THE lack of specialist sexual abuse recovery services for children in Clacks has been raised by one concerned MSP.

Alexander Stewart, the representative for Mid Scotland and Fife, highlighted a report from NSPCC Scotland which indicated a rise in sexual abuse referrals.

During First Minister's Question Time recently, he asked for the Scottish Government's response to figures which outline an increase of 42 per cent in a year.

In addition, he told the chamber that there are local authorities across Scotland "where there are absolutely no services for child victims of sexual abuse at all".

In the approach to the Year of Young People, he asked First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to commit to ensuring that all child victims of sexual abuse in Scotland will have adequate access to the specialist recovery services that they require.

In response, Ms Sturgeon said: "It is vitally important that all children have the access to the specialist services that they require.

"In light of the member's questions I will discuss this issue further with the relevant ministers to see if there is more action the government should be taking in partnership with local authorities to improve the availability of those services.

"Often when we see increases in statistics of this type, we can and we should look at that as something of concern.

"It is of deep concern, but we should also be aware that what often lies behind an increase in statistics like this is an increase in awareness and people feeling more able to come forward and this is something we should encourage, as the member rightly says, when we're encouraging people to come forward we must make sure that the services are there to support them when they do."

Following the session, he slammed Clackmannanshire Council for what he called their "woeful lack of facility for sexual abuse recovery".

Although some support is available to children through the likes of charitable organisations and other services, he is pushing for more to be provided locally.

He said: "After a recent FOI request, the NSPCC Scotland kindly alerted me as to their grave concern that there are still 14 local authorities across Scotland which do not have any specialist sexual abuse recovery services in their area – and I was saddened to hear that Clackmannanshire is one of them.

"It is inexcusable in this day and age and especially in the light of this shocking increase in abuse referrals, that no provision has been made for the assistance and recovery of victims in the aftermath of such a shocking and heinous crime.

"I will be writing to the chief executive of Clackmannanshire Council and look forward to receiving prompt confirmation that something is being done to rectify this."

The NSPCC revealed that last year across Scotland it referred 265 contacts to police and children's services from members of the public concerned a child was being sexually abused.

In 2016-17 its free and confidential helpline witnessed an increase of 42 per cent on the previous year.

And the issue of service provision has been on the agenda for the children's charity, which released reports, the Right to Recover, in November.

They looked at what happens to children following the disclosure or discovery of sexual abuse in the West of Scotland.

And according to Matt Forde, national head of NSPCC Scotland, the availability of support is vital.

He said: "Children find it extremely difficult to report abuse in the first place but our research has shown that even when they are brave enough to do so, the provision of the mental and emotional support they so vitally need in the wake of their ordeal is patchy and inconsistent across the country.

"This support is vital for children's immediate recovery and also to prevent longer-term physical and mental consequences from developing.

"There has never been a greater focus on the issue of child abuse but the lack of help available on the ground to help children recover, especially for younger children and children with disabilities, is a serious issue that must be addressed."

A Clackmannanshire Council spokesperson said: "Support to children and young people in Clackmannanshire who have experienced sexual abuse is delivered via the social work service in partnership with third sector providers.

"Where more therapeutic interventions are required children and young people get support from Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services delivered by NHS Forth Valley."