BT to train counsellors working with online child abuse victims

BT and Marie Collins Foundation to pilot training programme for professionals working with young victims of online sexual abuse

BT and the Marie Collins Foundation (MCF), a UK charity dedicated to helping children who have suffered online sexual abuse and exploitation, will partner to pilot a training programme for front-line professionals working with abuse victims.

The 'Click: Path to Protection' scheme is intended to help ensure that every professional working with child victims of online abuse is able to understand their role and those of colleagues, and plan how to approach individual cases from “discovery to recovery”.

Gaps in professional expertise in this area were highlighted by charity Barnardo’s as long ago as 2004, but the scale of the problem has continued to grow as more people connect to the internet around the world.

Last year, the MCF commissioned the University Campus Suffolk (UCS) to conduct an independent survey that found 96% of professionals in the field want more training to assess online risk, and 95% want dedicated training to so they can help victims recover.

The new training programme has come about as a direct result of that report, said BT. It will ultimately be made available to police officers, teachers and youth workers, health professionals, NGO staff, the Crown Prosecution Service, and the judiciary.

The pilot scheme, intended to develop and hone best practice, will be monitored by UCS before being refined for wider roll-out. It aims to cover national policy, procedures and guidelines for online child protection. It also offers practical advice for those working with victims.

Tink Palmer, chief executive of the Marie Collins Foundation, said: “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.”

BT has a long-standing involvement in online safety, ever since it developed the Cleanfeed filter to block abuse images ten years ago. This technology has since been made available to other ISPs free of charge, said BT Consumer managing director, Pete Oliver.

Besides the new scheme, it is currently working with Unicef UK to teach online safety to children, parents and teachers, and was one of the founding members of Internet Matters, an online safety collaboration with competitors Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media.

 “It is vital that front-line professionals in this area have the very best training to better protect and help victims and their families,” said Oliver.

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