Sexual abuse and therapeutic services for children and young people: the gap between provision and need Research mapping availability and accessibility of services across the UK

Boy sat on stepsChildhood sexual abuse is linked to short- and long-term consequences including mental health problems. Therapeutic services aim to improve outcomes for sexually abused children by reducing the negative impact of the abuse. There is no national picture of what services exist or whether they are meeting local need.

This research, funded by the Private Equity Foundation, mapped the availability of therapeutic services that support children and young people affected by sexual abuse across the UK.

The report includes findings from interviews and focus groups with service managers, commissioners and young people. It includes recommendations for government, commissioners and service providers.

Authors: Debra Allnock with Lisa Bunting, Avril Price, Natalie Morgan-Klein, Jane Ellis, Lorraine Radford and Anne Stafford
Published: 2009

  • The overall level of specialist provision is low.
  • There is a huge gap between the estimated need for services and service availability.
  • Specialist services are not only too few but they are often offered too late.
  • There were few services available for young people who have been raped or seriously sexually assaulted.
  • Services are less accessible for some groups of young people particularly those living in rural areas, from ethnic minorities, or who have disabilities or learning difficulties.
  • There is a lack of information on the need for services and on what services and interventions are effective.
Introduction 1
Literature review 4
Overview of the methodology 36
Identifying the gaps in service provision: mapping the services 49
Service demand and accessibility 63
The nature and availability of therapeutic services 83
Joint working, funding and commissioning arrangements 101
The views of young people 119
Conclusion: policy and practice recommendations 135
Bibliography 141
Appendix 1 150
Appendix 2 162
Appendix 3 164

Please cite as: Allnock, D. et al. (2009) Sexual abuse and therapeutic services for children and young people: the gap between provision and need. London: NSPCC.

Related resources

Sexual abuse and therapeutic services for children in Northern Ireland: the gap between provision and need

Research report mapping availability and accessibility of services for sexually abused children and young people in Northern Ireland
Find out more

Therapeutic services for sexually abused children and young people: scoping the evidence base

Review of the research that looks at the types of therapies which are effective at helping children who have experienced sexual abuse
Find out more

Sexual abuse: a public health challenge

Review of the evidence looks at what we know about the causes, prevalence and consequences of sexual abuse.
Find out more

Estimating the costs of child sexual abuse in the UK

Report using research literature to estimate the overall costs of child sexual abuse in the UK at £3.2bn in 2012.
Find out more

Letting the Future In

Letting the Future In helps children who have been sexually abused.
Letting the Future In service

Turn the Page

We protect children from the most common type of contact sexual abuse.
Turn the Page service

Protect and Respect

For young people who are vulnerable to sexual exploitation or who have been sexually exploited.
Protect and Respect service

National Clinical Assessment and Treatment Service (NCATS)

Treating young high risk people who show the most serious kinds of harmful sexual behaviour.
NCATS - National Clinical Assessment and Treatment Service

Sexual abuse

A child is sexually abused when they are forced or persuaded to take part in sexual activities. This doesn't have to be physical contact, and it can happen online.
Read more about sexual abuse

Harmful sexual behaviour

Children and young people who develop harmful sexual behaviour harm themselves and others.
Read more about harmful sexual behaviour

Child sexual exploitation

Child sexual exploitation is a type of sexual abuse in which children are sexually exploited for money, power or status.
Read more about child sexual exploitation


Our Current Awareness Service for Practice, Policy And Research delivers free weekly email alerts to keep you up-to-date with all the latest safeguarding and child protection news.

Sign up to CASPAR

Information Service

Our free service for people who work with children can help you find the latest policy, practice, research and news on child protection and related subjects.

For more information, call us or email

0808 800 5000

Submit an enquiry

How safe are our children? Growing up online

Our annual flagship conference is for everyone working in child protection.

Find out more

Follow @NSPCCpro

Follow us on Twitter and keep up-to-date with all the latest news in child protection.

Follow @NSPCCpro on Twitter

Library catalogue

We hold the UK's largest collection of child protection resources and the only UK database specialising in published material on child protection, child abuse and child neglect.

Search the library

New in the Library

A free weekly email listing all of the new child protection publications added to our library collection.

Sign up to New in the Library

Helping you keep children safe

Read our guide for professionals on what we do and the ways we can work with you to protect children and prevent abuse and neglect.

Read our guide (PDF)

Impact and evidence

Find out how we evaluate and research the impact we’re making in protecting children, get tips and tools for researchers and access resources.

Our impact and evidence

Training and consultancy

Grow your child protection knowledge and skills with CPD certified courses delivered by our experts nationwide and online.
Get expert training

Sharing knowledge to keep children safe

Read our guide to the NSPCC Knowledge and Information Service to find out how we can help you with child protection queries, support your research, and help you learn and develop.

Read our guide (PDF)