a range of professional guidance. Getting it right for every child is relevant to a wide range of professionals and there are some underpinning principles within the approach that have broad application across relevant agencies. These principles are described here as values.

Values inform or influence choices and action across a wide range of role and context. Successful evolution in culture, systems and practices across diverse agencies may depend partly upon on a shared philosophy and value base. The summary below is intended to be both practical and relevant to professionals with a part to play in ensuring that each child is: safe; healthy; active; nurtured; achieving; respected; responsible; and included.

  • Promoting the well-being of individual children and young people: this is based on understanding how children and young people develop in their families and communities and addressing their needs at the earliest possible time.
  • Keeping children and young people safe: emotional and physical safety is fundamental and is wider than child protection.
  • Putting the child and the young person at the centre: children and young people should have their views listened to and they should be involved in decisions that affect them.
  • Taking a whole child approach: recognising that what is going on in one part of a child's and young person's life can affect many other areas of his or her life.
  • Building on strengths and promoting resilience: using a child's and young person's existing networks and support where possible.
  • Promoting opportunities and valuing diversity: children and young people should feel valued in all circumstances and practitioners should create opportunities to celebrate diversity.
  • Providing additional help that is appropriate, proportionate and timely: providing help as early as possible and considering short and long-term needs.
  • Supporting informed choice: supporting children, young people and families in understanding what help is possible and what their choices may be.
  • Working in partnership with families: supporting, wherever possible, those who know the child and young person well, know what they need, what works well for them and what may not be helpful.
  • Respecting confidentiality and sharing information: seeking agreement to share information that is relevant and proportionate while safeguarding children's and young people's right to confidentiality.
  • Promoting the same values across all working relationships: recognising respect, patience, honesty, reliability, resilience and integrity are qualities valued by children, young people, their families and colleagues.
  • Making the most of bringing together each worker's expertise: respecting the contribution of others and co-operating with them, recognising that sharing responsibility does not mean acting beyond a worker's competence or responsibilities.
  • Co-ordinating help: recognising that children, young people and their families need practitioners to work together, when appropriate, to provide the best possible help.
  • Building a competent workforce to promote children and young people's well-being: committed to continuing individual learning and development and improvement of inter-professional practice.
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