The only UK wide charity proactively working with those at risk of committing a sexual offence is facing closure due to lack of funding.
The Specialist Treatment Organisation for the Prevention of Sexual Offending (StopSO), was founded in 2011 to work with those at risk of sexual offending or reoffending, thus reducing the risk to society and lessening the number of victims. It also works with the families of sex offenders, who have to come to terms with being related to a sex offender.
Sex offenders are often treated as the lowest of the low in our modern society. It is very hard for this client group to be able to access professional support and help. Practically no NHS services are available for this group. Most therapists do not want to work with these clients.
StopSO wants to enable sex offenders, or those who are acting out sexually, and those who have not acted out but have "troubling thoughts" to be able to access experienced and qualified therapists.
Now, however, the organisation, which has recently been granted charity status, is faced with its biggest funding crisis to date. StopSO says it has sufficient funds to keep going for three more months. After that, if no more funding is found, the organisation will be forced to close.
A minimum of £80,000 per annum is needed to cover staff and administrative expenses. Also, in order to prevent future cases of sexual abuse, StopSO would like to be able to offer funding to those clients who cannot afford to pay for their own therapy. This would require additional funding as, currently, clients are required to pay for their own therapy.
From June 2013 to end of October 2016, the charity says it has helped a total of 425 people, all of whom approached them voluntarily, asking for help. The number of requests is growing massively from just three clients in the first three months of trading to 98 people in the last three months.
Quite apart from the personal savings to society, the organisation points out the financial benefits of its work. It costs £65,000 to imprison one person once police, court costs etc. are taken into account. Thus, to be cost effective StopSO only has to stop two people per annum from acting out, keeping them out of the criminal justice system and prison. StopSO believes that they have already stopped many more than that – in many cases before they commit a first offence.
According to The National Crime Agency, around 750,000 men in Britain were known to have an interest in having sex with children. As National Police Chiefs' Council Lead for Child Protection, Chief Constable Simon Bailey said, "Enforcement alone cannot solve this problem – more needs to be done to prevent abuse in the first place. There are many people who offend or are yet to offend and want help to stop their behaviour."
As the charity says, "For 'low level offenders' who are asking for help it is sensible to find another solution. We can keep endlessly picking up the pieces after sexual abuse has been committed, or we can work to prevent it in the first place.
"We are established and set up to offer this across the UK." "Surely, for 'low level offenders' who are asking for help it is sensible to find another solution.
For details of StopSo's work visit: www.stopso.org.uk