The right to recover

Topics: Sexual abuse

Provision of therapeutic services in the West of Scotland for children and young people following sexual abuse

Not all children and young people need a specialised service following an experience of sexual abuse. However, for those who do require help, therapeutic support can help them rebuild their lives.

These two reports look at what happens to children following the disclosure or discovery of sexual abuse in the West of Scotland. They investigate how the emotional needs of children are assessed following abuse and what services are available to help them recover from their experiences.

The main report summarises findings from:

  • a mapping exercise to identify existing sexual abuse services

  • a survey to gather more information on identified services

  • facilitated discussion groups with professionals who work with children who have experienced sexual abuse.

More detailed information about the issues discussed by professionals is included in the companion report.

Authors: Susan Galloway, Rachel Love and Alison Wales
Published: 2017

Key findings

Findings are divided into three themes.

1. The child's pathway after disclosure

  • There is currently no standard expert assessment of emotional and mental health following disclosure of sexual abuse and no routine follow up.

  • Services working with children's carers following abuse tend to be aimed at either the most vulnerable children and young people, or included as part of services which involve a whole family assessment of the child.

  • Pathways to specialist help are clear for children with on-going child protection concerns, but not for children without on-going concerns.

  • Where local services exist, barriers to referrals include:
    • professionals' lack of knowledge of available services
    • issues around the assessment of suitability and timing
    • complex referral processes
    • resource pressures.

2. The child's access to help

  • 39 services in the West of Scotland provide face to face therapeutic support to children following sexual abuse. 21 are specialist services and the other 18 help children with a range of difficulties and adversities.

  • The majority of services offer long-term, open-ended, tailored support and include outreach work.

  • There is an average of 1.5 full time equivalent therapeutic members of staff working in specialist services. Most services do not have the capacity to meet demand, which means in most areas children have to wait to access support.

  • Most specialist service provision for children under 18 is offered by adult-focused sexual violence and survivor organisations.

  • Secondary school age children are more likely to have access to specialist help than younger age groups.

3. Funding and sustainability

  • The majority of service provision is in the third sector and is dependent upon short-term, fragmented and insecure sources of funding.
  • In over half of the third sector services the main source of funding is due to end in 2018 or before.
  • Where specialist services have 1 major source of funding, the Scottish Government and trusts and foundations are the most common major funders.
  • Despite improvements in the response to child sexual abuse and a national focus on the issue, little has changed in terms of service provision since the NSPCC's 2008 mapping study, Sexual abuse and therapeutic services for children and young people: the gap between provision and need.


  • Every child should receive an expert assessment of their emotional and mental health needs following a disclosure of sexual abuse. This should consider the support needs of the child's non-abusing parents and carers.

  • There should be routine follow up for each child to review changes to their needs over time.

  • Information, advice and support should be available to non-abusing parents and carers. They should be given a named point of contact to go to for help or advice.

  • There should be a local, integrated, therapeutic care pathway for children following disclosure of sexual abuse.

  • Action should be coordinated at the national, regional and local level to ensure that wherever a child lives they have access to the right help, in the right place, at the right time.

  • Information about available services should be centrally collated, routinely updated and disseminated to relevant professionals.

  • Improvements should be made to the reporting, recording and collation of data about child sexual abuse.


"It is all about timing. I mean a child can be really ready to see someone - but then it takes that service 6 months to be seen by the right person. So, it's not necessarily the assessment or the referral part – it's the actual waiting to get the service. It's a resource issue I think – a lot of the time."

(Social worker)

"I think whether children who have been sexually abused are offered a service depends on the symptoms they are presenting with and the symptoms that are noticed. That is a real worry for me."

(CAMHS professional)

"This is a problem, as the prevention work we now do is producing more disclosures, which we don't have capacity to support."

(Specialist service practitioner)


Please cite as: Galloway, S., Love, R. and Wales, A. (2017) The right to recover: therapeutic services for children and young people following sexual abuse: an overview of provision in the West of Scotland. London: NSPCC.