The NSPCC has once again raised the important issue of the shortfall in mental health services for children who have been sexually abused. A survey of more than 1,000 professionals in the UK, (social workers, doctors, psychologists, teachers etc.) found that nearly all believed that there was not enough help. And nearly 80% believed the situation was getting worse, with many children having to wait for more than five months to get any help.
The NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless is absolutely right to say that this is a situation that "shames the nation". It is a situation that has just gone on and on, without any kind of satisfactory progress. In this blog in 2009 (six years ago) I welcomed research on this topic from the NSPCC and the University of Edinburgh and pointed out that practitioners had been aware for years before of the large gaps in these types of services.
It seems nothing changes. British governments of various political complexions seem incapable of grabbing hold of this issue. It appears they just stand-by while children and young people suffer.
I believe that this type of chronic penny-pinching is a false economy, because children and young people who fail to get the therapeutic services they require can develop life-long problems ranging from anxiety and depression to post traumatic stress disorder and psychotic illnesses. Studies by Prevent Child Abuse America have estimated that the daily cost of long term mental illness resulting from maltreatment during childhood was nearly $13 million in the USA in 2001.
As I said in 2009: “A humane child protection system must also deal promptly with the consequences of the abuse and do all that can be done to mitigate them. Spending adequate sums of money on therapeutic services for maltreated children is not only the right thing to do; it is also financially prudent if it reduces the need to continue providing mental health care for adult survivors of abuse.”
Sadly that needs saying as much today as it did then.