Page last updated at 23:38 GMT, Sunday, 19 July 2009 00:38 UK

'Lack of help' for abuse victims

Generic children
Many abused children suffer serious psychological damage

A shortage of therapy services is leaving the victims of child sex abuse struggling to recover from their ordeal, a charity has claimed.

The NSPCC said there were an estimated 5,188 children and young people in Scotland who were seeking therapy after being abused.

But it said research showed there were only 134 therapeutic services available across the country to meet this need.

The Scottish Government said it was "committed" to helping abuse victims.

Debbie Allnock, a researcher with NSPCC, said abuse had "devastating" consequences for children, but there seemed to be no explicit recognition of the needs of children and young people who are being, or have recently been, sexually abused.

Their suffering may only get noticed when they show significant signs of distress, anguish or damaging behaviours
Debbie Allnock

Experiences of sexual abuse are common among people with severe long-term behavioural, criminal and addiction problems, she said.

Ms Allnock added: "It takes bravery for a young person to tell someone about their sexual abuse and ask for help.

"But their suffering may only get noticed when they show significant signs of distress, anguish or damaging behaviours. They may then have a long wait for the support they desperately need."

The researchers said they were only able to collect detailed data on a number of therapeutic services in Scotland and the UK-wide report can only give a "snapshot" of the situation in Scotland.

A more in-depth picture of therapeutic services in Scotland will be published in the next couple of months.

'Robust safeguards'

Ms Allnock added: "It is vital that effective specialist support is readily available when children want it, for as long as they want it.

"This helps reduce their psychological injury and enables them to lead more fulfilled lives."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We are committed to protecting children from all forms of abuse, including sexual abuse, and ensuring robust safeguards are in place for those at risk.

"That is why the Scottish Government has launched a comprehensive review of multi-agency child protection guidance, is establishing the Multi-Agency Resource Service (MARS) for complex child protection cases, and is working with HMIE on a second cycle of proportionate child protection inspections, to ensure that services offer effective protection to children at risk from abuse.

"We are also providing £130,000 per annum to ChildLine Scotland to give children at risk access to confidential advice and support."

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