Investment in children’s nursing is vital as part of efforts to improve support for children who have suffered abuse, say nursing leaders.
Their comments follow the launch of a campaign by children’s charity the NSPCC to push for more funding for therapy and other mental health services for young abuse victims.
“If services are stretched too thin, vulnerable children will begin to slip through the cracks”
An NSPCC survey of more than 1,300 children’s professionals working in health, education and social care has revealed deep concern about current provision.
The research – carried out in November and December last year – found 96% felt support for children after abuse was “inadequate”.
Nearly all – 98% – said there was insufficient therapeutic support for children who have been abused, while 97% said there was not enough overall support from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services CAMHS.
Professionals with experience of referring children to therapeutic services said it had got harder to access these services in the last five years. Of these, 78% said it was true for children with diagnosable mental health problems and 87% that it was the case for those who may not have diagnosable mental health problems.
“It is disappointing to say the children I have referred have not been accepted by CAMHS due to thresholds”
One health visitor working in the South West, quoted in an NSPCC report published as part of the campaign, described her struggle to get children the support they need.
“As a safeguarding nurse with 100% of my caseload on a child protection plan having experienced significant abuse, it is disappointing to say the children I have referred have not been accepted by CAMHS due to thresholds,” she said.
The report said CAMHS service were “struggling to cope with demand”, with one in five referrals turned down and lengthy waiting times.
The charity’s It’s Time campaign, which was developed with a group of young people who have suffered abuse, is calling for more funding for support services and clear guidelines from government on when abuse victims should be offered therapy.
It is also calling for more research into the need for support services and the type of support that works best.
JP Nolan, head of nursing practice at the Royal College of Nursing, said children’s nurses had a vital role in working with abused children but warned vulnerable young people could miss out unless more money was put into the sector.
Children’s nurse funding vital to support victims of child abuse
“Child abuse is a major problem that can result in long term health issues, both mental and physical,” he said.
“Present in the community, in schools and support services, all children’s nurses play a crucial role in young people’s lives, and are skilled in helping to support those who have been abused,” he said. “However, if services are stretched too thin, vulnerable children will begin to slip through the cracks.
“When help and treatment is not available, the impact of abuse can escalate into major issues that continue long into adulthood,” said Mr Nolan.
He added: “Investment in children’s nursing and training, particularly in children’s mental health, is vitally needed if all victims of abuse are to get the help and support they deserve.”