Children who have experienced sexual and domestic abuse, could currently find it hard to get the specialist support they need, according to data from the NSPCC.
The NSPCC sent freedom of information requests to 174 local authorities across England and Wales, and received 119 responses.
The research revealed that only 23% of local authorities said they provided dedicated support and trained advisors for children who have experienced sexual and domestic abuse.
50% of local authorities didn’t have any records on how many children had experienced sexual or domestic abuse in their area, even though this information is readily available.
This goes against the Domestic Abuse Act (2021). This act created an obligation for local authorities to provide support for children who have experienced abuse.
The Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse (CSA Centre), estimates that 500,000 children experience sexual abuse in a single year. “It’s important these children can get theraputic support by trained experts who understand and know how to best support young people,” said the NSPCC.
Erin* whose daughter was sexually abused by a family member when she was seven, said:
“It’s so important that victims feel comfortable reporting the abuse that they experience directly to the police. In our case, while the police officers we spoke with were all lovely, compassionate people, they were so overworked and understaffed that when I needed help or answers I could never reach anyone or even find out who to speak to.
Additionally, there has been no support volunteered or signposted to for us by police or other services. 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.”
Ian Dean, Director, Centre of expertise on child sexual abuse (CSA Centre) commented:
“Conservative estimates indicate that one in ten children will experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 16, and those children and their families must be able to access the support they need, when they need it.
Child sexual abuse takes place across all parts of society, so it is vital that all areas of the country ensure that both children and adult survivors have access to a good range of high-quality services that give them the support they need to live a full and happy life in the future.
Sadly, however, we know that the vast majority of child sexual abuse still goes unidentified and unreported, leaving far too many children to suffer alone… We urgently need a commitment from all agencies to widespread, dedicated training on child sexual abuse, to support all professionals to feel confident in response and able to provide the best possible outcomes for children.”
The Victims and Prisoners Bill was unveiled in Parliament on 29th March and is due for a second reading in Parliament on 15th May. It was originally drafted as a Victims Bill, and focused on improving the criminal justice system for people who have been abused.
But, new legislation means the Bill will now also include prisoner-focused provisions. There are concerns this might delay the launch of the Bill, and move it away from supporting people who have experienced abuse.
The NSPCC are calling on the government to focus the Victims and Prisoners Bill towards young people who have experienced abuse. They want the Bill to ensure children can access specialist support when they need it, even if they don’t report the abuse to the police.
This can be done by strengthening local authorities’ data collection and support frameworks and creating national requirements for support, and investing in children who have experienced abuse, say the NSPCC.
Clare Kelly, Associate Head of Policy & 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 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.”