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Claims made that child sexual abuse is as common as asthma in Highland communities

By Nicola Sinclair, Local Democracy Reporter

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Mhairi Wylie (inset) has been raising concerns about child abuse for five years.
Mhairi Wylie (inset) has been raising concerns about child abuse for five years.

Highland Council has promised to consider the lack of sexual abuse support for children at a future meeting.

But Mhairi Wylie, chief officer of Highland Third Sector Partnership, said she’s been raising this same concern for five years.

Ms Wylie said support for sexually abused children is a statutory service, but it’s completely absent in Highland.

She voiced frustration at a lack of progress, saying she’s “sick” of having to raise concerns about this issue.

Ms Wylie made the remarks at a joint monitoring committee between NHS Highland and Highland Council this morning.

Referencing a council report into children’s services, she said: “I still don’t understand where we’re at with services for children who have been sexually abused in Highland. To the best of my knowledge there is no service in place, and we’re heading into our fifth year of lack of provision of a statutory service.”

Ms Wylie claimed that child sexual abuse is as common as asthma in Highland communities. She said she works with a service for people in custody, and all 300 individuals who recently used the service have experienced some kind of sexual abuse in their childhood.

Ms Wylie said that without services to support them, the NHS and council is simply “paving a waiting list for the future”.

“This is unacceptable,” she said. “Despite my raising it [in this committee] on at least four occasions, I still haven’t had any assurance that it is being taken forward and will be put in place.”

She added: “I’m sorry about raising it again – but I’m not really, actually.”

Highland Council’s children’s services manager Ian Kyle confirmed that while the issue has been raised, the service is not up and running.

“It has been a conversation point at a number of forums, including the child protection committee,” Mr Kyle said. “What I will do is put it on the agenda for the next integrated children’s services planning board.

“I think that’s where it should be discussed, and to date we have not discussed it.”

Mr Kyle told the committee the integrated services board has focused on drawing up its strategy during the Covid years, but will now have a fuller discussion about child abuse services.

Ms Wylie accepted this suggestion, but asked the committee why they do not share her frustration at the slow pace.

“My concern is how we get it off the agenda of a committee, to actually having a service,” she said. “This is five years.”

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