96% say support for children after abuse "inadequate"

It's time to demand that every child receives vital help

Girl in office looking at camera

All too often therapuetic services are only offered to children after abuse if they're suicidal, self-harming or developing chronic mental health problems.

In a survey of more than 1,000 professionals working with children after abuse, over 50% said that tight criteria to access local NHS mental health services means these children are increasingly struggling to access vital help.

In many cases, children have to wait over 5 months to get specialist support. And some of those surveyed said that help for children who had been abused was not seen as a priority.


It's Time to demand change

Sexual offences against children have reached record levels. That's why we're asking supporters to put pressure on MPs and Ministers for a priority on funding in our new campaign, It's Time, launching today. We're calling for:

  • increased funding for support services for children who've suffered abuse
  • government to produce clear guidelines on when a child should be offered therapeutic support
  • more research into the scale of the problem, as well as what type of support works best.

We've developed It's Time with the help of A Force for Change - a group of young people who've experienced first-hand what it's like not to have the right support after suffering abuse.

Take action

"We’re more than just a number. After abuse your mind can become like a prison; you always see the same walls and the same things prevent you from moving on. Support is like the key, but it’s on a chain of 1,000 keys. Not all of them work, but when you get the right help it sets you free."
Young person / A Force for Change

96% professionals say there aren't enough CAMHS services for children who have experienced abuse.

Explanation: In November/December 2015, the NSPCC surveyed 1,308 professionals -including psychologists, GPs, teachers and social workers - about their awareness and experience of working with children where the effects of abuse or neglect were a primary concern.

The types of services they were asked to consider were:

  • CAMHS: providing access to psychologists, psychotherapists, family therapists, psychiatrists, nurses and social workers
  • other services in the statutory, voluntary and private sectors to help CYP affected by abuse to cope with and overcome the problems arising from it, including counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy and attachment based therapies, among others.

The survey found that 96% of professionals said there aren't enough CAMHS services for children who have experienced abuse. 98% of professionals said there aren't enough 'other' services for children who have experienced abuse.

3/4 of professionals say it's harder to access therapeutic services than 5 years ago.

Explanation: In November/December 2015, the NSPCC surveyed 1,308 professionals - including psychologists, GPs, teachers and social workers - about their awareness and experience of working with children where the effects of abuse or neglect were a primary concern.

The types of services they were asked to consider were:

  • CAMHS: providing access to psychologists, psychotherapists, family therapists, psychiatrists, nurses and social workers
  • other services in the statutory, voluntary and private sectors to help CYP affected by abuse to cope with and overcome the problems arising from it, including counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy and attachment based therapies, among others

78% of the 921 surveyed professionals who had experience or awareness of referring children with diagnosable mental health problems to therapeutic services said accessing these services has got harder in the last 5 years. 87% of the 929 surveyed professionals who had experience or awareness of referring children who may not have diagnosable mental health problems to therapeutic services said accessing these services has got harder in the last 5 years.

The wait for vital support

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Our survey of professionals including psychologists, GPs, teachers and social workers found longer waiting lists, reductions in spending and higher thresholds for therapy are making it harder for affected children to access vital therapeutic services.

Children who have been abused or neglected are often referred by GPs and local authorities to CAMHS. Whilst not all children will have a diagnosable mental health problem, many still need therapeutic support to help them deal with their trauma and reduce the chance of chronic mental health conditions developing in the future.

"I've never had specialist help for the abuse I suffered..."

Read Zoe's story

What professionals are saying

"There is no early intervention. The child needs to have severe mental health problems before a service is available to them, due to the numbers and waiting lists."

“This group of children are seen as 'welfare' cases and dismissed by CAMHS as other people’s business. Secondary mental health issues due to trauma are treated in isolation and not seen as part of a bigger picture.”

“Many services do not meet the depth and complexity of the issue. Often children are expected to define their need or are categorised into main issue when there are multiple complex issues. The services for sexual abuse in particular are limited and are not specialised – just general counselling which I feel can be very isolating for the child who feels nobody understands or can provide understanding to them.” 

“More referrals are being rejected even though it seems clear there are real problems. Therapy is time-limited and there seems to be less access to people with specialist knowledge.”

“CAMHS in my area does not accept children for post abuse support. This is not seen as a priority.”


Peter Wanless, CEO of NSPCCPeter Wanless, Chief Executive at NSPCC, said:
"It shames our nation that children who have suffered abuse languish for months and even years without support. It's Time to ensure that they automatically get the help they need to recover.

"We know that children are often left alone to deal with the corrosive emotional and psychological consequences of appalling abuse and that all too often they face long waits for help with their trauma, or the services offered aren't appropriate for children whose lives have been turned upside down by their experiences: this must change."

"The views of professionals in this survey speak loud and clear. The Government and those that commission services urgently need to increase what is currently available to support this most vulnerable group of children."

Read Peter Wanless' blog

It's time to stand up for children

It's time to demand change

The government doesn't know how many children have been abused and need support. Help us change this.

Sign our petition

Abi's diary

Abi's 14 years old. She's been sexually abused. This is her diary. Over the next 6 months, we'll bring to life the alternate paths her life could take with, and without, the right professional support. Without the right support, Abi becomes 'Child A'.
Read Abi's latest diary entry

Contact our press office

Contact our national and regional press offices for enquiries about our work or to request interviews.

020 7825 2514

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References

  1. NSPCC (2015): In November/December 2015, the NSPCC surveyed 1,308 professionals - including psychologists, GPs, teachers and social workers - about their awareness and experience of working with children where the effects of abuse or neglect were a primary concern.