The NSPCC has launched a public awareness campaign, 'Don't Hide It', to urge young people in Fermanagh to speak out on all forms of sex abuse.
The charity operates a number of services for children, and young people, who have been affected by sexual abuse including an independent 'Schools Counselling and Support Service', which operates in schools throughout the county.
The service, which was introduced as part of the NSPCC 'Full Stop' campaign in 2000, works in partnership with schools to create a safe listening and responsive environment for those experiencing difficulties either in or out of school.
Bronagh Muldoon, Area Children's Services Manager for the NSPCC said research showed that many children and young people don't feel confident speaking to people, including teachers about their problems, which in turn, can make them unable to maximise their educational, social or emotional potential.
"Given that children and young people spend over half their waking hours in school, the school is ideally placed to provide an accessible, independent counselling service, which allows them to talk about their concerns.
"We work with teachers to ensure that the education system is used in the most appropriate way to help put an end to cruelty to children."
The service is tailored to each individual school on a full day or short-term, sessional basis. An on-site, drop-in facility is also provided within the school, which gives children and young people direct access to support.
"Our team meets with children and young people who have a variety of issues ranging from family difficulties and self-esteem issues to disclosures of abuse and concerns about bullying. We also help schools to develop peer support schemes, which give children and young people a choice of good listeners to confide in.
"Our team provides an independent, confidential service delivered by a trusted professional for pupils who are worried about something and are unsure of what to do or where to go to get help.
"Having trained practitioners in each of the schools ensures that children have access to an independent adult who can provide one-to-one advice and support within the school setting. A counsellor can also ensure that children will be able to access and receive appropriate other services as needed.
"This service has been piloted in a range of schools in the Western, Belfast and South Eastern Education and Library Boards to provide children and young people with the opportunity to access help and independent counselling when they need it."
St Michael's College, Enniskillen, is just one of those that has used the service for four years.
Principal Father Joseph McGuinness said it was now an integral part of their Pastoral Care provision.
"It provides students with the facility to explore and discuss their feelings and worries with an experienced counsellor. This service offers our students individual support and guidance in a skilled, professional and sensitive way."
Bronagh went on to explain one case that they had to deal with.
"Sandra (not real name), a 12-year-old girl, stopped in to talk to the NSPCC school counsellor at 'Drop-in' at lunchtime, which resulted in weekly counselling. Initially the work dealt with the bullying Sandra faced from some girls in her class. The school was notified and corrective action was taken. Sandra was also taught coping skills and given support to help her deal with the experience and what to do if it were to happen again.
"As the work progressed, Sandra shared that she was sad because a family friend had been touching her for the past year or so and that she had started cutting her arm. She didn't feel that she could not talk to her mum about it so a meeting was set up with the NSPCC counsellor, Sandra and her mum. Before the meeting, Sandra listed things that she wanted the counsellor to tell her mum and the things that she didn't want her mum to do because of the disclosure.
"The school's designated child protection teacher also became involved and a referral was made to Social Services. Sandra received the appropriate support from her mum and the other professionals involved.
It was later agreed that Sandra would be referred to Zest, a voluntary agency that works with children who self-harm and that her sessions with the school counsellor would cease. Since the meeting, the abuse had stopped and Sandra is now able to talk to her mum about everything.
Independent 'Schools Counselling and Support Service',
Publication Fermanagh Herald
Date June 07, 2006
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