In July 2017, the CSA Centre published a scoping report which highlighted that, despite greater awareness of the issue, significant gaps remained in the data captured by agencies working with people who experience or commit such abuse. The report identified key gaps in data relating to:
- the characteristics of perpetrators (other than their gender) and the relationship between perpetrators and victims
- the duration and frequency of abuse and the contexts and locations in which abuse took place, including the role of digital technology
- who disclosed the abuse or which agency referred it.
It also noted:
- a tendency among agencies to record data about children at risk of CSE, making it difficult to differentiate between known victims and potential victims
- differences in the focus and quality of data recording, according to agency priorities – local authority children’s services and specialist agencies primarily reported information about victims, while police and criminal justice agencies focused on the offences, perpetrators or defendants.
All of these factors meant that understanding the bigger picture – the scale and nature of known abuse, and trends over time in the profiles of victims and perpetrators – was problematic.
Despite many agencies working with children who have experienced sexual abuse and people who have committed CSA, the data that is readily available from these services is limited, uses variable definitions and is difficult to extract, analyse and compare.
The data collection template
Having highlighted the limitations of available data, the CSA Centre has worked with key stakeholders in statutory and voluntary services to develop a specification for core data fields to be collected by agencies delivering services in response to CSA. Our data collection template sets out a list of 37 data fields with recommended definitions to be used by services working with CSA cases to support them to improve their data collection and therefore their capacity to extract meaningful insights and improve practice.
If these core data fields were routinely and consistently recorded by agencies, it would significantly improve agencies individual and collective local understanding of CSA. The ‘data collection template’ sets out a list of 37 data fields with recommended definitions to be used by services working with CSA cases to support them to improve their data collection and therefore their capacity to extract meaningful insights and improve practice.
The CSA Centre and the participating stakeholders 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 have applied them in a number of contexts:
- application to data collected by the St Mary’s SARC;
- piloting of application in four local areas.
Building on the learning from the pilot study and the case file review undertaken with Saint Mary’s SARC (below), an updated data collection template and accompanying implementation guidance will be published in the autumn.
If you have any questions about using the data requirement in your organisation, please get in touch.
A pilot study of the child sexual abuse data collection template
This report presents the findings from a pilot study of the ‘CSA data collection template’, a tool developed by the CSA Centre to help agencies improve how they collect and record information from their service users. The pilot study sought to explore the value and practicability for agencies to collect core data systematically about the nature of CSA, the people involved in and affected by it, and associated services. It aimed to establish whether the data collection template could be put into practice by key agencies working with cases of child sexual abuse.
Across four areas, the study involved four local authority children’s services, four police forces and six voluntary-sector services. While this was a small sample, meaning that the findings are not generalisable, the pilot has highlighted some of the challenges that agencies face in recording and reporting information on CSA cases they work with – and the benefits, in terms of improved data quality and consistency, that they could derive by adopting the template.
Characteristics and experiences of children and young people attending Saint Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre, Greater Manchester: A review of 986 case files
This report presents the findings and learning from extracting and analysing the narrative data collected in case files held by St Mary’s SARC using a set of core data fields developed by the CSA Centre. The study sought to explore the value and practicability for agencies to collect core data systematically about the nature of CSA, the people involved in and affected by it, and associated services.
This study shows that the introduction of consistent and comprehensive data collection would be unlikely to add additional burden to the existing data recording. Much of this data already exists in the narrative case files; collecting the information in a way that is extractable and easier to interpret and analyse will allow for better monitoring and comparison across services, localities and interventions.
The report tells us about the people who are accessing the SARC’s services, and just as importantly, the people who aren’t accessing them. For example, compared to the local population, minority ethnic groups were under-represented in the sample and boys were more likely than girls to attend the SARC after long periods of abuse. This information provides valuable insights which can be used to inform improvements in future practice and service reach, such as by testing interventions and outreach activity aimed at identifying boys earlier and being more accessible to BAME children and communities.