New media helps children’s services

Social networks aid fight against abuse

In May, the NSPCC launched an eight-week communications campaign to encourage children and young people experiencing all forms of abuse to speak out.

Using its dedicated website,, the children’s charity highlighted a series of case studies based on children’s experiences of abuse but concealing their identities by using the voices of actors and actresses. It offered solutions for those in similar positions, and provided the number for Childline as well as details of what might happen if they do speak out.

Originally created in May 2006, the site focused on childrenexperiencing sexual abuse. But this year the charity decided to expand that to incorporate all forms of abuse.

Stephanie Hughes, digital communications manager for NSPCC, says it was important for the organisation to provide a digital response to getting children to verbalise their experiences of abuse because they are internet savvy.

“With the increase of social networks and how children behave online, it was obvious we needed to reach out to them in an environment they trusted and in a way that didn’t push information at them but provided it to them in their own terms,” Hughes says.

To maximise the number of children the site reaches, the NSPCC developed five core partnerships with social networking sites Bebo, Piczo and Habbo, and placed adverts on the sites of MSN, TeenToday and Smash Hits. It also sponsored the agony channel in MyKindaPlace.

More information

What do you think?

Tink Palmer, director of Stop It Now!, says: “The more outlets that enable children to come forward about abuse the better. In this day and age, children use the internet and we have to make constructive use of technology. Anything that enables children to make sense of what is happening to them and guide them in the best way is good.”

When help is just a text away

Young people at risk of becoming homeless in the London Borough of Lambeth can now access an innovative advice service from their mobile phone. Launched in April, the Lambeth text service aims to make the council’s family support service more accessible by allowing young people who may become homeless to text it if they need guidance or help.

Under the scheme, which Lambeth Council runs in partnership with tele­communications company MPP Global Solutions, young people who are considering leaving home text “LETSTALK” to a dedicated number. They receive back a video clip of a young person preparing to leave home and are encouraged to talk to the family support service. Alternatively, they can text “CALLME” with their name to a different mobile number, and a family relations officer from the service will ring them within 48 hours. The text service cost £2,000 to establish and will operate for one year.

Winston Brown, Lambeth Council’s lead officer for tackling youth homelessness, says the service makes a direct link between family conflict and homelessness among 16- and 17-year-olds and uses a medium familiar to young people.

He hopes that being able to text the support service will encourage more young people to ask for help before their situation reaches crisis point with their family. Once involved with the young person, the officer can also engage with the family.

Brown adds: “This service is part of our campaign to tackle youth homelessness as young people think they can leave home because they’ve had a row and get a council flat. But they don’t have the necessary life skills to cope.”

More information, contact Winston Brown at

To watch the video clip, text “LETSTALK” to 82540. To request a call from a Family Relations Officer, text “CALLME” with a name and message to 82540

What do you think?

Lambeth’s approach is a constructive way to target children at risk of homelessness, according to Centrepoint’s director of services, Jeremy Gray.

He says: “We have found texting to be a highly effective way of engaging with vulnerable young people. We fully support the work Lambeth is doing around mediation and prevention, which is a key part of tackling youth homelessness.”

Web diary of a foster carer

To coincide with fostering fortnight in May, children’s charity NCH ran, for the first time, a blog (a web log) by one of its foster carers on the realities of her work. Family placement service development manager Marcelle Ibbertson oversaw the initiative and says NCH wanted to give an accurate reflection of what a foster carer did daily to encourage more people to consider becoming one.

“We already knew that word of mouth was the strongest way of recruiting new foster carers and we wanted to encourage people interested in being foster carers to contact us,” Ibbertson says.

NCH asked all its foster carers if any were willing to write a daily blog about their experiences of being a foster carer, and Julie Simpson volunteered.

Julie and her husband David have been foster carers for NCH for the past four years. For the past two years, the couple have cared for three siblings aged 10, 11 and 15. Each day during foster care fortnight Julie wrote a blog about what her family did and e-mailed it to NCH’s web manager, who uploaded it on its website. The cost of doing this was minimal, it took little time and NCH already had the technology in place.

Ibbertson says Simpson was “very motivated to give something back to us” and play a part in recruiting more foster carers for the organisation.

Records so far reveal that those visiting the blog went back repeatedly, and the number of users increased during fostering fortnight. So successful has this first blog been that NCH plans to run one ­during adoption week this November, written by someone going through the approval process.

More information

What do you think?

Rebecca Walton, of Save the Children, says: “Blogging gives us as charities the opportunity to interact, open up debate and create discussion on an issue. Like with the NCH foster carer blog, it allows organisations the opportunity to showcase a case study or a diary in a more interesting format.”

Contact the author
 Anabel Unity Sale

This article appeared in the 9 August issue under the headline “Switching on to new media”

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.