Virtual webinars continue to educate about dangers of gangs and County Lines in Norfolk
More than 200 professionals and parents have taken part in a series of virtual workshops aimed at highlighting the dangers of criminal exploitation of young people in Norfolk.
The events, hosted by St Giles as part of its ongoing SOS+ Project, took part in November and December and received positive praise from a number of the 254 attendees.
St Giles, who were first commissioned by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk (OPCCN) in November 2018 to run the project, are now launching a further series of events in a bid to spread the message wider.
As a ‘victim of County Lines’ one professional, who attended a session in November, said:
“I was so pleased to see that a County Lines course was being delivered by people who’d actually experienced what I had with stories nearly identical to my own yet set hundreds of miles away.
“This put the course in a league of its own… my clients start to listen to me when they see the knife scars and see the past lifestyle and trauma in me.”
By the end of each webinar – delivered by those with lived experience - it is hoped parents will, crucially be able to understand the meaning of the term County Lines, understand the methods used to exploit young people, recognise key signs and indicators and encourage healthy conversations with their children.
Norfolk’s PCC Lorne Green, said: “To hear such words from someone who has lived through such experiences only serves to reinforce the reason behind these sessions.
“It is absolutely vital we continue to do all we can to safeguard our most vulnerable young people and give them the tools they need to make informed decisions for themselves.
“I am extremely proud of the work the team at St Giles have been doing and I hope as many parents and professionals as possible will sign-up to future events – we can never do enough to protect our children and young people.”
Other feedback from professional and parent attendees has included:
“Excellent stuff. Long may this organisation continue your brilliant work.”
“Many thanks again. I’ve already had better conversations with my son about this, and felt more confident talking to him.”
“The entire session was interesting and information. Hearing first hand experiences brought it all home.”
The next sessions are due to take place on the 17 February, 5 and 10 March and 19 and 28 April for professionals and 26 February, 12 March and 22 April for parents.
Clare Bradley, Contract Manager at St Giles, said: "The pandemic might have pushed County Lines away from the headlines but exploitation by drug gangs remains a serious issue across the UK, affecting children and young people from all backgrounds.
"We are proud to be working with Norfolk's Police and Crime Commissioner to help prevent young people from becoming exploited and abused.
"Our staff have a mix professional training and direct personal experience of this issue, meaning people can hear the reality of what lies behind myths around County Lines. We would encourage parents and professionals to join the sessions and find out more."
National charity St Giles originally 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 SOS+ 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.
Thousands of pupils, parents and teachers have taken part in the initiative. During the pandemic the team at St Giles, have been working hard to ensure the message continues to be spread.
As well as the webinars the team also created 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.
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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.