Agencies who work with children affected by sexual abuse have called on public services to strengthen their approach to supporting victims and their families.
The Cleveland Child Sexual Abuse Transformation Project was established in September 2020, following a £205,000 investment by the Home Office to transform how the area responds to child sexual abuse.
The project is a partnership made up of five agencies and co-ordinated by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner. The agencies are A Way Out, Barnardo’s, Eva Women’s Aid, Arch Teesside and the Halo Project.
Over the last two years, the project has been delivering a number of bespoke programmes for the families of victims, victims transitioning from child to adult support, male victims and victims from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) background.
Since 2020, over 400 people have benefitted from the project, including over 260 professionals, 100 young people and almost 30 parents or carers.
One user of A Way Out’s Transition service said: “I genuinely feel when I come into this building you are here to listen to me, like really listen to me without making any judgements.
“I feel like I can bring whatever I want to bring. If I’m down I can come and just be me without having to give you a reason.”
As well as directly supporting victims, a significant research project was conducted to understand how victims and their families felt support from public agencies could be improved to meet their needs.
Christopher Hartworth from Barefoot Research has led on the evaluation, which found that child sexual abuse in Cleveland is on the rise – with almost 1000 crimes recorded in the last 12 months.
Christopher’s research made three clear recommendations to improve outcomes for victims. These recommendations have been turned into a pledge, signed by all members of the partnership and Police and Crime Commissioner Steve Turner.
- To maintain and continue a strategic group for further improvements in tackling sexual violence;
- To ensure referrals into Teesside Sexual Assault Referral Centre are captured for all sexual violence reports to police;
- That all police officers and trainees receive trauma-informed training on an ongoing basis.
PCC Steve Turner Steve said: “This has been a really successful project which – through the hard work of existing agencies – has enhanced the support available for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse in Cleveland.
“I’m pleased to say that some of these services will continue to operate beyond the lifespan of this project, which is great news for those who desperately need them.
“I’m proud to add my voice to those of the experts to call for improvements to the way victims and survivors are supported by police, local councils and other services.”
Barnardo’s Therapeutic Team Manager, Clare Sullivan, said: “‘A Different Vision’ has created a golden thread weaving together all the local services addressing the impact of child sexual abuse.
We have been able to gain clarity through a trauma-informed lens of the support we can provide to vulnerable children and families to best meet their needs. We have also been able to identify where there are still gaps in service provision.
“The legacy will be the ongoing conversations between services and decision makers about what we can do better and what we need to do next.
On Tuesday 17 May, over 100 delegates attend a conference entitled ‘A Different Vision’ and hosted by Police and Crime Commissioner Steve Turner, to understand the impact of the project and ongoing recommendations.Read the full Evaluation Report Read the 'A Different Vision' pledge