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Child sexual abuse expert who worked in Rotherham is keen to tackle issues in Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 17:04 27 September 2017 | UPDATED: 17:21 27 September 2017

Dr Romana Farooq. Photo: NSFT

Dr Romana Farooq. Photo: NSFT

NSFT

An expert in child sexual abuse has claimed Norfolk has “a lot of issues” with abuse by peers and siblings.

Dr Romana Farooq. Photo: NSFT Dr Romana Farooq. Photo: NSFT

But the clinical psychologist - who set up a community-based therapeutic services in Rotherham, South Yorkshire and now works for our region’s mental health trust - said the county was also one of the first areas to highlight harmful sexual behaviour as a priority.

Dr Romana Farooq yesterday (Tuesday) received a prestigious award for her work in Rotherham, where a shocking history of abuse was uncovered in 2014.

Dubbed the “biggest child protection scandal in UK history”, more than 1,400 children were subjected to appalling sexual exploitation in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013.

Children as young as 11 were raped by multiple perpetrators, abducted, trafficked to other cities in England, beaten and intimidate.

After the abuse was uncovered, Dr Farooq set up a community-based therapeutic service for children and young people at risk of, or subject to, sexual exploitation.

And she was nominated for an early career award from the British Psychological Society’s (BPS) division of clinical psychology’s faculty for children, young people and their families by a local councillor.

The award is presented to clinical psychologists who have shown significant skill within five years of qualifying. And Dr Farooq was handed the prize at the BPS annual conference yesterday.

Now a specialist clinical psychologist with the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), Dr Farooq leads NSFT’s input into Norfolk’s harmful sexual behaviour team, which is a partnership with Norfolk youth offending team.

This service provides professionals who work with children and young people with specialist training to identify the signs of sexualised behaviour with the overall aim of reducing offending and protecting vulnerable young people.

Dr Farooq said: “It is great to be recognised by the BPS, especially so early on in my career, but I genuinely feel the work I did would not have been possible without the commitment of the children, young people, their families and the community in Rotherham.

“We recognised traditional services were not accessible to the most vulnerable, particularly those from ethnically diverse communities. As a result, we brought together ideas from community psychology and detached youth work to engage vulnerable children and young people where they were at, which sometimes meant meeting them on street corners and parks, which helped us to engage with them much more successfully. The fact that the BPS has recognised this work is really gratifying as it shows there is a new focus on tackling child sexual exploitation.

“I decided to move to Norfolk because it is one of the first areas to highlight harmful sexual behaviour as a priority. There are a lot of issues around peer-on-peer exploitation and sibling-on-sibling abuse in the county, but there is also a real desire to tackle those issues. I was really keen to be part of that and help make a difference to these highly vulnerable young people.”

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