Urgent action needed to provide free counselling to children who have experienced sexual abuse, say Bradshaw and Egan

Alliance MLAs Paula Bradshaw and Connie Egan have joined calls for the Department of Health to ensure children who have experienced sexual abuse in Northern Ireland can access free counselling services. 

Paula Bradshaw Connie Egan Violence Against Women and Girls

It follows charity Nexus announcing it had no choice but to withdraw counselling for four to seven-year-olds and pause support for those aged between eight and 16 due to financial pressures. Alliance Health spokesperson Ms Bradshaw and Violence Against Women and Girls spokesperson Ms Egan have been engaging with the organisation to try and secure more support.

“Previously, Nexus provided access to bespoke counselling services for children and young people under 16, but due to budgetary pressures, the waiting list to this service has been closed,” said South Belfast MLA Ms Bradshaw.

“It is vital all victims of sexual abuse have access to counselling services meeting their needs. This is a service which is of huge significance to children and young people who have experienced sexual abuse, and to their families. This service should be fully funded on a sustainable basis by government.”

“It is essential the institutions are restored so a Health Minister can take the necessary steps to ensure vulnerable children can access vital counselling services,” added North Down MLA Ms Egan.

“Nexus have also raised significant concerns about funding as we approach the new financial year. Community and voluntary organisations provide much-needed support to our most vulnerable and deserve certainty from government with regards to funding in the future.

“Nexus run the Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline which can be reached on 0808 802 1414. This service provides support to victims and their families. It is crucial a bespoke service is created for children and young people under 16 to provide them and their families with the same level of support.”