Foster Carers Receive Child Exploitation Awareness Videos as Sexual Offences Against Children Double in Northern Ireland

18th March 2021

Foster carers across Northern Ireland have received a series of new awareness videos on their phones to help them identify and respond to the threat of child sexual exploitation.

This comes as sexual offences against children have increased by 108% in the last ten years (according to PSNI statistics).

In the previous year, the National Crime Agency expressed concern that 300,000 people pose a sexual threat to children on and offline.

The videos have been released in the latest update to the ‘Fostering in a Digital World’ app for HSC Adoption and Foster Care.

The app provides essential child protection information for foster parents/carers and social workers. The app is a regional resource available across all five Health & Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland.

The new awareness drive launches today to mark Child Exploitation Awareness Day and is set to help protect children and young people across Northern Ireland from exploitation.

In a series of research briefing papers produced for the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland, CSE Specialist Dr Jacqui Montgomery – Devlin highlighted the hidden risk of boys being sexually exploited across Northern Ireland.

The Fostering in a Digital World App was created and is maintained by INEQE Safeguarding Group, a Belfast based independent safeguarding organisation providing expert-led training and technology to protect children and vulnerable adults.

Dr Jacqui Montgomery- Devlin, Child Sexual Exploitation Specialist, added:

“When it comes to CSE, there are certain nuances to understanding how victims and survivors, especially boys can fall through the cracks. Talking about this issue and raising awareness with our friends, colleagues and families will help us all better respond to child sexual exploitation for every child in Northern Ireland. It will also give our children and young people permission to talk about it.

Elaine Somerville, Interim Assistant Director Cared for Children in the South Eastern HSCT, commented:

“We are committed to supporting all foster carers in Northern Ireland to be aware of the signs of child sexual exploitation. The Fostering in a Digital World app is a powerful example of how technology can support families and social workers to protect children from harm. If you don’t already have access to the Fostering in a Digital World App – there’s never been a better time to download it.”

Jim Gamble QPM, CEO of INEQE Safeguarding Group, said:

“The complexity of exploitation can often make it more difficult to detect than other forms of abuse which are traditionally more understood. But the reality is that children right across Northern Ireland are falling victim to criminal and sexual exploitation every day. This is another shining example of how we can harness the power of technology to protect children from harm.”

About the Fostering in a Digital World App

The ‘Fostering in a Digital World’ App has been created as a resource and training tool for foster carers and social workers. The App is now a regional resource available across all five Health & Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland. This App was shortlisted for ‘Mobile App of the Year’ in the Belfast Telegraph IT Awards 2019.

You can find out more about how the app is used by foster carers and social workers across Northern Ireland here.