At the new NSPCC centre are Sarah Allum, children's services manager for Young Witness Service; Sandra Myers, chair of NSPCC West Cornwall branch; Alison Armer, community fund-raising manager; Alison Kearnes, assistant director Devon and Cornwall; Ally Bolitho, president NSPCC West Cornwall; and Shirley-Ann Rooney, children's services manager Cornwall Family Support Service. Picture by Cameracraft
A NEW NSPCC centre has been opened in Truro to help to children who have suffered domestic violence or given evidence in court against their abusers.
The specially-adapted premises in Lemon Street brings together the charity's family support service and young witness service.
Children's services manager Shirley Ann Rooney said: "It is common for children to have problems with their feelings and their behaviour at home or in school when they have lived with domestic abuse.
"Parents can often struggle to deal with these difficulties because they are also coming to terms with their own feelings and circumstances.
"The work is undertaken within the home, at school or at the family centre, in negotiation with the family and other agencies. We helped 43 families and 28 children last year when we were based in West Cornwall."
The NSPCC said that across Cornwall in 2007-08 there were 4,000 reported incidents of domestic violence and abuse, including murders.
The NSPCC Young Witness Service deals with around 50 cases a year in the Truro area.
It helps young witnesses to be more confident and better equipped to handle court proceedings, reducing the impact of a potentially traumatising experience.
"We've worked with children as young as five years old who are taking part in a criminal trial," says children's services manager Sarah Allum.
"Many of these young people are giving evidence about their own sexual abuse and, without the right support, a court case can heap more trauma on an already damaged child."
The young witness work is reliant on trained volunteers supervised by qualified staff to continue its work.
The new base is equipped with improved facilities for training volunteers and for preparing and supporting child witnesses giving evidence.
This includes a remote video link and the NSPCC is negotiating agreements and protocols with the courts for this new facility.
The young witness support service is predominantly financed by supporters of the charity, along with a contribution from the Cornwall Local Safeguarding Children Board.
Devon and Cornwall Local Criminal Justice Board and Her Majesty's Courts Services have also provided substantial funding to help develop the remote video link. The family support team's work is totally funded by fundraising and donations.
Local supporters and representatives of agencies that work in partnership with the NSPCC throughout Cornwall have been invited to visit the new base.
Local law firm Stephens and Scown has adopted the NSPCC as its official charity in Cornwall and more support from both businesses and individuals is actively being sought to continue the work already underway so that more local children can be helped.
Alison Armer, community fund-raising manager for the NSPCC in Cornwall, said: "We are committed to working directly to help children and families through local projects to bring about an end to child abuse, but we will always need the support of the general public.
"The NSPCC's fund-raising committees in east and west Cornwall help us raise the vital funds to do what we do for children, as more than 85% of what the NSPCC spends comes from donations and fund-raising. Without that support we could do nothing.
"Anyone who would like to join them would be more than welcome to take part in range of fantastic events. Alternatively, we have a number of fund-raising ideas people can take on alone or with friends and family."
To help raise funds call Mrs Armer on 01752 846218 or contact the Community Appeals Office on 01823 346346.
As well as providing specialist local services based in communities like Truro, the NSPCC helpline – 0808 800 5000 – is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide advice and support to anyone concerned about a child's welfare. Calls to the helpline are free. Expert advice is also available online at www.nspcc.org.uk
The NSPCC and ChildLine formally joined forces in February, 2006, with the aim of helping and protecting more children. ChildLine is the UK's free, confidential 24-hour helpline for children and young people. Trained volunteer counsellors comfort, advise and protect children and young people.
ChildLine, now one of the NSPCC's listening services, still has the same well known telephone number – 0800 1111 – and children and young people can still call 24 hours a day.