Inspectors praise council's 'trauma-informed' focus

By Joe Lepper

| 31 January 2019

Inspectors have praised a London borough's investment in ensuring professionals have a better sensitivity to victims of child sexual abuse.

Islington has been praised by inspectors for its "trauma-informed" practice

So far staff at 11 schools across Islington have received "trauma-informed training" and a further eight are completing the programme this year, the joint inspection by Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission, and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services found.

Professionals who are in contact with children are being equipped with skills in building relationships with children and their families to help detect abuse and achieve the best outcomes for children.

They are focused on ensuring the child's views are at the centre of support.

The purpose of the inspection was to look in detail at Islington's public sector approach to sexual abuse in the family.

It found the trauma-informed approach is particularly helpful to teachers and foster carers in supporting the emotional, behavioural and mental health needs of children affected by abuse.

The report states: "Staff report to inspectors that this training has been transformational to the culture in schools, for example by providing a safe space for children to disclose abuse and helping teachers to be professionally curious," adds the report.

The rollout of this approach is also part of a 10-year strategy to improve early help support, which got under way in 2015.

"Adopting trauma-informed practice across the partnership demonstrates senior leaders' unequivocal dedication to the shared belief that building trusting relationships with children and their families, while understanding the impact of trauma, is key to achieving positive outcomes and change for children," states the report.

"This investment in training staff across the partnership demonstrates commitment to providing a safe environment in which children can disclose sexual abuse, as well as commitment to further understanding the needs of those children who exhibit harmful sexualised behaviours."

The October 2018 launch of the UK's first house dedicated to supporting young victims of sexual abuse in Islington, Barnet, Camden, Enfield and Haringey, is also among the innovative approaches highlighted for praise.

The Lighthouse has been set up in north London to offer children a comfortable and safe environment to receive medical, social and therapeutic care.

Police also use the house to interview victims and gather evidence in a child-friendly environment.

At the time of the inspectorates' visit in December, 11 children from Islington had been referred to the Lighthouse, with three securing "positive interventions".

"The Lighthouse is helping to address previously unmet need, so that children and adults can access medical and therapeutic support," say inspectors.

"This can be provided over time and at a pace that recognises children's vulnerabilities, rights and choices effectively."

While inspectors said it was too early to assess the full impact, they approved of the service model being "firmly rooted in the child's voice and experience".

Other highlighted areas include the need to ensure greater consistency in understanding of risks of sexual to children of sexual abuse.

Inspectors found that in one case there was "insufficiently robust" understanding of the risk to a child whose father has a history of sexual offences.

Levels of expertise among children's health workers in supporting victims of sexual abuse is variable, inspectors found.

Concerns are also raised about a lack of police detectives in the borough with experience of dealing with child sexual abuse cases.

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