Safe Skills bid to prevent online grooming across the Liverpool City Region

A ground-breaking project between police, councils and child protection experts to help protect young people from being sexually exploited is being launched in Merseyside.

‘Safe Skills’ will be offered to schools throughout the country with the aim of giving children and teenagers the knowledge and ability to spot older people trying to groom them online and in person.

The project, which has been tested in St Helens Primary, will be delivered to schools in Liverpool, St Helens, Wirral, Sefton and Knowsley with the aim of encouraging every institution in Merseyside to incorporate it into their curriculum.

The package will develop young people’s resilience to protect themselves against these risks by using films, role plays and interactive activities about grooming behaviours and controlling relationships.

Merseyside Police has been working with young person’s charity, Ariel Trust, in Liverpool as well as safeguarding experts from all five local authorities, who have helped to fund the scheme, as well as the NSPCC to create the free educational service.

Ariel Trust Director, Paul Ainsworth, told JMU Journalism: “Even though there are many different resources out there for raising awareness, there are questions about how much they can actually change behaviour.

“The reason why the Safe Skills project is unique is because it has been developed by children in Merseyside for children in Merseyside and helps give them the relevant and proactive skills and strategies to know how to behave if they are in a risky situation.”

YouTube: Ariel Trust

Detective Superintendent Dave Brunskill, from Merseyside Police’s Protecting Vulnerable People Unit, said: “Sexual exploitation exists in lots of different forms and it is not always obvious to the victim when it first starts happening. Groomers use the cloak of anonymity the web provides to hide who they really are and the real reason they are befriending them.

“Once they have won the victim’s trust, they can exploit them for sexual or financial gain and the consequences for that young person can be dreadful.

“The pilot in 17 schools in Merseyside earlier this year was really encouraging and, thanks to support from the five local authorities and the pilot schools themselves our ambition now is to embed Safe Skills into as many schools in Merseyside as possible so that each and every child is better protected from harm.”