Scotland

Charity says child sex abuse victims lack specialist support

Adult's hand on child's shoulder Image copyright Getty Images

Child victims of sexual abuse are being let down by a lack of support services, according to a children's charity.

NSPCC Scotland said half of councils in the most heavily-populated areas had no specialist service for young children who need help.

More than 900 sexual crimes against children under the age of 13 were reported to Police Scotland last year.

The charity is calling for a multi-disciplinary approach to help child victims recover from their trauma.

It favours a "children's house" model of care, based on Iceland's Barnahus system, where psychological support, forensic or medical services and facilities such as courtroom video links are all provided under the same roof.

The NSPCC research looked at provision by 17 councils in west and central Scotland.

It found that more than half have no specialist service for children of primary school age who need help, while 15 of the 17 have no service for children aged under five years.

No improvement

The charity said the "patchy" provision of support had seen no significant improvement since a similar survey was conducted a decade ago.

Matt Forde, national head of NSPCC Scotland, said: "It is concerning how little improvement there has been in services in the past 10 years.

"There has been a huge amount of national attention to child sexual exploitation, online grooming and other types of abuse, which is important, but the lack of help available on the ground to help children recover, especially for younger children and children with disabilities, is a serious issue."

Rape Crisis Scotland backed the call for improved services, saying young victims deserved "informed, specialist support and advocacy".

Director of operations, Sandie Barton, added: "At Rape Crisis Centres, more and more young people are coming forward and demand is at an unprecedented level.

"We know from survivors that failing to provide timely access to appropriate support can have far-reaching consequences. Children, young people and their families deserve better."

A spokesman for the local authority umbrella body Cosla said: "Scottish Local Authorities consider the safety and wellbeing of children in our communities as the highest priority.

"We know that a multi-agency approach works best for children and young people in this situation and we work with our partners to make sure those services are available to children when required."

"Every young person should have an equal opportunity to succeed in life no matter their circumstances.

'The right help'

A Scottish government spokeswoman added: "Our rape and sexual assault taskforce is focused on ensuring that children's healthcare needs are properly addressed.

"We are looking at the effective principles of child-centred, trauma-informed care that underpins Iceland's Barnahus concept to ensure they are at the heart of paediatric services for children who experience sexual abuse.

"Through the Child Protection Improvement Programme we are identifying where the system can be strengthened to ensure children receive the right help at the right time."

The report, Right to Recover, will be launched at the Scottish Parliament later at an event chaired by Labour MSP Johann Lamont.

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