Research and innovation

£20m boost for drive to improve child safety

World-leading researchers have been given a major boost in the battle to safeguard vulnerable children.

L to R: Professor Kim Graham, Provost of University of Edinburgh, Dr John Climax, chair and founder of the Human Dignity Foundation and Childlight CEO Paul Stanfield. Credit Martin Shields.

A £20 million 10-year funding agreement has been struck to support the work of Childlight Global Child Safety Institute, based at the University of Edinburgh.

Childlight has been providing fresh insights into the nature of the growing problem of sexual exploitation since its launch last year.

Its research team is soon to publish the results of a study that is the first to gauge the global scale of the challenges.

The initiative has provided technical advice and support to help law enforcement bodies around the world identify perpetrators and safeguard vulnerable children.

Deeply grateful

Childlight Chief Executive Officer Paul Stanfield says he is ‘deeply grateful’ to the Human Dignity Foundation (HDF) for the 10-year funding package.

Mr Stanfield says it will play a crucial role in ensuring the sustainability of Childlight’s efforts to combat some of the world’s darkest crimes.

HDF was launched in 2004 to bring about a safer environment for vulnerable children, no matter where in the world they live.

“Abuse and exploitation of children is happening on a staggering scale – from predators tricking and blackmailing young people over images through to the abuse of AI technology to generate deepfake images,” said Mr Stanfield.

Crucial data

The CEO added that the fight to keep young people safe has been hampered for too long by a lack of data to better understand the nature and scale of this crisis and better inform policy responses to tackle it.

HDF’s chair and founder John Climax said that despite many knowledge gaps, evidence shows abuse and exploitation of children is prevalent in every country and continuing to grow exponentially.

“Childlight’s work in shining a light on this crisis is of vital importance,” said Dr Climax. “The world must come together and provide an immediate and comprehensive public health response. Children can’t wait.”

Major challenge

The University of Edinburgh’s Principal, Professor Sir Peter Mathieson, and its Provost, Professor Kim Graham, said in a joint statement: “We are delighted by the Human Dignity Foundation’s support for Childlight’s world-leading work to address one of the world’s major challenges.

“We are grateful to colleagues in our College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences for their outstanding work, which is ensuring Childlight’s success.

“It is a project that is a fantastic exemplar of the University of Edinburgh’s aim to attract the world’s best minds and build innovative global partnerships for research, teaching and impact.”

Childlight will extend its global reach with the opening of a base at the University of New South Wales in Sydney later this year. It will also provide the world’s first Science Masters Degree in Child Protection Data Futures.

If you or someone you know needs support for child sexual exploitation and abuse, or if you are concerned that you might hurt a child, please visit the links below.

Related links

Child Helpline International

brave movement

Stop it now

(Photo credit Martin Shields)