Letting the future in: helping children and young people overcome the effects of sexual abuse

A new study will evaluate the effectiveness of a therapeutic service designed to help children and young people who have been affected by sexual abuse. The research includes one of the largest randomised trials of this type of therapy to have been undertaken in the world.

The three-and-a-half-year NSPCC-funded study, led by researchers at the Universities of Bristol and Durham, will evaluate the effectiveness of ‘Letting the Future In [LTFI]’, a therapeutic intervention designed for children and young people aged between four- and 18-years-old who have been affected by sexual abuse.

The programme, which is currently offered by 18 NSPCC teams across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, uses a range of approaches to help children and young people express themselves including talking, playing and creative activities such as painting, drawing or storytelling. Participants in the programme are offered up to 20 sessions with a trained social worker or therapist; their parent/ safe carer may have six individual sessions as well as joint sessions with the child. 

Led by Professor John Carpenter from the University of Bristol and Professor Simon Hackett from Durham University, the independent evaluation includes a randomised control trial [RCT] to determine whether the LTFI intervention is successful in meeting the needs of children who have been affected by sexual abuse and their safe carer in comparison to children in a control group.

Data for the study, entitled ‘Evaluation of Letting the Future In’, will be collected from children and their safe carers between April 2013 and February 2015.  Following data analysis, the research report will be completed by June 2015.

Professor Carpenter from the University of Bristol’s School for Policy Studies said: “The programme has considerable plausibility as a likely effective therapy for children and young people who have been affected by sexual abuse, and their families. There is a lack of randomised controlled studies investigating the effectiveness and costs of therapeutic approaches based on models other than cognitive behavioural therapy.  No such trials have been conducted in the UK.

“This evaluation is an opportunity to provide rigorous and systematic evidence that will support commissioning decisions, add to the international literature and, most importantly, have the potential to impact positively on the lives of children and families.”

Professor Simon Hackett, from Durham University’s School of Applied Social Sciences, added: “The research will provide an invaluable opportunity to learn not just about ‘what works’ for children who have been sexually abused, but also how interventions work.”


Further information:

The NSPCC is the only UK-wide charity solely focused on preventing cruelty to children. The charity works directly with vulnerable children in 40 locations across the UK providing therapy, support and advice to them and their families. The NSPCC helpline provides a 24-hour phone number [0808 800 5000] for adults to report child abuse or seek advice. The charity also runs ChildLine which takes over a million contacts a year from children and young people and visits primary schools throughout the country. The NSPCC also successfully campaigns for laws and policies to protect children and bring abusers to justice.