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Abuse victims face counselling delays as numbers leave the authorities surprised

High demand: Rotherham Council is facing a greater demand than expected for counselling from child sexual exploitation survivors
High demand: Rotherham Council is facing a greater demand than expected for counselling from child sexual exploitation survivors
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More child sexual exploitation victims  have come forwards for counselling than health chiefs anticipated when they set up a joint service to help survivors of the Rotherham scandal two years ago, it has emerged, leaving more than 100 on waiting lists.

More child sexual exploitation victims have come forwards for counselling than health chiefs anticipated when they set up a joint service to help survivors of the Rotherham scandal two years ago, it has emerged, leaving more than 100 on waiting lists.

The 131 on waiting lists in April this year could face delays of up to six months before they can get the help they need, with a report warning those hold-ups are likely to increase because available cash has been reducing year on year, meaning services have to be cut back.

A total of more than £500,000 was allocated for three years when the service was set up between Rotherham Council and the town’s Clinical Commissioning Group in 2016, with a budget reduction of 19 per cent factored in for last year and then 23 per cent for the current financial year – and no flexibility to take account of changing needs.

The aim was to provide help on two levels, with practical, emotional support and advocacy along with counselling and a report to Rotherham councillors now reveals “Significant waiting lists have developed in both service areas but not for all providers.

“The length of time that victims and survivors are waiting for support or theraputic intervention is likely to increase as funding is profiled to reduce in 2018/19 and providers reduce their service accordingly.”

It is the theraputic side of the service where demand was under estitmated.

Predictive work done before the start of the project suggested demand would reduce, but experience has show that to be inaccurate and the report warns councillors: “The length of time that victims and survivors are waiting for support or therapeutic intervention varies considerably between providers. Long waiting times mean that people are not getting the ‘right care’ at the ‘right time’ and may lead to negative consequences.”

“As investigations progress and engagement activity with victims and survivors increases, it is very likely that demand for and pressures on commissioned and non-commissioned services will increase. 

Given that the timescales for police investigations and prosecution can last up to two years the expectation of 12 months support (as set out in the service specification) might not be appropriate.

“On the other hand it is recognised that trauma can be a lifelong issue. Future service design will need to consider an appropriate timescale for interventions.”

Discussions have now started between the Head of Mental Health Commissioning in Rotherham, the chief executive of the Rotherham Abuse Counselling Service which has a significant waiting list and others to provide an in-depth assessment of the situation and to try to identify alternative ways of getting the support victims need.

An application for £600,000 made to the Government to provide ‘wrap around’ support for victims and survivors involved in Stovewood, the follow up police work which was launched as a consequence of the CSE scandal being exposed, was rejected late last year.

However, the CCG has been awarded £250,000 from NHS England and the Justice Department for work with victims involved in Stovewood investigations, being spent in the current year with the possibility of more funding next year if it is demonstrated to be successful.