Knowledge saves lives National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day 2017

This National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day, SSS Learning is raising awareness of the many types of child sexual exploitation (CSE) uncovered and investigated every day in the UK. We urge government and the public sector to make stronger recommendations concerning the depth and frequency of safeguarding training for frontline professionals tasked with protecting children and young people.

Our big message on this important day, is this: “knowledge is power – frontline professionals need better access to training and resources to stay on top of the latest legislation updates, support and intervention techniques.”

CSE is a type of sexual abuse, which can be a violent as well as degrading experience, requiring sound knowledge and expertise by professionals to identify those at risk and/or support victims.

In the case of sexting and use of modern technology, CSE does not always involve physical contact. According to figures released by the Labour Party, sexting; sharing of sexually explicit images, photos or messages by under 16s, rose by an astonishing 1204% in two years. Whilst much is being done in schools to empower young people to keep themselves safe and develop proficient ICT and mobile phone usage policies, staff must also be trained to spot signs of certain behaviours to identify children at risk of this form of abuse outside the school gates. New sexting guidance for schools was released by the UK Council for Child Internet Safety last September to support educators.

Witnessing high profile CSE cases such as former Crewe Alex youth coach Barry Bennell, now charged with 20 counts of suspected abuse, and former independent school teacher Patrick Marshall, it is clear that child abuse is very much part of the national consciousness and public debate in Britain right now. To stop this legacy continuing, more must be done to ensure that teachers, doctors, nurses and voluntary workers clearly understand their legal responsibility and acquire the expertise to deliver appropriate services.

The world of legislative protection for young people is continuously evolving in line with case learnings and outcomes. For example, the Department for Education has released updates to its ‘Working together to safeguard children (Sep 2016)’ statutory guidance and “Child sexual exploitation: definition and guide for practitioners” (Feb 2017) which impacts upon the CSE legal requirements placed upon schools. It is essential that any frontline professional trained before these dates, understand the latest requirements they are required toembed in everyday safeguarding practice.

The more we learn from cases; historic and current, the stronger the case becomes for safeguarding to be firmly embedded in CPD. Whilst public sector officials are wrestling with budget uncertainties and pressure to cut training reserves, the fact that over 57,000 children are currently identified as needing protection from abuse in the UK, is a stark reminder of the situation we are dealing with. Furthermore, it is estimated that, for every child identified as needing protection from abuse, another eight are suffering abuse.

In the current financial climate, ensuring your staff are one hundred percent up-to-date might feel daunting, however by changing our approach to safeguarding training and using modern approaches it is achievable. Supported by a quality safeguarding partner, you will be alerted to changes in legislation and guidance and provided with updated resources to share with staff.

Here’s a useful checklist for senior frontline professionals tasked with procuring CSE training. The content should:

  1. Comprehensively define Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE);
  2. Provide a comprehensive understanding of legislation and statutory requirements within educational settings;
  3. Enable staff to recognise the key CSE risk indicators;
  4. Include the role of school or academy governance regarding CSE;
  5. Identify individual staff roles in protecting pupils from / responding to incidents of CSE;
  6. Provide details on when and how to refer children and young people.

During National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day we’ll be sharing the great work being done to promote awareness. Please let us know what you’re doing to mark this important initiative via Twitter, or Facebook.

Here are just some of the great campaigns running:
Enfield residents urged to spot signs of child sexual exploitation (via Enfield Today)
Councillors in South Tyneside backing campaign to raise awareness of child exploitation (via ITV.com)
Isle of White Local Safeguarding Children’s Board joins the fight against child sexual exploitation (via On the Wight)

“One chance” to protect Britain’s child brides

This International Women’s Day (8th March 2017) we’re celebrating a woman’s right to choose and raising awareness of Forced Marriage; an extreme violation of human rights taking place to women and girls in Britain.

The 1,220 possible cases reported in 2015 indicate a downward trend continues, however, authorities say the real number of this ‘hidden’ abuse is to likely be higher. In light of this let’s lift the lid on some of the disturbing facts, warning signs and legal implications related to this form of child abuse, in a bid to demonstrate a greater need for investment in education and training and a more proactive approach to prevent it happening to more girls.


The physical and emotional scars girls experience in a Forced Marriage last a lifetime, and as with all safeguarding issues, prevention is by far the most effective strategy.


A criminal offence in England and Wales since June 2014, forced marriage is the process of using violence, threats, or any other form of coercion to force another into marriage. Often confused with Arranged Marriage, whereby both spouses consent to their marriage, Forced Marriage is a hidden practice and many cases are unreported. Forcing someone to marry can result in a sentence of up to 7 years in prison. The civil law in England and Wales was also strengthened in 2014 by making the breach of a Forced Marriage Protection Order a criminal offence.

Women, men and children are at risk of Forced Marriage regardless of age or background. Research reflects that there is no predisposed group at risk, however often lesbian, gay bisexual or transgender people may be forced into marriage to protect family honour. Also persons with a learning or physical disability are also at risk by being forced into a marriage in order to provide them with a carer.

The motives for Forced Marriage are vast, transcending race, religion, communities and cultures. As the practice is so hidden (almost 80% of incidents reported in 2015 were from professionals, colleagues, friends or family, and only a small proportion from victims themselves), often victims come to the attention of multi-agency professionals in other ways, so it is imperative that all professionals working within statutory agencies are made aware of their responsibilities and obligations when they come across potential or actual Forced Marriage cases. One example is the “one chance” rule. The “one chance” rule highlights the urgent need to offer support on first contact with a potential or actual victim to safeguard them from harm or life threatening scenarios.

Here are just some of the potential indicators of risk:

  • physical and or emotional distress;
  • girls / women having undergone Female Genital Mutilation prior to a marriage;
  • depression;
  • self-harming;
  • being withdrawn from education, which impacts on educational, personal and social development;
  • enforced lifestyle restrictions;
  • financial difficulties through dependence on another person or, if a person does not have leave to remain in the UK, and have no recourse to public funds.

If a frontline professional suspects or knows someone may or has been taken abroad to be forced into marriage they should contact the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) as a matter of urgency. For victims taken abroad, HM Government has made a welcomed move this year to support under 18s who get into difficulty abroad, abolishing the requirement for them to pay for, or seek a loan to cover their repatriation. British 16 and 17 year-olds who get into difficulty abroad will no longer have to reimburse the government the costs of their journey home, it has been announced. The department announced it would be reviewing this policy after the Guardian detailed the case of a 17-year-old British girl who arrived at the UK embassy in Islamabad in 2014, seeking help to escape a Forced Marriage. At SSS Learning, we would implore the Foreign Office to cover repatriation of British women of any age who are escaping Forced Marriage.

Victims who have fled a Forced Marriage remain vulnerable. When supporting victims, sharing information and record keeping, multi-agency professionals should be keenly aware of preserving confidentiality and be aware of the lengths families will go to trace the victim. If a family manages to trace a victim, they often subject them to violence and abuse and in some cases resort to murder under the claim of so called Honour Killing.

Information on Forced Marriage is becoming more widely available, however, multi-agency training is vital to ensure that it remains firmly on the safeguarding radar.

Contact the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) if you’re trying to stop a forced marriage or you need help leaving a marriage you’ve been forced into: fmu@fco.gov.uk / Telephone: 020 7008 0151 / From overseas: +44 (0)20 7008 0151.

Invest in society’s protectors to protect Britain’s children and young people

Sam Preston, safeguarding specialist, urges government to focus on CPD and reformed systems to enable teaching professionals to protect Britain’s children and young people from abuse.

Failed succession planning and increased workloads have led to ongoing depleting skill sets now at a critical level. As the recent HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Commons Select Committee reports evidence, we are losing vital skills and expertise from two of Britain’s most important safeguarding bodies at a rapid rate, negatively impacting on service provision. Our protectors; teachers and the police are stretched to capacity, resulting in greater safeguarding risks than ever before. Today’s HMIC official warning states that a third of police services are rationing services, resulting in too long response rates for high risk calls including domestic violence and where children are at risk. Shortages of detectives in forces, 700 in the Met alone, mean that a detective has to manage in excess of 20 cases at any one time, an unacceptable workload, resulting in ill health and many experienced colleagues leaving the service. Despite the contraindicators of evidenced based research, officers are carrying out investigations without having completed specialist training. This includes rape and complex crime cases.

The recent report from the Commons Education Select Committee, evidences how HM Government has not only missed recruitment targets for five years in a row, but further suggests that recruitment of new teachers to address shortages will not address the need for improvement in service delivery. There has been little focus on retaining teachers with the skills and expertise, also essential to solve shortages, whose experience is critical if we are to effectively safeguarding children. Child protection, Child Sexual Exploitation, FGM, Prevent Duty, ‘Forced Marriage’; the safeguarding arena is vast and complex. We need policy to support the retention of experienced teachers who can utilise and extend their safeguarding expertise through ongoing CPD.


“Government must focus on the development and CPD needs of existing teachers, and invest in their careers. Safeguarding is a complex subject area, and relies upon continuous CPD and training to ensure schools understanding modern day safeguarding issues and comply with Department for Education and Ofsted Common Inspection requirements.”


Neil Carmichael echoes this sentiment in his recent post for the Times Educational Supplement CPD can power respect for the whole profession. The Education Committee Chair implores government to give teachers access to high-quality development throughout their careers to solve Britain’s recruitment and retention crisis. Recruitment may fill positions however, inexperience increases the risk of child abuse being undetected and impacts on the effectiveness of our educational system to prevent, intervene and support victims. If we lose experienced teachers, we lose not only the CPD investment schools and academies have made, but also damage our defences against child abuse.

One area that is particularly concerning, is the traditional model of training used by schools and academies. As Keeping Children Safe in Education (2016) evidences, to create a robust and efficient approach to safeguarding, all staff must be sufficiently trained and equipped in an ongoing basis with the latest knowledge and legislation. As schools and academies now recruit throughout the academic year, how can they meet this requirement and be confident that, at any given time, every single member of staff is sufficiently trained? Annual ‘all together’ sessional INSET just isn’t going to suffice, and this is where cracks in best practice can appear. Newly qualified teachers represent the next generation of teaching in our society. There is no doubt that they are enthusiastic, eager and committed, however, child protection skills are developed by both training and practice experience. Therefore, it is questionable to place this grave responsibility on them with little more than access to policy, briefings and limited mentoring of more experienced staff. Training models, including induction processes, urgently need to be restructured not only to protect children but to protect staff and their organisations. Put simply, if we are to learn lessons from serious case reviews, doing what we‘ve always done does not lead to improvement.

As we have seen over the last 20 years, the safeguarding remit is extending and is likely to become more challenging than ever. As former Chief Constable for Northumbria Sue Sim stated we cannot afford to continue working in “splendid isolation”. Now is the time to take on board these external findings, rethink the functionality of systems within all our professional organisations and boldly consider change.

Fewer teachers and police officers increasing workloads mean that the ever-increasing safeguarding remit is likely to become more challenging than ever. We must focus investment on new models to support professionals or we run the risk of a practice lottery. A lottery that could cost children their lives.

Speak up for those that are silenced: Self-Injury/Harm Awareness Day


“If we can stamp out childhood abuse and neglect, we give young people a greater chance of cutting the cycle of self-harm and injury and give them a voice”, says safeguarding specialist Sam Preston this Self-Injury/Harm Awareness Day…


The link between abuse and neglect during childhood and self-harming behaviour as an adult has long been researched and founded. However, just last year, the number of children in England and Wales being hospitalised due to self-harm has risen sharply, highlighting a serious need for early intervention. This Self-Injury/Harm Awareness Day, we ask the big question: who will speak up for children and young people silenced by abuse?

Nearly 19,000 children were treated in hospital for self-harm last year, representing a 14 percent increase in cases over the past three years. Those aged between 13 and 17 were identified as highest risk by the NSPCC. Whilst different issues have linked to this rise, including social pressures and the rise of social network usage, the fundamental issue of abuse, whether that be bullying by peers, through to serious child protection issues, is still a large influence in those that go on to self-harm. The fact that we are seeing children as young as 12 taking such violent and drastic steps to alleviate their emotional pain and suffering is an urgent call to action.

One area that we deal with in our training courses, is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM); a practice which leaves far more than physical scars on its victims. Girls as young as three years-old are subjected to this brutal practice and thus, there are strong links to a multitude of mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. Sadly, for some, self-harm is the release they use to deal with this drastic form of child abuse. As FGM is a cultural issue, it is not typically viewed as an abuse issue by the victim’s family, so it really is down to frontline professionals in our schools, doctor’s surgeries and hospitals to identify and report it.

Children and adults alike, often try to keep self-harm a secret because of shame or fear of discovery and typically, it is often down to close family and friends to notice it and open discussion. However, for many children who have gone on to self-harm due to abuse, it could be family or a friend that’s still responsible for that abuse. So, what more can be done to help those silenced by abuse to find their voice and open up about self-harm? This is where frontline professionals play an increasingly important role. Doctors, nurses, teachers together with voluntary workers are now legally bound to support, intervene and report suspected cases of abuse in the UK. In many cases, it’s their vigilance that is helping to protect so many children and young people, and for some, to cut the cycle of self-harm by helping them to open up about the problem.

To support young people, we must acknowledge that self-harm is a symptom rather than the core problem. It masks underlying emotional and psychological trauma and our strategies must take this into account. Effective safeguarding practice across the public sector is central to this strategy. A greater investment in quality, individual training for front-line professionals across all modern-day safeguarding issues which may be impacting upon a person’s mental health and wellbeing is critical. The deeper we can understand abuse and neglect cases and intervene early, the greater chance we have of reducing levels of self-harm amongst young people.

This Self-Injury/Harm Awareness Day we commend the thousands of frontline professionals working tirelessly to protect children and young people in Britain in a bid to provide a voice for those that are silenced.