A charity that works with disadvantaged children and young people in Northamptonshire has been awarded £401,432 from the Big Lottery Fund.
Service Six is starting a three-year full-time project to target exploitation of children online in April next year and will support 900-plus youngsters across the county, as well as Leicestershire.
Service Six launched the Targeting And Reducing Grooming Exploitation and Trading of Children Online (TARGET) project in 2015 after their data indicated a 21 percent increase in young people presenting with negative online experiences since 2012 and noted a significant gap in bespoke online sexual exploitation intelligence and services.
Subsequent project research with 826 young people undertaken between late 2015 and summer 2016 showed that more than half of young people are regularly contacted by strangers online, over a third have received indecent sexual images and over a quarter have sent indecent sexual images. Disadvantaged young people were shown to be at the highest risk being 21% less likely to report online sexual exploitation to an adult.
Chief Executive, Jane Deamer said: "Service Six is absolutely delighted about the grant award and the positive impact for disadvantaged children that the expansion of TARGET will enable. Tackling Online Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (OSEA) is the most critical work I have undertaken in my career so far.
"OSEA represents the biggest threat to the highest number of children of our time so we cannot ignore the crisis that’s already occurring and must address the dangers of the online world children now live. Working with and for children has never been more important to safeguard the current and further generations", she added.
TARGET is endorsed by more than 50 partner agencies including schools, charities and companies but critically has been supported since 2015 by Northamptonshire Police’s.
DS Carole Walton said: "The protection of children is a priority and I am extremely pleased to be supporting and working on the TARGET project with Service Six. Understanding the true extent of the problem will then ensure effective prevention and protection of children and young people online (and off)."
Service Six has been serving the region since the mid-1970s and has provided life-saving and life-changing services for hundreds of thousands of young people and, within more recent years, for children, adults and families.
For more details about the range of services offered by the charity, visit www.servicesix.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01933 277520.