Economic and Social Research Council
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New world class research commissioned to find out what works to help children get back on track after abuse

A series of projects will be looking at how abused children can get back on track, following £1.7 million funding from the NSPCC and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Experiencing abuse and neglect can have a long lasting impact on a child, this new call will see leading experts from across the UK help to identify:

  • which children need help
  • what support they need
  • what works to help them.

Four studies, which will last between two-and-a-half years and four years, commence in early 2017.
Joy Todd, Strategic Lead for Health and Behaviour Research at the ESRC, said: "This programme of research will make an important contribution to the evidence base in this area, and could have a significant impact on the way service providers work with children who have experienced abuse and neglect in the future."

Kate Stanley, Director of Strategy, Policy and Evidence at the NSPCC said: "NSPCC is delighted to be supporting top class research that will show us what help children need to get back on track after experiencing abuse."

The four projects include:

  • Identifying and responding to the trauma of maltreated children
    Led by Dr John Devaney, Queen's University Belfast

    This project will look at if children who have been abused can be assessed for post-traumatic stress disorder by frontline staff. It will also carry out a randomised control trial of trauma focused cognitive behavioural therapy with these children including a cost benefit analysis.

    Dr John Devaney said: "Helping children to deal with the trauma associated with experiencing abuse and neglect starts with professionals being able to recognise the impact of these adversities on children. We are delighted to be able to work with the NSPCC and the ESRC in advancing the knowledge and understanding of how to meet children’s therapeutic needs using specialist interventions."
  • Resilience and vulnerability to childhood maltreatment in an 18-year longitudinal study of British children
    Led by Dr Andrea Danese, King's College London

    Drawing on data from an existing cohort study that followed over 2,000 children from birth to age 18 years as part of the E-Risk Study, this study will identify the factors that make some children more vulnerable to mental and physical health issues after experiencing abuse and neglect. This project will lay the foundations for developing a 'risk calculator' to help practitioners identify children who need extra support, and suggest ways we can help children become more resilient.

    "We will capitalise on a classic study of child development in order to strengthen the evidence base for clinical screening of maltreated children. We hope that results from this work will assist practitioners to deliver targeted, efficient, and cost-effective interventions. We look forward to working with NSPCC and ESRC to expedite the translation of our research for the benefit of children," says Dr Andrea Danese.
  • Latent vulnerability, childhood maltreatment and mental health: Advancing theory and practice
    Led by Professor Eamon McCrory, UCL

    This project will help us understand how children who experience abuse adapt to cope with early adverse environments and how these adaptations in turn may be related to risk and resilience for future mental health problems. This work, using behavioural and brain imaging techniques, will shed light on the nature of 'latent vulnerability' - that is, how abuse can embed risk of future mental health problems. It will also provide the foundation for a larger scale study to develop a reliable, child-friendly screening tool to identify children at most risk.
    "We have known for some time that abuse in childhood significantly increases risk of poor mental health across the lifespan. This NSPCC/ESRC funding stream represents a major step forward in advancing our practical understanding of how to identify and best help those children at risk of mental health problems following abuse. Thanks to this investment we should be in a much better position to offset this risk and promote resilient outcomes for those children who most need our help," Professor Eamon McCrory said.
  • Learning from the experts: young people’s perspectives on how we can support healthy child development after sexual abuse
    Led by Dr Helen Beckett, Dr Camille Warrington and Dr Debbie Allnock, University of Bedfordshire

    Working with young people as partners in the research process, this project will investigate the mental health needs of young people who have experienced sexual abuse in adolescence. It will find out how to improve the way we identify and respond to these children’s needs, and how we can build and support their resilience to help get their lives back on track after abuse. The team will create practical resources to help young people affected by abuse, their parents/carers and the professionals working with them.
    "We are delighted to be awarded this grant, and particularly grateful for the funders' willingness to invest in work that attempts to bring the voices of those affected by these issues into the centre of our efforts to respond to it," Dr Helen Beckett added.

Notes for editors

  1. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK’s largest funder of research on the social and economic questions facing us today. It supports the development and training of the UK’s future social scientists and also funds major studies that provide the infrastructure for research. ESRC-funded research informs policymakers and practitioners and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective. The ESRC also works collaboratively with six other UK research councils and Innovate UK to fund cross-disciplinary research and innovation addressing major societal challenges. The ESRC is an independent organisation, established by Royal Charter in 1965, and funded mainly by the Government.
  2. The NSPCC is the leading children’s charity fighting to end child abuse in the UK and Channel Islands.  Using voluntary donations, which make up more than 90 per cent of our funding, we help children who’ve been abused to rebuild their lives, we protect children at risk, and we find the best ways of preventing child abuse from ever happening. So when a child needs a helping hand, we’ll be there. When parents are finding it tough, we’ll help. When laws need to change, or governments need to do more, we won’t give up until things improve. Our Childline service provides a safe, confidential place for children with no one else to turn to, whatever their worry, whenever they need help. Children can contact Childline 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 0800 1111 or by visiting Our free helpline provides adults with a place they can get advice and support, share their concerns about a child or get general information about child protection. Adults can contact the helpline 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 0808 800 5000, by texting 88858 or visiting


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