A Wellingborough-based charity has been providing expert advice in the fight against online grooming, exploitation and trafficking of children and young people.
Experts from Service Six attend the NSPCC Annual Conference in London last week to share their knowledge in the area of online grooming and child sexual exploitation.
As a result of recognising a significant increase in demand by young people wanting support after experiencing online exploitation and abuse, Service Six launched its TARGET project - Targeting and Reducing Grooming, Exploitation and Trading of Children and Young People online - in October 2015, conducting research and consultations throughout Northamptonshire and Leicestershire.
During this consultation period the TARGET project engaged with more than 1,000 children and young people in Northamptonshire and Leicestershire.
More than half of the young people Service Six experts met with said that they were regularly contacted online by strangers, and more than a third had received indecent sexual images including images with other children in them.
The results also showed more than a quarter had sent indecent sexual images over the internet and eight per cent had met with strangers they had met online.
In 2017, Service Six successfully received £401,432 from the Big Lottery Fund for the TARGET Project to deliver to children and young people across both counties for three years.
Demand for the BLF TARGET project has continued to grow since its official launch in April 2017.
Each week Service Six TARGET project workers carry out on average eight sessions with school classes, two support group workshops with children and young people and about 20 one-to-one sessions with individuals, meaning that the charity is engaging with about 270 young people each week.
Service Six’s chief executive Claudia Slabon and TARGET project manager Hayley Brown attended the NSPCC conference which dealt with ‘Growing Up Online’ and they shared their expertise with other professionals from around the UK who were attending the conference.
Claudia said: “Our TARGET project is successfully combating the ever-growing dangers and concerns that children and young people now face online in regards to on-line grooming, exploitation and trafficking.
“We want to share our knowledge and expertise with other child protection professionals to make sure that we are able to prevent children and young people becoming victims of this crime.”
Earlier this year Service Six ran its own TARGET Annual Conference in Northamptonshire which was attended by more than 100 child protection professionals from the police, social care and education sectors.
During the event delegates heard presentations from Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal survivor Sammy Woodhouse, Lorin LaFave from the Breck Foundation, whose son was murdered following online grooming, and Kevin Murphy of the
Child Sexual Exploitation National Working Group.
Service Six also offer advice and support to children, parents and professionals through the Target helpline 07718 003219 (Monday to Friday 1630-2000), via firstname.lastname@example.org and through a free youth developed app ‘Target Online Ollie.’