Every Abused Child Needs Support - And They're Not Getting It

While we are trying to protect children from abuse, and encouraging them to speak out, we need to make sure that the right help is there for them when they do muster the courage to come forward.

Recorded sexual offences against children have reached record levels. Every year the equivalent of two children in every primary school class in the UK is being maltreated. Right now, half a million young people across the country have to cope with the repercussions of cruelty.

The impact that abuse has on a child's mental health can be devastating and damaging to them and to others around them. Anxiety, flashbacks, nightmares, guilt, and confusion are all part of the shattering aftermath abuse inflicts on a child - and without the right therapeutic support, this damage can consume a young person's life, and stretch long into adulthood.

While they wrestle with the aftershock of abuse a child can, understandably, find it difficult to focus on school, friends or family like any other happy youngster. It is deeply disturbing to think that, instead of being able to build a happy life for themselves, full of hope and possibilities, these children are left to struggle with the thorny issues abuse wreaks on their mental health.

It is clearer than ever before that the need for therapeutic help is essential and urgently required. Every single child who has endured abuse and needs support must get timely, thorough help so that they can learn how to handle disturbing emotions and behaviours, and rebuild their lives.

But for too many children, this sort of support simply isn't an option for them - because there is an alarming scarcity in help available. In some cases these children - some of the most vulnerable members of our society - have to be on the verge of suicide or harming themselves physically before they can access help.

An abused child's mental health needs to be a priority for government. Without the right support, we are condemning too many of them to a lifetime of pain and misery. They have already been through enough by enduring such horrific cruelty - must they then endure years of mental torment following abuse simply because the help they so desperately need isn't there as of right?

In the 21st century we should not have to call for this sort of treatment to be available but, as our It's Time campaign proves, basic support is not available for other than a tiny minority of those who have endured destructive abuse.

In a survey by the NSPCC, 96% of professionals said there aren't enough Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) for these children. Professionals including psychologists, GPs, teachers and social workers found longer waiting lists, reductions in spending and higher thresholds for therapy are making it harder for affected children to access vital therapeutic services.

Although government has committed additional money to mental health funding, it is often referenced as the answer to all sorts of problems. It can only be spent once; it is crucial that a portion is ring fenced for abused children. We're calling for increased funding for support services for children who've suffered abuse, government to produce clear guidelines on when a child should be offered therapeutic support, more research into the scale of the problem, as well as what type of support works best.

The NSPCC is determined to help and protect as many children as it possibly can from abuse and there is no better way than by stopping abuse quickly and ideally before it starts. Our Schools Service has been instrumental in talking to young children about how to recognise abuse and how to speak out when they are uncertain about the behaviour of others, in an effort to equip a generation of primary age children with a resilience that has previously been lacking.

So far the service, funded entirely from voluntary donations up to this point, has visited more than 15,000 schools, reaching over one million children. We speak to children, and encourage them in age appropriate language to understand how to stay safe.

But while we are trying to protect children from abuse, and encouraging them to speak out, we need to make sure that the right help is there for them when they do muster the courage to come forward.

That is why I want everyone who supports us to join our campaign. By calling on your local MP and Ministers, we can all stand together and demand that every child who has been abused is given the help that they so desperately need. It's Time that these vulnerable youngsters are made a priority. Join the It's Time campaign.

And if you would like to support our Schools Service either as a volunteer, or in other ways, you can do so here.

Young Minds Matter is a new series designed to lead the conversation with children about mental and emotional health, so youngsters feel loved, valued and understood. Launched with Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cambridge, as guest editor, we will discuss problems, causes and most importantly solutions to the stigma surrounding the UK's mental health crisis among children. To blog on the site as part of Young Minds Matter email ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com

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