Preventing Child Sexual Exploitation in Plymouth

Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is illegal activity by people who have power over young people and use it to sexually abuse them. This can involve a broad range of exploitative activity, from seemingly ‘consensual’ relationships and informal exchanges of sex for attention, accommodation, gifts or cigarettes, through to very serious organised crime. Hidden from view and going unnoticed, vulnerable young girls and boys are groomed and then abused, leaving them traumatised and scarred for life. (see Barnardo’s 2012.)

Missing children

There are links between CSE and children who go missing, with Barnardo’s documenting more than half of the children they worked with in 2010 following sexual exploitation went missing from home or care on a regular basis. More than 100,000 young people under the age of 16 run away from home, their care placement or school each year. Around one-in-six will sleep rough.

CSE is a child protection issue for agencies in Plymouth

The PSCP understands that early identification and early support to children and young people at risk is the most important method for preventing CSE. We have ensured timely specialist training for all child protection social workers in Plymouth City Council, and ensured the establishment of a service for support to children who go missing, with the Youth Service Streetwise Team seeking immediate conversations with children following their return from running away. Local specialised services for children who have experienced child sexual exploitation include the Barnardos project.

Can you spot the signs?

It may be difficult for parents and carers to differentiate between ordinary teenage behaviour and the risk of involvement in sexual exploitation, but there are signs that may indicate that a child or young person is being groomed for sexual exploitation or actually being sexually exploited.  Further information on signs and what to do is available at If you are concerned about a child or young person, or have noted something suspicious please contact the Police on 101 (non-urgent) or 999 (urgent).


Child sexual exploitation is a hugely distressing, and can impact parents and siblings as well as the child or young people. Support is available from:


Devon and Cornwall Police