Major Corby conference pledged to tackle online child abuse and grooming

It came after 70 per cent of local children said they’d been contacted online by strangers

By Kate Cronin
Sunday, 22nd March 2020, 6:03 am
Nazir Afzal was the keynote speaker at the Corby conference
Nazir Afzal was the keynote speaker at the Corby conference

Leading figures from the fight against child sexual exploitation gathered in Corby to share their knowledge on ways of tackling the ongoing battle against online child abuse.

Northamptonshire-based charity Service Six hosted its third annual TARGET conference at Corby Technical School before coronavirus social distancing warnings were issued on Friday, March 13.

Among a stellar line-up of speakers were Fiona Broadfoot - who survived being forced into child prostitution - and former chief crown prosecutor Nazi Afzal who was instrumental in getting the Rochdale grooming gang cases to court.

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There was also drama, talks from young volunteers, and advice from industry leaders.

The TARGET project helps to educate, support and protect children and young people against the dangers of online abuse, and the theme of this year’s conference was ‘Growing Up In A Digital World’.

A survey conducted by Service Six of more than 300 local young people aged 5-18 years old showed that a staggering seventy percent were regularly contacted online by strangers with the average age of those being groomed on-line being just 13 years old.

Service Six CEO Claudia Slabon said: “Much of our children’s and young people’s lives are now spent online, playing, socialising and interacting with others.

“The TARGET project helps ensure children and young people have the knowledge and skills to ensure that they remain safe when they are on-line meeting, talking and interacting with other people”.

In the past 12 months the TARGET Project has engaged with nearly nine thousand young people through a variety of workshops, group and one to one activity and is just one of several innovative and award-winning projects currently being delivered by Service Six who celebrated their 40thanniversary in 2019.

Speaking to an audience of local people who work in their field, including teachers and law enforcers, former North West Crown Chief Prosecutor Nazi Afzal said: “Unless we take a cross-county, cross-country approach to this, unless we share procedure and understand how a predator works, we’re not going to be dealing with this.

”Peer-to-Peter approaches are key. Young, trained people should go into schools to talk to their peers about this. We should pay them. If we value them then it’s worth paying them.

”We”ve got to make teaching of this area mandatory in schools.”