County Hall, the HQ of Worcestershire County Council
LAST-DITCH talks are taking place to see if a funding package can be scrambled together for sexually abused in children in Worcestershire.
The county council has agreed to look into funding a specialised service for 11-21 year-olds after concern public sector funding cuts could leave them in the cold.
The West Mercia Rape & Sexual Abuse Support Centre says it is struggling to meet demand due to a funding squeeze.
It has told the council that it needs £25,000 this April to continue a dedicated counselling service for children and young people in Worcestershire but has exhausted options for trying to get cash from elsewhere, including police and crime commissioner Bill Longmore.
After the plea, councillors from all parties have united to back a motion instructing the council’s Conservative leadership to start talks.
Liberal Democrat group leader Councillor Liz Tucker said: “This is a crucial issue – if that support cannot move in quickly after the event, problems like substance abuse, eating disorders, all the things which present themselves in later life begin to be prevalent.”
Labour Councillor Pattie Hill said: “Our society is undergoing a profound shock as we learn just how many young children have been subjected to sexual abuse and exploitation.”
Their comments were backed up by other councillors, who said the money needs to be found somewhere.
Liberal Councillor Fran Oborski said: “Many, many children take a long time to admit they’ve been a victim of sexual abuse, many somehow feel guilty and think they’ve brought it upon themselves.
“Often that abuse is within the family and they know the consequences of reporting it.”
Councillor Liz Eyre, the cabinet member for children and young people, said on average 20 young people on the council’s child protection register at any one time are there due to sexual abuse concerns.
She said children’s services had a budget to purchase counselling for young people where needed, but agreed to support a request to start talks over finding the £25,000.
The West Mercia service, which has based in Worcester and Hereford, operates around a hotline system.
The councillors agreed unanimously to back the motion, urging the leadership to “seek funding” to find the £25,000.
by Tom Edwards