Hackett, Simon, Masson, Helen and Phillips, Sarah (2005) Services for young people who sexually abuse. Project Report. Youth Justice Board for England and Wales, England.

The overall aim of this study was to investigate recent developments in the UK
and Republic of Ireland in services for young people who have demonstrated
sexually abusive behaviour, including their organisational, theoretical and policy bases,
and to explore the experiences of young people and their families who are receiving
such services.
It has been recognised that sexual abuse perpetrated by young people constitutes a
significant proportion of all sexual abuse committed in the UK and Republic of Ireland.
For example, the most recently available criminal statistics indicate that 17% of all
Cautions and convictions for sexual offences in England and Wales in the year 2001
related to young people under the age of 18 (Home Office, 2002).
Nevertheless, services designed to respond to such groups of young people are in their
relative infancy, with previous research highlighting the problematic nature of their
piecemeal development (Masson, 1997 and 1998). There has been little overall sense of
the range of services being offered in the UK to different populations of young people
with sexually abusive behaviour across both the child welfare and Criminal Justice
System. While something of a ‘treatment’ orthodoxy has developed more broadly in the
adult sex offender field (Hackett, 2000), there have been few previous concerted
attempts to understand the development and current ‘landscape’ of services in the
adolescent field. In addition, there has been little, if any, published research into the
experiences and views of young people and their families who receive such services.
There is, therefore, an urgent need for research to fill these gaps in the current
knowledge base.
In order to meet the overall goal set out above, the current study has gathered data on
the nature of service provision, policy and practice relating to young people with
sexually abusive and harmful behaviour across England, Wales, Scotland, Northern
Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. In this way, the current study has sought to form
the most comprehensive review of the field undertaken, to date, in the UK and Republic
of Ireland.
The process
After an initial analysis of the available literature, the following five-stage process was
used to meet the objectives of the study.
First, a survey was undertaken to collect the views and opinions of key experts (n=78)
working in the field on the nature of effective intervention or ‘treatment’ with this group
of young people. Using the Delphi method, it was possible to identify levels of
consensus about the orientation and principles of this work, its core goals, components
and theoretical basis. Second, a further Delphi study, focusing on structural and management issues in this
area of practice, was undertaken with managers of services working with young people
who have sexually abused (n=65).
Third, a comprehensive ‘mapping’ survey relating to services for young people who
have demonstrated sexually abusive behaviour and their families (n=186) was
undertaken, collecting data on the nature of each service, its users, practices, policies
and procedures.
Fourth, an analysis of available policy documents (n=43) on the subject of children
and young people who have sexually abused was undertaken. Local area child
protection committee (ACPC) procedures and guidance documents, children’s services
plans, ACPC annual reports, and youth offending team (YOT) protocols were analysed
as to their usefulness and comprehensiveness in dealing effectively with this issue.
Fifth, a small-scale qualitative study of service-user perspectives (n=23) from a
variety of sites across the UK and Northern Ireland collected users’ views and opinions
about the professional systems which have been involved in their lives in the aftermath
of sexually abusive behaviour.
The findings from each of these five research elements are reported within separate
chapters in this report, together with a fuller description of the methodology used in
each case.
The researchers
The research was conducted by Simon Hackett of the University of Durham and Dr
Helen Masson of the University of Huddersfield over two years ending in October
2003. In order to meet the research objectives, Sarah Phillips was employed as Research
Associate for the project and was based at the University of Durham. Although Simon
was Principal Investigator, all three members of the research team worked closely
together on all aspects of the study, including preparation, the development of research
tools and questionnaires, data analysis and the preparation of reports.
Project Advisory Group
The project team was greatly assisted by the Project Advisory Group, which was made
up of senior representatives from the funding bodies, experts from the field across the
various geographical areas, and independent academic researchers. The Project
Advisory Group met on three occasions, once via a tele-conference. The group advised
on the development of the research tools and methodology, and were given regular
progress reports. Members of the advisory group are listed in Appendix 1.

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