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The Dot Com Children’s Foundation has a proven track record of working with West Midlands Police and the Birmingham Community Safety Partnership to teach children vital life skills which help to prevent them becoming victims of gang violence and child sexual exploitation. Traditionally the police had targeted prevention strategies on secondary schools but the Dot Com Values Versus Violence resources have allowed the police to develop positive relationship with primary schools to focus on early intervention and allow them to get upstream of the problems. The programme has also allowed the police to access problem families were children are particularly vulnerable, working with the support of the schools and breaking down barriers with parents.
The programme was first introduced in 2012 and in this time the resource has been endorsed by the Home Office and the materials recommended as a prevention strategy in primary schools for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Currently schools focus all their attention around safeguarding on training adults. The Dot Com Children’s Foundation believes there is a gap in provision for children and the Values Versus Violence resources provide a means to close this gap, putting a safeguarding tool into the hands of the child. This briefing sets out how this partnership has worked so effectively and the next steps to meet the gap in provision so that every child in Birmingham can benefit and live free from fear.
West Midlands Police and the Birmingham Community Safety Partnership are currently at the cutting edge when it comes to early intervention strategies for primary schools. They have invested in the Values Versus Violence programme, which help prevent the abuse and exploitation of children, since 2013. The initial pilot providing resources free for schools in one year group was taken up by 118 schools and reached 6,000 children. Funding was found for a Birmingham co-ordinator, Rachel Turley, and this year the number of children currently in the programme has reached 11,000 with the 74 participating primary schools in Birmingham seeing the value of teaching the safeguarding resources across the whole school and funding the resources out of school budgets, therefore creating a sustainable model.
For the police the Values Versus Violence programme creates a structured mechanism for engagement with primary schools. In the words of the Superintendent leading on the youth engagement strategy Andy Parson: “Dot Com creates a partnership with a purpose.” The programme is delivered by the teachers, but specific lessons with a crime prevention message can be supported by police officers or Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs). The police attend multi agency training with the teachers and then visit the schools as positive role models for the children giving them a chance to meet the children in a non confrontational way. The message to the children is that the police are there to keep you safe.
The programme offers PCSOs an introduction to schools where they may have been historically poorly received. An example of this is PCSO Andrew Roscorla. He had previously been unable to engage with Firs Primary School, but was able to use the programme to build a successful relationship with them. This sustained relationship has allowed him to build trust with pupils and he now runs an after school club and now has more than 40 potentially vulnerable children off the streets and attending the club. He has also built relationship with parents who were originally suspicious of the police and this lead to information being given to him which allowed police to close down a cannabis factory on a local estate. He has also been able to support the school in attending home visits when parents previously wouldn’t open the door, allowing Child Services to to engage with vulnerable families with chaotic lifestyles and protect children. Parents now give him crime prevention information because they trust him. He has received a commendation for this work.
Over the past 3 years Dot Com CF has trained over 500 teachers, 160 police officers and 940 school nurses in Birmingham to help deliver the programme. The charity is now preparing to roll the programme out to 10,000 children across 9 London Boroughs in partnership with the Metropolitan police.
The Values Versus Violence programme is currently taught in 74 primary schools in Birmingham. The police would like to see the programme rolled out to all 299 primary schools so that all children are given these safeguarding skills.
West Midlands Police have established that it is helpful to offer head teachers an initial pilot for the school at no cost on the understanding that if they take the programme up they will need to fund it from school budgets. Heads report and DfE agrees that the programme is a good use of Pupil Premium funding from central government. Therefore following the pilot there is a sustainable model. However, the programme costs £150 for a full class of journals to be used across the school year and it would be helpful to identify possible funding sources from private donors who wish to sponsor a class or a school. The role of the local co-ordinator to support schools in tackling these difficult issues is also critical and the support of public bodies such to help fund this role is sought.
“The Values Versus Violence programme has been an extremely effective tool for the schools in Birmingham which has highlighted, in an unambiguous and simple way to children their personal value and the importance of their safety and welfare. It is model of good multi agency collaboration which harnesses external experiences within the community. The organisation is respected because it’s driver for its existence is motivated by improving the circumstances of young and vulnerable people. It deserves all the support it can get.”
– Yvonne Mosquito, West Midlands Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner
‘The Values vs Violence programme will play a vital role in helping to safeguard children from sexual and other forms of exploitation. The programme aims to develop personal values and help children lead safer lives. This initiative is aimed at primary school children and will equip them with valuable resilience skills before they reach their teenage years. Education and awareness are key elements of the Force preventative work around Child Sexual Exploitation. We are joint funding the programme with Oxfordshire County Council and I am very pleased that this will be delivered in primary schools across the City of Oxford. Local neighbourhood and schools officers will be directly involved in supporting the delivery. This is an exciting project with a proven track record of making a difference.”
– Sara Thornton CBE QPM Former Chief Constable, Thames Valley Police
Below is a short film about our work in Oxford in partnership with Thames Valley Police and Oxfordshire County Council.
In London, Croydon have funded 6000 children as part of a 0-19 years approach to help prevent domestic violence in the borough. Leading the project, Dwynwen Stepian, Head of Early Intervention and Family Support said: “The Dot Com programme is a universal safeguarding tool which helps every child and highlights those children who need a more targeted intervention.”
Contact: Faye Soggee – email@example.com
Lady Dee Orde – Dot Com Police Partnership Co-ordinator