New scheme targets problematic sexual behaviour in children

Young girl sits on a staircase and covers her face.
Image caption The programme is being run as part of the Children's Community Health Partnership

A £450,000 specialist treatment programme will target children who exhibit problematic sexual behaviour in Bristol and South Gloucestershire.

The extended Be Safe Children's Service is being launched by North Bristol NHS Trust and Barnardo's South West.

The service received £444,500 from the Big Lottery Realising Ambition fund to set up the programme.

It will work with children aged eight to 12 years old, who behave in a sexually harmful way.

Problematic sexual behaviour can be directed towards other children and their parents or caregivers.

The Be Safe Service has been delivering services to teenagers with concerning sexual behaviour and their families over the last five years.

The new funding has enabled the service to launch an intervention programme to work with younger children.

'Troubled young people'

Stephen Barry, specialist clinician for the Be Safe Service, said the new approach would meet a significant gap in service for this age group.

"We know that children who behave in a sexually harmful way towards other children are often victims of abuse themselves," he said.

"This could be sexual, physical, emotional abuse, exposure to domestic abuse and/or neglect. Although this is not always the case.

"It is important therefore that we work in partnership with other organisations to reach some of the most troubled young people in the community, identify harmful behaviour and provide the support and treatment needed to deal with it at an early stage"

The programme has been developed in America by the Oklahoma University Health Sciences Centre.

It provides cognitive behavioural and psychological treatment and support, to eliminate or reduce problematic sexual behaviour in children.

The programme is being run as part of the Children's Community Health Partnership.

Annie Hudson, Bristol City Council strategic director for children and young people, said: "Be Safe is a tried and trusted service for professionals who work with children to make referrals when young people show worrying sexual behaviour.

"By extending the service to younger children we now have greater opportunities to tackle the issue early in life to help prevent problems later on."

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