Published 18 April 2019

1710 nspcc.jpg

A Kent-based service which helps sexually abused children rebuild their lives has received a £50,000 cash boost.

The NSPCC’s Gillingham service centre based in West Street was awarded the money by Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott after it successfully applied to his office for a grant from the Victim Specialist Services (VSS) fund.

It will help with the running costs of delivering the charity’s Letting The Future In (LTFI) service which works with boys and girls aged between 4 and 17 who have been sexually abused and require treatment for emotional trauma.

Over a six month period, the child meets with a practitioner once a week in the setting of a special play room at the centre. During the sessions they take part in activities such as messy play, writing, storytelling and art.

It is the second time the centre has received funding for LTFI from the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner. In 2017 it was granted £33,000 from the same VSS fund.

To thank him for his support, Mr Scott was invited to the centre that year to meet the staff who run the service and see the therapy rooms used by children.

From 2011, when the service launched, up until March 2018, LTFI has directly helped 246 children come to understand and move on from their ordeal.

Gillingham Service Centre Manager, Sarah Jenner, said:

'We are extremely grateful to Mr Scott for approving our application for funding.

'As a charity we rely on applications such as this being successful, as well as donations from the public, to enable the charity to offer life changing services such as LTFI.

'It takes a lot of courage for children and young people who have suffered sexual abuse to speak out about their ordeal and when they do confide in someone they often feel confused and upset about what has happened to them.

'Letting them play during LTFI sessions allows children to express themselves and safely work through past experiences. In turn they come to understand and move on from what has happened to them but it can take up to a year before they’re ready to move on.

'Parents and carers of children who have been sexually abused also play vital roles in helping their child recover so we also offer them individual support and some joint sessions with the child as part of the programme.'

Last year (2017/18) there were 1,405 sexual offences against children under the age of 16 recorded by police in Kent therefore showing the clear need for Letting the Future In to be delivered in the county.

All PCCs have responsibility for commissioning services which support victims of crime in their area. Since 2014, the Kent PCC’s office has awarded more than £170,000 in grants to the NSPCC’s Gillingham Service Centre.

Mr Scott said:

'Kent Police works tirelessly to safeguard vulnerable victims and bring offenders to justice, but the money I allocate each year from my Victim Specialist Services Fund goes beyond that. It helps vulnerable victims of crime – such as children who have experienced unspeakable abuse – along the road to recovery, coming to terms with what has happened and moving on with their lives.

'Residents have told me that, when presented with a list of issues Kent Police faces, child sexual exploitation is their top concern. This is reflected in the fact that for 2019/20 I increased the maximum amount available to projects like the Letting The Future In programme to support the most vulnerable members of our communities.'