Assessing the Risk, Protecting the Child Evidence, impact and evaluation

We worked with the Sexual Behaviour Unit in Newcastle to develop Assessing the Risk, Protecting the Child to help protect children from men who pose a sexual risk. We are evaluating the service to see how it is being used, how it can be improved and how it can help in making decisions about child protection.

How sexual abuse affects children

1 in 20 children in the UK have been sexually abused (Radford et al, 2011). But a high number of these cases go unreported, undetected, unprosecuted and untreated.

Sexual abuse can have many varied impacts on children and young people. The stress suffered by an abused child can have a significant impact on the child's health and development. It can impact on behaviour and relationships, including risky or harmful sexual behaviour, delinquency, crime and poor parenting. In the longer term, the consequences can limit future opportunities and lead to further problems later in life.

Dealing with the consequences of childhood sexual abuse also has a significant economic cost to the NHS, criminal justice system and children's social care services. We estimate that child sexual abuse costs the UK £3.2bn a year (Saied-Tessier, 2014).

Read more about child sexual abuse.

How Assessing the Risk, Protecting the Child is helping prevent child abuse and neglect

The majority of adults who pose a risk to children are not in the criminal justice system. They are frequently not assessed or subject to any treatment. They are often living with or having contact with children (Hebb, 2005; Fisher and Beech, 1998).

We know the key factors that should be assessed, and what constitutes good practice in assessment and treatment (Hanson, K et al 1998; Beech, A, Craig, L, Browne, K, 2009).

However there is a significant unmet need for good quality assessment and treatment of known or alleged sex offenders not in the criminal justice system.

By assessing the risk that these men pose to children in their own family, or their partner's family, Assessing the Risk, Protecting the Child aims to:

  • keep children safe
  • reduce and manage risk in the longer term
  • provide local authority children's services and others safeguarding children with a benchmark of risk management to enable informed decisions in child protection.

The assessment process uses a child-centred model, which keeps the protection of children and young people as the focus.

Assessing the Risk, Protecting the Child uses a guide developed by the NSPCC and the Sexual Behaviour Unit in Newcastle. The guide is based on the latest knowledge and best practice in sex offender assessment, drawing on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), attachment theory and the Good Lives approach.

How we're evaluating this service

Our evaluation team hold in-depth interviews with staff, social workers and the men and protective parents who have attended Assessing the Risk, Protecting the Child.

The evaluation for Assessing the Risk, Protecting the Child is mainly qualitative and focuses on:

  • how the assessment guide is being used and how it could be improved
  • how the assessment reports produced help inform child protection decision making
  • what the men and protective parents and carers who have been assessed think of the assessment process.

In-depth interviews are held with the NSPCC staff using the assessment guide, referring social workers who have requested assessment reports and men and protective parents and carers who have been assessed.

There is also a tracking exercise which follows-up what happened as a result of each assessment, 3, 6 and 12 months after it was completed and a survey with children and young people who were involved in the assessment.

The biggest challenge has been getting the men and protective parents and carers assessed to take part in an interview.

Men and protective parents and carers are often only attending the service because they feel it is the only way of getting contact with the named child. If the assessment recommends that they shouldn't have contact with the child or that contact should be restricted, this can leave them feeling angry or upset and they may not want to take part in the evaluation.

Even if they initially agree to be contacted about an interview, they may:

  • change their mind
  • change contact numbers
  • not be available at the agreed interview time.

Where the practitioner had a good relationship with the man or protective parent or carer, they facilitated the discussion about when would be a good time to be contacted about the interview.

For other cases, a range of approaches were used including emphasising that the interview was separate from the assessment and wouldn't influence the outcome, reinforcing that we were interested in hearing about positive and negative experiences, trying calling at different times of the day and evening and using text messages.

It was also difficult to contact referrers for interview given their busy workloads and the need to respond to emergencies at short notice. A persistent approach was taken to getting in touch with referrers calling at a range of different times of day, particularly early morning, leaving messages and checking availability with colleagues in their office.

This evaluation was carried out internally by the NSPCC evaluation department.

Contact Emma Belton for more information.

What we've learnt so far

Practitioners, referrers and service users have all provided feedback on how the service works. These findings have been used to improve the assessment guide, assessment report writing and service delivery.

Read the evaluation.

What we're doing next

The final evaluation will be published in January 2016. This will bring together findings from all the qualitative work and also report on the quantitative data on what happens as a result of each completed assessment. 

Impact and evidence hub

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

Support our services

Our services help children and families who need support. With your help, we can make sure even more children are safe from abuse. 

Donate now

Letting the Future In

Evidence, impact and evaluation of our service

Find out more

Turn the Page

Evidence, impact and evaluation of our service

Find out more

Protect and Respect

Evidence, impact and evaluation of our service

Find out more

National Clinical Assessment and Treatment Service (NCATS)

Evidence, impact and evaluation of our service

Find out more

Assessing the Risk, Protecting the Child

Evidence, impact and evaluation of our service

Find out more

Women as Protectors

Evidence, impact and evaluation of our service

Find out more

References

  1. Beech, A.R., Craig, L.A. and Browne, K.D. (eds.) (2009) Assessment and treatment of sex offenders: a handbook. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

  2. Fisher, D. and Beech, A. (1998) Reconstituting families after sexual abuse: the offender's perspective. Child abuse review 7(6): 420-434. [Freely view abstract or access full text by subscription: Child abuse review 7(6): 420-434].

  3. Hanson, R.K. and Bussiere, M.T. (1998) Predicting relapse: a meta-analysis of sexual offender recidivism studies. (Journal of consulting and clinical psychology 66(2): 348-362.

  4. Hebb, J. (2005) Outside the frame. Community care 1554: 32-33. [Freely view abstract or access full text by subscription: Community care 1554: 32-33].

  5. Radford, L. et al (2011) Child abuse and neglect in the UK today. London: NSPCC. 

  6. Saied-Tessier, A. (2014) Estimating the costs of child sexual abuse in the UK. London: NSPCC.