'Child Houses' to offer support to young sex abuse victims

Child victims of sexual abuse will be able to receive support and protection under one roof as part of a pilot project brought forward by Amber Rudd and Sadiq Khan.

The Home Secretary and Mayor of London will this week set out plans for two "Child Houses" where children will be able to receive medical care, therapeutic support and give evidence.

The £7.2 million Home Office-funded initiative led by the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) and NHS England will help an estimated 400 children and young people a year.

The facilities are due to open in London next year and they will be the first of their kind in the UK.

They are based on similar facilities used in Iceland which act as a single location for victims of child sexual abuse to receive help.

Ms Rudd said: "Child sexual abuse is a horrendous crime that this Government is taking action to tackle, both by protecting children from abuse and ensuring that offenders are swiftly brought to justice.

"As we investigate and prosecute these crimes it is vital that victims, who have already suffered in ways most of us could never imagine, are supported and protected throughout the process.

"The Home Office is providing police forces with funding that rewards and incentivises new approaches to police work and drives forward positive change. The Child Houses, by improving evidence gathering while putting the needs of the victim front and centre, demonstrate exactly the kind of innovative thinking that we are encouraging."

The use of recorded interviews with clinical child psychologists and police officers will mean victims will not have to recount their experiences to multiple agencies.

Meanwhile, video links will allow for the giving of evidence during legal proceedings in a more child-friendly environment.

The Government is also set to launch its Child Sexual Exploitation Response Unit this week, a £1.24 million initiative to provide specialist support to people working in safeguarding across the country.

An NSPCC spokesman said: "We have long called for the need for children to be at the heart of services that help them recover.

"We have been strong advocates of Child Houses as a way to achieve this and are working with government to make them happen.

"The new Home Secretary's support is a welcome step in building a system that helps minimise a traumatised child's suffering."

Anne Longfield, Children's Commissioner for England, said: "This is very welcome. I want Police and Crime Commissioners in other areas to explore the possibility of setting up similar pilots and improve the support victims get.

"Child Houses in other countries have been enormously successful in increasing conviction rates and reducing the trauma victims can experience as a result of going through the criminal justice system."

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