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School children from Wearside visit SafetyWorks!

SafetyWorks! - the innovative interactive safety centre - is welcoming schools from across the region to experience their new educational packages. 
 
The centre offers age appropriate sessions specifically for children, young people and vulnerable groups, to learn about the potential dangers of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) in today's modern society. It also provides comprehensive safety advice on topics from fire safety to personal safety .

Now thanks to support from Sunderland City Council's West Area Committee, children from Sunderland are continuing to enjoy visits to the centre after the West Area Committee Councillors agreed funding for travel costs.

SafetyWorks!, based in Newcastle, is run by Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service in conjunction with Northumbria Police and partners and caters for school groups throughout the force area.  During 2016 it benefitted from an extensive modernisation programme, thanks to Home Office Police Innovation Funding secured by Northumbria's Police and Crime Commissioner Dame Vera Baird QC.

The recently refurbished SafetyWorks! now boasts a state of the art classroom with a welcoming community hub interactive learning area for children. During their latest visits the children aged 11-12 years from Sunderland covered how to manage their personal choices and how peer pressure can influence these choices. The children were shown in an interactive setting how these choices  can have real consequences and how they can be affected by these.

The CSE sessions and other police led topics are delivered by specially trained Police Community Support Officers based at the centre. The youngsters also learn about on-line safety and cyber-crime along with more traditional topics including road safety, fire safety and personal safety when out and about.

The sessions help educate children and young people on how to avoid becoming sexually exploited for power or for money, it is frequently found to be a hidden crime as young people often trust their abusers and they don’t understand they are being abused.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Dame Vera Baird QC said: "It's important that young children are aware how issues like CSE may affect them as they grow up in today's society.  Our officers are trained to present topics so that young children can understand what it could mean to them and crucially how to get the help they need if they are affected. We know that this can be a difficult subject for parents to discuss and we want to reassure them that we deal with the issue in a sympathetic and non-sensational manner to get the necessary safety messages across, which will hopefully help save them from future harm."

Councillor Peter Gibson, Chair of the West Area Committee stated: “The benefits to the young people who visit Safetyworks! are remarkable – Safetyworks is a fantastic resource, delivered in partnership and truly demonstrates that training and awareness raising within a fun, interactive environment really is the way forward to ensure our young people understand the importance of keeping themselves and their friends safe.  We also know, from feedback from the schools which attend, that once back at school the children continue to be really enthusiastic about the experience and produce fantastic pieces of writing based on their visit.”

Children are also taught about how to stay safe online, to be aware of the risks of contacting people on-line and what they can do to avoid them.

The learning packages have been developed for pupils after comprehensive consultation with schools, police, community groups and experts in these areas.

This builds on the important existing work delivered at the centre on road safety through to fire and water safety using a series of scenarios.  These include a realistic street scene - for the road safety input, park area - for anti-social behaviour, a house with fire hazards and many others.  The centre also hosts a number of other large scale scenarios for visitors to enjoy during their visit.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Chris Lowther, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: "The centre plays a vital role in promoting public understanding on a wide range of issues. Visitors experience a number of safety scenarios in realistic settings, helping us to create the safest community.”

Cllr Tom Wright, Tyne and Wear Fire Authority chairman, said: "SafetyWorks! provides young people with a fun way to learn about their own safety and the safety of others. By working together we can make much more of an impact, and I'd like to thank all our partners who work with us to help make a difference to young people's lives."

For more information about SafetyWorks!, or to book a school visit please visit www.safetyworks.org.uk
 
For more advice in relation to CSE please visit Northumbria Police website.  
Pictured at SafetyWorks! are Cllr Peter Gibson, Chair of the West Area Committee, Year 6 students from Plains Farm Academy and  PCSO Jen Charlton.