The Right to Recover: Therapeutic services for children and young people following sexual abuse

Date: 12th December 2017
Category: Protection from abuse or neglect

NSPCC Scotland has published a research report, 'The Right to Recover: Therapeutic services for children and young people following sexual abuse'. The title is a reference to Article 39 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

Not all children and young people who experience sexual abuse need therapeutic support to recover. However, for those who do require help, support can help them rebuild their lives.

A recent study by NSPCC examines the provision of therapeutic services for children following sexual abuse in the West of Scotland area. The research was carried out in partnership with the West of Scotland Child Protection Managed Clinical Network, to provide clinicians with a resource for referring children to help, following forensic examination stage. The area covered by the study is home to over half of Scotland's child population and comprises 17 local authority areas stretching from Moray to Borders.

The study surveyed all statutory and third sector services offering face to face support to children experiencing sexual abuse, including sexual exploitation, and to children who have displayed sexually harmful behaviour. A series of discussion groups were held alongside the survey, to explore professionals' views of children's access to support, including how assessment and referral to therapeutic services currently takes place in practice.

The study found a picture of patchy, insecure provision which has not improved in almost a decade, despite improvements in the response to child sexual abuse and a national focus on the issue. There is a lack of specialist support for children in most areas, with provision decreasing by age. A majority of local authority areas have no specialist provision for primary aged children and there is a dearth of services for children aged under 5. Support for non-abusing carers, which professionals identify as critical and in some cases more important than direct work with children, is patchy and inconsistent. Services providing specialist support for children are overwhelmingly located in the third sector, with poor staffing levels and chronically in-secure funding.

The research also found that pathways to therapeutic support are unclear for children who do not have on-going child protection concerns. There is currently no standard expert assessment of children's emotional and mental health following disclosure of sexual abuse.