In January, Kent Police hosted an Internet Safety Workshop for people with a learning disability at our Herne Bay Resource Centre. The workshop covered social media, online scams and briefly touched on personal safety at the request of the attendees. Local Vulnerable Adult Intervention Officer, PCSO Dan Mimran led the workshop alongside his colleague, PCSO Matt Farley.
PCSO Dan kickstarted the workshop by asking the group how we know when people are our friends. He stressed how easy it is for strangers to connect with you online at the click of a button and this is why we should only accept or send friend requests to people we consider friends in real life. The workshop also discussed how Facebook should not be used as a dating site to try and make new friends or start new relationships. If you’re using the internet to look for a relationship there are a number of regulated online dating agencies that can be looked into, but also consider looking for local social groups to meet new people.
PCSO’s Dan and Matt advised the group that it is important to only post things online that they would say in real life to people. He discussed what we should do if people are saying inappropriate things to us online which include; telling a carer, blocking the person or if appropriate clicking the child exploitation online protection command. Child Exploitation and Online Protection is a law enforcement agency designed to keep children and young people safe from sexual abuse and grooming online. If you are in a situation where you need to report something you can find this button online. The workshop went on to discuss email phishing scams and the group were advised to delete any suspicious emails that requested money or personal details. Paul Pinder, who attended the workshop said: ‘It was good because I had a question to ask them about the risks of Facebook and they answered it.’
PCSO Dan Mimran commented: ‘It is important to help and support people with learning disabilities, autism or mental health issues as they can be some of the most vulnerable in our society as they can be the most trusting. My talks and workshops are not designed to scare people into never trusting anyone again, but to help educate them in a way they can understand to keep themselves safe. It is designed to empower people to say, ‘No I don’t have to accept this abuse’. It helps people to acknowledge who and how to ask for help. The key message is always, if you don’t tell anyone then nothing will change and by telling someone who can help, change will happen for the better. We all have our difficulties in life when we find it hard to say something or tell someone or even recognise we need help. For people with a learning disability, this challenge can be even greater, so it is my job to be a part of that process alongside organisations like East Kent Mencap, to help empower, give confidence and educate people on how to keep themselves safe.’