27/01/2016 09:09 GMT | Updated 27/01/2017 05:12 GMT

It's Time for Every Child Who Suffers Abuse to Get the Support They Need

Every year, over half a million children are abused in the UK - the equivalent of two children in every primary school class.

The effect of abuse on young people's lives can be devastating. Children can have difficulty making sense of what has happened to them. For some children the trauma can take over - they can suffer from anxiety, flashbacks, nightmares or worse. But with the right professional therapeutic support they can learn how to deal with difficult emotions and behaviours and get their lives back on track.

At the NSPCC we've spent over 130 years researching abuse and helping the young victims. This has taught us that the right support, at the right time, is a critical part of helping children to rebuild their lives. It can mean the difference between overcoming the trauma or a life defined by the horror of their experiences.

In recent years we have seen a rise in the number of children and adults coming forward to tell someone about what has happened to them. The Jimmy Savile scandal was a watershed moment in British society and, in the wake of several other high profile abuse cases, I am pleased that more children than ever are speaking out.

This means the need for therapeutic help has never been more essential or more urgent.

But for too many children, this sort of support simply isn't an option for them - because there is an alarming shortfall in help available. In some cases they have to be on the verge of suicide before they get help.

Many people will be shocked to learn that there is no immediate entitlement to professional help for children who need it after abuse has occurred.

Abuse or neglect can affect each child differently and there has to be a range of therapeutic services on offer to them. This includes counselling, play-based therapy or family therapy. But there is a scarcity of such programmes across the UK.

One young man whose experiences and insight have inspired and helped shape this new campaign told us: "After abuse your mind can become like a prison; you always see the same walls and the same things prevent you from moving on. Support is like the key, but it's on a chain of 1,000 keys. Not all of them work, but when you get the right help it sets you free."

Where services do exist, thresholds can be so high that they are increasingly only able to help children who are at crisis point.

Support is needed before they reach this critical level. And yet only recently a practitioner said to us: 'sexual abuse just isn't enough these days'. Accessing services can be dependent on a specific crisis or acute symptoms.

Without enough specialist services in place, children aren't supported to deal with the impact of abuse early on, when long-term emotional and psychological difficulties could be prevented.

The heart-breaking reality is that as a society we are failing these children so badly that we aren't even keeping count. We have already identified that tens of thousands of children aren't getting the support they need. But we know it's a lot more. It's time we said enough. We owe it to our most vulnerable children to do better.

Changes are needed at every level to make sure the right services are in place. In the first instance we are asking government to lead the way.

Many of us have welcomed the £1.4bn committed by government recently as a start in addressing the current crisis in children's mental health services - but the reality is that unless this comes with a clear commitment to specifically address the needs of abused children. This will not translate into an increase in the services that could help this most vulnerable group overcome their trauma.

We are also calling for government to produce national guidance so that it's clear to all those responsible for planning and delivering services, what support every child and family should expect after abuse

And finally, we are calling for a concerted national effort to count these children, to properly identify the shortfall in services for them, and to better understand exactly what works when they need help.

We will continue to campaign and hold governments and others to account on this issue for as long as it takes to get these children the support they need.

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