How much is contact child sexual abuse really costing England and Wales?

The Home Office has published its report about the economic and social cost of contact child sexual abuse (CSA). The report considers both the financial and non-financial costs relating to all children who began to experience contact sexual abuse, or who continued to experience contact sexual abuse, in England and Wales, in the year ending 31 March 2019. The total costs is estimated to be at least £10.1 billion (in 2018/19 prices). Furthermore, for each individual who experiences CSA, the cost is estimated to be £89,240.

Previous estimates of the cost of CSA put this cost at £3.2 billion in 2014. The Home Office previously considered that the cost for child sexual exploitation (CSE), a subset of CSA was estimated to be at £2.3 billion in the financial year 2015/16.

In coming to the above figure, the research considers the prevalence of contact CSA in England and Wales, which the report concluded totalled 113,114 victims in 2018. It is acknowledged that this estimate of the number of yearly victims is likely to be underestimated due to the underreporting of CSA.

The report considers several types of financial and non-financial costs when calculating the final cost of contact CSA. The research splits the costs into three categories:

(1) Costs in anticipation;

(2) Costs as a consequence and

(3) Costs in response

The costs in anticipation of CSA include the costs of educational prevention, offender prevention and CSA training. The total contribution of the costs in anticipation of contact CSA to the overall cost was £7.8 million in the year ending 31 March 2019.

When estimating the costs as a consequence of contact CSA, the research is clear that physical and emotional harm that victims of contact CSA experience was the highest contribution to the total costs of contact CSA. It is estimated that physical and emotional harm alone contributed £45,985 per victim and where CSA involves both rape and sexual assault, this cost almost doubles  to £91,145. The costs as a consequence of contact CSA also include healthcare costs, lost output and victim services.  The total contribution of the costs as a consequence of contact CSA is estimated to be £6.7 billion to the overall cost.

The final category of estimating the costs as a response to contact CSA include police costs, court and trial costs, prison and probation costs and safeguarding costs. The total contribution of the costs in response to contact CSA to the overall cost was £3.3 billion.

Whilst it is very difficult to begin to quantify the true costs of the prevalence of contact CSA, the report clearly shows that the cost for each CSA victim is significant. The economic and social costs of CSA are also showing a worrying trend of increasing.  The harm that contact CSA presents to both victims and society cannot be understated with the largest contribution of these costs borne by the victim who bears the costs and impact of physical and emotional harm. It is likely that the true cost of contact CSA is much higher than is estimated in this report.


Written by Louis Solomon at BLM (louis.solomon@blmlaw.com)

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