Professionals ‘lack confidence’ in working with children displaying harmful sexual behaviour

A survey of almost 600 staff working in social care and education revealed half had low confidence when working with children on this issue

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Many professionals working with children displaying harmful sexual behaviour are not confident of their ability to do direct work in this area, research has found.

A survey of 594 professionals, including social workers, teachers and mental health workers, found most felt the issue was becoming more prevalent but 50% had low confidence in working with children to address it.

Most respondents said they felt confident in identifying harmful sexual behaviour but felt they needed more support from senior staff when working with young people directly.

The research was carried out by the National Children’s Bureau and Research in Practice. Their report said the low confidence could be caused by young people who display sexually harmful behaviour proving difficult to engage, or professionals finding it difficult to balance the interests of a child in that position with the safety of other children and professionals around them.

The research identified four key areas where policy and practice could be improved. These were:

  • embedding peer support and team-based learning on the issue
  • strengthening support through reflective supervision for practitioners working directly with children displaying harmful sexual behaviour
  • training and skills development for those working with or caring for children displaying harmful sexual behaviour
  • improving awareness of harmful sexual behaviour

Anna Feuchtwang, chief executive of the National Children’s Bureau, said it was important to listen to practitioners’ experiences.

She said: “Professionals must have the support they need to feel confident in taking difficult decisions that balance the needs of children with the safety of other young people.

“As a top priority, local authorities and other key  organisations should enable staff to discuss the challenges they face, through one-to-one supervision, team learning opportunities and ‘case clinics’, where agencies can come together on effective practice and problem solving.”

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2 Responses to Professionals ‘lack confidence’ in working with children displaying harmful sexual behaviour

  1. Tom J July 12, 2017 at 11:21 am #

    Brook offer this fantastic online resource which I wish more professionals would use rather than just going on guess work etc. This is an informed tool:

  2. londonboy July 12, 2017 at 1:52 pm #

    Many of these children have mild learning disabilities. See
    Professionals need multi-agency working eg for routes to diagnosis of autism eg for girls in their teens so that all understand the difficulties that these children face – trying to fit in, trying to make sense of their own (sexual) identity for example and help around healthy relationships should start much earlier with material tailored for cognitive difference. See

    Course if few working in children’s services understand children’s disabilities that is a problem for all disabled children not just those experiencing CSE. CSE is just a symptom of a wider faiure