There are currently a number of definitions of child sexual exploitation in use by voluntary organisations and agencies and the DfE said this has led to "some confusion and additional challenges" for practitioners working with children and families, and has resulted in inconsistent risk assessments and data collection.
The revised version, which has been put out to public consultation until 11 March, is intended to simplify the existing description. It emphasises that CSE is always the responsibility of the perpetrator and seeks to make clear that CSE is a subset of child sexual abuse but can differ from other forms of child sexual abuse.
The proposed definition states that CSE occurs where anyone under the age of 18 is "persuaded, coerced or forced into sexual activity in exchange for, amongst other things, money, drugs/alcohol, gifts, affection or status".
It adds that: "Consent is irrelevant, even where a child may believe they are voluntarily engaging in sexual activity with the person who is exploiting them. Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact and may occur online."
Children's minister Edward Timpson said he hopes that the revised explanation will result in improvements to support for vulnerable children.
“By introducing this new definition, we can raise awareness and make sure that those working with families are better able to provide help and support to vulnerable children," he said.
The government has said it wants to introduce changes, which will be included in the statutory Working Together to Safeguard Children guidance, into practice by April 2016.
Home Office minister Karen Bradley said the proposed definition is intended to remove any ambiguity and ensure that everyone working to prevent abuse and child exploitation is using the definition.
CYP Now is holding a one-day national conference, Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation: Prevention and Treatment, in London on 18 March. Speakers include senior figures from NSPCC, Office of the Children's Commissioner, CEOP, Barnardo's, Catch 22, Brook, plus local authorities and academics. See the full programme here.