Safeguarding e-Bulletin – 15 feb 2019

Welcome to this week’s Safeguarding e-Bulletin which will keep you up to date with the very latest safeguarding news.

FGM Bill Stalls

Sir Christopher Chope, the conservative MP who hit the headlines last year when he objected to a ban on upskirting, once again is facing criticism. Colleagues and social media have expressed outrage at the MPs objection to the private members bill on FGM which would have allowed the courts to make interim care orders under the Children Act, in cases where children are believed to be at risk of FGM. Under parliamentary rules, it only requires one MP to shout ‘object’ to a private member’s bill which is listed for a second reading but not debated to block its progress. Click here to see our Safeguarding Director Sam Preston’s comments.

Upskirting

The Voyeurism (Offences) (No.2) Bill, known colloquially as the Upskirting Bill, received Royal Assent on 12 February 2019. It becomes the Voyeurism (Offences) Act 2019 and will come into force on 12 April 2019. The act adds two new offences to the Sexual Offences Act 2003 to cover the practice known colloquially as ‘upskirting’.

The new offences apply in instances when:

  • Without consent, an individual operates equipment or records an image beneath a person’s clothing to observe their genitalia or buttocks, whether covered or uncovered by underwear garments.
  • The offender has a motive of either obtaining sexual gratification or causing humiliation, distress or alarm to the victim.

The Act also ensures that the most serious offenders, where the purpose of the offence is for sexual gratification, are made subject to notification requirements (often referred to as being placed on the ‘sex offenders register’).

Duty of Care

Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England, has published proposed content to inform HM Government’s new legislation on online service provider’s statutory Duty of Care. The commissioner’s proposals include measures to ensure Facebook, Instagram and other online providers take reasonable and proportionate care to protect children from harm. Longfield also proposes sanctions for breaches of duty of care including financial penalties and publication of such breaches on their platforms.

Increase in vulnerable children suicides

Figures published by Ofsted reveal that the number of suicides among children who are in care or are known to social services as being at risk of abuse or neglect has increased by more than 30 per cent last year, a total of 46 children took their own lives in 2017/18. In reality the figures could actually be higher as Local Authorities are required to notify Ofsted within five days of a child death occurring, when the precise cause of death may be unclear. There is no requirement to update Ofsted once a cause of death has been established. The statistics show that, although there was an increase in suicides, the overall number of child deaths remained relatively constant with 209 cases in 2017/18, compared with 211 in the previous year.

Prevent Duty

In a recent blog, Chief Constable Simon Cole (national police lead for Prevent) welcomes the independent review of the Prevent programme. In his blog Cole states now is the time for hard fact, not twisted fiction.

Surge in Home Educated Children

In response to statistics which show levels of home educated children having doubled over the last five years, Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England has called for a compulsory Local Authority register. Her report Skipping School: Invisible Children cites that in 2018 up to 60,000 children are known to have been home educated in England which included high numbers of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). The report raises concerns that illegal pupil ‘off-rolling’ may be behind the increase. Off-rolling is where schools actively seek to remove challenging or poorly performing students from the roll by encouraging parents to take up home schooling.

A survey conducted by the Association of Directors of Children’s Services found that one in ten children, 11 per cent, of home-schooled children are known to children’s social care either currently or historically.

Mental Health Assessments

The previously delayed pilot ‘Mental health assessments for looked-after children’ will commence in June 2019. Assessments will be piloted in 10 local authorities, each site receiving a share of £650,000 to deliver the scheme. The scheme includes training and toolkits, consultant support and access to ‘a community of practice to share learning’.

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