The Centre for Child Protection at the University of Kent

Finalist category: Community Impact Award


Community Impact Award, Finalist, 2019

The Centre for Child Protection at the University of Kent was set up by Professors Reeves and Shemmings to research and develop innovative and effective learning and training tools in safeguarding and protecting children.

This expanded to meet the needs of keeping young people in real and virtual communities safe, and training professionals to keep them up-to-date with changes and dangers that technology can bring. Also helping them overcome fears of approaching these serious issues with children and young people directly, such as spotting the signs of online grooming.

Using the latest gaming technology and research on serious game-based learning, CCP has developed pioneering, innovative simulations to train professionals in child protection and help young people to learn how to keep themselves safe. So far, the team have made ‘Looking out for Lottie’ on child sexual exploitation and grooming, three simulations on radicalization (‘Young Zak’ ‘Zak’ and ‘Maryam and Joe), and others covering neglect, sexual abuse and going to court. The products are visually stunning and completely interactive. When designing the simulations they work with inter-professional learning sets to draw people in who are experts in their communities, including young people both as actors and to act as critics during the development phase.

These developments have had a direct impact on training social workers, health, care and education professionals, in tackling complex safeguarding issues, as well as impacting directly on the critical evaluation skills of young people. Training delivery is adapted to meet the varied needs of the wide-ranging audience, and once trained, they have access to the simulation, training pack, links and video clips to use directly with young people however they want to.

The CPP has trained 6754 professionals from 357 schools and colleges since 2015, as well as Prevent Education Officers (PEO) and NSPCC staff who also go into schools to deliver sessions. The programme of development and research by CCP has been explicitly designed to maximise impact on the variety of professionals working in child protection (to change their practice) as well as to directly reach and impact children and young people. The Centre has worked with a number of key stakeholders in child protection, and the reach the professionals can obtain is extensive if each time they deliver to up to 20 people.

A recent survey of 200 users of Zak revealed that 87% of educators believed that using the simulations with young people had probably or definitely changed the young person’s awareness of signs of grooming. From the same survey, 32% had recommended changes to their organisations safeguarding policy since being trained in the Zak simulation. The Lottie simulation has impacted on key national stakeholders, for example the NSPCC, who commissioned the simulation to match their policy to use Lottie to train their staff. The NSPCC then recommended the Lottie simulation to Childline, who contracted the simulation for their #listentoyourselfie campaign in 2018 reaching half a million children.

The Centre has been successful in achieving the development of innovative and robust digital tools and they are ready to take this to the next level by continuing to work with large UK stakeholders to make them available to more professionals and young people – as well as parents.  They are currently working with the Home Office to look at strategies for doing this with Behind Closed doors on radicalization. Additionally, the team are looking to turn the successful use of their approach on CSE, radicalisation and grooming to tackle knife crime by working with professionals, experts, researchers, a gaming company and young people to design a new simulation.

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