Gap in support for young people who have suffered abuse – NSPCC

Children and young people who have suffered sexual or domestic abuse risk not getting the help they need due to a gap in support from local authorities, a charity has warned.

The NSPCC said access to specialist support services for those affected is “simply not available for many children across England and Wales”.

Of the local authorities which responded to NSPCC freedom of information requests, less than one-quarter said they provide dedicated support for children and young people in the form of an independent and specially trained advisor.

Just half had records of the numbers of children in their area who had experienced either domestic abuse or sexual abuse or both.

Clare Kelly, associate head of policy and public affairs at the NSPCC, said: “Children who suffer sexual or domestic abuse desperately need to have easy access to specialist support services that will give them the best chance of recovery.

“However, as our research reveals, that level of care is simply not available for many children across England and Wales.

“Local authorities should have a duty to deliver specialist community-based support for young victims of abuse. However, only half of local authorities are across the numbers of children living in their area who need help.”

The charity referenced figures from the centre of expertise on child sexual abuse (CSA Centre), which has estimated that around half a million children are sexually abused in a single year in England and Wales.

The NSPCC said it is “vital these victims have access to tailored therapeutic support delivered by independent trained professionals who have the knowledge and understanding on how best to support young people”.

The mother of a girl who was sexually abused by a family member as a seven-year-old told of their difficulty in getting help when they needed it.

The woman, who has been named only as Erin to protect her daughter’s identity, said: “Our situation could have been less fraught if there had been a liaison-type person that could keep us updated and informed.

“There needs to be built-in and comprehensive victim support offered to children and their families at every level in the long term to help children rebuild their lives.”

The findings come as the Victims and Prisoners Bill is due to have its second reading in the House of Commons on Monday.

The NSPCC has called on the Government to focus the Bill’s attention towards ensuring all young victims of abuse are offered specialist support when they need it, whether they report it to the police and are involved with the criminal justice process or not.

This can be done by strengthening local authorities’ data collection and support framework by creating national requirements for support and investing in children who have experienced domestic and sexual abuse, the charity said.

Ms Kelly said: “The Government needs to urgently address these major shortfalls in care for vulnerable young people.

“They can do this through the Victims and Prisoners Bill but, in its current state, the legislation still has a long way to go if it is to deliver a much-needed transformation of support for child victims.”

The charity sent FOI requests to 174 local authorities in England and Wales and received full or partial responses from 119 within the allocated timeframe.