Education on criminal exploitation goes virtual in a bid to spread the message among young people
A virtual teaching package, including a hard-hitting animation, has been created in a bid to continue to educate young people about the dangers of criminal exploitation during the pandemic and beyond.
The resources have been created by St Giles as part of its three-year SOS+ Project first commissioned by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner in April 2019.
Nearly 4,000 pupils, parents and teachers have taken part in the SOS+ initiative to date which is led by ex-offender and former boxer Earl Ling and aims to steer students away from criminality and the danger of County Lines.
During the pandemic, Earl and the team at St Giles, have been working hard to ensure the message continues to be spread – the latest tool being the creation of an animation, adapted for Key Stages 3 and 4, which tells the story of Nathan who is groomed and exploited by his best friend’s brother.
A series of virtual workshops have begun to take place in the county with education professionals and parents to highlight the package which can be delivered to pupils virtually or face to face depending on Government guidelines.
Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner Lorne Green, said: “The work Earl and the team at St Giles have done across the county to date has been vital in helping young people see the real consequences of taking the wrong path in life.
“With a lockdown in place it would be easy to think County Lines has simply disappeared as young people have been forced to ‘stay home’.
“But sadly, this could not be further from the truth and we must do all we can to rid our county of County Lines and the knock-on impact it brings to our communities.
“I want to safeguard our most vulnerable young people and give them the tools they need to make informed decisions for themselves and I am reassured to see the SOS+ Project team have adapted their approach - their work simply cannot and must not stop due to the pandemic.”
A film showing the work of the SOS+ Project has also been shared with secondary school students during lockdown in a newsletter published by Norfolk Constabulary’s Safer Schools Partnership.
As well as the new-style teaching resources, Earl is continuing to run one-to-one support sessions for those deemed at high risk of criminal exploitation who have been referred to the service by schools, Norfolk County Council’s Children’s Services or other partner agencies.
CJ Burge, St Giles's SOS+ Project Manager, said: "Despite the current restrictions, sadly the risks to vulnerable young people around grooming and exploitation remain significant. All young people need a safe space and positive role models to surround themselves with.
“We will continue to reach out to young people to ensure that they are aware of the risks and know what to do to if faced with them."
National charity St Giles received £89,028 under the Hidden Victims’ Fund and a further £87,737 under the Home Office’s Early Intervention Youth Fund to run the three-year project which aims to provide 120 preventative sessions to around 8,600 schoolchildren in Norfolk.
Intensive one to one support is also offered for those deemed at high risk and awareness raising sessions delivered to parents and teachers.
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St Giles is an award-winning charity using expertise and real-life experiences to empower people who are not getting the help they need, held back by poverty, exploited, abused, dealing with mental health problems, caught up in crime or a combination of these issues.
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