Using simulations to revolutionise child protection

children with arms around eachother

In 2022, the University’s Centre for Child Protection celebrated a decade of collaboration and the impact it has made both in the UK and internationally. They have a proven track record of success in making a positive difference to the lives of young people and professionals all around the world.

The Challenge

Professor Jane Reeves and Professor David Shemmings launched the Centre in October 2012 with the aim of getting to the heart of child protection training by using innovative ideas and the latest technology. They planned to design programmes for a variety of multi-professional child protection workers, including social care, education, health, law enforcement, law, and specialist child welfare services.

The approach

Drawing inspiration from gaming technology back in 2011, the Centre’s adopted an interactive method of child protection training and created highly engaging simulations on the subjects of:

  • Rosie 1 – child sexual abuse
  • Rosie 2 – neglect
  • myCourtroom – courtroom skills, developed with Cafcass (Children and Family court Advisory and Support Service)
  • Lottie – child sexual exploitation, developed with NHS Kent, Surrey and Sussex and updated in collaboration with the NSPCC
  • Zak the gamer – Radicalisation and online grooming
  • Visiting Elliot – managing sexual offenders

Since it was founded 10 years ago, the Centre has worked with a network of global partners including the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NCPCC), the NHS, the Counter Terrorism Unit (a collaboration of UK police forces working with intelligence partners to prevent, deter and investigate terrorist activity), the Home Office and Kent Police.

The result

Since 2012, through a suite of interactive, innovative child protection simulations, the Centre has been keeping children safe by educating a multi-professional group of child protection workers and young people in the UK and beyond. Achievements include:

  • Improving the court room skills of more than 14,000 social workers, enabling them to represent neglected and abused children more effectively
  • Over 6,000 educators gaining knowledge about how to prevent young people from being radicalised and groomed, and in turn teaching hundreds of thousands of children using the simulations
  • 278,000 people learning to identify risks of sexual exploitation by using the simulations
  • 10% decrease in calls to Childline counsellors (2018) on issues linked to relationships was achieved, via educating young people directly on grooming with Lottie through their website

Dr Tracee Green, Head of the Centre for Child Protection, said: ‘The Centre for Child Protection has had a significant impact in safeguarding children both nationally and internationally in the last decade. Our pioneering training pedagogy using simulations has included a double pronged approach to keeping children safe; first, supporting the education of young people of online dangers and second, providing continuing professional development to multidisciplinary child protection practitioners on neglect, sexual abuse, courtroom skills and grooming.

‘Our postgraduate research and teaching initiatives have continued to go from strength to strength with an expanding PhD population, a growing list of outstanding and involved alumni students and a multi-award-winning public engagement portfolio.

‘I am very proud of the work and impact of the Centre for Child Protection over last decade and look forward to the next 10 years where we will continue to break new ground in safeguarding research, training and impact.’

The Centre is developing its award-winning simulations with a new initiative for 2023, the aim of which is to enhance trauma informed approaches in police practice with girls who have lived experiences of child sexual exploitation.