Child abuse has been in the media spotlight since the revelations brought about by high profile court cases that left the country shocked and stunned as part of Operation Yew Tree.
This followed the unveiling of TV and charity hero Jimmy Savile as a serial sexual predator who preyed on the young and vulnerable.
As a consequence of these exposures, the number of sexual offences reported to Nottinghamshire Police has almost doubled in the past year from 1,226 to 2,047 and this is mirrored nation-wide.
Victims of historical child abuse have felt empowered with these publicity-driven prosections and found the confidence to come forward and be heard and the authorities are listening.
Children’s charity the NSPCC fear this is merely the tip of the iceberg though following a report they commissioned in June this year called ‘How Safe are our children?’
Their research discovered that in 2013-2014, 14,961 children were referred to social services in Nottinghamshire and 1,598 children were subject to a child protection plan. This is drawn up by the local authority and sets out how the child can be kept safe, how things can be made better for the family and what support they will need.
Following its publication, the NSPCC is calling on greater government action to ensure tackling child abuse is a top priority.
“Providing early support for children and families will help prevent problems now and give them the chance of the best possible future,” said Sandra McNair, NSPCC regional head of service for children and families.
“Offering help at this stage can only lessen the impact of issues that, in cases of child abuse or neglect, will continue to influence a person’s life long after the event has passed.
“However, the responsibility of tackling child abuse does not fall to government alone. Child abuse is a societal problem with a societal cost, which is why we all have a responsibility to keep children safe from harm.”
One of the ways the charity is leading the way is through a school-based partnership scheme. Volunteers are delivering assemblies and classroom workshops to help children understand abuse and give them the confidence and courage to speak out and seek help if they ever need it.
To date, the NSPCC Schools Service has delivered assemblies and classroom workshops to 7,800 children in the city and 15,801 in the county.
Hucknall’s Beardall Fields Primary School welcomed two volunteers this month who delivered the programme to pupils in Years 5 and 6.
Retired teacher, Marilyn Jones-Hill, has been helping the charity for over a year using her skills in a bid to get the message across.
“We visit the school one week and talk to the youngsters in assembly and then this is followed up the next week with an interactive classroom session,” she explained. “With the help of the NSPCC mascot, Buddy, we send a clear message of how the children can stay safe and happy and what is OK and what is not and how to access help when and if they need it.”
As well as physical, sexual and emotional abuse, the programme also talks about neglect through a video illustration. Bullying is also discussed as well as cyber-bullying.
Youngsters talk through scenarios in pairs and are encouraged to come up with solutions and actions to problems based on the information delivered.
Marilyn added: “We give examples of situations where children can be at risk or times when they may feel uncomfortable andd give them advice on what to do and to let them know there is always someone there to help either a trusted adult like a teacher or by calling Childline.”
At the end of the session, each child is given a Buddy Kit with a few games and activities to take home together with the Childline number should they ever need it.
Year 5 teacher, Debbie Meneuse, said it was definitely a worthwhile activity: “I am really impressed with the programme as it is the right mix of visuals and interactivity to keep the children engaged.
“It is linked in with the curriculum and is pitched just right with the age group. I think it’s vital pupils get the opportunity to learn that if something happens they know what to do.”
Youngsters also responded to the workshop well and were attentive throughout.
Poppy Waller said: “I liked the story about a boy who was neglected. He saw a poster about Childline and rang the number. They told him to tell his teacher. When he told did, everything got better and he was happy.”
Fellow pupil, Lily Kent, said it was of great benefit: “We all enjoyed the Childline workshop. It showed us that we can always tell a trusted adult or call Childline if we need to.”
The NSPCC programme is free and they aim to deliver the scheme in all schools across the country by 2016. If you would like more information or to request a visit contact: Emma Grishin, schools coordinator, on 07976 065034 or email:email@example.com.
More volunteers are needed to deliver the scheme with full training given. Visit: http://www.nspcc.org.uk/what-you-can-do/volunteer-or-work-for-us/volunteer-childline-schools-service.
To contact Childline visit: www.childline.org.uk/buddy or call Childline FREE on 24/7 365 days a year on 0800 1111.