Child sexual abuse may not be covered in any detail in the initial qualifying training of professionals who play key roles in preventing, tackling and responding to child sexual abuse. In order to ensure that newly qualified professionals have the knowledge, skills and confidence to respond to concerns of child sexual abuse we need to address gaps in initial training. Our first step has been to pilot two approaches to this within social work education.
We have developed two approaches to delivering training for student social workers in relation to intra-familial child sexual abuse:
- A one-day introductory course for social work students at higher education institutions
- A three-day ‘train the trainer’ course enabling members of a teaching partnership to deliver a one-day training to social work students
Both approaches were found to have significant merit in giving students the necessary knowledge and confidence in identifying and responding to intra-familial child sexual abuse and could be selected by teaching partnerships or providers depending on the situation in a higher education institution or region.
This was delivered to 418 participants across eight Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). All participants were on social work programmes and were in their final year of training, either as third-year undergraduate students or second year Master’s students. Of the 418 course participants, 191 (45%) completed the survey. Of those, more than 95% felt that they had increased their knowledge across different areas of child sexual abuse – particularly in relation to the challenges around disclosure and the importance of adopting a holistic approach when supporting children and their families.
“Very informative and well-presented session for students, with excellent activities to help them think about different scenarios and explore their understanding of child sexual abuse. The resources and discussions will help them develop their practice on placement and encourage them to read further research.”
Train the Trainer course
Following the success of the one-day course for social work students we were asked to devise a ‘train-the-trainer’ programme for HEI staff, to develop a sustainable model of delivery. Within this the one-day introduction to intra-familial child sexual abuse would be taught and practised, followed by opportunities for skills development in delivering the course to others.
Nine out of 19 participants completed the survey, including lecturers, independent reviewing officers, managers, and those with safeguarding responsibilities. The course was found to promote cross-organisational communication between local authorities and the HEIs, as well as providing an opportunity for those in practice to discuss with those in education what social workers need from their training. Following the training, the Teaching Partnership has set up a working group, involving all 19 course participants, to plan how the learning can be embedded within the partnership.
“I have learnt lots from this training and can take so much forward to improve my own teaching and assessment of students. I also learnt lots from listening to practitioner colleagues too and about their experiences in practice.”
Trainers from the HEIs that have completed the course are now delivering a series of one-day courses to social work students – scheduled until September 2022.