Female education professional speaks to a mother and son behind a desk in a classroom

02 Nov 2018

General Updates

Uncovering the scale of child sexual abuse in social care records

Senior Research and Evaluation Officer Kairika Karsna explains how local authorities in Wales can help us uncover the truer extent of CSA encountered by social services.

Senior Research and Evaluation Officer Kairika Karsna explains how local authorities in Wales can help us uncover the truer extent of CSA encountered by social services.

The number of children and young people on the child protection register in Wales almost doubled between 1993/94 and 2016/17 – but over the same period the number on the register for reasons of sexual abuse fell from 331 to 120. Does this mean that local authorities in Wales are now encountering far fewer children and young people for whom child sexual abuse is a concern?

We know this isn’t the case, and there are a number of reasons why the child protection register figures do not capture the full scale of child sexual abuse in local authority caseloads. For example, the category of abuse assigned to a child or young person when they are placed on the register is unlikely to change while they remain on it, even if other concerns are identified later. And many children at risk of child sexual abuse are not placed on the register at all because it is people outside the family who may be committing the abuse. We therefore know that the child protection register is not an accurate source of data for the child sexual abuse concerns dealt with by local authorities.

Now, supported by the Welsh Government, the CSA Centre is commissioning research to improve the estimate of known child sexual abuse cases dealt with by social care services. Between December 2018 and February 2019, we will:

  • audit samples of children’s case files across different teams in two Welsh local authorities;
  • look at a snapshot of cases referred to social services because of child sexual abuse concerns, and the outcomes of those referrals;
  • interview team managers and social workers in both local authorities to hear their views (which will be reported anonymously).

Having more accurate figures about the levels of child sexual abuse they encounter will help local authorities to allocate resources appropriately and develop services that meet victims’ needs, leading to a better response to child sexual abuse.

Improving understanding of the scale and nature of child sexual abuse is an important aspect of our work at the CSA Centre, and this project will form an important part of our research in this area.

What will the research look at?

The audit of case files will compare practices in the two local authorities, and will seek to answer questions such as:

  • How many children for whom child sexual abuse concerns have been raised are ‘hidden’ in other categories of abuse (neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse), and why?
  • Do those children receive any intervention for child sexual abuse?
  • What happens to children who are referred but for whom concerns do not meet the thresholds for local authority interventions?

Want to take part?

By taking part in the research, your local authority will improve its understanding of the scale of known CSA locally, and the proportion of children who are hidden in other categories of abuse. You’ll also gain an insight into the strengths and weaknesses of your current recording practices for child sexual abuse, and the impact of these practices on the interventions and services that children receive.

We’ll provide you with a day of support to help you to take forward the learning from the study.

Interested in taking part? You’ll need to:

  • have staff available to support the work of the researcher during the fieldwork (10–15 days) with basic tasks;
  • be able to release staff for interviews and/or focus groups (1–2 hours);
  • have relatively well-kept (but not perfect) electronic records, particularly the chronologies.

For more information about the research and how to register an interest in taking part, please read our briefing.

Download the briefing for local authorities (PDF, English)

Download the briefing for local authorities (PDF, Welsh)

If you are interested in participating in this research, please email Kairika Karsna.