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Digital skills

London’s Violence Reduction Unit invests nearly £4m in programmes to keep young people safe online

Four students sit on a bench. They are not talking to each other or making eye contact, paying attention instead to their phones.

London’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) has today announced new £3.9m investment in work to keep children and young people safe and supported online and into employment opportunities.

The VRU, which was set up and is funded by the Mayor of London, has invested in The Social Switch Project to deliver support for 1,000 young people and will train more than 2,000 frontline practitioners to better support children and young people.

The three-year programme, delivered by leading charities, Catch22 and Redthread, will:

  • upskill frontline professionals on the opportunities and risks the online world presents to young people
  • provide a pre-employability programme for young people that includes training modules on how to stay safe online

The Social Switch Project raises awareness of the dangers of the online world and aims to switch the narrative on how social media’s relationship to violence affecting young people and online harms is understood, tackled, and solved. Over the past four years, the project has trained more than 1,500 professionals working with young people to deal with the challenges and opportunities of the online world, supported 109 young people into digital careers, and provided intensive career support post-programme.

The new programme, which starts this summer, will also look at the growing concern around violence against women and girls, and how this is portrayed online. A recent report by Amnesty International revealed that online abuse of women is widespread in the UK with one in five women having suffered online abuse or harassment. The programme will build another level of support to young people taking part, providing specialist awareness training on violence against women and girls and how this relates to the online world.

Lib Peck, Director of London’s Violence Reduction Unit, said:

“We firmly believe that violence is preventable, not inevitable and a key part of our approach is putting children and young people first.

“The VRU is committed to working in partnership with Catch22 and Redthread to unlock the vast array of opportunities the digital world presents for children and young people to help them develop and thrive.

“We also know there are risks online and that’s why The Social Switch Project is crucial in working to support and protect young people, as well as highlighting violence and exploitation with internet and social media companies.”

Catch22’s Chief Executive Officer, Naomi Hulston, said:

“We are thrilled to be working with London’s Violence Reduction Unit to expand this hugely successful and important programme. While the online world presents a wealth of opportunities for young people, we know all too well that it also presents very real dangers. It’s vital that young people feel safe and are protected from online harms – and The Social Switch Project will play a major role in making that a reality.”

Geethika Jayatilaka, CEO of Redthread, said:

“We are delighted to partner again with Catch22, and with the backing of London’s Violence Reduction Unit to deliver the violence against women and girls part of The Social Switch Project. We know all too well the insidious nature of online harm for children and young people, so we are committed to working with professionals and young people to improve their understanding of how to stay safe online.”