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Harmful Sexual Behaviours Presented by Children and Young People

Scope of this chapter

NOTE: Practitioners in Rochdale should instead follow their Local Pathways.

This policy seeks to identify when sexual behaviour by children and young people should be considered harmful, or when it can be considered in the context of normal behaviours. The procedure which should be followed to identify assess and intervene with the child or young person who has displayed the behaviour are also set out below.

The Criminal Justice Joint Inspection "Examining Multi-Agency Responses to Children and Young People who Sexually Offend" [1] highlighted that:

  • Cases were slow to get to court, and took an average eight months between disclosure and sentence, resulting in lengthy periods when little or no work was done with the young person;
  • Much work was characterised by poor communication between the relevant agencies, with inadequate assessment and joint planning;
  • Many young people had complex and multiple needs and positive examples of holistic interventions to address these delivered by a range of agencies were rare;
  • Once these children had been picked up by the justice system, their chances for rehabilitation improved and they clearly benefited by the child focused approach of YOT workers; and
  • Despite some successful outcomes, there was little evidence of routine evaluation at a strategic level of the quality and effectiveness of multi-agency work.

Further support for early recognition and intervention came from the Chief Inspector of Probation, Liz Calderbank, who reported on behalf of all inspectorates:

"The behaviour of this small but significant group of children and young people can be extremely damaging, often involving other children as victims. Yet the evidence from our inspection is that these children and young people do respond to intervention from youth offending teams and can be prevented from reoffending before developing entrenched patterns of behaviour."

"We were therefore very concerned to find that a sizable number of these children had been referred on previous occasions to children's services but the significance of their sexual behaviour was not recognised or dismissed. This, to us represented a lost opportunity, both for the children themselves and their potential victims."

The link between online behaviour and harmful sexual behaviour may also be a cause for concern. Technology-assisted harmful sexual behaviour (TA-HSB) can range from developmentally inappropriate use of pornography (and exposing this to other children) through grooming and sexual harassment. Online behaviour may be a trigger for sexual abuse and the long-term effect of exposure to pornography can affect the ability to build healthy sexual relationships - see NSPCC Research and Resources for further information.

An Ofsted thematic review (Review of Sexual Abuse in Schools and Colleges (Ofsted)) detailed concerns around sexual child-on-child abuse. This abuse included:

  • Sexual violence, such as rape, assault by penetration and sexual assault;
  • Sexual harassment, such as sexual comments, remarks, jokes and online sexual harassment, which may be stand-alone or part of a broader pattern of abuse;
  • Upskirting, which typically involves taking a picture under a person's clothing without them knowing, with the intention of viewing their genitals or buttocks to obtain sexual gratification, or to cause the victim humiliation, distress or alarm;
  • Sexting (also known as 'youth-produced sexual imagery').

See A continuum of children and young people's sexual behaviours (Hackett S (2010)).

The Review identified that most children would not report incidents (for a variety of reasons) and many educational establishments were 'unaware' of the significant level of sexual harassment and sexual violence.

Keeping Children Safe in Education (DfE) reflects that all staff working with children are advised to maintain an attitude of 'it could happen here' and that it can occur between two children of any age and sex, from primary through to secondary stage and into colleges. A friend may make a report or a member of school or college staff may overhear a conversation that suggests a child has been harmed or a child's own behaviour might indicate that something is wrong and these should be acted upon.

[1] The Joint Inspection by HMI Probation, Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales, Care Quality Commission, Estyn, Healthcare Inspectorate Wales, HMI Constabulary, HMI Prisons and Ofsted. February 2013.

Whenever a child or young person has been sexually harmed by another child or young person, all agencies must be aware of their responsibilities to both the victim and the young person who has carried out the sexually harmful behaviour. The multi-agency management of both cases must reflect this. Children and young people who harm others may pose a risk to children other than their present victim and the safety of their victim and other children is of paramount importance. However children and young people who behave in this way are likely to have considerable levels of unmet need themselves. Evidence suggests that children and young people who harm others may have suffered considerable disruption in their lives, been exposed to violence within the family, may have witnessed or been subject to Physical Abuse or Sexual Abuse, have problems in their educational development and may have committed other offences. Such children are likely to be children in need; some will have suffered Significant Harm and may be in need of protection themselves. Children who harm others should be held responsible for their harmful behaviour while being identified and responded to in a way which meets their needs as well as protecting others.

Children and young people who display harmful sexual behaviour are often developing their own sexuality and understanding of relationships. Research clearly indicates that good assessment and early intervention, which addresses risk and builds resilience for the child or young person, produce the best outcomes for this kind of worrying behaviour.

Considerable diversity exists among children and young people who have harmful sexual behaviours. This diversity applies to their own backgrounds and experiences, the motivations for and the meanings of their behaviours and needs. It is not inevitable or highly likely that young people with sexual harmful behaviours will go on to perpetrate Sexual Abuse in adulthood. A number of factors indicate a higher risk and for this reason it is preferable that appropriate assessments are carried out on young people to target resources at those most likely to present the highest risk. Cognitive behavioural interventions and relapse prevention work are effective alongside increasing resilience factors and reducing negative factors in a young person's life.

The AIM (Assessment Intervention Moving on) project developed an assessment framework model in Manchester in 2000. The assessment framework model covered the domains of the Department of Health Assessment Framework, plus ASSET, ASSET Risk of Serious Harm and an additional dimension of assessing sexualised behaviour. It was based on the principle that the welfare of children is paramount and the primary objective of undertaking work with young people who abuse others is to prevent future victims. The Framework was revised into AIM3 in 2007 and again in 2012, based on further research and evidence in respect of young people aged 12-18 years. The AIM project exists to oversee the development of the assessment framework and provides training and support to promote its use alongside an assessment model for children under 12 years and other models for the identification and management across key agencies of children and young people who harm sexually.

Greater Manchester Safeguarding (GMP) has taken the view that the AIM3 model of assessment meets the requirements for this group of children and young people (see Section 7.8, AIM3 Assessments for further details on contents of assessment). GMPS seek to support use of the model across each of the LSCP areas to ensure consistency of service delivery.

  1. Work with children and young people who harm others must recognise that such children are likely to have considerable needs themselves, and also that they may pose a significant risk of harm to other children and young people;
  2. The needs of the children and young people who sexually harm should be considered separately from the needs of their victims;
  3. Evidence suggests that children and young people who abuse may have suffered considerable disruption in their lives, been exposed to violence within the family, may have witnessed or been subject to physical or Sexual Abuse, have problems in their educational development and may have committed other offences. Such children and young people are likely to be children in need, and some will in addition be suffering from, or at risk of, Significant Harm and may themselves be in need of protection;
  4. The reasons why young people sexually abuse are multi-faceted and to explore these further, a full risk assessment and an assessment of need must be carried out in every case;
  5. Children and young people who sexually harm others should be held responsible for their abusive behaviour;
  6. Early and effective, intervention with children and young people who sexually harm others may play an important part in protecting children, by preventing the continuation or escalation of abusive behaviour;
  7. Young people who sexually harm others have a right to be consulted and involved in all matters and decisions that affect their lives. Their parents have a right to information, respect and participation in matters that affect their family;
  8. The complex nature of the problem requires a co-ordinated, multi-disciplinary approach, which addresses both child protection and criminal justice issues.

Exploration during childhood is a normal part of development, and it is important that those working with children and families develop an understanding of age appropriate sexual behaviour.

These five stages are intended as a guide only – (for more detail, please see AIM Assessment Model for Children Under 12 Years Old with Problematic or Harmful Sexual Behaviours):

  1. 0-4 years. Exploratory behaviours emerge - touch taste, looking, hugs and kisses. Periods of inhibition and disinhibition occur i.e. wandering round naked. They imitate and copy behaviours of life around them including 'mummies and daddies' and 'doctors and nurses'. Random masturbation can occur as this is a sensual stage in development. The distinction between toileting behaviours and comforting behaviours begins to emerge. Parents and carers are most influential, and children learn the social rules and what is permissible from them;
  2. 5-7 years. More exploratory behaviour with peers occurs, and there is comparison with others bodies and more questions. Masturbation is less random but more likely among boys due to gender socialisation. There is an increased desire for privacy. They know rude words and provoke reaction from adults although they might not understand the meanings. They are increasing their understanding of the taboos around sexual talk and behaviour. The influence of peers is beginning to emerge;
  3. 8-12 years. Cognitively children can understand and process information they gain, and they are learning about sex, procreation and bodies. Sexual language will have progressed and swear words will be learned and repeated although not necessarily with an understanding of the meaning. Myths about sex flourish at this age. The onset of puberty begins, with some young people will showing an interest in sexual activity at petting level. Competitive comparison of bodies begins. A few will progress on from petting. A development of anxiety about appearance and likability occurs. Those who are gay or lesbian begin to define themselves as feeling different and will feel pressure to conform. Peers and media significant influence at this stage;
  4. 13-15 years. The beginning of the grown up phase. Young people are gaining fully developed adult bodies. Some may have practiced low level petting behaviours and some might be moving onto advanced sexual behaviours. Emotional romantic attachments become important. There is a pressure to be seen to be knowledgeable. Anxiety is still present about status and performance. Peers and media provide a strong influence, and young people can be embarrassed to discuss questions or concerns with adults;
  5. 16-18 years. Adult phase. Knowledge language and behaviours present are common. And there is competition with peers in these areas. The need for intimacy and emotional closeness is more important now. There is a return to the sensual stage - hugs and kisses reinforce attachments, along with sexual desire and pleasure. Young people can revisit cultural scripts of caregivers at this stage.

Not all sexual behaviours displayed by children/ young people are healthy; some are harmful and some fall within a mid-range (problematic) which are not the most worrying but nevertheless cause an issue. The term problematic is used to indicate that the behaviour is problematic for someone whether for the child or young person themselves or someone else who is uncomfortable with the invasion of their personal space by a child/adolescent with little sense of boundaries.

The following behaviours give a general indication of categories and are more applicable to younger children:

Healthy sexual behaviours are:

  • Mutual;
  • Consensual;
  • Exploratory and age appropriate;
  • No intent to cause harm;
  • Fun, humorous;
  • No power differential between participants.

Problematic sexual behaviours are:

  • Displaying behaviours not age appropriate - e.g. invasion of personal space, sexual swear word in very young children;
  • Some 'one off' incidents of low-key behaviours such a touching over clothing;
  • Incidents where there is peer pressure to engage in the behaviour e.g. touching someone's breast, exposure of bottom;
  • Behaviours are spontaneous rather than planned;
  • They may be self-directed such as masturbation;
  • There are other balancing factors such as lack of intent to cause harm, or level of understanding in the young person about the behaviours, or some remorse;
  • The child or young person targeted may be irritated or uncomfortable but not scared and feel free to tell someone;
  • Parental concern and interested in supporting the child to change.

Harmful sexual behaviours are:

  • Not age appropriate;
  • Elements of planning secrecy or force;
  • Power differentials between young people involved such as size status and strength;
  • Targeted children feel fear anxiety discomfort;
  • Negative feelings are expressed by the young person when carrying out the behaviour e.g. anger aggression;
  • The young person does not take responsibility for the behaviour and blames others or feels a strong sense of grievance;
  • Incidents are increasing in frequency and the young person's interest in them is disproportionate to other aspects of their life;
  • They are not easily distracted from the behaviour, it appears compulsive ad is persistent despite intervention.

There are often difficult behaviours such as conduct disorder, problems with anger management, anxiety, clingy, aggression, disruption, poor peer relationships in evidence alongside sexually inappropriate behaviours. Neglect emotional abuse and poor attachments with parents and siblings, little empathy, disrupted patterns of care and loss of significant person and lack of role models are often features in harmful sexual behaviours.

The Brook Sexual Behaviours Traffic Light Tool provides useful guidance on this subject of sexual behaviours. These indicators are a guide and do not replace, but should assist, the exercise of professional judgement. NOTE: Brook have stated that the Tool must not be used unless practitioners have undertaken specific training from Brook. Alternative information is available at Lucy Faithful, Stop it Now Parents Protect website. Lucy Faithful also do a Preventing harmful sexual behaviour toolkit for parents, carers and professionals.

The Difference Between Inappropriate Behaviour And When It Becomes Harmful Sexual Behaviour

In respect of sexual behaviours, there are sometimes perceived to be difficulties in distinguishing between normal childhood sexual development and experimentation and sexually inappropriate or aggressive behaviour. The above indicators should be used as a guide only. Sometimes expert professional judgement may be needed within the context of knowledge about normal child sexuality. Referral and assessment units or Safeguarding Children Units can provide specific advice.

It is also important that whilst responding to all incidents we do not over-react to the presenting situation as this can have long term consequences for the child, e.g. becoming ashamed about their sexuality or closing down opportunities for them to develop and explore normal sexuality.

Consent Issues

If a young person is under the age of 13 years old, under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 they cannot legally consent to any form of sexual activity. Therefore a child protection referral is required in all such cases.

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 reinforces that, whilst mutually agreed, non-exploitative sexual activity between teenagers does take place and that often no harm comes from it, the age of consent should still remain at 16. This acknowledges that this group of young people is still vulnerable, even when they do not view themselves as such.

A child protection referral or referral to the police is not mandatory in all cases of sexual activity involving a child under the age of 16 years of age but an assessment (including whether the children are Gillick Competent using Fraser Competent guidelines) in line with these procedures must be undertaken by the professionals making these decisions. The assessment should consider the young person's competency to give consent, and of the nature of the relationship. Consider any differences of age, maturity, level of development, functioning and experience and also the awareness of the potential consequences of their act.

Anyone who has a concern that a child might have been abused by another child, or an adult has been the victim of harmful sexual behaviour by a child or young person under 18 should refer their concerns to Children's Social Care or the Police in accordance with their local Contacts and Referrals Procedure. Any professional who is unsure of the need for such a referral must seek advice from the safeguarding lead within their agency.

The diagram Appendix 1: Pathway for Response to Harmful Sexual Behaviour Flowchart demonstrates the pathways which should be followed when a young person displays harmful sexual behaviour.

For all cases where there are concerns about harmful sexual behaviour, Children's Social Care and the Police need to be informed. They will hold an Initial AIM Strategy Discussion or to arrange a multi-agency Strategy Discussion within 24 hours of disclosure in relation to the alleged abusing child and the child victim where there is reasonable cause to suspect that the child concerned has experienced or is at risk of Significant Harm.

There are occasions where the behaviour is not thought to be serious enough to warrant intervention and the matter may be dealt with through a Police caution, or through an Early Help Assessment and Team around the Child response. These decisions should not be taken lightly and as a general rule of thumb the behaviours should be considered symptomatic of un-met need in a child or young person. However it is important that behaviour of this nature should always be reported into Children Social Care so that a record is made and future assessments can take this information into account.

The decision on how to proceed is made after an initial Aim Strategy Discussion:

  1. Into a child protection route;
  2. Into a criminal justice route;
  3. Sometimes both pathways will be running in conjunction with each other.

This procedure applies to all children and young people who have displayed harmful sexual behaviour and are not entering the criminal justice system:

  • Case comes to the attention of Children Social Care and a Strategy Meeting is held within 24 hours involving the Police, Children's Social Care and the Youth Offending Service (for the over 8 years) and any other agencies who have important information such as Health and Education;
  • Agree temporary risk management strategy based on the information available;
  • Any criminal aspects of the alleged abuse are investigated;
  • Information relevant to the protection and needs of the alleged victim is gathered;
  • A decision is taken regarding whether a Section 47 investigation is conducted and from which an AIM or AIM3 assessment is commissioned (see Section 7.8, AIM3 Assessments);
  • Co work assessors are allocated to complete the relevant AIM assessment from Children's Services, Youth Offending Service or Child And Mental Health Services (CAMHS);
  • Children Social Care take the role of lead agency;
  • Information is collected from professionals and relevant agencies;
  • Interviews are carried out with the young person their family and other significant persons;
  • The assessment is completed and written into a report format (see Section 7.8, AIM3 Assessments for further detail);
  • The multi-agency Aim Review meeting to which parents and the young person are invited is held (see Section 7.9, AIM Review Meeting for further detail);
  • The outcomes of the assessment report are considered and an intervention plan is agreed;
  • Review dates are set to monitor progress and review the intervention plan as required;
  • Where Strategy Discussions (Section 47 or AIM ) or meetings are required for both the child or young person who has displayed harmful sexual behaviour and the child(ren) or young person who is the victim, consideration should be given to the need to hold separate Strategy Discussions or Meetings;
  • Where separate Strategy Discussions/Meetings are held, care must be taken to ensure that the appropriate professionals attend the relevant meeting in order to provide confidentiality for the children involved. For example, school representatives should only attend the meeting involving the pupil at their school. The police officer and social workers who are conducting the enquiries should participate in both sets of Strategy Discussions.

If it appears that either the child who has displayed harmful sexual behaviour or the victim has suffered, or is at risk of suffering Significant Harm, the Section 47 Enquiry will be conducted. Relevant considerations include:

  • The nature and extent of the harmful behaviours and the impact on the victim;
  • The context of the abusive behaviours;
  • The age of the children involved;
  • The child's development and family and social circumstances;
  • Whether the child acknowledges the alleged behaviour;
  • Whether there are grounds to suspect that either/any child has been abused or that adults have been involved in the development of the harmful sexual behaviour;
  • Both children's needs for services;
  • The risk the child who has displayed harmful sexual behaviour poses to him/herself and others, including other children in the household, extended family, school, peer group or wider social network; and
  • Whether an AIM / AIM3 assessment should be undertaken.

The risk of further harm by the child who has displayed sexually harmful behaviour is likely to be present unless: the opportunity to further abuse is ended, the child has acknowledged the abusive behaviour and accepted responsibility and there is agreement by the child and his/her family to work with relevant agencies to address the problem and participate in an AIM/ AIM3 assessment.

 If during the course of the assessment there are concerns about any risks to other children posed by the perpetrator child, a multi-agency meeting should be convened straight away in order to develop:

  • A written risk management plan in relation to any child identified as at potential risk; including educational and accommodation arrangements both for the perpetrator child and the potential victim(s);
  • Appropriate arrangement for the continuation of the assessment and the need for any specialist assessment; and
  • How the services to be provided will be coordinated.

If the information gathered in the course of the Section 47 Enquiry suggests that the child who is suspected or alleged to have sexually abused another child is also a victim, or potential victim, of abuse including neglect, a Child Protection Conference must be convened. A representative from the YOT team should be invited to the Initial Child Protection Conference.

If the child becomes the subject of a Child Protection Plan, the coordination of services will continue through the Core Group, which should address the child's inappropriate behaviour, the potential risks the child poses to others as well as the concerns which resulted in the need for a Child Protection Plan.

Where the Section 47 investigation or Child Protection Conference concludes that the child who is suspected or alleged to have sexually abused does not require a Child Protection Plan, consideration should be given to the need for services to address any sexually abusive behaviour and the inter-agency responsibility to manage any risks.

Where there are no grounds for a Child Protection Conference, but concerns remain regarding the child's sexually problematic behaviour, (s)he will be considered as a Child in Need, and managed at the appropriate level of team around the child.

This procedure applies to young people over the age of criminal responsibility (10 years) where the Police want to have more information before making a decision to prosecute or issue an Out of Court Disposal:

  • Young person admits sexual offence. Bailed for 28 days on Inspector's authority or released under investigation for a timescale considered appropriate;
  • Reasons for AIM assessment and procedure to given to appropriate adult/young person;
  • Police contact Children's Social Care and Youth offending service to trigger AIM3 assessment;
  • Co-workers are allocated from Youth Offending Service and Children's Social Care;
  • Youth Offending takes the role of lead agency;
  • Information is collected from professionals and relevant agencies;
  • Assessors have access to the Achieving Best Evidence (ABE) interview of the victim;
  • Interviews are carried out with the young person, their family and significant other persons;
  • AIM3 assessment is completed and written into a report format (see Section 7.8, AIM3 Assessments for further detail);
  • Based on AIM3 assessment the Police/Crown Prosecution Service will make a decision regarding appropriate disposal. The Police at this point may still make a decision to charge (see Section 7.7, A Case Within The Criminal Justice Process for further detail);
  • A multi-agency AIM Review meeting, to which the parents and young person is invited (see Section 7.9, AIM Review Meeting for further detail);
  • The outcomes of the assessment report are considered and an intervention plan is agreed;
  • Review dates are set to monitor progress and review the intervention plan as required;
  • AIM assessments which are completed will be submitted for advance disclosure.

This procedure applies to young people over the age of criminal responsibility (10 years) where the Police have made a decision to prosecute immediately because the offence is so serious or there are previous convictions.

  • Young Person is charged with a sexual offence;
  • Young person appears before Court;
  • If a not guilty plea is entered the legal process continues and no AIM3 assessment is done at this point;
  • If a young person enters a guilty plea or is found guilty the Court will request a Pre-Sentence Report and should be asked to give sufficient time to complete and AIM3 assessment to inform the Pre-Sentence Report;
  • Youth Offending will carry out an AIM3 assessment to inform the Pre-Sentence Report (see Section 7.8, AIM3 Assessments for further detail);
  • Youth Offending service will make a proposal to the Court for an appropriate disposal;
  • An intervention plan will be formulated and roles and responsibilities identified (see Section 7.7, A Case Within The Criminal Justice Process for further detail).

When a child is aged 10 or over and is alleged to have committed an offence, the first interview must be undertaken by the Police under the provisions of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

A decision to complete an AIM3 assessment may be delayed until the young person has been to court and a plea has been entered. Young people who deny an alleged offence will not go through the initial AIM3 assessment process at this stage. However those young people who deny the offence but are later found guilty, or change their plea, will be subsequently assessed and the model can be an appropriate framework to inform a pre-sentence report.

In all such cases it is important that an AIM3 initial assessment is carried out. The young person and their parent / carers will be asked by the assessors to participate in this process. If consent is not given, but concern remains, an assessment can still be undertaken drawing on existing information.

For those young people who are immediately charged, the assessment will be triggered by their admission of guilt in court or by them having been found guilty in court. At this point a request for an adjournment should be made in order to carry out the initial assessment, which will inform the pre-sentence report.

In those cases where a young person commits a further offence whilst on bail, their bail status will be reviewed.

Where it is concluded there is insufficient evidence to charge consideration should be given to a referral to Children's Social Care for an assessment of need and an AIM assessment via the child protection/child in need route.

For young people subject to a remand to Youth Detention Accommodation consideration will be given to the completion of an AIM3 assessment if they have either been found guilty or pleaded guilty. Ideally this could be completed before sentence however the location of the secure establishment could make this problematic i.e. if it is too far away to complete the necessary visits to complete the assessment etc.

It is acknowledged that an AIM3 assessment/intervention may not always be able to be completed during the custodial element of a sentence depending on the type and location of the secure establishment the young person is placed in. If an AIM3 assessment/intervention work has been started in custody this should be continued on release and highlighted as an area of intervention at the pre-release meeting. Any future intervention work should be outlined as a condition of the young person's licence/notice of supervision. If the child/young person is looked after, this work should also be reflected in their care plan. If no AIM3 assessment/intervention has been completed during the custodial element of the order then this should be included in the pre-release plans and incorporated, where appropriate, into the young person's notice of supervision/licence conditions. Again this work should be incorporated into any care planning documentation.

Children who are returning to the community following a custodial sentence or time in secure accommodation following concerns re harmful sexual behaviour also require consideration through this procedure.

In complex situations where there are a number of victims and possible perpetrators, see the Institutional, Organised or Multiple Abuse Procedure.

Generally speaking the AIM assessment referred to in this policy is the AIM3 assessment model. There is a separate assessment models for Children under the Age of 12 years. It is important to use the model appropriate to the young person's situation and further specialist advice can be sought from AIM Project (see Local Contacts, AIM Project).

The AIM3 model can be applied with Children and young people between the age of 12 to 18 years, who have displayed harmful sexual behaviour, against children, adolescents and/or adults, within the family, outside the family and stranger abuse. The model is also applicable for young people with learning disability.

The purpose of the AIM3 is to offer an assessment of the young person and his or her family to assess the concerns, risks and strengths of the young person across 4 key domains; sexual and non-sexual behaviours, development, family and environment considering both static and dynamic factors. The scoring system is based on research factors that will provide evidence of the risk and resilience's presented by the young person and therefore the basis for intervention.

It will include information on;

  • The context of the abusive behaviours, including the nature of the relationship between the children/young people, difference in age between the victim and alleged abuser, absence of consent, exploitation and whether the alleged abuser had authority or responsibility for the victim, secrecy, coercion, bribery or violence;
  • The child's development and family and social circumstances;
  • The need for services, specifically focusing on the child's harmful behaviour as well as other significant needs;
  • The risk to self and others, including other children in the household, extended family, school, peer group or wider social network;
  • Identify level of supervision required to prevent repeat harmful behaviour;
  • In child protection terms identify risk to either the child/young person or their actual/potential victim(s);
  • To assess the child/young person's motivation and capacity to engage in service and plans;
  • Identify the capacity of the parents /carers or significant others to manage and support the child/young person;
  • The assessors should draw conclusions from the AIM3 initial assessment framework and identify the initial level(s) of intervention indicated as necessary.

Information gathered throughout the assessment process will be compiled into a report format. The assessors will read through the report with the young person and their parents/carers in a supportive setting and any areas of disagreement will be noted and attached to the report. The family are entitled to retain a copy of the report. It is good practice to write a child-friendly version of the report dependent on the age and level of understanding of the child or young person.

Where the assessment has been initiated through the criminal justice route the report will be forwarded to the Investigating Police officer and will make recommendation to the Police regarding disposal for the young person. Having fully considered the assessment team's recommendation and any other relevant information which has been collated regarding mitigating and aggravating factors, the police/CPS maintain the right to make a final decision.

The sharing of information compiled in the assessment report is covered by the Data Protection, Information Sharing and Confidentiality Policy. Where the police are involved it will assist the Police Public Investigation Units in their decision making regarding appropriate disposal for the young person.

Appropriate assessors should be identified using the following principles:

  • At least one assessor must be AIM3 trained;
  • At least one assessor must hold a Social Work qualification or another suitable professional qualification;
  • Assessment should be multi-agency; Youth Offending Team will take the lead where a criminal process is likely; Children's Social Care will lead where the child with the harmful behaviour is under 10, or has intellectual disabilities; Specialist involvement from specialist agencies such as G Map, NSPCC may be required for very serious high risk cases;
  • Where no alternative exists two Children's Social Care workers may undertake an assessment where there are no criminal proceedings. The Social worker for the victim should not be involved in the assessment in order to ensure it remains objective.

In Rochdale, see also AIM Meeting Guidance.

Following the assessment, an AIM review meeting will be convened and chaired - how this takes place is a matter for local arrangement. In some areas it will chaired by an Independent Reviewing officer; in others by the lead agency. Where the child or young person is Looked After, the Independent Reviewing Officer should attend the meeting.

Parents / carers and the child or young person will be invited to attend the meeting and will only be excluded in exceptional circumstances. Reasons for any exclusion should be clearly discussed with all attendees to the meetings and minuted for case notes. The meeting should be attended by the assessors and any other relevant professionals involved with the child / young person and their family. The assessment should be shared with the young person and their parents by the assessors before the strategy meeting takes place. They should be prepared for the meeting and in the planning for the young person.

The meeting should produce a shared multi-disciplinary plan, which addresses:

  • Child protection concerns for the young person;
  • The safety of potential victims;
  • Risk management at home, in school and in the wider community;
  • Immediate living arrangements for the young person;
  • School attendance and related education issues;
  • Individual health needs, including emotional health needs;
  • Support for the child/young person and their family to promote their social, emotional and behavioural development;
  • The needs of the child/young person;
  • Relevant victim issues - whether the needs of the victim and their family are supported;
  • Intervention / treatment issues /identification;
  • Roles, tasks and expectations for different professionals/agencies;
  • Any need for further assessment;
  • Inclusion of the child/young person's name on the Disclosure and Barring Service Barred list;
  • The timing and frequency of meetings to review the plan.

Copies of the assessment report will remain on the files of the assessor's agencies. Copies will be retained in line with individual agencies file destruction policies.

In the event of disagreement about the recommendation, a discussion with the assessors' line managers, and if necessary the Resolving Professional Differences/Escalation Policy should be followed.

Minutes of the meeting will be circulated to those present and those with responsibility for action as soon as possible.

Further strategy meetings to review the progress of the actions agreed and outcomes for the alleged perpetrator and other vulnerable young people will be convened and chaired original chair until the identified work is complete.

When considering alternative placements in foster or residential care, the potential risks and impact across the group of children/young people should be carefully considered prior to the making of a placement, and necessary risk management plans established.

It is possible that a decision will need to be made to remove a young person from the family home as a protective measure for siblings. If a decision is made that the young person can remain at home a Home Safety Plan should be undertaken by the professionals involved to provide some rules and guidelines about what is permissible. It should also be completed in any other setting where a young person is placed – whether that is in a residential setting or a foster placement or with other family members.

It should include as a minimum:

  • A realistic level of supervision that must be provided;
  • The living environment is free from confusing sexual behaviour and information i.e. DVDs magazines, language, behaviour;
  • Sleeping arrangements need to be considered including making arrangements with extended family members;
  • Clear rules on privacy;
  • State of dress around the house;
  • Limitations on play fighting.

It is feasible that Child Protection processes will be running in parallel to AIM3 processes. The processes should complement each other and inform each other. It must be clear at all times who is responsible for each action.

If a complaint is lodged against a assessor their agency complaints procedures should be followed. If a complaint is lodged regarding the assessment process, the SCP complaints procedures should be applied.

Schools should follow the statutory guidance: Keeping Children Safe in Education.

There is additional guidance in AIM Understanding and Managing Problematic and Harmful Sexual Behaviours in Education Settings (Carson). It is recommended that any education setting purchase this manual from the AIM project to provide information advice and assistance in managing problematic behaviours.

Training to enable education workers to become co-assessors is also available via the AIM project.

Salford: Salford Harmful Sexual Behaviour Pathway

Oldham: Pathway for children who display sexually harmful behaviour - to follow


Harmful Sexualised Behaviour Policy

AIM Meeting Guidance

HSB Triage Referral Form

Last Updated: June 17, 2024