Historical abuse counselling wait 'up to three years'

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Media captionSarah Jane Thomas of New Pathways says staff are sorry victims have to wait for help

Victims of historical sexual abuse are having to wait up to three years for counselling, a charity has claimed.

It follows a rise of more than 50% in the number of people contacting three of the four Welsh police forces with such complaints over two years.

The Survivors Trust - which represents support groups - warned victims could give up trying to find help.

The Welsh government said it had given extra funding to relevant charities and would consider giving more.

In 2011 the South Wales, North Wales and Gwent forces were contacted by 515 people making complaints of historical sexual abuse, rising to 794 in 2013. Dyfed-Powys Police was unable to provide data.

'Devastating' delay

The Survivors Trust, an umbrella group for abuse support groups, said publicity over high profile cases and offenders such as Jimmy Savile had led to a big rise in people seeking help, putting a huge strain on counselling services.

It estimated more than 2,000 people were waiting for counselling, with one of its member organisations - New Pathways - saying some people had been waiting up to three years.

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Image caption Victims faced with delays in counselling could give up seeking help, The Survivors Trust claims

Johanna Robinson, the trust's national development manager for Wales, said the delays were very difficult for victims.

"For them to hear that 'I'm really sorry but there isn't going to be a service for you for at least a year', that is going to be devastating," she said.

"That will also re-traumatise the victim and this could mean that person doesn't have the faith to carry on [trying to get support]."

Children's commissioner Keith Towler also voiced his concern, saying: "In terms of counselling services there is some fantastic work that goes on, but we haven't got enough of it.

"Frankly that's not good enough."

Mr Towler told BBC Radio Wales he was in "active talks" with the Welsh government and it was taking the matter "very seriously".

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Media captionMr Towler said waiting lists are 'unacceptably long'

"We need to make sure that when people come forward, talking about really serious issues, bringing evidence forward in relation to historical sexual abuse, we need to make sure that it's bigger than a police or criminal response," he said.

"We have to make sure that good counselling services and support is available to them when they need it."

A Welsh government spokesman said: "The increase in referrals and waiting lists is exactly why the Welsh government has provided additional funding this year to support charities who offer an invaluable service to those suffering from the effects of historical sexual abuse.

"We will consider emerging evidence in determining funding allocations for the next financial year."

'Massive effect'

Lisa - not her real name - from south east Wales was sexually abused from the age of seven. She received counselling quickly after contacting the police.

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Media captionLisa, a victim of abuse, said people should not have to wait for help

"It took me over 18 years to come forward and say, 'I need help to get over this'.

"It got to a point where I couldn't take any more and I took that step to admit I needed help.

"I don't know how people cope with long waits because it has such a massive effect on your daily life.

"Once you've admitted you need help and come forward you shouldn't have to wait."

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