Plymouth works together to prevent child sexual abuse in the city


The child pictured is a model. Photography by Tom Hull.

An area of Plymouth has been chosen to pilot a ground-breaking new partnership to bring Plymouth communities and agencies together in an effort to prevent child sexual abuse.

Together for Childhood aims to provide help and support for children, young people and their families at the earliest possible stage.

Ernesettle has been chosen as the pilot site for Together for Childhood, with a view to rolling the programme out across the city eventually.

The project will see children’s charity the NSPCC join forces with Plymouth City Council, Plymouth Safeguarding Children’s Board, safeguarding partner agencies such as police and health, community groups, fellow charities and the voluntary sector, schools and the wider public – with the aim of building a better future for young people by identifying and addressing problems at a local level in a truly integrated way.

Chair of Plymouth Safeguarding Children’s Board, Andy Bickley said: “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 Board is well placed to know the devastating impact that abuse can have on children and communities and through serious case reviews and other mechanisms we will continue to learn from the evidence of what works to keep children safe as well as to improve systems and processes where things have gone wrong.

“But we don’t want to just be dealing with the after effects of abuse. 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.”

Ernesettle has been chosen because it’s a community that recognises that everyone has a part to play to prevent abuse from happening. It has a passion for keeping children safe and preventing child sexual abuse and there is already prevention work being carried out there, with a thriving network of community groups carrying out vital work for children and families in the area.

The community’s key priorities are education around healthy relationships, support for parents on how to deal with a disclosure from a child and increasing professional awareness of how to prevent child sexual abuse.

In January 2018, stakeholders across Plymouth as well as regional and national organisations, met to find out about Together for Childhood and how it is working in other places where it has been implemented elsewhere in the UK.

Since then, the NSPCC, Plymouth City Council and the Plymouth Safeguarding Children’s Board have been working with local communities to shortlist an area of Plymouth in which to pilot Together for Childhood.

Key project areas are set to include working with communities and schools on early identification and support, providing direct services for children, young people and families, and public awareness campaigns. While it will build upon existing work and safeguarding relationships across the city, it aims to also forge new connections and opportunities too.

NSPCC Plymouth Service Centre manager Tahira Rauf said: “We want to ensure all children in Plymouth benefit from happy, healthy lives and relationships.

“By bringing everyone together we can better understand where there are gaps in support for children and families, and how we can work together to ensure we achieve the best for children.

“There isn’t a typical victim or a typical perpetrator but there are factors that can help prevent sexual abuse in any community. Together for Childhood aims to ensure children can live in communities where adults take action to keep them safe, children themselves know what abuse is and are able to speak out, and there is early and effective action if problems do emerge.”

The project is expected to run for at least five to ten years, and will be led by a multi-agency committee.

Councillor Sue McDonald, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families for Plymouth City Council, added: “We welcome the start of this ambitious programme to try and prevent sexual abuse of children in Plymouth. We are pleased to be working in partnership with the NSPCC to drive this project forward and we hope as many local partners as possible get on board to maximise the impact of Together for Childhood in Plymouth.

“This 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 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.”

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 help@nspcc.org.uk