Lincolnshire is leading the way as the first and only Force in the country to have in place a Safeguarding Network.
The Safeguarding Network is a new initiative introduced earlier this year as a means of supporting the Paedophile Online Investigation Team (POLIT) with safeguarding referrals. Detective Sgt Sam Ward came up with the concept of the network and was responsible for the rollout across the force. He explained how the initiative would work in practice, “An example of where the network would support our efforts to keep our residents safe would be a child having uploaded inappropriate images of themselves to the internet. A member of the Safeguarding Network team will visit families, making sure there are no coercion concerns and offer online safeguarding advice. These visits offer us the opportunity to engage with young people and their parents and ultimately prevent the possible exploitation of these children.”
The Safeguarding Network is now in operation across the force. Made up of 25 volunteers, who signed up to the role in addition to their main duties, network members have training from Al “Special Al” Mackenzie who is a nationally recognised safeguarding expert delivering safeguarding training in schools across the country alongside being a Special Constable and works with POLIT as the safeguarding lead currently dealing with all the safeguarding referrals. The network also benefited from the knowledge and wisdom of PC Colin Longmuir who has provided training for the team. PC Longmuir is a Victim Identification Officer whose role is to identify victims and potential victims of child abuse. He is the longest serving Victim Identification Officer in the UK.
The Safeguarding Network are finding new methods of supporting and informing victims and their families, giving them access to a variety of resources to help keep them safe in the online world. New innovative lanyard cards have been introduced for safeguarding network members which have a dual purpose. They identify the wearer as part of the safeguarding team but help on a practical level. The lanyards feature a QR code that links to a wealth of relevant information for parents, suspects of online child sex offences and families of suspects.
DS Sam Ward said, “Our engagement through the network is now made all the more convenient with use of the QR code on the lanyard. It's a practical, environmentally friendly and often more convenient way for people to receive information, saving staff from carrying round a stock of different leaflets that may need updating and replenishing.”
The network, with the support of POLIT, continue to conduct important safeguarding visits within the areas they work contributing towards keeping the most vulnerable people in our communities safe.
Alongside the work of developing the Safeguarding Network, Detective Sgt Sam Ward and Special Constable Al have recorded a video about image sharing between children and the police response to that. This will be offered as a valuable asset for schools to make use of to engage young people about the support the police can offer, whilst also offering education around the legality of image sharing with a strong emphasis on consent.