The force has engaged with an array of people to help protect youngsters in their communities using Microsoft Teams, which is provided by the National Enabling Programmes.
Between 1st January and 11th February, Avon and Somerset have used the tool to train 875 professionals, 336 school students, 356 parent and foster carers, 35 public/staff members and 150 taxi drivers – reaching bigger numbers in a short period of time than ever before. In total 1,752 people received the sessions.
Andri Nicolaou, Child Exploitation Prevention Officer, said: “When the first lockdown happened I was really wondering how I was going to be able to continue to do my prevention work and raise awareness if I am not able to visit schools and run face-to-face sessions with parents, professionals and young people.
“When MS Teams went live in the force, I have to admit I was really skeptical at first - I was thinking ‘do I really need this?’.
“The first time I used Teams was to run Child Exploitation sessions for Health. Having 150 healthcare staff attending the session was fascinating and I also ran another session for 90 GPs. I then ran sessions for police officers and staff, foster carers, children’s homes, multi-agency professionals, school staff, sexual health clinic workers, parents and other organisations.
“Online sessions gave me the opportunity to be able to speak to people directly and educate them about child exploitation, trafficking and online grooming in their own environment and have the opportunity to offer more nighttime sessions for parents.
“I have also run online training sessions for 150 taxi drivers and because it was online it gave us the opportunity to offer the drivers four different sessions to choose from, some being morning, lunchtime or nighttime.
“In relation to young people I ran a session for children from year three to six in primary schools and year seven to 12 in secondary schools. Primary school kids love the fact that there are actual people online and were able to have a chat with me and watch the presentation. Also, I was able to actually show and demonstrate to them (by changing my background) that what they see online is not always true.
“For secondary school kids I ran live assemblies and we were able to have a chat about various things that they are worried about or giving the opportunity to speak to me through the chat facility. For schools I have recorded some of my sessions for children and for the staff who were unable to attend in order to be able to share with them.
“Within the force, myself, the cyber officers and youth coordinators organised a force-wide parents webinar in relation to online grooming. We ran three of them which were fully booked (200 parents every time). Due to the demand being very high we decided to film our sessions and add them on a YouTube channel for easy access. I have used MS Teams to record myself for my presentation and that gave me the opportunity to be able to change or rerecord as many times as I needed.
“Virtual sessions have given me the opportunity to speak and educate professionals which in a real environment would be very difficult to get them in a room all together at the same time. It also saves time and travelling for everyone involved. MS Teams is definitely the right tool to use for our online sessions.”
To find out more about the National Enabling Programmes, head to www.transformation.police.uk.