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Child Sexual Abuse

Volume 447: debated on Tuesday 13 June 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what therapeutic services her Department provides for children who have suffered sexual abuse; (75482)

(2) what assessment her Department has made of (a) the psychological effects of child sexual abuse and (b) effective treatments for such effects;

(3) what steps her Department is taking to ensure that children who have experienced sexual abuse receive the therapeutic services they require.

Specialist services including treatment for sexually transmitted infections, termination of pregnancy and mental health services are available for those children who need them as a result of sexual abuse. For children with less severe mental health problems, it is more appropriate for universal services to provide the psychological support they need than for them to be referred to specialist child and adolescent mental health services.

The Department and the Mental Health Foundation jointly funded a multi-centre study to evaluate the use of psychotherapy with girls aged six to 14 years who had been sexually abused. Two of the main findings were that high rates of depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder were found and both group and individual psychotherapy were effective and improvement in the patients’ condition tended to continue after treatment had ended.

It is important that children and maternity health services (CAMHS) are developed in a way that is responsive to the needs of the populations they serve. The CAMHS standard of the children's national service framework (NSF) sets out the requirement for an assessment of the needs of particular groups of children in the locality who are vulnerable or at risk. The NSF also states the commissioners and services should be able to

“demonstrate multi-agency partnership working in the following areas: the provision of services to children and young people who may or may not have been harmed, as set out in ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’, contributing to the assessment of complex child abuse cases; the assessment and provision of post-abuse therapeutic services; and services for looked after and adopted children”.