NOT many of us would relish the prospect of working with adults who are sexually attracted to children, but for Carol Featherstone it is a daily occurrence.

Typically most clients come to her when they are being investigated by police for child pornography offences.

As well as being a member of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, she is also accredited by the charity Specialist Treatment Organisation for the Prevention of Sexual Offending (StopSO), which refers many of her clients.

StopSO claims to be the only UK-wide organisation proactively working to prevent child abuse by offering therapy, but says it is facing a cash crisis which could force it to shut down.

Ms Featherstone, who charges up to £47 an hour for therapy sessions, says the reality is that most people don’t get help for their behaviour and the “awful situation” is that there is no funding available to pay for such treatment.

“I’ve accepted people who can only pay very little, others whose mothers’ have paid for them,” she says. “I would rather people get the help they need than turn them away.”

Ms Featherstone, who is based in Newcastle, says therapy can prevent people from acting out their urges and just letting clients talk freely without fear of recriminations is a first step.

“I set out a contract, how I expect them to work with me and tell them to be totally honest,” she says. “I usually find that by the time people have plucked up the courage to come and see me and they realise I am not going to sit there in judgement on them they are willing to tell me everything.

“I do a very thorough assessment to understand how they have arrived where they are. People may have had a trauma in childhood or attachment issues.

“A lot of them have got into patterns of behaviour. I will ask them when they are viewing the material, what was happening at the time. A lot of people may turn to it when their partner has gone to bed, or when they are bored or isolated. I try to help them form healthy lifestyles and sexual relationships if that is possible.

“The shame and guilt they feel can be so enormous, it takes quite a while for them to understand that they can be helped and can help themselves.”

She describes her clients as frequently being absolutely distraught when they first visit, having had to reveal their actions to other members of their family or their employer. They have more often than not viewed adult pornography first and then escalated their behaviour, viewing riskier material before moving onto illegal images and film clips.

“We cannot ignore that fact that now the internet is usually just a click away for most people,” she says.

“And people seem to be accessing pornography at an ever younger age. They become desensitised and begin trying to justify to themselves what they are doing, even if they know it to be illegal.

“Because of the shame involved they don’t feel they can go and get help, particularly as the vast majority of services out there would immediately have to disclose any information they receive.”

Ms Featherstone adds that while the people she sees are regarded by some as pariahs, “they are not monsters”. I ask if paedophiles can be cured at all.

“I don’t think there are cures as such, but with the correct support and a change in their lifestyle their behaviours can be controlled and that is the ultimate aim,” she replies.

StopSO says that between June 2013 and October last year, 425 people approached the organisation voluntarily asking for help and the numbers are growing. It also says that about 37 per cent of people that it refers have never come to the attention of the criminal justice system. Therefore it is helping to stop future offenders.

The Northern Echo: CHARITY: Juliet Grayson, founder and chair of the charity StopSO says it urgently needs funding to survive

CHARITY: Juliet Grayson, founder and chair of the charity StopSO says it urgently needs funding to survive

“It costs £65,000 to imprison one person once police and court costs are taken into account,” says Juliet Grayson, the founder and chair of StopSO.

“To be cost effective StopSO only has to stop two people annually from acting out [their urges] and keep them out of the criminal justice system and we believe we have already stopped many more than that.”

StopSO says it needs £450,000 over the next three years to cover its staff and administrative expenses, as well as manage an anticipated increase in demand and enable it to publicise its services to the general public. It would also like to offer funding to clients who cannot afford to pay for their own therapy.

“If no more funding is found, StopSO will be forced to close and stop offering services to reduce sexual offending,” Juliet Grayson says.

“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.”