Child sexual abuse costs the UK economy more than £3bn every year, according to new research published by the NSPCC.
In the first study of its kind, the charity found costs to the labour market – through victims’ lost productivity – could be as much as £2.7bn, while healthcare may cost as much as £182m, due to victims’ emotional and health issues, such as depression and behavioural problems.
The report’s author, Aliya Saied-Tessier, said the work represents, “an initial, and we believe first, UK attempt to quantify a range of estimates for the annual costs of child sexual abuse based on academic evidence”.
“The purpose of this paper is not to attempt to perfectly capture how child sexual abuse affects every individual victim. It is to use the existing academic literature to calculate a ballpark figure for how much child sexual abuse costs the victims and society,” she said.
It estimates how sexual abuse at a young age has economic implications for health, the criminal justice system and services for children, as well as the labour market.
Using a flow chart (below), the report summarised the relationship between abuse, outcomes and financial consequences.
The report puts forward the case for preventing and treating child sexual abuse, enabling policy makers to “put spending on child sexual abuse in the context of other costly public health issues, such as obesity and smoking,” according to Saied-Tessier.
Jon Brown, NSPCC head of strategy and development, said he hoped the findings would start a dialogue with government over preventative care.
“It shows this is a multi-billion pound problem per annum,” he said, adding the figures presented in the report were “conservative”.
The current climate – in the wake of high profile historical abuse cases – is the right time to draw the government’s attention to these issues, he said. “The numbers we are talking about cannot be ignored.”
Research also outlined in the report estimated the human and emotional cost of child sexual abuse could be as much as £38bn.
The authors did not have sufficient evidence to support this figure, but included it “to show policy makers that the true costs of child sexual abuse are substantial, which is important to bear in mind when making decisions about allocating resources for services”.
They pointed out that all figures included in the report were conservative estimates because not all abuse is disclosed by victims. “We hope policymakers will think about the costs that child sexual abuse imposes on society,” the report stated.