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The launch of NHS England’s Strategic Direction for Sexual Assault and Abuse Services, ensures that there is clear understanding between those that commission services and those that provide services. As Duncan Craig explains, it is about understanding the lifelong care for victims and survivors of sexual violence.
The document is important for a number of reasons but first and foremost for me, as both a provider of services for male victims/survivors’ and as a male survivor of childhood sexual abuse and rape myself, as it’s the first time I feel us males have been properly seen and acknowledged by the NHS in such an authentic way.
Of course, I would say that wouldn’t I as I had the honour of being part of a small group that helped develop the document, provided case studies and ‘sense checked’ it before publication. But maybe that is part of why I’m feeling so understood by the SAAS, because from the start, NHS England’s Kate Davies, Anna Calderwood and the whole team were 100 per cent committed to ensuring that the voice, ideas, needs and view of survivors were at the heart of this piece of work. This wasn’t a ‘tick box’ exercise, this happened with us, together, and that is the second reason why I think this document is so important, it was truly collaborative.
Whilst it wouldn’t be true if I said that it was an easy process of collaboration because it wasn’t – there were even times when those of us that are survivors couldn’t agree on points; but what was always present in every meeting, workshop, session, email or phone call, from all parties was a complete commitment to finding a place everyone was understood. For me, that feels like a brand new way of working. Commissioners, policy leaders, service providers and commissioners all authentically working towards the same goal with the same purpose.
The third reason that I think this is one of the most important documents to have been developed in the field of sexual violence for a long time, is that it finally provides all stakeholders with absolute clarity in what everyone’s responsibility is.
When you provide services, you have to understand so many different policies, understand hundreds of different people’s responsibilities, and navigate what can be a complex maze of meetings, discussions and relationship building. Then when you have all of that understood, you then have to write business cases, funding bids, and strategic plans, and all with a small team of one or two. So often, I have spent time working out who I need to speak to that will understand the gap in services I am trying to fill or the need I am trying to meet, and time that could be spent delivering the actual service.
This document sets out for me as a provider and those that commission services for us survivors, whose responsibility it is to engage in discussion, develop business cases, and fund or commission services.
In talking with one of my CEO colleagues in another service this morning and going through the document, she said… “Thank you, finally! Something that makes some sense and clarifies responsibilities”. I cannot express enough how much this document is truly going to be life changing.
So can we now have lifeline care for victims and survivors?