Ben Osifu works for the Tackling Emerging Threats to Children team for Nottinghamshire County Council. The Tackling Emerging Threats to Children team are specialists in the Children and Families department who have vast knowledge in the areas of child sexual exploitation, FGM, online safety, physical activity and obesity. They also work with schools in keeping young people safe, around various agendas. Ben who focuses on Risk Taking Behaviour, works with schools and young people in making sure that they have the right level of information to make informed choices and keep themselves safe.
In other to highlight his contributions within the community, Mr Osifu was delighted to grant us this interview. We began by asking him how he starts his day at work?
Ben Osifu: coming to work every day is brilliant. We do this job because we’re passionate about making an impact on the lives of young people. Working with partners or working with young people in getting them understand the various threats and challenges outside they face in society, but also getting them understand how they can keep themselves safe, fit and healthy.
We promote what we call the health triangle, which is trying to highlight the links between physical activity, diet and nutrition and sleep. Eat well, exercise well, sleep well… gives you a good lifestyle.
What are the greatest challenges you face in your work?
Ben Osifu: I guess like any other organisation we have challenges, but the beauty is how we can overcome anything that comes across. I’m pretty much an optimist, so I don’t go around thinking I have problems, I think about how I can get over those. It could be anything from a young person not wanting to engage with you, in which case it’s all about building that relationship. Life is all about relationships. Young people will not learn from you if they don’t like you and if you can’t connect with them. I see life as being all about relationships and challenges; it could be working with partners and getting them to understand and for all of us to sing from the same hymn sheet. But the beauty of this line of work is that every day throws up a different challenge that you
just have to get over. At the end of the day it’s about keeping young people safe.
How do you address the challenges?
Ben Osifu: Head on, the only way to get from A to B is by taking one step after the other. Like any challenge, I guess, it’s taking a step back, getting a hold of your thoughts and trying to identify the best way to tackle it, or best formula or approach. Like anything it’s about relationships and trust, some are easy, some are not.
With social media growing over the last decade, and continuing to grow, how do you feel this has had an effect on our young people?
Ben Osifu: Both ways, like two sides of a coin. In a good way and in a bad way. In a good way, I suppose social media has helped bring people closer together, it’s helped make the world a smaller place, it’s given certain skillsets to every one of us that we probably didn’t realise we had, including typing a message with one finger on one hand. But in a bad way in a sense that it’s also exacerbated things like online bullying, things around body image and things around sexting. I guess for me it’s working with
schools and young people to give them the right level of information to understand the implications and the consequences of the type of information they put out there. You might put something out there on social media today and then four/five/six years down the line you want to go for a job and that particular bit of information you put out there might come back to haunt you. We’re making sure people are making informed choices, but also being aware of the consequences of their actions.
How do you get people involved within the project you set up?
Ben Osifu: Schools can access our service. We have a newsletter that goes around to all the schools. We have the Nottinghamshire schools portal that schools can access to download our resources or get more information depending on what issues they’re after. But if you access Nottinghamshire County Council’s website and type ‘tackling emerging threats to children
team’, our details will come up. Like I said before, we have a YouTube page as well, that is pretty much how you can get in
touch with us, via the County Council. Within the team we all have different specialist areas, we’ve also got some really good resources that we’ve developed, and some plans to co-produce more resources going forward. For more information, I would say please contact the County Council’s website for the Tackling Emerging Threats to Children team, thank you very much.
What is the future for the organisation and how do you see the organisation growing?
Ben Osifu: Well, being part of the County Council and the nature of what we do (dealing with current emerging threats) means there will be more threats that are emerging, some already now that we don’t know about. So, there will be needs for services like ours, in trying to work with children, young people, parents, partners and highlighting such threats but also formulating really good resources to help address them. I think there will be increasing needs for teams like ours and what we do going forward.
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