Sexually abused young children facing dearth of help in Scotland

Provision is worse the younger a child is, the NSPCC found.
Provision is worse the younger a child is, the NSPCC found.
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A children’s welfare charity says the Scottish Government is not doing enough for young children who have suffered sexual abuse.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in Scotland said each year thousands of youngsters referred to mental health services are waiting an unacceptable length of time for treatment.

Figures released by ISD Scotland this week revealed between July and October more than 1,300 children had to wait longer than 18 weeks – the Scottish Government set standard. More than 20 per cent of the children referred were never seen because they were rejected for not meeting the threshold.

An NSPCC Scotland study found that provision is best for older children and decreases in quality with declining age of the child, with extremely poor provision for primary aged children.

The research found there is an almost complete dearth of services for children aged five and under or those with disabilities, who are at significantly higher risk of experiencing sexual abuse.

Joanna Barrett, NSPCC Scotland policy and public affairs manager, said: “Each year, hundreds of children call the NSPCC-run Childline service because of sexual abuse. A significant number also talk about mental health issues, with symptoms often being triggered by the trauma of the abuse.

“NSPCC Scotland research has shown that child and adolescent mental health services appear to be inaccessible to those who have experienced sexual abuse, because of strict referral criteria.

Barrett added: “The Scottish Government has committed to a Barnahus (“children’s house”) model – a one stop shop providing an integrated health, therapeutic and justice response to victims of abuse – and is currently developing standards.

“But in the almost five years support for children affected by sexual abuse hasn’t improved at all.”

Read Joanna Barrett’s report online at