Leading Cardiff and London-based law firm, Hugh James, is partnering with the NSPCC to discuss whether child sexual abuse (CSA) should be treated as a public health issue in Wales.
The Hugh James National Conference on Child Sexual Abuse, Prevention and Support, in association with the NSPCC, will take place on 25 January at Hugh James’ new head office in Two Central Square in Cardiff.
Prominent figures from the fields of law, healthcare, social justice and politics, including Rotherham MP Sarah Champion who has campaigned prominently to prevent child sexual abuse and support survivors, will discuss the ongoing prevalence of child sexual abuse in Wales and the need for improved policy, services and processes to help protect and support victims and their families.
The conference aims to educate professionals and key decisions makers, highlighting recommendations for positive change. A letter summarising these, endorsed by participants, will be sent to the Welsh Government this month.
Alan Collins, partner and sexual abuse specialist at Hugh James, said:
“There is much to applaud in Wales when it comes to tackling child sexual abuse. Wales is the first country in the world to have a national action plan to address child sexual exploitation, which has already been in place for three years, but there is still more that could be done.
“There is a chronic lack of public awareness around child sexual abuse, its causes and impact, compared to alcohol abuse, smoking, obesity and drink-driving for example, which have much higher levels of public understanding thanks to high-profile government lobbying and media campaigns.
“Child sexual abuse should be addressed as a public health issue so that it is not only better understood by the public, but so that more pressure is put on policymakers and the government to provide a long-term prevention and treatment strategy. It’s the only way that more people will be able to access the advice and support they need.”
According to recently-published NSPCC research, the number of sexual offences against children in Wales recorded by police has increased significantly over the past five years from 975 in 2011/12 to 2,845 in 2016/17. Last year alone (2017-18), the NSPCC’s Childline service carried out 468 counselling sessions with children who contacted it from Wales with concerns about sexual abuse.
NSPCC Cymru has campaigned for the creation of a child sexual abuse action plan and supports the Welsh Government’s plans to create one.
Des Mannion, head of NSPCC Cymru, said:
“Nine out of 10 victims of sexual abuse are targeted by someone they know so early intervention, along with better education about the dangers of sexual abuse, is key to keeping children safe from harm.
“Our analysis of child sexual abuse shows that police and social services are often only able to respond to child sexual abuse after it has taken place. With improvements in the way we approach this difficult issue we believe far more cases of appalling abuse against children can be prevented.
“And it is equally important that we look at what more can be done to help the survivors of child sexual abuse as they recover from what has happened to them.”
Other topics for discussion include exploitation of child migrants, developing polices around LGBT victims and the legal issues around abuse cases.
Speakers include Jon Brown, the NSPCC’s Head of Development and Impact, psychiatrist Jon Bisson and Matthew Sedgebeer from The Centre of Expertise on CSA,
For more information visit hughjames.com/csa-conference and follow the conversation on Twitter with #HJPreventCSA.
Image shows Des Mannion, head of NSPCC Cymru.