Written by Tanya Beetham, November 2018
Safe Strong and Free Highland is a charity that aims to reduce the vulnerabilities of young children to abuse and assault. They deliver a series of workshops across nurseries in the Highlands, which address three topics: Bullying, Strangers and Secrets. Workshops are followed up with refresher workshops for primary school children. The workshops are interactive, and involve puppets, Callum and Shona, who help children to learn how to keep Safe, Strong and Free. Workshops support children to develop knowledge and strategies for how to respond to bullying, if strangers approach them, or if an adult they know approaches them in an inappropriate way. Children are also given books to take home which reinforce key messages and can encourage conversations about safety, bodies and relationships at home. The workshops are delivered to all pre-school children who attend nursery. The charity takes a community-approach and believes that meaningful work can be done by promoting awareness within families and communities, as well as supporting children to develop the resources they need if they are feeling threatened or uncomfortable.
In 2017, Safe Strong and Free Highland commissioned the Centre for Child Wellbeing and Protection to evaluate their programme. Scotland’s policy for protecting children is underpinned by a prevention and child-centred framework. However, there are few programmes like Safe Strong and Free that are delivered to young pre-school children that specifically aim to prevent abuse and reduce young children’s vulnerabilities to abuse and assault. Dr Andressa Gadda completed the first stage of the evaluation at the Centre between 2017-2018. She observed workshops and collected questionnaire data from staff and parents/carers. She also gained children’s views by inviting children to participate in follow-up activities to explore how they had remembered the key messages of the workshops. A summary of our findings can be found in the Interim report for Safe Strong and Free.
Tanya Beetham is a new researcher at the centre and is working with Jane Callaghan, Director of the Centre, to complete the second stage of the evaluation. Tanya has visited Inverness and the Highlands to meet the Safe Strong and Free team. She has also visited some nurseries to observe workshops. We plan to continue gathering feedback from staff and parents, conduct further observations of workshops and children’s every-day lives in nurseries, and we are keen to evaluate the charity’s newly developed workshop for children with additional needs. Children with additional needs and disabilities are particularly vulnerable to abuse, and little is known about how abuse prevention programmes such as Safe Strong and Free, can be delivered to support their needs. We are looking forward to extending knowledge and supporting Safe Strong and Free Highland to develop and continue to deliver their workshops.
See Safe Strong and Free Highland’s website here, for further information about the charity and their programme: http://safestrongandfree.org.uk/