A BROMSGROVE-based sexual abuse prevention charity has received a £600,000 boost from the Government.
The Stop It Now! UK and Ireland helpline, operated by The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, will now be able to give advice and support to around double the number of callers so they can protect children from sexual abuse.
The anonymous helpline deals with all aspects of child sexual abuse prevention, including direct contact abuse, child grooming, and harmful sexual behaviour of a child or young person.
Since 2015 the charity has been running a nationwide campaign to deter people from looking at sexual images of children online, and urging anyone already doing it to seek help to stop.
New figures show that, since then, there has been a 29 per cent increase in people in the West Midlands contacting Stop It Now! asking for support to stop either their own viewing of online sexual images of children, or that of a loved one.
It includes calls to the helpline from 169 people in the West Midlands in 2018, and more than 2,900 users to the specialist self-help website.
Since the start of the Stop It Now! deterrence campaign, 5,114 people from across the UK have called the helpline seeking anonymous advice and support to stop viewing online sexual images of children.
A further 2,418 people called for support regarding concerns about someone else’s online viewing behaviour.
The Stop It Now! Get Help website, which offers anonymous self-help resources to people wanting to change their online behaviour, also had over 40,900 users in 2018 compared to around 23,000 in 2016.
While the helpline offered advice and information to more than 5,300 people in 2017/18, 2,746 others called but never got through to an operator because the line was busy.
The 18 months additional funding from the Home Office will mean that the number of operator hours on the helpline each week will be more than doubled to meet current demand.
Home Secretary and Bromsgrove MP, Sajid Javid, said the Lucy Faithfull Foundation played a key role in that work and had his full support.
“Child sexual abuse is a truly sickening crime and I’m committed to doing everything in my power to eradicate it from society.
“It’s vital we take action on a number of fronts.
“That’s why we have given police and prosecutors the tools they need to bring offenders to justice, are educating young people on how they can protect themselves and will be legislating to ensure tech giants are fulfilling their responsibilities to protect our children.”
He added it was also important to focus on preventative measures to stop potential abusers committing crimes in the first place.
Director of the Stop It Now! helpline, Donald Findlater, said: “People viewing sexual images of children online need to know this is not a victimless crime – children are harmed when these images are first made, and afterwards when they are viewed or shared again.
“There are serious consequences for anyone arrested for such behaviour, possibly including imprisonment, losing their job, friendships and relationships, losing contact with their own children as well as ending up on the sex offenders register.
“Confidential help is available to stop viewing these images and to stay stopped.
“Over these last three years thousands of people, mostly men, have come to us for help to get their lives back on track.
“This additional funding will ensure thousands more get through to stop their illegal behaviour and stay stopped.”