‘We don’t use WhatsApp’: Young people deliver Snapchat training to council safeguarding officers

Dr Carlene Firmin addresses seminar on contextual safeguarding. Photograph: Citizen News & Media.

Snapchat training is being delivered to council officers by members of the Hackney Elite Youth Participation Group as part of a “paradigm shift” in how the Town Hall is approaching safeguarding across the borough.

At a 7 December seminar on “contextualised safeguarding”, held for social care professionals from across the country, Hackney officers spoke of the need for a massive shift in the territory of social work practice.

Sarah Wright, the council’s head of safeguarding, has been working alongside academic Dr Carlene Firmin towards a more traditional focus on the child and family home to bringing all other aspects of a child’s life into the foreground, including their school environment and peer group.

Seminar speaker Akua Oseitutu, 16, said: “We have now delivered Snapchat training to the contextual safeguarding team as part of one of our projects. They’ve been hearing about how we use Snapchat, how often we use it, the language we use, and they’ve also learnt that we don’t use WhatsApp.

“We were recruited into the Youth Panel when we were approached in the park and told about a project where younger voices needed to be heard.

“At first, we saw the Youth Panel meetings as a struggle, and thought we’ll go once, but we’ll never go again, or go back to the same park.

“I think this is because we thought there wouldn’t ever be a change in the community. When we went, we thought this might actually make a change and is a good thing.”

Dr Firmin added: “Capacity to safeguard is about our collective capacity. If a child has been sexually assaulted at school, it is not the capacity of parents who have been compromised. They don’t have reach into that school to keep that child safe.

“This is not about each context in each isolation, but the impact they have on each other. We need to think, ‘Is it what’s happening in the neighbourhood that’s impacting on what’s happening in school? Is it what’s happening in school that’s impacting on the peer group?”

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