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Suffolk: More training needed to help professionals protect and support children abused online

PUBLISHED: 08:11 28 January 2014 | UPDATED: 08:50 28 January 2014

Dr Emma Bond at University Campus Suffolk,

Dr Emma Bond at University Campus Suffolk,

Child online sexual abuse victims may not be getting the right protection or support because training for professionals has not kept pace with technological advances, according to university academics.

A survey by researchers, including those at University Campus Suffolk (UCS), of 629 professionals working with children across England revealed a ‘black hole’ in the knowledge of those helping youngsters who have been abused through the internet.

It added that while perpetrators have become more ingenious in their use of technology to engage with vulnerable children, the training available to professionals has not kept up. The study was carried out by researchers at Plymouth University and UCS for the Marie Collins Foundation, a pioneering charity dedicated to improving services for children abused online.

Dr Emma Bond, senior lecturer in applied social sciences at UCS, said: “The research overwhelmingly demonstrates the desperate need for raising the awareness of online abuse of young people and the desperate need of training for professionals who work with young people. I think it is absolutely essential that research like this is undertaken.”

The survey included a case where a mother had offered her 11-year-old daughter for sexual services to attract men for herself, and many cases of young teenage girls being abused by men they had agreed online to meet.

Tink Palmer, of the Marie Collins Foundation, said: “The results of this research have confirmed our fears: that there is a dearth of understanding and professional expertise in relation to the recovery needs and future safeguarding of children abused online.”

Lorna Jackson, Suffolk’s interim county safeguarding manager, said: “The harm caused by online abuse, exploitation and grooming is a serious concern and the dangers are well recognised in Suffolk.

“Next month, 100 professionals from across Suffolk who work with vulnerable children and adults will be coming together in Ipswich to hear from industry-leading e-safety and sexual exploitation experts.

“This is part of our ongoing work to educate vulnerable people and protect them from harm.”

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