Improving data on child sexual abuse
Having previously 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 30 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 data collection template includes data fields and categories across four sections relating to:
- the victims of abuse
- the people who commit it
- the context of the abuse
- the services involved in responding to it.
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 30 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.
A practical guide for organisations
This guide offers services practical advice on implementing the CSA Centre’s data collection template, and understanding and addressing gaps in their data. The practical guide is for organisations responding to CSA 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 CSA, if CSA is part of their service focus; for example, services addressing criminal exploitation or complex safeguarding.
We have also produced an interactive data improvement tool to support organisations and local safeguarding partnerships to quickly and easily review the data they currently collect, undertake a red, amber, green (RAG) rating and identify key data fields that they need to add or improve on.
Improving CSA data collection and recording: what are the benefits?
Collecting core data systematically and consistently enables organisations to access better information to support decision-making, whether aimed at preventing CSA, 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. There are many ways in which adopting the data collection template can support better decisions. For example:
- by monitoring the scale and nature of CSA encountered by your service (e.g. patterns of intra-familial CSA, of CSE 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 CSA 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.
Developing and testing the data collection template
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.
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 is based on almost 1000 case files and 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.