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Child protection expert supports local newspaper campaigns to combat abuse

Dame Mary Marsh, director and chief executive of the NSPCC, explains how local newspapers help combat child abuse by raising awareness. This article appears in the regional press this week for Local Newspaper Week.

I often hear when visiting our services round the UK and Channel Islands that unless something has appeared in the local paper, it hasn’t happened.

I think this beautifully sums up the unique role newspapers can play in their communities in campaigning for change.

Something that the children NSPCC campaigns for have benefited from many times and in many ways.

When we launched the FULL STOP Campaign to end child cruelty in 1999 we knew at the outset we could not do it alone.

We knew we would need the support of everyone in every area of society and they needed to be willing to take action.

Local newspapers and their readers have been incredibly supportive of the campaign – they still are – and on behalf of all the children, who, through their efforts have been helped by the NSPCC since the campaign began, a sincere thank you.

The NSPCC has a strong track record of working successfully with newspapers and local communities on appeals and campaigns.

Over the course of this year we look forward to working with regional media to continue to communicate the vital support our helplines provide.

This includes the ChildLine service for children and young people.

Equally, this close collaboration has raised valuable funds that have helped us to run services in communities.

It has also, just as importantly, raised awareness of the need to protect children and how this can be done.

In 2004, the Liverpool Post ran the ‘Safe Place Appeal’, a multi-million pound campaign to fund and support the running of the flagship Hargreaves NSPCC Centre in the city, which has already directly helped 300 children since opening last June.

Last summer, The Plymouth Herald sent one of its young reporters to be cross-examined at crown court by a barrister as if for real.

This added impetus to a campaign led by the NSPCC, and backed by the judiciary, to provide child witnesses with a remote video link.

This link will mean that young people don’t have to face the added ordeal of possibly seeing their abusers in court.

Children are set to benefit from this equipment soon in Plymouth.

In Sheffield recently, local media and readers gave fantastic support to our campaign to raise awareness about the impact of domestic abuse on children and young people.

Such support gave the NSPCC a vital opportunity to provide information and advice about domestic abuse to residents of the city.

And in the autumn 2007 school term, the Birmingham Mail ran its now annual ‘Speak Out Stop Bullying’ Week in conjunction with ChildLine.

As well as a series of features highlighting the issue, the paper offered free packs promoting the helpline number to all local schools.

Newspapers and readers who back campaigns like these are local children’s champions; they have joined those who care enough to help make a difference to the lives of vulnerable children.

They share a common link with our fantastic band of supporters – donors and fundraisers – also the 135,000 plus people throughout the UK and the Channel Islands today who are NSPCC partners in campaigning.

These are people who have signed up with us to take campaigning action personally to change things for children.

I am pleased to support Local Newspaper Week and the emphasis it will be giving towards ‘campaigning for your community’.

Child abuse is very much a local issue and something that has an impact on all communities.

We know from experience that we are in a much stronger position to be able to change the lives of vulnerable children and young people when we work with various partners at a local level, including the media.

The support that regional media has given us in raising awareness and driving change has long been a heritage of which newspapers can be rightly proud.

Long may it continue.