Hundreds of people turned out for the community launch of Together for Childhood in Plymouth – an exciting new project with a vitally important goal helping to keep children safe from sexual abuse.
The programme is a hugely positive undertaking for the city, with the NSPCC, Plymouth City Council and Plymouth Safeguarding Children’s Board joining forces with other organisations in the city and wider community to make sure it happens.
Devon and Cornwall Police, public health, youth offending service and the education sector are all involved in the partnership that aims to build a better future for children by tackling child sexual abuse together.
Today, Tuesday 23 October, a launch event was held in Ernesettle, which is the chosen pilot site for the scheme that will eventually be rolled out across the whole of Plymouth.
The neighbourhood was chosen, after putting itself forward, because of the existing network of community groups already carrying out important work for children and families in the area.
Director of Barefoot, which runs SPACE Shot Youth Project in Ernesettle, says: “Together for Childhood offers Barefoot, as a small youth work charity, a unique chance to play a bigger role in preventing harm coming to young people. To be able to do this in the community where we are based and, through it, form even closer links with local residents and local partners, as well as a national organisation such as the NSPCC, is a fantastic opportunity.
“Today’s launch has been a mixture of family fun and serious opportunities to discuss and learn about how we can better keep children safe. Ernesettle has a tradition of family events and local people have welcomed the chance to find out more about Together for Childhood whilst younger children enjoy a half-term treat.
“We’ve had a great response from the young people we work with in Ernesettle, many who have been involved in the launch. They know how important the issue of child abuse is and how it blights young lives. The launch has given them a chance to have a voice and pass on their experience and learning to the rest of their community.”
The morning brought together up to 70 professionals from all sectors across the city eager to find out about Together for Childhood and feed into how the project, focusing on prevention, will develop.
This will include talking more openly to children and young people about sexual abuse in an age-appropriate way, consent and empowering them to speak out earlier to someone they know will act to keep them safe. With sexual abuse often committed by someone known to the victim or within their family the project will also look at ways to encourage adults to take action when they’re worried about a child and giving advice to those who are concerned about their own behaviour.
Guest of honour was the NSPCC’s mascot Pantosaurus who welcomed the wider community to the event in the afternoon for a family fun day. With the children’s charity, he helps parents understand how they can talk to their children about keeping safe from sexual abuse in an age-appropriate way.
As well as a wide range of activities, including face-painting, soft play and sports, families were able to find out together about Together for Childhood and the important messages behind the programme during the all-day event at The Parkway Social Club.
Key areas will be engaging with the community about healthy relationships, harmful sexual behaviour and the trauma, or root cause, behind a child’s behaviour.
Families have been taking part in workshops, as well as a discovery trail, to find out more about Together for Childhood before being asked about how they feel the project should be shaped in their community. They’ve been sharing what’s important to them and the challenges they experience in keeping children safe. Many of them have pledged their support and commitment to the project alongside professionals working in the city.
Chair of Plymouth Safeguarding Board Andy Bickley says: “We are delighted that the local launch of Together for Childhood was a success as it’s important that we get as many people in the local community to support the scheme.
“The prevention of child sexual abuse is one of our top priorities in Plymouth and we are pleased to be able to work with the NSPCC, Plymouth City Council and other partners on this important programme. We want to build a movement across Plymouth to encourage our communities to come together and help keep our children safe.
“The key thing here is that child abuse is preventable and we know that certain things make abuse more likely, so we need to do all that we can to deal with the root causes and prevent abuse from happening in the first place.”
Plymouth is one of just two sites in the UK to be delivering the project and was chosen because of the strong foundations between child protection organisations in the city.
Service Centre Manager for NSPCC Plymouth Tahira Rauf says: “We are extremely lucky to be able to run this programme in Plymouth. We know child sexual abuse is prevalent in all communities across the UK. Here in Plymouth we’re working together, building on the work already being done, to prevent child sexual abuse from happening in the first place by providing help and support for communities, parents and their children at the earliest possible stage.
“We have an opportunity here to make a real difference to children living in the city and that was really apparent at our launch. We want to help adults take action to keep children safe and for children to know what abuse is and empower them to speak out. It’s great to know the community are on board with this and ready to make a real difference to children in their own community and beyond.”
It’s estimated that 1 in 20 children in the UK have been sexually abused. The impact affects not only the child, but their family and wider community.
Councillor Sally Haydon, Cabinet Member for Customer Focus and Community Safety for Plymouth City Council, added: “The turnout for this initial launch event has been excellent, and we need to build on this. The support of residents and groups in Ernesettle area for this project will be key to its success. The focus on prevention is really important– yes we still need to continue to support victims but we must also do all that we can to prevent child sexual abuse happening in the first place. It will take the efforts of the whole local community to make this happen.”
“This ten year programme will be high on the agenda for Plymouth City Council and we want all partners and families to work together to make the community a safer place for children. We all have our role to play and it is essential that we do all that we can.”
The prevention of child sexual abuse is one of the top priorities in Plymouth and Together for Childhood will work with the community over the next five to ten years in order to achieve this.
More information about Together for Childhood in Plymouth is available on the NSPCC website.
The charity’s helpline provides help and support to thousands of parents, professionals and families. You can contact the NSPCC’s helpline counsellors for 24/7 help, advice and support on 0808 800 5000 or firstname.lastname@example.org