Safeguarding e-Bulletin – 24th October 2019

Welcome to our Safeguarding e-Bulletin which will keep you up to date with the very latest safeguarding news.

800% Increase in Modern Slavery Referrals

National Crime Agency statistics reveal that the number of children being identified as potential victims of modern slavery has increased by more than 800% since 2014. The rise in the number of local authority referrals using the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) has been linked to the growing phenomenon of “county lines” gang association.

According to the Local Government Association (LGA), the spiralling referral rates are being fuelled by both an increased awareness of modern slavery and by young people being exploited by “county lines” drugs gangs.

Currently, local authorities do not receive specific funding to help tackle modern slavery and support its victims. Chair of the LGA’s safer and stronger communities board, Simon Blackburn, said:

“The spiralling rate of council referrals, especially relating to children who face specific risks through county lines drug trafficking or child sexual exploitation, is having a huge impact on overstretched council services, particularly children’s services.”

Whilst acknowledging that the planned additional funding allocated for 2020 will help, Blackburn reiterated that HM Government needs to consider ensuring local authorities have adequate long-term resources to tackle this type of abuse, support its victims, as well as creating a sustainable NRM system.

“County Lines” Crackdown

More than 700 people have been arrested this month and more than £400,000-worth of drugs were confiscated following a week of coordinated police activity designed to crackdown on “county lines” gangs.

As a result, 49 “deal lines” across the UK were disrupted and 169 weapons seized which included 12 guns, knives, swords and machetes. A total of £253,200-worth of cocaine, £100,170-worth of crack cocaine and £72,670-worth of heroin was also seized. As part of the operation led by the National County Lines Coordination Centre (NNCLCC), 389 vulnerable adults and 292 children were safeguarded with 41 individuals were referred to the NRM for assessment as potential victims of human trafficking and modern slavery.

In the ongoing strategy to combat “county lines”, further operations have been carried out last week. Stop checks and vehicle searches enabled Dorset Police to make 26 arrests, and seize drugs and money from dealers who were exploiting young people to sell them.

In Cheshire, police officers made twelve arrests and executed several warrants. Cash, mobile phones and weapons were also recovered with seizures of heroin, crack cocaine and cannabis. As part of the operation police also visited twenty-five addresses to offer support to vulnerable adults, thought to be targets of exploitation by organised crime groups.

In an attempt to disrupt suspected “County Lines” criminal activity across Merseyside, eleven people from Wirral were arrested on suspicion of drug supply and other offences during a week of action. More than 20 potentially vulnerable people were also identified, with various safeguarding measures put in place.

Serious Violence

Over the last few months there has been an increased police and media focus on serious violence, exploitation and criminality involving children and young people. In addition to our “County Lines” and Child Sexual Exploitation courses, we will shortly be releasing our Serious Violence training course. The course examines the drivers into criminality, particularly knife crime and gang association, and explores the supportive role schools and academies can play in preventing and deterring children and young people’s involvement.

Call for compulsory visits to help disadvantaged families

Health visitors are calling for an increase in the number of statutory visits they make to better support disadvantaged families. Currently 5 mandatory visits are carried out when a mother is 24 weeks pregnant, in the first 2 weeks of their child’s birth then at 6 to 8 weeks from birth. Another check is required when their child is between 9 to 12 months old and then finally at two years old.

The Institute of Health Visiting (IHV) is calling for an additional 3 mandatory visits enabling further checks at 3 to 5 weeks, 3 to 4 months and between the ages of three and five. As outlined in their report, the final check will have a specific focus on “school readiness”, enabling health visitors to spot speech and language as well as communication issues before a child starts school and signpost to specialist support if needed.

Mental Health Risks

Two reports have been released this month outlining the mental health risks that children and young people face and the action needed to help them lead happy lives.

According to the Department for Education report, 5% of 10- to 15-year-olds feel unhappy and 3% of 16- to 24-year-olds report low satisfaction with their life. The report also looks at how bullying, particularly online abuse, is impacting on young people’s mental health.

The report states that “experiences of being bullied, including online bullying, was the risk factor most strongly associated” with mental health in mid to late teenagers. Latest crime statistics reveal that 17% of 10- to 15-year-olds in England reported being bullied in 2017/18. The report also states that younger children are particularly at risk, as “the prevalence of bullying decreased as children got older”, and that white children are among the most at risk of bullying groups.

The report also focuses on how teenage girls’ mental health can be better supported. The report found that getting enough sleep was a “consistent protective factor” for girls aged between 14 and 18.

An additional report published by Carers Trust offers a guide on how professionals can better support young people and their families. The report also focuses on the important role siblings can play in providing valuable mental health support.

The report also highlights concern about the “culture of parent blaming when a child develops a mental health need”, urging health services to better understand the impact on parents of being a carer for a child with additional needs.

A new £10m research centre, dedicated to adolescent mental health, is aiming to influence better policy in schools. The Wolfson Centre for Young People’s Mental Health, based at Cardiff University, will study how problems such as anxiety and depression arise in young people with the aim of developing more effective interventions.

Funded by The Wolfson Foundation, the centre will also undertake a study involving schools examining the role they play in promoting positive mental health.

DfE Relationships Education Guidance

On the 10th of October the DfE published new guidance for primary head teachers, setting out why they must engage parents on their school’s relationships education policy with tips on how to do this. From next September 2020 all primary schools will need to teach Relationships and Health Education, and secondary schools will start teaching Relationships, Sex and Health Education.

The guidance also provides more information on the central support the DfE will be putting in place for all schools.

Produced in partnership with in partnership with the NAHTNGA and ASCL. the resource provides information on what is expected of schools and why, alongside tips and case studies on effective parental consultation. It also includes information on where to go for help, and the important role Governors and trustees can play in this process.

Safeguarding Children in Sport

A new study from the European Commission has been published highlighting the importance of sporting organisations to have adequate safeguards in place to prevent children being harmed and bullied.

There is widespread evidence on the positive benefits of regular sport participation such as improved physical and mental wellbeing, personal and educational development and social inclusion. However, recent cases of violence and abuse of children in the media have highlighted the importance of ensuring organisations offering sport to young people implement adequate safeguarding procedures to reduce the risks of children being harmed. This study provides a mapping of initiatives in the EU and includes a series of best practice examples at national and international level.

We are pleased to announce that a new SSS Learning course, Safeguarding Children in Sport, is currently in production and due for release later this year. The course is designed to support organisations offering sporting activities, independent sports coaches and parents undertaking supporting or instructional roles in activities.

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