Last week we visited The Lighthouse, a brilliant multiagency safe space supporting children and young people in their recovery from sexual abuse and exploitation. Not only does The Lighthouse highlight the importance of access to local services to support victims of child sexual abuse, but it also highlights the brilliant work that can be done when services, organisations and agencies are brought together in a coordinated way, to deliver multiagency delivered programmes.
Effi Stergiopoulou, The Lighthouse’s Operational Service Manager, Tim Jaggard, UCLH’s Deputy Chief Executive and Chief Financial Officer, and Dr Sara Stoneham and Toral Pandya from UCLH’s Divisional Paediatric and Adolescents Division, introduced us to The Lighthouse, highlighting the importance of their work to bring together a range of professionals and organisations under one roof to offer a child-friendly, multidisciplinary service for victims of child sexual abuse and exploitation. The Lighthouse opened in October 2018 as part of a pilot based on the international Barnahus model and is located in Camden, serving the boroughs of Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Haringey and Islington. The service is provided by UCLH in partnership with the NSPCC and the Metropolitan Police.
Practitioners and service managers from The Lighthouse and the NSPCC’s Letting the Future In Service, including experienced paediatricians and psychotherapists, took us through a tour of The Lighthouse, following the child’s journey. Seeing the individual rooms, each carefully set up with different equipment, layouts, and experiences to reflect the different services provided in each room, highlights just how The Lighthouse is able to offer a joined-up approach where these children can access all kinds of vital support ‘under one roof’- from giving evidence in the criminal justice process and holistic health support, to advocacy and therapeutic support.
We saw the Talking Room where Children and Young People (CYP) are supported to undertake Video Recorded Interviews conducted by trained clinical psychologists, police or social workers. The Talking Room is set up with a remote live link to the courts, enabling Section 28 pre-recorded cross-examinations for vulnerable victims. Such services ensure that children and their families can be well supported in the criminal justice process whilst at The Lighthouse.
We visited the health room, well equipped to provide holistic medical examinations, sexual health follow-ups and aftercare including contraception, sexual health and immunisations. Prior to medical assessments, The Lighthouse’s play specialist helps children prepare, alongside the paediatrician who is supported by a nurse.
Other rooms included a sensory room and Seascape room, where The Lighthouse Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAHMS) practitioners support and manage mental health risks and provide evidence-based psychological and therapeutic services to children and their families including parent psychoeducation groups and 1:1 sessions.
Emma Harewood, a co-founder of the Lighthouse, set out the importance of the support provided at The Lighthouse to children that have experienced sexual abuse and their goal to see such services available in many more areas. Emma also highlighted the common misconception that online abuse is separate from direct contact sexual abuse – practitioners here have seen first-hand how online abuse can lead to physical manifestations requiring healing.
It is clear that the kind of support provided at The Lighthouse is important for children facing online/digital abuse. Effi and the team’s mission to expand The Lighthouse across London and beyond, and to see nationwide standards for the type of support that should be given to victims of child sexual abuse and exploitation, will help to improve the experiences of these children and their families- all children should be able to access the services they need to heal from their traumatic experiences, and initiatives like The Lighthouse, bringing these services together under one roof in a child friendly way, are an excellent example of what multiagency working can do in this space.