American experts visit Bristol to see progress of Be Safe-Stay Safe programme

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Experts involved in the development of North Bristol NHS Trust’s Be safe-Stay Safe Children’s Programme flew in from the United States of America to find out about its progress.

The Community Children’s Health Partnership treatment programme for children with problematic sexual behaviour was developed at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Centre.

The Bristol service, run in collaboration with Barnardo’s South West and other partner agencies is the first, to run this programme outside of the United States.

Dr Jane Silovsky and Jimmy Widdifield from the Center on Child Abuse and Neglect at the University of Oklahoma have been working with Be Safe Service Manager Stephen Barry and his team in implementing the Children’s Programme since 2013.

They returned to to see how the service has progressed to young people in Bristol and South Gloucestershire and to support the team in further development and replication of the programme. Dr Silovsky and Mr Widdifield were impressed by the way the Bristol team has taken on board the programme and adapted it to the children and parents/carers they work with.

The pair spoke at a stakeholder event at the Barton Hill Settlement on July 7 and at the local safeguarding Board Conference on Child Sexual Exploitation and Harmful Sexual Behaviour the following day.

Since it was set up in 2013 46 young people and their families have been referred to the service and in February the Care Quality Commission highlighted the programme as an example of outstanding practice in its report following the inspection of North Bristol NHS Trust services.

The Be Safe-Stay Safe Children’s Programme has been funded through the Big Lottery’s Realising Ambition programme, a £25 million UK-wide programme funding the delivery of 25 evidence-based interventions aimed at improving outcomes for young people. Shaun Whelan from the consortium managing Realising Ambition was among the guests at the event.

The Children’s programme is an interactive group or family programme which children attend along with their parents and carers over the course of four to six months. It addresses areas such as the sexual behaviour rules, appropriate sexual behaviour, abuse prevention, supervision and safety, parenting,  impulse control, managing feelings, and empathy development and apology.  The programme uses a range of approaches such as role play, puppets, group discussions. 

Data from the first two years of the programme show that there has been a positive change in 88% of the children who have been through the programme with the elimination and/or significant reduction in the children’s problematic sexual behaviour.

Dr Silovsky said “I have been impressed by the team’s passion about their programme.

“They have a passion and dedication to support the families.

“I learn from them too. They bring in their own talent.

“It has been phenomenal to come over and see the team and I am really excited about the potential of expansion. We want to see these families helped and if that could happen beyond Bristol that would be wonderful.”   

The University of Oaklahoma programme has received attention from other parts of the world, including Northern Europe, but the only replication outside of the United States is in Bristol.

Mr Widdifield said: “The programme is becoming more recognised and is getting the attention of people around the world.

“It is wonderful to see such a successful replication of our programme.

“The team in Bristol, from the very beginning has been terrific and to hear about their progress and that it has gone so well is fulfilling.”

Stephen Barry, Principal Clinician and Service Manager for Be Safe-Stay Safe, said: “It has been a privilege to be working alongside Dr Silovsky and Mr Widdifield, in providing a much needed evidence-based programme for children with problematic sexual behaviour and their parents/carers. 

“We are very encouraged by the initial positive outcomes of the programme to date and we hope to build on this success in the future.

“It is important to note that many of the children the programme work with have experienced abuse themselves and deserve the support to develop safer lives for themselves and others.”

Be Safe-Stay Safe was first established by the CCHP team in 2008, with the children’s programme – for eight to 12-year-olds set up in 2013.