Improving data on child sexual abuse

The CSA Centre has worked with key stakeholders in statutory and voluntary services to develop a data collection template that sets out a list of 30 data fields to expand on the limitations of available data. Each data field comes with recommended definitions to be used by services working with child sexual abuse cases to support them in improving their data collection and subsequent capacity to extract meaningful insights and improve practice. We believe that if these core data fields were routinely and consistently recorded by agencies, it would significantly improve agencies individual and collective local understanding of child sexual abuse.

The child sexual abuse data collection template includes data fields and categories across four sections relating to:

  1. The victims of abuse
  2. The people who commit it
  3. The context of the abuse
  4. The services involved in responding to it.

A practical guide for organisations

We have created a guide with practical advice on how to use the CSA Centre’s data collection template. This guide is for organisations responding to child sexual abuse in the statutory sector (e.g. local authority children’s services, police and health), voluntary and private sectors. It may also be useful for organisations dealing with issues wider than child sexual abuse, if it is part of their service focus; for example, services addressing criminal exploitation or complex safeguarding. 

We have also produced an interactive data improvement tool so that organisations and local safeguarding partnerships can quickly and easily review the data they currently collect - using a red, amber, green (RAG) rating - as well as identifying an key data fields that need improving or amending.

Improving data on child sexual abuse: An organisation guide (PDF, 1.4MB)

Interactive data improvement tool (Excel, 53KB)


Improving child sexual abuse data collection and recording: what are the benefits?

There are many ways in which adopting the data collection template can support better decisions. For example:

  • By monitoring the scale and nature of child sexual abuse encountered by your service (e.g. patterns of intra-familial child sexual abuse, of child sexual exploitation and of abuse in a gang setting), you can identify the need for services, staff training etc. in the local area and shape services to better meet service users’ needs;
  • Systematic recording of service users’ profiles (e.g. their ethnicity or gender) may enable you to ask questions about your reach in the local population, identify gaps and look at ways to reach under-identified groups;
  • Understanding the profiles of people who commit abuse (e.g. their age and relationship to the victim) and the context in which abuse takes place (e.g. locations, situations) can help you to develop prevention, earlier identification and disruption work;
  • Understanding patterns of disclosure and referral sources can help you to identify how child sexual abuse concerns come to light and discern needs for training and awareness-raising among organisations and practitioners who are not referring cases to you; and
  • Keeping good records reduces staff time (and costs) spent on filling information gaps and reconciling data retrospectively.

Collecting core data systematically and consistently enables organisations to access better information to support decision-making - whether aimed at preventing child sexual abuse, disrupting it or supporting the victims of it. Funders, commissioners and inspectors all value good evidence, so the use of the practical guidance can also support better inspection and funding outcomes.


Developing and testing the data collection template

The CSA Centre, and the participating stakeholders involved in its formation, believe that the integration of the data collection template into existing data systems will improve our collective ability to extract and analyse service data and enable us to make comparisons over time, between localities and in response to interventions and policy changes. In order to test how these data fields can be populated, analysed and reported on we pilotted the application in four local areas.

A pilot study of the child sexual abuse data collection template

This report presents the findings from a pilot study of the ‘Child sexual abuse data collection template.'  The study took place across four areas, involving four local authority children’s services, four police forces and six voluntary-sector services. The study was designed to test the value and practicability of the template for agencies to collect core data about the nature of child sexual abuse, the people involved in and affected by it, and associated services. Whilst the size of the sample means that the findings are not generalisable, the pilot does highlight some of the challenges that agencies face in recording and reporting information on child sexual abuse cases they work with – and the benefits, in terms of improved data quality and consistency, that they could derive by adopting the template.

Download the pilot study report (PDF, 2.2 MB)

Download the Welsh summary of the pilot study (PDF, 1.5 MB)