CSEC and LASER: the future of practical safety education

In the wake of Government spending cuts, many valuable projects have been brought to an end – and CSEC (the Child Safety Education Coalition) and LASER (Learning About Safety by Experiencing Risk) were, unfortunately, among them.

The projects were a breath of fresh air in a world increasingly obsessed with litigation and wrapping children up in cotton wool. Their remit was to help children to learn and grow by allowing them to experience risk and get out into the world and enjoy life.

Pete Wilson talks about the Safeside Centre

Launched in 2009, CSEC, a member organisation hosted by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and funded by the Department for Education, encouraged and supported “high quality practical safety education” through everyday activities that helped children learn about danger and how to cope with it.

The LASER project began at RoSPA in 1999 and was funded by the Department of Health. Its ultimate aim was to establish good practice guidelines for interactive safety education schemes. In 2005, it received further funding to undertake a programme of voluntary accreditation for permanent safety centres and annual events.


Looking to the future

Last week, CSEC and LASER members met in Birmingham at the Safeside Centre to feed back on the forum’s work, to report on evaluation of the CSEC project, and to discuss its future.

I have been privileged to be involved with both CSEC and LASER and am sorry that the projects have come to an end in their current form – however, this meeting has uncovered a lot of positivity about the way forward.

We may not have access to Government funding any more – but we should try to see this as an opportunity rather than an obstacle. The CSEC and LASER members will be able to set their own agendas, free from the restraints placed on us by funding criteria. And although we will now have to find cash in other ways, I hope that we are well-enough established to be able to keep up the momentum.

Mark Wingfield, MAX Practical Conflict Management, and Jocelyn Meekums, Central Networks, take part in a discussion table

Everyone was very keen to keep CSEC and LASER going in a new form and under a new name, combining the strengths of both projects in order to ensure that children can continue to be challenged and learn to overcome all the obstacles life throws at them.

There are many new areas to tackle: alcohol is becoming a huge problem among young people – not just for health reasons, but because accidental injuries associated with alcohol are on the increase; new technology is appearing all the time, and presenting us with new challenges as well as making life easier; reversing the trend for wrapping children in cotton wool, and not allowing them to take any risks at all. These are just a few of the issues facing society at the moment.

Additionally, there is now scope to expand the work that CSEC and LASER were doing to the whole of the UK, rather than being restricted to England.

Key policy developments

Dr Jenny McWhirter updates the forum on policy developments

Dr Jenny McWhirter, RoSPA’s risk education adviser, presented a round-up of key policy developments at last week’s meeting, looking at many areas of safety affecting children and young people.

She also revealed that, according to a new article in the Lancet on 50-year trends on injuries in all age groups, accidents and fatalities among 15-24-year-olds have fallen the least, making them a very important target group in the UK. The BBC website also carries the article.

It’s easy to forget that young people are consumers too (in ever-growing numbers). Within the sphere of consumer safety, there have been several developments including:

  • A change in the way consumers can seek advice, with the Citizens’ Advice Bureau taking over the Consumer Direct advice service
  • There are now fewer proactive checks undertaken by Trading Standards as a result of funding cuts, which may impact upon the safety of products in the marketplace
  • The recession is having a big effect on consumers, with sales of second-hand goods increasing enormously, meaning more goods are being sold that may be damaged and often without their original packaging and instructions.

Jenny also talked about how changes in transport policy will affect children and young people, including their methods of travelling to school/college – and the effects of cuts being made to school crossing patrols.

Jane Stark, Wakefield Health Care, outlines her successful bicycle project

Of course, one of the biggest stories recently has been the European Court of Justice ruling on car insurance and inequality, when gender is used as a risk indicator. We are particularly worried that this may lead to more young women driving without insurance as it becomes less affordable.

In the workplace, in the wake of Lord Young’s Review, many aspects of occupational health and safety may be affected – and with young people in the workplace, this affects them as much as more seasoned workers.

We don’t yet know how the abolition of Primary Care Trusts will affect the delivery of public health services and whether injury prevention will be given priority.

Feedback from CSEC and LASER members

Cassius delivers the results of the CSEC and LASER member survey

I reported on the results of a survey sent out to all CSEC and LASER members in early January. We received 17 responses from CSEC members and 24 from LASER members and prospective members from around the UK.

Many of the members feel very positive about the projects, remarking that support from LASER has provided excellent opportunities. However, there was a feeling that we should be seeking funding for schemes that are seriously under threat rather than providing remote supervision or inspection. There was a general hope that CSEC and LASER could continue in another form in the future.

CSEC evaluation

The CSEC Evaluation Team (from the University of Nottingham) conducted a comprehensive evaluation of the CSEC project, starting with a literature review and membership survey. They also conducted an international experts review.

Dr Michael Watson from Nottingham University presents the findings of the CSEC evaluation

Michael Watson from the evaluation team presented preliminary results which showed that overall, RoSPA was successful in establishing a functioning coalition in a relatively short space of time and that members of CSEC see their membership as being a clear benefit to them.

Twelve recommendations were made about CSEC’s work, including:

  • CSEC is at a pivotal point in its development, and now needs to reinvent itself as a new organisation and raise its own funds to ensure the valuable work being done is not lost
  • CSEC (or its new incarnation) should undertake a strategic review to re-examine its aims, objectives and key functions to ensure they are still relevant
  • Young people should be more involved through the member organisations
  • The project should promote the Resource Profiler
  • The definition of practical safety education should be expanded upon and publicised.

The group discussion in the afternoon highlighted the positive feeling from CSEC and LASER members that the groups should continue in a new format and under a new name.

Suggestions for funding the project included: membership subscriptions, sponsorship, commercial partners, income generation and LASER accreditation.

Jenny Spink, a youth volunteer with Fairbridge

There were several interesting ideas as to how more young people could become involved in a future project: the promotion of work experience at involved organisations; through youth organisations such as Changemakers and Fairbridge; at events; through schools and websites; and many more.

A discussion took place about the possibility of training happening at future meetings, with the suggestion that it could generate income from non-members. Members thought that training in special needs could be useful; as well as setting learning objectives, use of social networking, child protection, evaluation and fundraising.

Members would very much like to get more young people involved in the future project. This is a feeling echoed by me and my colleagues at RoSPA – and we will be doing everything we can to ensure that the good work done can continue, in the projects’ future incarnation.

Photographs were taken by Esme Collins and Mayank Sharma, young people working with Changemakers and beginning their photography careers.

Cassius Francis

RoSPA’s Youth Liaison Worker

2 Comments to “CSEC and LASER: the future of practical safety education”

  1. As a Director of one of the largest Corporate Social Responsibility Consultancy organisations in the North Community Partnership Solutions (CPS), I welcome the feedback collated. As a company we have never approached the Public Sector for funding, believing that if a company is making a profit then they should allocate at least 1% of that profit back into the community they serve. This challenge for investment has resulted in CPS delivering unique youth engagement programmes throughout the UK and Europe. Therefore as a passionate ambassador of CSEC we would be happy to engage our clients and others to ensure CSEC continuation of profiling best practice.

    • Hi Chris,

      Thank you for your comment, and for your interest. CSEC was a really exciting project, so it’s fantastic to see enthusiasm for the work it was doing to continue in some way in the future.

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