Bondholder charity Safe and Sound has secured Children in Need funding to expand its work to tackle child sexual abuse and exploitation across Derby city.
Safe and Sound already works with children and young people across Derby and Derbyshire who have been identified by Social Care professionals as at medium or high risk of sexual abuse and exploitation both directly and online.
The three-year Children in Need funding – totalling £107,879 – now enables the charity to work with children and young people who fellow professionals, schools and parents are concerned about and to expand its work to raise awareness of the issue in local communities.
Safe and Sound Case Support and Education Support Worker Sheila Isles explained: “The Children in Need funding will enable us to work with even more young people on a 1-2-1 basis and group settings and to better support their families.
“Rather than referring to Social Care, it will enable schools, youth workers and even parents and families themselves to contact us directly about their concerns about a child or young person.
“Concerns may be, for instance, that the young person has been going missing without explanation or have been receiving inappropriate friend requests on social media.
“They are not particularly showing the signs of being heavily targeted by perpetrators of child sexual abuse or exploitation but need support to prevent the situation from escalating further.
“Raising awareness in schools, colleges, youth clubs and amongst organisations who work with young people is particularly important.
“By developing greater knowledge and awareness of child sexual abuse and exploitation, we can ensure that the voice of our children is heard and that local families, groups and professionals can better identify young people at risk and find the help and support that they so desperately need.”
Safe and Sound Interim Chief Executive Simon Hills continued: “We are extremely grateful to Children in Need for their continued support for the work we do at Safe and Sound.
“Child sexual abuse and exploitation is a complex issue ranging from rape to online grooming.
“The perpetrators’ methodology may be different but the impact on a child’s short, medium and long-term mental health and emotional well-being is not.
“It is therefore vital that more people recognise the signs that a young person is being exploited and know that there is specialist support available to them to eventually develop coping strategies and reconcile some of their experiences.
“It is particularly important to reinforce the message that children are not responsible for the abuse they have suffered – although they often feel that they are.
“It’s no surprise that they lose trust and confidence in themselves and others, are confused about relationships, consent and what is ‘normal’ and positive.
“This awareness raising and early intervention work therefore effectively closes the circle in the service we are able to offer.
“We now have the means to work with even more children and young people to keep them safe and hopefully preventing them from spiralling into situations that could potentially scar them for life.”