Helping children recover from child sexual exploitation

Topics: Child sexual abuse and CSE

What works to protect and support young people who have experienced or are at risk of CSE

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a complex form of abuse. It can be challenging for professionals to know how best to support children affected by it.

We evaluated our Protect and Respect programme which supports children and young people who have been, or are at risk of being, sexually exploited. We looked at the programme’s one-to-one and group work to find out what support helped young people.

Author: Mike Williams
Published: 2019

Key findings

Our evaluation of Protect and Respect identified some key factors that help support children and young people who are experiencing or at risk of CSE.

  • Young people benefitted from having a nurturing, safe, therapeutic relationship with a practitioner.
  • Directly engaging children and young people in a discussion about sexual exploitation wasn’t always the best approach to addressing concerns, especially when the young person had experienced a range of adversities, abuse and neglect.
  • Practitioners should work with a young person to understand what factors in their life may lead to an increased risk of CSE and identify what long-term support is needed. This may include working with families and advocating for engagement with other services.

Based on these key findings we have made improvements to our Protect and Respect service.


“She’s going through such massive periods of transition in her life. Doing her GCSE’s and moving onto college, that’s a natural transition for any young person, that’s what they do. But when you add that in with being kicked out of home…the only people who were there to offer support were the NSPCC. And without that, she wouldn’t have been able to carry on. I don’t know what would’ve happened to her.”

NSPCC practitioner delivering one-to-one work

“The work we did, I would say, enabled her to seek out healthier relationships in the future, and she demonstrated that through being in a relationship, it wasn’t making her happy, and reaching the decision, on her own, but talking it through with me and also with her mum about that relationship.  So she was able to think about that and use the work we’d done together on healthy and unhealthy relationships, to recognise it wasn’t making her happy and to end it.”

NSPCC practitioner delivering one-to-one work

“We wouldn’t mention CSE, because a lot of them don’t know what it means and it’s quite a scary word and scary phrase, I think, to use when you first meet a young person, so we wouldn’t use it until we’re in a group where we can talk about properly.”

NSPCC practitioner delivering group work


Please cite as:

Williams, M. (2019) The NSPCC’s Protect & Respect child sexual exploitation programme: a discussion of the key findings from programme implementation and service use. London: NSPCC.

Williams, M. (2019) Evaluation of the NSPCC's Protect & Respect child sexual exploitation one-to-one work. London: NSPCC.

Williams, M. (2019) Evaluation of the NSPCC’s Protect & Respect child sexual exploitation group work service. London: NSPCC