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Social work students get lesson from football star

Thursday 21 March 2019

AN EX-Premier League and England footballer addressed students at the University of Salford about the sexual abuse he experienced as a youth player.

Paul Stewart, who played for Manchester City, Tottenham and Liverpool, gave a talk to first year social work students at the University, with the aim of helping them spot and understand the signs and impact of abuse in children and adults.

He suffered the abuse, by his junior coach, when he was 10 years old while a youth player in Manchester, but his story only came to light in 2016 more than 40 years after it occurred, in the wake of others coming forward who had suffered from the same abuse. Ex-coach Barry Bennell was convicted in 2018 of 43 charges of historical sex abuse and sentenced to 30 years in prison, showing the scale of the problem.

Paul has since gone to set up the charity SAVE, Safeguarding and Victim Engagement with fellow footballers David White, Ian Ackley and Derek Bell. The charity supports survivors of abuse and also aims to educate in order to prevent similar cases happening in the future.

The social work students heard Paul talk about the impact the abuse has had on his life.

Paul said: “What happened to me had a long-lasting impact on my life, it contributed to problems I have had with drink and drugs for sure.

“Safeguarding is better now but there is still more we can do. After today I’m hoping the students will have more of an idea of what signs to spot if a child is suffering what I went through.

“We got it wrong in the past and if I can play a small part in improving things for kids today then that will be mission accomplished.”

Sarah Riding, Lecturer in Social work at the University of Salford, said: “We’re really pleased to get Paul along today. It is important for our students to get some real-world insight into how better to understand children and adults they may work with once they start their careers. Unfortunately experiences like Paul’s are all too real, but if the signs can be spotted then intervention can occur, and harm can be stopped.”

Anne-Marie, first year student, who was at the lecture said: “It was eye opening listening to Paul and thinking that I might be dealing with similar cases when I start my career. It was a real insight listening to someone who has lived through it and hopefully it will mean I can deal with such a situation if I need to.”

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Sam Wood

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