New initiative launched in Norfolk and Waveney to reduce harmful sexual behaviour

Hellesdon Hospital, which is run by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. Photo: Bill Smith

Hellesdon Hospital, which is run by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant � 2012

Professionals who work with children and teenagers in Norfolk and Waveney will be given specialist training to identify the signs of harmful sexual behaviour following the launch of a new initiative designed to reduce offending and protect vulnerable young people.

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) and the Norfolk Youth Offending Team (YOT) have been given £150,000 of local transformation funding from the area's five clinical commissioning groups to expand services for children showing signs of harmful sexual behaviour.

The money will be used to train staff who work with young people, such as teachers, health professionals, social workers and police, so that they can better identify early warning signs

An NSFT specialist clinical psychologist and a YOT harmful sexual behaviour specialist worker are now driving the initiative, and will spend the next six months raising awareness and capacity within the local workforce.

Following that, they will focus on developing interventions to address behaviour in the most serious cases, which in Norfolk and Waveney is often sibling on sibling abuse.

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Nicki Bramford, a deputy service manager with NSFT's Children, Families and Young People's services (CFYP), said: 'This new initiative will focus initially on upskilling practitioners who work with children and young people in what is a very specialist area. Our aim is to build resilience and capacity among professionals so that they can start having difficult conversations and taking the first steps to address harmful sexual behaviour among their clients and service users.

'This type of behaviour does not occur in isolation – the young person will usually already be involved with mental health services or the police, for example. That is why it is so important that staff who work with young people have the necessary specialist skills to identify the signs and pick up on potential problems.

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'This is a much-needed service which builds on our excellent track record of working closely with partners across the system to make sure vulnerable young people don't fall through the gaps.

'Harmful sexual behaviour has huge ramifications, not just for the victim but for the perpetrator, who will carry any conviction with them for the rest of their life. By identifying potential issues early, we hope that we can take the right action to stop people from becoming either victims or perpetrators, in turn improving their chances of living a happy, healthy life.'

Chris Small, head of youth offending services, said: 'Norfolk YOT is very pleased to be part of this innovative project as it will enable us to extend the considerable skills and experience we have developed over the last twenty years into work with young people outside of the criminal justice system. This will provide a much-needed early response and reduce the impact of harmful sexual behaviour on young people.

'A key outcome for us is the benefits that are to be gained from developing the knowledge and skills of the wider children and young people's workforce across Norfolk so they become confident in their ability to work with and change the behaviour of children and young people exhibiting harmful sexual behaviour.'

A spokesperson from Norfolk Safeguarding Children's Board said: 'The NSCB welcomes this new initiative, which supports the wider Child Sexual Abuse strategy in Norfolk. Previous serious case reviews in Norfolk have shown that harmful sexual behaviour and the confidence of the workforce in responding to this issue is something that requires a dedicated focus and response. We have already seen, from the interest in the forthcoming awareness-raising events, that professionals from a wide range of agencies are keen to increase their knowledge of this area of practice.

'The NSCB will also be working alongside the HSB team in the coming weeks to carry out an audit of current HSB provision, in order to develop a multi-agency action plan for moving forward the partnership response in Norfolk.'

Katy Blakely, Mental Health and LD Transformation Manager with NHS South Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said: 'This is a great example of different organisations working together to deliver a service to benefit the patients of Norfolk and Waveney.

'It is important to provide prevention schemes to change behaviours for the future and ensure that all children have the opportunity to lead a happy and healthy life.'

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