Sexual abuse victims waiting up to 14 months for counselling, MPs say

By Adele Forrest | 12/12/2018

Sexual abuse victims waiting up to 14 months for counselling, MPs say

SEXUAL assault victims are waiting up to 14 months to access counselling and the sector is struggling to keep up with increasing demand, MPs have said.

A report by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on funding and commissioning of sexual violence and abuse services said the sector was struggling to maintain sustainability amid “a chaotic funding landscape”. 

Rotherham MP Sarah Champion, APPG chairwoman, will launch the report this afternoon in Westminster.

The report states that sexual violence and abuse victims can wait up to 14 months to access counselling at Rape Crisis centres, and the sector was struggling to keep up with demand.

The report comes from the APPG’s inquiry, which heard evidence from survivors of sexual violence, service providers, civil servants and government ministers. 

Its findings show that specialist sexual violence and abuse services are facing serious challenges to maintain sustainability. Demand for Rape Crisis services has risen 17 per cent on last year but funding has not increased accordingly. 

Ms Champion said victims had been encouraged to come forward, particularly after the Rotherham abuse scandal, but Government support fell short.

Services are struggling due to short-term contracts being awarded, which creates instability and uncertainty for employees and service users. The report also finds that services are highly valued by users, but describes a chaotic funding landscape, with services being required to compete for funding from multiple government departments.

The report recommends the Government should:

  • Create a statutory right to specialist sexual violence and abuse services, with specific funding to match the commitment, so that all victims and survivors are able to access support at the appropriate time for them. 
  • Publish national standards on levels of specialist sexual violence service provision per head of the population. This will set a benchmark, against which local and national government can be held to account. 
  • Local bodies should coordinate to publish a victim's offer, outlining all the services available to a victim in their region. 
  • Other recommendations include three-year funding cycles to become the norm across government departments and for funding for specialist sexual violence and abuse services to be ringfenced to protect it from political whim and favour.

Ms Champion said: “In its 2016 report, Ending Violence Against Women and Girls the Government committed that by 2020, no victims would be turned away. 

“It should be a Government priority to sort out the funding of these vital services with great urgency or it will miss its own target. 

“The needs of survivors of sexual violence and abuse should be a priority. The Government should be judged on how it supports vulnerable victims of the most horrible crimes — and right now they are failing.

“After Savile, Rotherham and #MeToo we have encouraged victims and survivors to come forward and report sexual violence yet the Government have not provided the support services that so many need to rebuild their lives.” 

Rape Crisis co-chief executive Diane Whitfield said: “It was evident from the APPG on Sexual Violence sessions that Rape Crisis member groups are struggling with the complex, convoluted and diminishing funding and commissioning landscape, as reflected in the report. 

“This report will be an extremely useful resource for all 44 member centres to use locally and for Rape Crisis nationally in the continuing dialogue in search of sustainable funding models for much needed specialist services facing unprecedented demand. 

“We sincerely hope that the recommendations in this report are acted upon and do not adhere to the pattern of other recommendations over the years which have been followed by inaction and an absence of acknowledgement of the urgent need to resolve this ongoing and worsening problem.”

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