Catch22 Merseyside Child Exploitation and Missing service will be able to offer mobile phones to the young victims they are supporting, thanks to a generous donation of over 50 mobile phones from Tesco Mobile as part of the Tesco Mobile Reconnects initiative.
The phones will be donated to young people supported by Catch22 Merseyside who have been victims of sexual or criminal exploitation. The individuals have had their phones either seized by police for investigative purposes, or face digital poverty – that is they are without access to the internet or a digital device for communicating. Digital poverty affects support services and law enforcements’ abilities to contact victims, as well young people’s access to employment and educational opportunities. The ability to remotely contact victims who Catch22 supports is more important than ever as Merseyside faces continued lockdown.
Vikki McKenna, Service Manager for Catch22’s Merseyside CSE and Missing Persons team said:
“The young people we work with, often highly vulnerable and at high risk of further harm, can end up having their phones seized for up to 12 months while evidence is gathered. They are working to try and rebuild their lives but the lack of digital access can result in further isolation from their friends and from us at Catch22.
“Just this week, we’ve been supporting a young man, who has tried to exit a life of criminal intimidation, has recently lost his grandmother due to Covid-19, and while living with his supportive father, faces very poor living conditions and no digital access at home. He refused to engage with us a few weeks ago but since providing him with a phone, he speaks to us regularly, we have built up a good relationship, and we are able to continue our work in preventing further criminal exploitation.”
Merseyside’s Police and Crime Commissioner Jane Kennedy said:
“What a wonderful initiative which will ensure vulnerable young people are not left further isolated or hurt. The donation of these iPhones means that young people who are frightened, damaged by their experience and at risk of further harm will be able to stay in contact with Catch22, helping them to get the guidance and support they need to break free from the gangsters who are abusing them.
“My thanks go to Tesco Mobile for their generous donation which will help to protect these young people, as well as to Catch22 whose enterprise and dedication is giving these young people a brighter future.”