Assessing and supporting the families of men who pose a sexual risk to children
Many men who pose a sexual risk to children do not receive specialist help, but they may still have close contact with children. Professionals don't always have the specialist skills to assess them and make decisions about protecting the children in their family. Assessing the Risk, Protecting the Child works with the whole family, assessing their safety and helping professionals make decisions about actions needed to protect them.
We've evaluated the service, asking for the views of the families who were assessed and the professionals who referred them. We also asked the referrers what changed for the families 3, 6 and 12 months after their assessment. Our 2015 reports summarise findings from interviews with service users, professionals and NSPCC practitioners.
This is part of our Impact and evidence series.
Author: Emma Belton
During the programme, families attended an average of 5 assessment sessions. These took place with:
- the man who posed a sexual risk to children
- the children in his family
- the children's protective parent or carer (this could be the man's current or former partner, or another family member).
When the assessment was complete, the professional who referred the family to the service received a report which included recommendations about the actions needed to protect the child.
- Children could not be interviewed by practitioners in just over a third of the assessments that were carried out, as they were either too young to take part or didn't want to. Some teams made observations of the child and their protective parent or carer instead.
- The adults who took part in the assessment sessions were generally clear about their purpose, but the children and young people involved were less clear about how their information would be shared and what would happen after the sessions.
- Generally the men and protective parents or carers felt the practitioners carrying out the assessment treated them well. However they could find it difficult answering personal questions and having to talk about things from their past that they wanted to forget about.
- The children and young people who were being assessed felt comfortable with the practitioners, although they found it difficult to talk about their feelings about their dad. This was particularly the case with younger children. The children found it helpful to be able to play as they talked and have drinks and snacks available.
- Reports took an average of 5 and a half months to complete. 3/4 of the professionals who referred families to the service were satisfied with this time span because they felt the report was detailed, but it was felt the process took too long for the families involved.
- The detail provided in the reports helped professionals to understand the risks posed by the man and the actions needed to protect the child.
- The professionals who referred families to the service highlighted that the families could find it difficult to process the information in the reports. They suggested the reports could be made more accessible if they were shorter and used clearer language. It was helpful for families if the report authors met with them to share and explain the findings of the report.
- The professionals who had referred families to the service tended to agree with the recommendations made in the report. They found it helpful that the reports made practical recommendations and clearly demonstrated how the author came to their conclusions.
- Some professionals did not agree with the recommendations made in the report, as they felt the NSPCC used different thresholds for action compared to local authorities.
- Over half the professionals who referred families to the service felt the assessment report determined the actions they took to support the family. Some professionals felt the report confirmed what had already been suggested by other evidence, but they still found it useful to have this confirmed in writing.
- 2/3 of recommendations had been implemented 6 months after the assessment. In some cases, family circumstances had changed after the assessment which made the recommendations irrelevant.
- Sometimes the men and protective parents or carers found they were not always able to access the support recommended in the report.
What happened to families after the assessment process was complete?
- Protective parents and carers felt the assessment process had given them a better understanding of the potential risks to their child and had made them more able to take action to protect their child. The professionals who referred them to the service agreed with this, but a lower proportion of professionals felt the protective parent or carer was able to take action to protect their child.
- Children and young people felt that the assessment sessions with NSPCC staff had helped them and taught them new things about what to do if they felt unsafe. However a lower proportion of referrers felt that children had learnt what to do if they felt unsafe.
- 1 year after the assessment was complete, half the men in our sample were no longer in contact with the NSPCC or children's services. 1/3 were involved in further work or treatment and new allegations had been made against 2 men.
- 1/3 of the men had experienced a change in their circumstances after their assessment, which had an impact on their risk level. The level of risk posed by the men had increased in 1/5 of cases.
Following a strategic review of programmes and resources, we are no longer accepting referrals to Assessing the risk, protecting the child. However, the learning from this evaluation will be helpful to other services working with the families of men who pose a sexual risk to children.
"The NSPCC worker explained about different things and playing. Sharing things - like the worry tree and about my dad. She explained things like what happened and what is going to happen. That makes me feel better."
(Child aged 6, with help from parent/carer)
"Home visits didn't feel my home had been invaded/tainted by having visits there - which I'd been fearful of."
"It gave a real insight into the man and his understanding of what had taken place, his life generally, how he presents as a person, his views and values."
Please cite as: Belton, E. (2017) Assessing the risk, protecting the child: final evaluation report. London: NSPCC.