Sheffield Sexual Exploitation Service

Who we are

The Sheffield Sexual Exploitation Service is a run by a multi-agency team based at Star House and consists of staff from Sheffield Futures, South Yorkshire Police, Barnardo’s and Sheffield City Council.

The service is based on four principles:

  • Prevention
  • Protection
  • Pursuit
  • Prosecution

The needs and wishes of young people are at the centre of the work the service delivers. Our service is shaped by the Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Advisory group, made of young people who have experience of sexual exploitation. The group review and evaluate our service, ensuring that our work meets the complex needs of the vulnerable young people that we support.

Sexual Exploitation of children and young people under 18 involves exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where young people (or a third person) receive ‘something’ (e.g. food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts, money) as a result of them performing, and/or another or others performing on them, sexual activities.

Child sexual exploitation can occur through the use of technology without the child’s immediate recognition: for example being persuaded to post sexual images on the internet/ mobile phones with no immediate payment or gain.

In all cases, those exploiting the child/ young person have power over them by virtue of their age, gender, intellect, physical strength and/or economic or other resources. Violence, coercion and intimidation are common, involvement in exploitative relationships being characterised in the main by the child or young person’s limited availability of choice.

Help Available

Our service supports young people who are at risk of, or have been, sexually exploited. Every time a young person is referred to our service we carry out a risk assessment to identify the level of risk and the needs of that individual.

Young people receive one-to-one support from either from our service, or from specially trained staff within the three community youth teams. Support workers focus on raising young people’s awareness of risky situations, whilst bolstering their self-esteem to support them to make informed choices about their lives.

Whilst supporting young people at risk is our priority their family can also be affected. We support parents/carers of young people who are affected by sexual exploitation with practical assistance as well as emotional support. Our service has dedicated face-to-face support staff for families affected by CSE.

We offer professionals support and training in partnership with the Sheffield Safeguarding Children Board. Single or multi-agency training sessions are available on request.

The service also offers education and awareness raising sessions via schools and other settings to groups of young people to try and prevent them from becoming involved in sexual exploitation.

Publications and resources

Friend or Foe has been produced by staff from the Sheffield Sexual Exploitation Service and forms the structure of the work carried out with young people the service supports. All of the activities within Friend or Foe have been developed in response to our experience of Sexual Exploitation in Sheffield. Although it is important to highlight what sexual exploitation and grooming are and explain risk, why people are worried about them in particular, in order to help them move on we need to explore what has made them vulnerable in the first place. Quite often this can be a combination of issues from poor relationship history, previous abuse and neglect, low self-worth/ self -esteem, and to work with them around these issues. Friend or Foe has been designed with young people at the centre of the activities, this updated edition of the resource has been developed with the help of young people who have been supported by the sexual exploitation service in Sheffield. The latest edition has been re-written to address new trends in exploitative behaviour and vulnerability of victims including online exploitation, peer-on-peer abuse and more work specifically targeted at boys and young men.

Pieces of Me is a booklet of creative writing and advice from young people who are at risk of, or who have experience of, sexual exploitation. Its intention is to give young people a valued outlet for expression concerning sexual exploitation and highlight the vulnerabilities in young lives that lead to heightened risk in the area. Each of the young people who have contributed to this work has bravely given something of themselves and their experiences and we would like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to them for their courage, wisdom and strength.

Help for practitioners

The following signs and behaviours are generally seen in children and young people who are already being exploited:

  • Missing from home or care
  • Unexplained physical injuries
  • Persistent drug and alcohol misuse
  • Offending
  • Repeat sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy and terminations
  • Absent from education
  • Sexually bullying (online and offline)
  • Being bought gifts from unknown sources
  • Recruiting others into exploitative situations
  • Poor mental health
  • Self-harm
  • Thoughts or attempts of suicide

Several vulnerabilities and warning signs together indicate a risk of sexual exploitation.

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How you can help

Our charity is dedicated to helping Sheffield's young people to reach their full potential and achieve the best out of life, whatever their starting point. To help us to do more to support young people and communities we need your help. Just remember, every penny you donate will make a difference.