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Project provides online safety to vulnerable youngsters

Vulnerable children and young people who have come from traumatic backgrounds are being given information about staying safe online thanks to a unique project.

Families For Children – the only voluntary adoption agency in the South West – have started running the project after receiving funding from the Officer of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Safer Dorset Fund.

The charity specialises in placing vulnerable children from across the UK – many of whom have experienced abuse or neglect or who may suffer from foetal alcohol disorder – into safe and secure families in the South West.

The organisation has now begun providing internet and social media safety sessions to these young people and their adoptive families, as part of their package of post adoption support.

The courses, run by internet safety experts in different locations across Dorset, are taught differently depending on the age groups of the young people involved, but cover everything from exposure to unsuitable online content and using privacy settings to coping with cyberbullying.

Some of the children have been adopted as a result of care proceedings and so the courses also deal with the threats of harm by being contacted by other people involved in those proceedings.

Older children who may want to find their birth parents will learn about the dangers of trying to do this through social media or commercial websites, and will find out about better supported methods provided by social workers.

Adoptive parents will also be taught about what children are able to access online, managing the threat of online grooming and radicalisation, and how to have positive conversations with young people about the internet.

Antonia Poole, from Families for Children, said: “Children are growing up in the online world and learning how to stay safe is now an essential life skill for young people and families.

“However, because of the trauma many of these children have been through, they are more vulnerable than most and so it’s really important they are given specialist advice about internet safety.”

Martyn Underhill, Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset, said: “Making sure vulnerable people know how to keep themselves safe is a major priority of mine.

“This is a fantastic project which is providing an important service to young people who have already been through terrible experiences and deserve all the help and support that is available to enable them to go on to become confident and valued members of society.” 

The Safer Dorset Fund Community Grant Scheme is funded by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset.

The funding is short term and enables innovative projects to get off the ground. These projects have to demonstrate they provide a benefit to people living in Dorset and help make the county a better and safer place. Applications are accepted for projects that deliver to neighbourhood areas, wider local communities such as towns and villages, or to the whole of Dorset.

The scheme provides small grants of between £100 and £3,000 to charities and community interest companies who are able to show evidence of how they will make Dorset a safer place and increase public reassurance.

The fund is aimed at addressing the key priorities of the PCC’s Police and Crime Plan: protecting people at risk of harm; working with our communities; supporting victims, witnesses and reducing reoffending; and transforming for the future.

Partner organisations are now benefiting from funding which is being used to commission services which otherwise would not exist.

More information about how community groups can apply for funding can be found here.


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