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Child exploitationDigital skills

Serious violence funding must prioritise a public health approach

A group of professionals sit around a table reviewing papers.

Our frontline staff know that post-lockdown, there is a significant risk of increased violence as unemployment soars, online threats escalate and young people and those in vulnerable households cope with exceptional pressures.

Catch22 welcomes the early intervention and multi-agency focus in today’s announcement.    

A public health approach

Catch22 has always advocated for a public health approach because the best outcomes for our service users come when we address individual risk factors collaboratively, bringing together experts from relevant public services, third sector agencies, and the service user and their best support network.

Our services tackling the criminal and sexual exploitation of children are based across Merseyside, Wolverhampton, Derby and Derbyshire. They are able to best support young people at the most serious end of criminal involvement because one-to-one relationships are built between the young person and an independent and trusted third sector organisation, while health, policing, and educational bodies are kept informed as necessary and able to offer relevant support long-term. We hope today’s announcement is a continuation of the government’s commitment to a public health approach to addressing violence – ensuring this duty of a joined-up approach puts prevention as an absolute priority.

Building opportunities

Providing opportunities and pathways are some of the best things we can offer our most vulnerable communities right now.

The Social Switch Project, funded by The Mayor of London’s Violence Reduction Unit and Google.org, is a highly successful programme delivered by Catch22 and Redthread since 2019 and has continued throughout lockdowns. The project delivers full-time training opportunities to at-risk young people – those who have creativity, skills, and ambition, but may lack the direction, support, or an understanding of how their skills can be applied in digital roles – to get them working for some of the UK’s biggest companies.

We look forward to seeing momentum for programmes such as this grow, particularly with the pilot of the Creating Opportunities Forum.

Investing in training and education

There is still a lack of public and professional understanding on how young children – those as young as six years old – can be a victim while being engrossed in violent behaviour. We would like to see more focus on education – for young people, parents and individuals supporting them, and professionals.

More police officers are welcome but efforts must be made for police trust to be built in our communities too – that means police officers being aware of the risks online, what is harmful and what is not – and how to talk about online behaviour. Catch22 is already working with the likes of Project Alpha, the Metropolitan Police’s Social Media Hub, but young people must feel able to approach all frontline professionals, including police, to talk about potential exploitation or behaviour which makes them feel uncomfortable, and they must be ready for such conversations.

Having already trained more than 700 frontline professionals across London, from youth workers and school safeguarding professionals to teachers and police, The Social Switch Project also trains professionals to have these constructive conversations with young people – conversations which question potentially harmful behaviour online, but that also embrace the creativity and opportunity found online so as not to alienate the very individuals we are all trying to help.