Young sex attack victims on Tyneside could soon get specialist one-to-one support weeks after after reporting the abuse.
Children and young people subjected to horrific sexual abuse and exploitation in Newcastle and Gateshead will now be offered help through a programme launched by The Children's Society.
The charity's new Support Rethought scheme, funded by the Home Office cash, is now offering one-to-one support to eight to 18 year olds, as part of a year long pilot.
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Help is being offered to children and young people referred to the service within six weeks of them reporting being the victim of sexual abuse.
The charity says many children are currently left without any help immediately after reporting, which can be a particularly difficult time., and they often face a lengthy wait before they can access long-term support from children’s mental health services to address the trauma.
The Children’s Society will now provide help to each child referred to the new service for between six and eight weeks alongside their parent or carer, unless they are the ones responsible for the abuse.
Referrals can be made by a variety of agencies including sexual assault referral centres, children’s social care, the police, education and other third sector organisations.
The service will support children who have been sexually abused either inside or outside the home, whether by relatives and people they know, or by strangers who groom them.
Project workers will provide emotional support and suggest coping strategies and tools the child and their parent or carer can use together.
They will also assess the child’s needs and any risks they may face, acting as advocates to make sure their wishes and feelings are known and helping to organise future support,
Assessments of children referred to social care identified 397 instances of child sexual abuse and 69 cases of child sexual exploitation in Newcastle in 2019/20.
While in Gateshead there were 226 instances involving child sexual abuse and 55 cases in which child sexual exploitation was identified.
But The Children's Society believes this could just be the tip of the iceberg as most cases of sexual abuse and exploitation are never reported to authorities.
The CSA (Child Sexual Abuse) Centre estimates that at least 15% of girls and 5% of boys experience child sexual abuse before the age of 16.
Becky Fedia, National Programme Manager for The Children’s Society’s Support Rethought service, said: “It takes enormous courage for any child or young person who has being sexually abused or exploited to tell someone about this horrendous ordeal.
“They may be experiencing thoughts and feelings that are hard for them to deal with and struggling to come to terms with the trauma.
“But in those difficult weeks after reporting the abuse many are left without the help they desperately need and face being placed on often long waiting lists before they get support.
“Through this new service we are looking to fill that gap in these pilot areas by helping children and young people find ways to cope and to access longer-term support if they need it.
“As part of this we want to help children and their parents or carers talk to one another about how they can best manage trauma together as this can be a vital source of support.”
As well as supporting children and young people, Support Rethought will also bring together experts from across the country to share insights about the abuse children are experiencing and to discuss improvements to the ways in which agencies work together to tackle child sexual abuse and exploitation and help victims.
The new programme will work alongside The Children’s Society’s long-established SCARPA service which provides targeted support to children and young people at risk of or who are going missing or being sexually exploited.
Professionals and parents can enquire about making a referral to the service by emailing [email protected]