Cyber Spider was set up to support vulnerable adults and teenagers with their use of the internet and digital devices. Initially, their role was to assess the needs and capabilities of their clients by carrying out research into their activities and preparing detailed reports containing recommendations for the specialist team who support them. However, they have expanded into other areas and are offering new services for the benefit of individuals with brain injuries and their family, carers and support teams. They are also developing new, bespoke services that will soon be ready to roll out.
From their office in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, Cyber Spider work closely with legal teams, Court of Protection, Case Managers and Social Workers across the UK to develop, and inform on the creation of, Digital Care Plans to help vulnerable people avoid the risks inherent with the use of the internet and digital devices.
Jeff Goodright and Garry Kelsall (pictured), Cyber Spider’s co-founders, have between them, over fifty years’ experience as police officers and this gives them the edge in their work with vulnerable people due to their knowledge of cyber-crime and dealing with individuals with understanding and empathy. Jeff has worked in the arena of cyber-crime with the National Police Improvement Agency and has a background in Family Liaison and training. In addition, Garry has a background in technology and IT and they believe this unique combination of skills gives Cyber Spider the edge in supporting vulnerable people online.
Cyber Spider is growing their team after a surge in internet use during the pandemic and seeing the demand for their services increase rapidly. With this increased demand for their services, not least by way of word of mouth, they are increasing their team of assessors Nationally. The first additional assessor was Katt, who works in the South West of England and she also has a policing background. They are seeking other, equally qualified, people around the UK to help in their expansion.
They have developed an online training course to increase the support offered to those who support and care for people with brain injuries and this complements the training and education delivered to companies and individuals, for instance, by way of Continued Professional Development.
“For people whose brain injury came through illness or injury, they will have had a life before that, and with that will be a digital footprint. But now, how capable are they of managing the threats and risks that go with being online and being on social media?,” says Jeff. We’re passionate about trying to put people in a better place. It’s difficult for us all to navigate the cyber world – but imagine trying to do that with a brain injury. There are so many things to consider”.
Garry adds, “We would much prefer to work with a vulnerable person before they get into trouble – ideally, Case Managers and Social Workers should consider a digital care plan for every new client rather than having to react to a situation after they have been exploited or had their devices seized by police. We also try to tie in with the MDT at the earliest opportunity to ensure that devices purchased for the client are suitable and capable of working in a way identified by the care plan. And, whilst we’re at the client’s home, we will look at the bigger picture - not only by providing firewall devices and implementing safe usage interventions to devices but to suggest assistive additions to the home like boosting WiFi in the areas they spend most of their time, allowing location tracking where appropriate and setting up smart assistants.”
“If a client has an addictive nature”, Jeff continues, “where they’re spending hours on apps, spending all of their allowance on in-app purchases, then the neuropsychologist needs to know about it. Likewise, if a client is on dating sites, a neuropsychologist needs to know and be aware of any emotional issues around that.
“But as well as the support of a client, we can also help with practical matters. For example, support staff may not know how to use the Smart TV or understand the implications of not changing the Wifi password.
“At some point, Facebook will probably recognise the support staff and clients are using the same network and could suggest them as a friend, and this could cause issues around professionalism and boundaries.
“Changing a Wifi password takes ten minutes. Putting a VPN app on a phone is really straightforward. If professionals better understand how to put cyber safeguarding measures in place, then they can offer better levels of safety to their clients.”
By way of examples of the type of work Cyber Spider have been doing, here are a couple of brief case studies.
1.X was a young man in Local authority care. He was known to be using his devices to message women, both known and unknown, making sexual suggestions. The ages of those contacted varied but included children. We attended at the address and completed a full assessment of devices, social media and ascertained what X needed/wanted from his use of the internet.
After liaising with all parties and involvement in MDT meetings a plan was agreed which took into account X’s capacity (albeit lacking), his needs and best interests and protection for those persons unknown. We assisted with the policy and ‘digital care plan’, as well as re visiting the address to implement safeguards on the network and devices to manage X’s safe access and use of the internet.
2. After contact from her case manager, Y, a young lady with a number of complications following a difficult birth, needed a range of solutions to allow safe and rewarding access to the internet. We implemented both assistive technology to aid her neuro rehab requirements and measures to protect online use of websites and social media.
Cyber Spider are also developing, together with a neuropsychology company, a new tool to assist those who carry out internet capacity assessments which will give an insight into a person’s understanding of the risks of being online. They hope to have this tool available in the coming months.
By providing services that assess and inform on the risks presented by a person’s individual internet usage and recommending, and/or carrying out interventions that can be applied to protect vulnerable people, Cyber Spider can significantly reduce the threat of harm to all involved.