Evaluation of the Letting the Future In service Helping children and their parents move on from sexual abuse

Girl and practitioner smilingLetting the Future In is a service designed by the NSPCC for children aged 4 to 17 years who have been sexually abused. Letting the Future In helps children come to understand and move on from their past experiences through activities such as play, drawing and painting and storytelling. Parents and carers are also offered support to move on from the impact of finding out about the sexual abuse and to help their children feel safe.

This independent report, from University of Bristol and Durham University, draws on information from the largest randomised controlled trial of a service for children affected by sexual abuse. It provides evidence about what works well in the service and what works less well. This report is part of our Impact and evidence series.

Authors: John Carpenter, Simon Hackett, Tricia Jessiman, Demi Patsios and Josephine Phillips
Published: 2016

Letting the Future In can work to help children who have been sexually abused.

  • Almost three-quarters (73%) of children aged 8 and over who completed 6 months of Letting the Future In had severe emotional difficulties at the start. After 6 months this dropped to less than half (46%).
  • When taking into account the children who didn't engage or dropped out of the service early the number of children experiencing severe trauma dropped from 68% to 51%.
  • There was no comparable change for children in the control group (a 6 month waiting list). This indicates that the positive outcomes were a result of receiving the service.

Letting the Future In seems to take longer to work for younger children (aged under 8) who complete the programme.

  • Parents reported no positive change for younger children after 6 months of the programme and this was the same for the control group.
  • For those children remaining in the service after 1 year there was promising evidence of positive change. At the start 89% were experiencing severe levels of distress but after a year this had dropped to less than half (40%).
  • This suggests positive outcomes may take longer for younger children.

Therapeutic work can be delivered by social care professionals who receive additional training.

Most practitioners delivering Letting the Future In were social workers. They reported that they:

  • understood their role
  • were confident about being able to deliver Letting the Future In
  • felt the Letting the Future In guide had added value to their work with children.

Children value Letting the Future In.

Children who completed the programme and their carers talked about:

  • improved mood
  • better confidence
  • reduction in guilt and self-blame
  • reduced depression, anxiety and anger
  • improved sleep patterns
  • better understanding of appropriate sexual behaviour.

Children and their parents especially valued the relationship between the child and their practitioner. They felt practitioners were warm, reassuring, friendly and honest. 

Next steps

This independent evaluation provides good evidence of the effectiveness of Letting the Future In with children over eight and young people. Letting the Future In can and should be developed further, particularly in its use with younger children.

Acknowledgements 6
Key Findings 7
Executive Summary 10
Introduction 16
Impact evaluation 26
The intervention 52
Outcomes for children and safe carers 67
Discussion of the impact evaluation 82
The cost of Letting the Future In 93
Process evaluation 95
Concluding comments 129
References 131

Letting the Future In (LTFI) evaluation

Take a look at our infographic to see the impact the Letting the Future In (LTFI) service is making.

"...at the very beginning I was quite – not in a very good place, I don't think I thought about aims in the future, but then probably when I got to a better place, my aim was probably just to feel a lot kind of freer, that's probably the right word, to feel a lot lighter and freer probably about things."

"Back  then I was quieter than usual and I was scared to talk, I was scared to do things but she taught me that I could talk, I could do things, and she taught me that it wasn't my fault."

Please cite as: Carpenter, J. et al. (2016) Letting the Future In: a therapeutic intervention for children affected by sexual abuse and their carers. An evaluation of impact and implementation. London: NSPCC

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