BT and Marie Collins Foundation programme to help online sexual abuse victims


BT and the Marie Collins Foundation (MCF), the only children’s charity in the UK devoted to helping children and their families who have suffered online sexual abuse and exploitation, have announced a groundbreaking partnership to pilot a new programme that will eventually train all front-line workers to help children harmed in this way.

BT and the Marie Collins Foundation (MCF), the only children’s charity in the UK devoted to helping children and their families who have suffered online sexual abuse and exploitation, have announced a groundbreaking partnership to pilot a new programme that will eventually train all front-line workers to help children harmed in this way.

The new initiative called CLICK: Path to Protection is the first of its kind. BT and the MCF want to ensure that every professional working with child victims of online abuse understands their individual role and those of colleagues in other related organisations.
Placing the needs of abused children and their families at the heart of any intervention, the aim will be to enable professionals to carefully plan how to approach each individual case from discovery to recovery. Increasing numbers of children are reported to be harmed in this way each year and many more go unreported .

The lack of professional expertise in the area of online abuse was identified in reports by Barnardo’s in 2004 and for the World Congress III against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents in 2008. The MCF commissioned an independent survey of Education, Health and Children’s Services in 2013 by the University Campus Suffolk (UCS), which showed that more than 96 per cent of front line professionals in the field said they needed training to assess risk online and 95 per cent felt they needed training to help children and their families with recovery from online abuse.

The UCS research has led to the partnership between the MCF and BT for the pioneering scheme to train police, education and children’s services, health professionals, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and Non-governmental Organisation (NGO) staff as well as the judiciary. The aim is for CLICK: Path to Protection to eventually be rolled out to all front-line professionals working in this area.

The content of the training for the pilot is being developed by a group of experienced professionals including world renowned child online safety expert and CEO of MCF, Tink Palmer, representatives from education and children’s services, the College of Policing, the Association of Chief Police Officers’ (ACPO) lead for child abuse Simon Bailey, academia (UCS) and an experienced recently retired CPS lawyer and Policy Officer.

The pilot will consist of four projects, in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, which will be tested and evaluated by UCS and then refined for rollout. The training content will take the form of a pathway from discovery to recovery, intended to become a best practice resource for professionals. Two types of resource will be produced for the pilot, the first will cover national policy, procedures and guidelines for protecting children and the second will be practical advice. The programme will include an educational

DVD titled Web of Betrayal, which portrays the real life situation of a child abused online. The material will be available on the MCF website when the project is rolled out.

Those who receive the training will take an online test to confirm that they have understood and learnt new ways to engage with children and their families. Successful candidates will receive a certificate verifying their learning. It is hoped that the final product will be endorsed by all the institutions responsible for training professionals working in the child protection area.

The pilot will follow a train-the-trainer format. The ultimate aim is to cover all UK regions and to reach all front-line workers who may deal with children harmed online and their families.

Tink Palmer, chief executive of the Marie Collins Foundation, said: “This initiative will provide an invaluable resource for front-line workers working with children who have been abused and their families. Online abuse is a growing challenge which requires a very specific response in order to ensure victims are able to recover with the right support. The chance to partner with BT, a multi-national communications provider is a huge boost for a charity such as the Marie Collins Foundation, and we are thrilled to be able to use this partnership to make sure that children and their families are continually being placed at the centre of any intervention which takes place as a result of abuse or exploitation online.”

Pete Oliver, MD of BT Consumer, said: “We’ve been focused on the issue of online safety since we developed the world’s first Cleanfeed filter to block child abuse images more than a decade ago and since have made the technology available free to other ISPs across the world.

“Online child protection is a critical issue and one BT takes extremely seriously. Our long standing commitment has seen us launch a partnership with UNICEF UK, Internet Matters - a pan-ISP resource for parents - and our BT Parental Controls. We are very pleased and proud to be associated with the Marie Collins Foundation and such a valuable and innovative project. It is vital that front-line professionals in this area have the very best training to better protect and help victims and their families.”

For more information on online chid safety, please visit www.internetmatters.org

Notes to editors
BT’s commitment to child online safety is a part of BT’s Connected Society vision which aims to improve society through the power of digital connections. This has included the following projects and initiatives:

The Right Click: Internet Safety Matters – a joint campaign between BT and UNICEF UK to help children and parents to keep young people safe online. The three-year project, launched in March 2014, involves 600 BT volunteers running workshops on online safety to children, parents and teachers at 600 schools across the UK.

Internet Matters – BT was one of the founding partners of this new independent, not-for-profit initiative, launched in May 2014 by the four major ISPs in the UK. The portal (internetmatters.org) aims to highlight the most up-to-date help, advice and resources on online safety.

BT Parental Controls – BT’s free filters, which allow parents to protect their children by deciding what their children should and should not have access to on the Internet. Once activated, BT Parental Controls cover all devices using the BT Home Hub, and remain in place outside the home when using BT Wi-fi hotspots. Parents can select their level of filtering and can customise it depending on the needs of their family.

About the Marie Collins Foundation

The Marie Collins Foundation (MCF) became a registered charity in October 2011. It
was created to offer a cohesive approach to addressing the recovery needs of
children and their families who suffer harm online.

The MCF vision is to ensure that all children who suffer abuse via the internet and mobile technology are able to recover and live safe and fulfilling lives.

The MCF works in partnership with police, health, children’s services, NGOs, education personnel, industry members, government departments and those working in the legal profession and judiciary. As well as offering direct services to children and their families affected by abuse online, the charity provides training for professionals and works alongside those assisting children in their recovery, influences national policies and strategies regarding appropriate responses to children harmed online and engages with the media in responsible and informed debate.
The charity is named after Marie Collins, a survivor of sexual abuse involving abusive photography. Marie was recently appointed by Pope Francis to the Pontifical Council for the Protection of Minors.

For more information, visit www.mariecollinsfoundation.org.uk.