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Hundreds receive specialist training in supporting child sexual abuse victims

Hundreds of practitioners who work with children across Dorset, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole have received specialist training in responding to child sexual abuse.

More than 240 frontline practitioners have now benefited from the free specialist training, provided by both Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) over the past few months as part of a scheme funded by the Dorset Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.

The sessions, provided to those working for organisations ranging from schools and nurseries to children’s charities and hospitals, have helped staff understand the impact of child sexual abuse related trauma on young people and their families, how to spot the signs and how to support children to disclose abuse in a safe way.

  • One healthcare worker who attended the training said: “I started doing outreach work and was nervous about this subject, but the training has really boosted my confidence.”
  • A school pastoral care worker who also benefited from the sessions said: “It has made me more aware of the embedded impact of trauma and how child sexual abuse affects victims and survivors throughout their lives.”

The sessions were provided following child sexual abuse awareness raising workshops carried out last year with hundreds of frontline practitioners who were asked what extra training they felt they needed.

Bespoke training packages were created in response and the sessions were provided by Acts Fast and STARS – specialist charities that have a huge amount of experience in working with victims and their families.

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill granted an extension to funding earlier this year, enabling the LSCBs to provide the training as part of a continuation of their Tackling Child Sexual Abuse project that started in 2018.

As part of this project, the LSCBs have also carried out further work to monitor the nature and scope of child sexual abuse cases across the county to ensure responses are as effective as possible.

A year-long awareness campaign has been run in partnership with the NSPCC to raise awareness of child sexual abuse using the resources of their national PANTS campaign featuring the animated dinosaur Pantosaurus.

The LSCBs have now been able to invest in their own Pantosaurus suit and photo board – and there has been widespread media coverage of these being used at schools, nurseries and community events to help provide children with important messages about staying safe.

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill said: “Child sexual abuse is something we all need to be aware of, and this work has provided hundreds of frontline workers with specialist knowledge about what to look out for and how to support young people and their families.”

Sue Jones, LSCB project lead, said: “The Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Project has had a significant impact across the whole of Dorset.  The active participation of so many practitioners from a vast array of services has been incredible in spreading the messages that child sexual abuse is largely preventable if children are made aware of how to keep themselves safe from an early age, in a fun, age appropriate and memorable way.  

“Organisations involved in the project have learned a lot about the nature and scope of such cases across Dorset and have been able to find assurance that key services are working effectively to respond to cases that are disclosed.

“The wider workforce has been provided with the tools and confidence to have those important preventative conversations with children and their families, but also to provide appropriate support for those who are affected by this type of abuse.

“The funding from the Police and Crime Commissioner has been key in reaching so many people and practitioners, as has the support of national and local voluntary sector partners. All have come together to help keep children safe.”         


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