Workforce perspectives on harmful sexual behaviour: Research Report

12 July 2017

Publication cover image for workforce perspectives on harmful sexual behaviour reportResearch in Practice has published an open access report in partnership with the National Children’s Bureau, which examines the needs of the children’s workforce in relation to working with children and young people who are displaying Harmful Sexual Behaviour (HSB). 

This is the seventh research project undertaken by the Local Authorities Research Consortium (LARC). Over 500 multi-agency professionals took part in a national survey in which they described their current knowledge, skills and confidence in relation to supporting children and young people displaying HSB. The resulting report is intended to be used by managers across the multi-agency partnership, in particular those with a role in workforce development. 

Findings indicate that two-thirds of staff felt confident in identifying children and young people displaying inappropriate or abusive sexual behaviours. However, only a third felt confident in direct work.

Participants were asked about the emotional impact of this work; 40% reported that either working with or the prospect of working with young people displaying harmful sexual behaviour made them feel ‘worried’ and 36% agreed it made them feel anxious – even where they had considerable experience in this area.

Where local research focused on technology, social media and the internet, professionals reported an increased use of these in relation to HSB. Many believed that they were able to identify where children and young people were accessing or sharing harmful content on the web or some social media platforms. They felt less proficient when this was happening through other routes such as multi-player gaming, chat rooms, or mobile apps.

The survey also highlighted what is working well. High-quality supervision was identified as key to practitioners’ ability to work safely, as was access to structured support from peers and the ability to discuss cases with senior colleagues. Where local specialist services exist internally, it also appears there could be the opportunity to harness their expertise to deliver training for colleagues in addition to the direct work they undertake with children and young people.

View the report (open access)

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