Support for the Leisure Sector and Child Sexual Exploitation

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a form of sexual abuse where children (under 18) and their naivety are exploited. The exploitation can often involve young people being tricked or coerced into thinking they’re in loving relationships or made to feel special by being treated as an adult and taken to clubs, bars and parties, given alcohol or drugs to reduce their inhibitions before being coerced or forced into sexual activity with one, or often more, adults.

Full Definition of CSE

What has it got to do with the leisure sector?

Unlike the agencies with statutory responsibility, workers in the leisure industry are often at the forefront in places where young people’s and adults’ leisure activities bring them in to contact with one another. This might be swimming pools, gyms, sports centres, shopping centres, take-aways, cafes and restaurants, skate parks, theme parks, fair grounds, social clubs, cinemas, bars with family areas, camp sites, B&Bs or hotels. In these places staff are the eyes and ears of the statutory services; safeguarding young people is everybody’s business.

Many organisations and individuals think CSE won’t happen on their premises or in their area; the local experience tells us it can happen to any child, boy or girl, from any background, any ethnicity, in any community and is perpetrated by men and women from all walks of life, of all ages, all ethnicities, any profession and from any community. You should be considering the risk to every young person using your premises, and the potential risk posed by every adult who uses your premises. Everyone who has contact with young people can be part of the prevention, protective and support processes for young people, regardless of how limited that contact may be.

You should ensure all staff have some safeguarding training and/or awareness raising that includes how to respond to concerns of CSE

Remember: All organisations should be committed to doing all they can to protect young people.

Who is at risk of child sexual exploitation (CSE)?

All young people (up to the age of 18 years) are at risk of being targeted for CSE simply by being young; those for whom the risk is enhanced often share some similar vulnerabilities. These are used by child care professionals as indicators of risk and form part of their CSE assessment toolkit. These include things all young people may do at some time; taking risks, experimenting with drink/drugs or sexuality, rebelling, ignoring good advice, wanting to be seen as grown-up, being secretive, doing what their mates do. It can also include individual additional vulnerability factors like being bullied, being in care, family conflict at home, bereavement or loss, substance dependency issues (for them or family members), being involved in offending behaviour or the vulnerability with the strongest link to CSE, those that go missing from home or school.

Remember: When young people get involved in criminal or anti-social behaviour there is often a reason why, that reason may be that they are involved in CSE and want to attract attention to themselves by their behaviour, or they may be acting on instruction of those exploiting them.

Safeguarding Children Board Toolkits

The Derby & Derbyshire Safeguarding Children Board (SCB) toolkits are located on or respectively, both safeguarding boards have a chapter on CSE in their procedures.
It may be worthwhile all staff and volunteers who have concerns being aware of these indicators and how they suggest levels of risk, as many of them can be described as normal teenage behaviours, but when combined raise levels of CSE concern.

Remember: Young people who have been groomed may not recognise what is happening as abuse or dangerous, they may reject offers of help and see themselves as being in a loving relationship.

Spotting the signs of CSE in public settings

How these vulnerabilities may show will vary from setting to setting, but staff should be on the lookout for young people who look distressed or upset, who appear isolated from others their age, young people who appear with different adults, young people with adults that don’t appear to be their family (especially if they are being taken somewhere reluctantly); or on the lookout for adults who appear with different young people on different occasions, adults who are with young people that don’t seem to be their family, adults who loiter around areas frequented by young people, adults who attend children’s events that are not with a child, adults who buy or attempt to buy alcohol or cigarettes for young people, and adults who approach individual or groups of young people.

Child sexual exploitation and the hotel trade

Staff working in hotels, guest houses or B&Bs should be particularly alert to parties in rooms where young people are present, walk-in customers looking to pay cash or having a local address, customers with no luggage or bags, customers who ask for isolated rooms, visitors looking for a room number that don’t know the name it is booked under, a lot of coming and going from rooms, visitors that have no reason to be there, guests being secretive about their visit why they are there or who is with them, young people arriving towards the end of business events, a bar tab set up for a room booked for a young person, young people looking frightened or hiding away that appear reluctant to be there, people checking in with a different name to that used to book, people using a different language to that used to book; those who go into rooms, cleaners etc., should be on the lookout for rooms where there are a lot of condom wrappers in bins, items like bedding or bin contents missing, signs of alcohol or drug misuse, or signs of self-harm.

Staff should always respond to customers raising or sharing their concerns about young people’s safety on the premises, concerns about adults behaviour or use of sexualised language around children and young people; they should ensure concerns are passed to the ‘safeguarding lead’ and logged as an ‘incident’. The member of public should be asked if they would leave their details for feedback or follow-up by investigating agencies.

What should staff in the leisure sector do if they suspect a young person is at risk?

Very often CSE involves young people being manipulated, threatened, persuaded or coerced into things they do not want to do; but that could equally describe any teenager who may be reluctant to be involved in family activities. Staff should be alert to young people who appear to be acting under duress, who keep checking or making eye contact with an adult they are with, or who are physically dragged along by adults. Staff should be alert to adults imposing power or control over young people especially if the young person does not appear to be the adult’s child. Any staff overhearing adults attempting to coerce young people to go off with them should report this to their line manager/supervisor (or if the concern is that the young person is in immediate ring call Police via 999)

Sometimes the grooming process can be very quick, a matter of minutes, or it can take a while, so staff may be in a position to see contact between young people and adults over a period of weeks, giving many opportunities to raise concerns as they arise. Groomers don’t only groom children, they can groom those around them into believing they are so ‘nice’ that nobody ever suspects they are capable of exploitation and that they only have children’s interests at heart.

Each member of staff should know who to raise any concern with, their line manager/supervisor, a duty manager; each supervisor or manager should know who, on each shift, they are responsible for reporting concerns to. Each shift should have someone, a ‘safeguarding lead’, responsible for sharing appropriate concerns in the appropriate way with the appropriate agency.

Remember: If a child appears to be in immediate risk of harm the Police should be contacted via 999

If concerns are raised about a child or young person who is still on the premises efforts should be made to capture any concerning activity or individuals on CCTV , whilst contacting the Police via 101 (or 999 if the risk is immediate) to share the concern, giving as much detail as possible and the reason for the concern. Very often the identity of the young person will not be known. The Police will advise what action they will take and how staff should respond

If concern is raised after the young person has left the premises or their whereabouts unknown but there are specific details or behaviours that imply the young person could be at risk, again the police should be contacted via 101, all telephone contacts can be improved by confirming in writing.

Derby and Derbyshire Referrals

Derby & Derbyshire outlets only: It is often worth following up contact with Police by completing an ‘Operation Liberty’ information report form, the soft intelligence gathering exercise by Derbyshire Police. The form should be completed by the shifts ‘safeguarding lead’ and sent to the relevant Police email account [email protected] for establishments in the city, whilst for those in the county it is [email protected]. If the concerns are vague, not immediate or not about a specific child the information can be shared by the ‘safeguarding lead’ using the ‘Operation Liberty’ information report form and sent accordingly as above. This is a soft intelligence process and does not need to have a rigorous burden of proof that applies to prosecution evidence, Police are happy to consider ‘gut feelings’, third party information, rumours or ‘uncertainties’ so long as they are indicated as such. No piece of information is too small, cases have been uncovered after simple information like the last digits of a vehicle registration number, or the nickname of a concerning individual has been shared.

Recording and reporting suspected crime in the leisure sector

It is important that all involved in observing or raising the concern make a detailed record of events as they saw them, what they saw, heard or experienced, including descriptions of individuals, this should be entered in the ‘incident log’; this should be done as soon after the event as possible, so that it can be considered as a contemporaneous record by police or other agencies who may look into the concerns raised and will act as an aide-memoire to the staff should they be asked to recall events.

Staff must not assume members of the public or other agencies will raise their concern, report it yourself, tell your line manager or make the call yourself; if you are not certain that what you saw involves exploitation, report it anyway, your role is not to investigate or gather the proof, your job is to share the concern, it is for others to investigate.

Safeguarding training for staff in the leisure sector

It is important to have a rolling programme of training or awareness raising amongst staff and that safeguarding young people is covered in induction processes for new staff, in order that staff are clear that safeguarding is everybody’s business.

If staff are approached by agencies looking into concerns about young people’s safety and that there is a possibility that events or contact may have occurred on your premises, staff should refer the investigating officers to the ‘safeguarding lead’ on shift. The ‘safeguarding lead’ will provide all the support they are able to the investigation, making staff and records (including CCTV footage) available as is appropriate and practical.

Safeguarding concern overrides confidentiality issues included in the Data Protection Act; nobody has got in to trouble for sharing too much information during child protection investigations.

Your CCTV equipment should, where possible and practical, be made to cover areas that could pose a risk to young people, including the outside of toilet areas and changing areas. If this is not a practicality, such areas should be regularly checked by staff for unusual or concerning behaviours.

All premises should be assessed for areas that are not clearly visible to staff and/or public and are not covered by CCTV; so that we can make arrangements to ensure such areas are regularly and routinely checked by staff for unusual or concerning behaviour.

Conducting age checks for those being served drinks or being bought drinks by adults should be routine, with all instances of service being declined logged and notified to the licence holder.

Remember: If you or your staff can’t see what’s happening, anything could be happening

Child sexual exploitation warning signs in the leisure sector

Those taking bookings for rooms or events that include young people should ensure they have some form of identification or card details of those making the booking; if necessary you may choose to decline taking such a booking when cash payment is presented without some form of ID from the adult.

Those cleaning rooms, changing areas or toilet areas used by young people should be observant for signs of sexual activity (condoms, condom wrappers, soiled sheets etc.) or drug use (burnt foil, syringes, etc.) and on finding such evidence should raise the potential concern with the ‘safeguarding lead’.

In hotels staff should be on the lookout for numbers of adults visiting the same room without explanation, unusual activity around rooms, rooms being used for parties involving young people, and listen out for young people in distress or shouting for assistance. Some significant investigations and prosecutions have started with hotel staff feeling uneasy about things they have seen.

Working in partnership to safeguard children

Working together to safeguard children has been the title of government guidance for many years now, but the message in the title is as important as ever, particularly around CSE. No organisation is going to tackle the issue on its own, and no community is going to tackle the issue without the help of organisations that work with young people or have contact with young people. Multi-agency working and information sharing is key to understanding what is happening for individuals and for communities.

Remember, safeguarding concern over rides issues of confidentiality and data protection; no one has been in trouble for sharing too much with appropriate agencies in safeguarding situations.

It is important all of your know your organisation’s safeguarding policy and how to access Local Safeguarding Children Board’s (LSCB) procedures online to understand their role in the multi-agency approach. The government updated their ‘Information Sharing: Guidance for practitioners & managers’ in March 2015, and your LSCB will have their ‘Information Sharing Agreement and Guidance for Practitioners’ available on their website.
All staff should endeavour to work in partnership with those looking to concerns about individual or groups of young people, not only is it your moral and legal duty, it is something that will impact on your reputation as a family friendly organisation and is an issue considered by licencing authorities in issuing licences to establishments for alcohol sales and consumption.

Say Something if you See Something campaign

A national campaign, Say Something if You See Something, is aimed at the leisure industry, businesses and the wider community; it consists of a variety of training materials targeted at various industry sectors and resource and poster downloads available online at

If you believe a child is at immediate risk of harm and in need of protection – dial 999 immediately.

If you have less urgent concerns consult your safeguarding procedures and inform your line manager or the ‘safeguarding lead’ on duty, so your concerns can be raised by ringing 101.

Please do not keep your worries to yourself.

Safe & Sound’s Spoke Team can offer advice to individuals on concerns about Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) and how to respond to young people, or advice to organisations on policies and procedures relating to CSE, they can be contacted by
Email: [email protected]

Jo Silo – Victim Support Advisor 07703826644
Polly Thornton – Trainer 07703826647
Sarah Brown – Case Advisor 07726693705
Norman Cooper – Policy & Practice Advisor 07703826643
Post: Spoke Team 1st Floor East Mill, Darley Abbey Mills, Darley Abbey, Derby DE22 1DZ