Children’s Rights in Practice
: young people’s perspectives of working with professionals in the context of safeguarding and supporting children who have experienced sexual exploitation

  • Emma Stephens

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    The aim of this study was to critically analyse the perspectives of children and young people in relation to their experiences of professionals in the context of child sexual exploitation, using a children’s rights lens.

    Using a children’s rights approach and child-centered methods, including consultation with a Young Person’s Project Board, this thesis drew on the voices of nine young people living in England who had been subject to child sexual exploitation. Their experiences were analysed alongside serious case reviews, government policies and society’s changing attitudes towards children and childhood.

    This research’s key findings are that: dominant discourses from the Victorian era continue to be drawn upon by professionals in practice; in some situations, children and young people were disempowered by professionals, who were, in turn, disempowered by the structures and systems they work within; existing safeguarding policies and procedures struggle to address child sexual exploitation; and children’s rights are not consistently respected in practice. The thesis also highlights the benefits of taking an integrated approach to research where a children’s rights approach is supported by other theoretical frameworks to analyse the research participants’ experiences.

    The thesis concludes with evidence-based recommendations aimed at improving professional practice and the experiences of those affected by child sexual exploitation. These include implementing contextual safeguarding and trauma-informed practice.
    Date of AwardDec 2019
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorHazel Barrett (Supervisor), Michael Whelan (Supervisor) & Stephen Cowden (Supervisor)


    • child sexual exploitation
    • children's rights approach
    • children's voices
    • professional dilemmas
    • power dynamics
    • child centered terminology

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