The Children's Society Seen and Heard

Building an elearning platform to help NHS staff spot CSE

Campaign: Content and experience management, Integration and bespoke development | Experience: Design and prototyping

The Children’s Society is a national charity that fights child poverty and neglect. Commissioned by the Department of Health to produce an e-learning package, they needed help developing a platform to train staff working in healthcare settings to spot the signs of child sexual abuse and exploitation.

Current estimates suggest that one in every twenty UK children has been sexually abused. Often these young people want to speak to someone about their abuse but don’t feel they can. As a result, the signs of child abuse are often missed by healthcare workers.

As part of their Child Sex Abuse strategy, the Department of Health wanted all staff working across health care settings to be able to spot the signs of child sexual abuse and exploitation, and feel confident to step in and support a young person who may be at risk. To this end they commissioned a team led by The Children’s Society to produce an e-learning package for staff located across healthcare settings.

The aims were to engage over 750,000 NHS employees, from senior managers to front-line health workers to support staff, build their awareness of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) and childhood sexual exploitation (CSE), and help them understand what it’s like for an abused young person with something to disclose.

The Children’s Society knew they needed a product which would go beyond the limitations of the traditional e-learning format. They wanted to create something which was not only flexible enough to accommodate solo or classroom-based learning, but which would engage health workers with compelling content, get them talking to their colleagues, and turn them into ‘Seen and Heard champions’ who would spread the message throughout the organisation.

What we did

Manifesto, advised by The Children’s Society safeguarding experts, devised an immersive, hour-long e-learning course called ‘Seen and Heard’ – using digital storytelling techniques, original video, audio, and interactive exercises to bring young people’s experiences to life.

A supporting campaign website houses a suite of online tools designed to encourage peer-to-peer training and knowledge sharing within the NHS, ensuring the initiative delivers maximum impact for DoH over the next four years and beyond.

The immersive, hour-long e-learning course ‘Seen and Heard’ was devised by Manifesto, under the guidance of The Children’s Society safeguarding experts. The course uses immersive video, interactive content and gamification techniques to create an experience which drives home the course content in an accessible, engaging and memorable format.

The content – which conforms to strict accessibility standards – centres around a hard-hitting 15 minute film about Tyler, a young person who has experienced childhood sexual abuse. In the film, Tyler, who was abused by his older brother, sees that his younger sibling is now at risk in the same way, and lashes out violently. A nurse who treats Tyler is able to recognise the signs of childhood sexual abuse and provides an easily identifiable subject for the course’s key audience.

Young people were involved from the beginning of the development. The Children’s Society were determined that their views, opinions and experiences were at the heart of the training. They needed to be the ones telling us what they needed from health care workers in order to disclose what was happening to them.

Much of the content is derived from the experiences of over 100 young people, many of whom have experienced abuse or exploitation. Actors were cast from the same age groups to portray these case studies and ensure an authenticity that would help health workers identify the same signs in real-life scenarios.

By capturing young people’s views, TCS aimed to ensure professionals in health settings and beyond act in a way which supports those who have been abused and exploited, and that those individuals feel welcomed, at ease and able to disclose what they’ve been through.

How it went

Seen and Heard is a long-term initiative designed to engage hundreds of thousands of healthcare workers over a four year period as part of the Department of Health’s child sex abuse strategy to change organisational culture and practice. A ground-breaking eLearning experience for NHS workers, The Children’s Society believes that it will help sound the alarm on incidents sooner, relieving pressure on the healthcare system, and ultimately, the criminal justice system too.

Nicola Blackwood, Health Minister, speaking at the Seen and Heard launch on 20 July 2016 at Homerton Hospital in Hackney, said: “No child should have to experience sexual abuse. Health and care staff are well positioned to make that vital difference in spotting and preventing child sexual abuse. That is why it so is important that children and young people feel able to trust and talk to them about their concerns, so that they can get the help and support that they need much sooner.”

Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said: “Staff across the NHS, from receptionists to nurses and doctors, are perfectly placed to spot the signs of child sexual abuse and exploitation. But too often these signs are missed, and children don’t feel able to speak out. Recognising the warning signs and creating the right opportunities for children to talk is everyone’s responsibility and this is an important step forward in making this a reality.

“We have developed Seen and Heard to make it possible for every member of the NHS and anyone who works with children, to recognise the signs of child sexual abuse and make sure these vulnerable children are seen and heard so they can get the protection and support they need to recover from these horrific crimes.”

The initiative has also gained the backing of the Royal College of Nursing. Ray McMorrow, a nurse specialist in child sexual exploitation, said: “Nurses want to do the right thing to protect their patients and the development of effective safeguarding and information sharing pathways, along with the training of all nurses, will help them to do this.”

The Children’s Society is now keen to develop this training for other professionals such as police, social care and education providers. As part of this development work they are inviting professionals and commissioners from other industries and sectors to work with them to explore how this training could support workers in other contexts and settings.

The project is currently being used as an internal case study within The Children’s Society on how to develop innovative, high-quality work in a very short timescale.

How this helps us on your project

Our experience of devising and delivering immersive digital experiences, and our wide-ranging technical capabilities, means we’re a great choice for delivering e-learning or other mixed media platforms which seek to make a big impact. Comfortable operating in complex stakeholder environments, our Agile ways of working help us adapt to changing requirements without compromising on quality.


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