Child Sexual Abuse (Referrals)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 21st December 2017.

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Photo of Alexander Stewart Alexander Stewart Conservative

5. To ask the First Minister what the Scottish Government’s response is to figures from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Scotland, which suggest that there has been a 42 per cent increase in child sexual abuse referrals in the last year. (S5F-01853)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

All children should grow up free from the risk of abuse. Those statistics highlight that there is more for all of us to do to keep our young people safe. The NSPCC indicates that the rise in referrals might reflect greater awareness of the risk posed to children and the need to take action in response. It might also be due to a greater willingness by children who have been sexually abused to tell someone what has happened to them. That suggests that victims of abuse now have greater confidence that they will be listened to and that appropriate action will be taken by agencies and professionals.

We are of course all responsible for protecting children and I urge anyone who is worried about a child perhaps being abused to report their concerns to the police.

Photo of Alexander Stewart Alexander Stewart Conservative

Research carried out by the NSPCC found that there are at least 14 local authority areas across Scotland in which there are no services for child victims of sexual abuse. As we approach the year of young people, will the First Minister commit to ensuring that all child victims of sexual abuse in Scotland will have adequate access to the specialist recovery services that they require?

The First Minister:

It is vital that all children have access to the specialist services that they require. In light of the member’s questions, I will discuss the issue further with the relevant ministers to see whether the Government should be taking more action in partnership with local authorities to improve the availability of those services.

When we see increases in statistics of this type, we can and should see it as something of concern—it is of deep concern—but we should also be aware that what often lies behind such an increase is an increase in awareness and people feeling more able to come forward. We should encourage that, but, as the member rightly said, when we encourage people to come forward, we must make sure that the services are there to support them when they do.