Friday, October 14, 2016

NOTA Annual Conference, Brighton 2016

The annual NOTA conference took place from the 28th – 30th September in Brighton, this year’s theme was "Sharing Practice and Research: Coming together to become more effective"; however, the underlying theme and narrative of the conference was about the prevention of sexual abuse. The conference was a real mix of research, practice and engagement with colleagues, as well as the general public. In this blog I am going to take you on a whistle stop tour of the event.

The 2016 plenaries combined research, practice and innovate approaches from a very international group of speakers. The plenary sessions covered a range of topics including from online behaviour and Child Sexual Abuse (David Delmonico, Andy Phippen), mental health and sexual offending (Jackie Craissati), the treatment of sexual abusers (Gwenda Willis; Clark Baim), the work of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) (Stephen Webster) and international approaches to sexual abuse prevention (Maia Christopher). Although these plenaries were on different topics, and from a national to an international viewpoint, they all talked to the reality of child sexual abuse and how we as individuals, professionals and a society could prevent it.

The workshops spanned a full range of topics including: Circles of Support and accountability (Martin Clarke and Kerry Earnshaw; Tracey Blackstock; Kieran McCartan Rebecca Milner); public health approaches to sexual abuse and prevention (Stephen Smallbone; Gwenda Willis; Kieran McCartan; Jon Brown); child sexual abuse material and online offenders (Danielle Kettlebrough; Daryl Mead and Mary Sharpe; David Delmonico; Vicky Young and Tom Squire; Marcella Leonard); youth who sexually harm (Pat Brangan; Susannah Bowyer; Simon Hackett; Valerie Sheehan and Eileen Kilpatrick; Helen Whittle; Kathryn Lawrence; Carlene Firmin); female sexual offenders (Andrea Darling); treatment (Clark Baim and Lydia Guthrie; Jacqueline Page), as well as  risk assessment and policing (Marcella Leonard; Duncan Sheppard). The workshops were a good mix of research, evaluation, practical working, professional learning and knowledge exchange.

In addition to the traditional conference activities NOTA 2016 also had a series of special interest activities and bespoke sessions. The conference hosted NOTA's second public engagement event which did not have many members of the public (a real learning point for NOTA 2017 and a different experience to NOTA 2016) but instead welcomed 30+ conference attendees (academics, stakeholders, professionals and therapists from across the UK and beyond to discuss how we can prevent Child Sexual Abuse. The session heard from national (Nina Burrows; Kieran McCartan) and international (Maia Christopher) speakers about the work that they were involved with in preventing child sexual abuse and their ideas for where NOTA and professionals in this arena go next. Interestingly, in the Q & A afterwards there was not consensus between the audience and panel, or even the audience themselves, that we have got prevention correct, that we are using the right language, hitting the target audience and that we as a professional body main need to do more amongst ourselves before moving into working with communities.

NOTA also had a session on the systematic review that the organisation was involved in around the development of the new NICE guidelines (Fiona Campbell and Simon Hackett) relating to assessment and treatment of youths with involved in sexually harmful behaviour. The conference also had the head of research from the IICSA (Stephen Webster) come and talk about the progress of the research strand and talking about some of the early projects and rapid evidence reviews (especially on the church, sex offenders with Learning Difficulties), in closing Stephen though that there was a lot more research to do and had a desire to link the IICSA work to that of the Royal Commission into institutional responses to sexual abuse just concluding in Australia. Last but not least NOTA held its first student event, which was an opportunity for students to meet there contemporaries in the field to discuss their research.

NOTA 2016 fitted a massive amount of material in across three days, which left me informed, refreshed and looking forward to next year’s meeting in Cardiff (20th – 22nd September 2017).

Kieran McCartan, Ph.D

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