Identifying and responding to child sexual abuse within complex safeguarding approaches

November 8, 2021


Complex safeguarding is an approach to responding to criminal activity (often organised) or behaviour associated with criminality, involving children and adults, where there are concerns of exploitation and/or safeguarding concerns. Complex safeguarding often involves agencies and practitioners, working together to tackle various forms of exploitation – primarily child sexual exploitation and child criminal exploitation. It goes beyond a traditional focus on younger children and harm within a home environment to address the specific circumstances and needs of adolescents and their experiences beyond a domestic setting.

CWASU’s senior research fellow Jo Lovett, worked with the centre for expertise on child sexual abuse on this small-scale exploratory study, which considers the extent to which all forms of child sexual abuse feature in the work of professionals working within a complex safeguarding team.

Findings highlight the complexities of language used around child sexual abuse and child sexual exploitation and the challenges professions face in addressing concerns of child sexual abuse – especially without verbal disclosure – while endeavouring to build and maintain relationships of trust with young people.

Complex safeguarding remains a developing approach, but this study adds valuable insights on the role it currently plays in tackling child sexual abuse.

The full report can be accessed here. 


  • Authors:
    Jo Lovett, Dr Jasmin Tregidga