New Unit to tackle County Lines

September saw the launch of the £3.6m unit to tackle county lines, criminal activity where gangs / criminal networks from urban areas exploit children to establish Class A (e.g. heroin, crack cocaine) drug dealing networks and sell drugs in rural areas using dedicated mobile phone lines. The county lines model involves modern slavery and exploitation of children, often through the use of extreme violence and intimidation. The National County Lines Coordination Centre consists of a 38-strong multi-agency team of experts from the National Crime Agency (NCA), police forces and regional organised crime units. The new multi-agency team will develop the national intelligence picture of the complexity and scale of the threat of county lines activity, prioritise action against the most serious offenders, and engage with government departments including health, welfare and education. A recent NCA national assessment of county lines suggests that more than 1,000 lines are in operation nationally. In a statement from the Home Office, it was revealed that there are 200 active county lines investigations under way and that the introduction of the new centre will allow police forces to intensify their operations.

Last month the first conviction was secured for child trafficking offences related to county lines under the Modern Slavery Act (2015). 21-year-old Birmingham drug dealer Zakaria Mohammed was jailed for 14 years after admitting running a drug dealing operation and trafficking two 15-year-old boys and a 14-year-old girl. The boys were reported missing from their home in Birmingham and following investigation by West Midlands and Lincolnshire Police were found in Lincoln in a flat where knives and a bundle of cash were discovered. Mohammed had been making regular trips to the flat from Birmingham and a phone used to run the drugs line was found in his car as well as evidence linking him to the missing children.

Modern Slavery

Some three and a half years after the introduction of the legislative requirements detailed in the Modern Slavery Act 2015, the initiative to support vulnerable child trafficking victims is set to be expanded. The Act requires Local Authorities to provide independent child trafficking advocates to all children who need them. However, the planned launch of services nationally has been delayed following a review of trials with a Home Office announcement in 2015 citing that the initiative needed further ‘work’. Victims of child trafficking can be subject to sexual abuse, exploitation and criminal exploitation.   The scheme, which has only launched in three ‘early adopter’ areas (Hampshire, Greater Manchester and Wales), is set to be expanded in the West Midlands, East Midlands and Croydon. The three early adopter sites received a total of 215 referrals within the first year. Prime Minister Theresa May has announced a £5m fund to support ‘innovative ways’ to improve the response to child trafficking

Case Review Summary– Elsie Scully-Hicks.

The practice review into the death of 18-month-old Elsie Scully-Hicks found that an overly positive view of adopters meant health and social care professionals missed opportunities to prevent her murder and concluded that professionals failed to connect separate incidents of injuries. The Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan Regional Safeguarding Children’s Board’s review found that the emerging pattern of injuries inflicted on Elsie by one of her adoptive fathers were missed because professionals saw the adoption as highly successful. The report states that as professionals involved with the child viewed the adoptive placement as being very successful; the events in the child’s life were viewed through a ‘positive lens’ and ‘the injuries that the child sustained were never considered as anything other than childhood accidents’.

Timeline

November 2015– Elsie is taken to a GP because she can’t bear weight on her right leg. An x-ray finds a fracture, consistent with the parent’s explanation for the injury, but a second fracture is not identified which would have raised child protection concerns.

December 2015– a health professional sees Elsie, who has a large bruise on her head. The health professional accepts the explanation of the injury as being accidental.

March 2016– a 999 call is made by Matthew Scully-Hicks (Elsie’s primary carer) reporting that she has fallen down the stairs because of an unlocked stair gate. The hospital finds superficial bruises and discharges her the same day. There is a three-week delay in the child’s social worker and adoption social worker sharing this information and the primary parent’s explanation for the accident is accepted.

May 12th 2016– Elsie is formally adopted by Matthew Scully-Hicks and his husband.

May 25th 2016– emergency services are again called after Elsie was reported as unconscious. Elsie’s adoptive sibling is present when the call to emergency services is made. Matthew Scully-Hicks gives different explanations to health professionals about what has happened. On examination, Elsie is found to have a full thickness fracture of the skull, fractures to three posterior ribs, hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy, brain injury including subdural haematoma, and retinal haemorrhaging.

May 29th 2016– Elsie dies in hospital. The post-mortem indicates that the head injuries that killed her were non-accidental.

December 2016– Family Court exonerates Craig Scully-Hicks (Matthew’s husband) of any failure to protect Elsie.

November 2017– despite insisting he had never harmed Elsie, Matthew Scully-Hicks is convicted of her murder and sentenced to a minimum of 18 years in prison (less credit for tagged curfew) with release from custody at that time to be determined by a Parole Board. If released this will be subject to licence for the rest of his life.

In her sentencing remarks*, Mrs Justice Nicola Davies DBE states that “the injuries were sustained when you (Matthew Scully-Hicks) gripped Elsie around the chest, your fingers were on her back exerting pressure which fractured her ribs. Having gripped Elsie, you shook her with such force as to cause further injuries. The fracture to the skull was caused by an impact with a hard surface”.

Whilst the practice review found that the adoption process the couple underwent to be robust and comprehensive, in response to the incident the Vale of Glamorgan Council has introduced new procedures including:

  • unannounced visits to adoptive families as part of the follow-up visits after placing children for adoption;
  • out-of-hour visits to adoptive families where a parent works or is often away from home.

Lance Carver, Director of Social Services at the Vale of Glamorgan Council stated that “Implementing the recommendations of the independent review is a priority for the council and one we take incredibly seriously”.

*The full transcript of R v Matthew Scully-Hicks – Mrs Justice Nicola Davies DBE sentencing remarks can be located at www.judiciary.uk

Increase in EYFS volunteers

Volunteers Analysis released by the Education Policy Institute evidences an increase in the use of volunteers in early years provision settings. Researchers examining data on the early years workforce in England found evidence of increased use of unpaid workers, 15.5% in Reception classes and 10.8% in Nurseries. As this upward trend is likely to continue, it is essential volunteers receive a good safeguarding induction and ongoing training. This will enable them to contribute effectively, consistently and thrive in their role. It is now a statutory requirement to determine if they are or will be working in a ‘regulated activity’ capacity through conducting an individual risk assessment which should be recorded in a new column on your Single Central Record.

Neglected older children

A new report shows older children who are suffering neglect are ‘unseen’ by the services that should be supporting them. The report, taken from the findings of a series of joint area deep dive inspections by Ofsted alongside inspectors from the Care Quality Commission, HM Probation and HM Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, reveals that neglected older children are more likely to go missing from home, become involved in criminal activity or be exploited. The report highlights that services were less likely to spot signs of neglect affecting children aged seven to fifteen than their younger peers, calling for a more coordinated approach from local agencies to safeguard this vulnerable group. The report also called for children’s professionals to have access to better training on how to spot the neglect of older children. It is estimated that more than 11% of eleven to seventeen year olds in the UK will have experienced neglect at some point in their lives.* Sam Royston, director of policy and research at The Children’s Society, highlights that: ‘More training is needed to ensure professionals working with both children and adults, including those working in schools, can identify situations where there may be neglect and share information about any concerns they may have.’ The findings of the report based on inspections in six local authority areas: Bristol; Cheshire West and Chester; Haringey; Peterborough; Stockton-on-Tees; and Wokingham can be accessed at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/722740/Older_children_ neglect_FINAL_060718.pdf * https://www.nspcc.org.uk/services-and-resources/research-and-resources/pre-2013/child-abuse-and-neglect-in-the-uk-today/

Keeping children safe in education

The 2018 update to KCSIE, applicable from tomorrow, places great emphasis on ensuring your Safeguarding policy takes into account the bespoke setting & needs of your school or academy. For academies, the guidance is quite clear that simply adopting a trust wide policy falls short of expectations. Whilst such a policy may outline the overarching expectations, each academy must, like schools, develop a policy that reflects the bespoke needs of their pupils, staff and community.

From a training perspective, KCSIE 2018 seeks to improve staff induction by introducing a statutory requirement for inclusion of procedures for managing children missing education. In the process, measures must be taken to ensure staff clearly understand the Behaviour and Child Protection policies together with the Code of Conduct.

All staff must read KCSIE Part 1. Annex A must be read by all staff working directly with children and has been revised to include four new additional key topics:

  • Children and the court system (where children appear as witnesses);
  • Children with family members in prison;
  • County lines (where groups or gangs use young people or vulnerable adults to carry and sell drugs from borough to borough);
  • Homelessness.

Following much publicised concerns re peer-on-peer abuse, under KCSIE your Safeguarding policy must state:

  • the steps you are taking to prevent peer-on-peer abuse;
  • how incidents will be managed & investigated;
  • how victims and perpetrators will be supported.

These measures should explicitly cover sexual violence and harassment as the previously published ‘Sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges’ guidance is now included in the revised KCSIE (Part 5), giving this previously advisory guidance statutory status.

The guidance also places a greater focus on cautious application of the use of force to control or restrain a pupil, placing a statutory duty to create individual plans to minimise the likelihood of challenging behaviour and, where such behaviour does occur, less reliance on the use of physical restraint.

Enhanced practice arrangements for pupils with SEND should also be recognised within your Safeguarding policy, recognising the disproportionate risks for this vulnerable group e.g. bullying, isolation, behaviour and communication difficulties. Basically, the guidance is directing practice to consider the potential for abuse on an equal footing with meeting the pupil’s SEND needs. Therefore, there should be a close alignment of your Safeguarding and SEN policies.

Other KCSIE areas for practice include:

  • Policy covering pupil access of the internet whilst at school;
  • Individual risk assessments for volunteers to determine if an enhanced DBS check is required. This is to clarify if they are working in ‘regulated activity’ and the determination should be recorded in an additional column on your SCR;
  • The requirement for a minimum of 2 emergency contacts for each pupil;
  • Clarification on s128 checks in academies, free and independent schools. “Management positions” is now defined as Head Teachers, Governors / Trustees, SLT and heads of department;
  • Obtaining written statements re vetting and barring from any alternative providers;
  • DSL requirements for proprietor-led schools;
  • Mandatory DBS checks for parents from overseas as part of an exchange programme arrangements. Checks for 16-17 year olds living in the overseas household is not mandatory and can be conducted at the discretion of governance

Children at risk through ‘multiple dangers’

Findings from a survey conducted by the charity Barnardo’s has revealed that 58.6% of their service managers had supported a young person involved in crime in the past year. Of those, 72.3% thought the young person had been ‘coerced, controlled, deceived or manipulated by others into criminal activity.’ The emerging threat of ‘Multiple dangers‘ includes exploitation such as young people being forced to carry weapons, forced to carry and sell drugs, or be subjected to sexual exploitation and abuse. More than half of service managers (63.4%) said that in their experience children who were criminally exploited were also the victims of sexual abuse and 79.6% thought that technology played an important role in enabling criminal exploitation. Last year 301,100 children, young people, parents and carers were supported by Barnardo’s.

Trial Mental Health Assessments

The Department for Education has announced that their plans to trial mental health assessments for children entering the care system, delayed due to the election, will get underway in 2018. The scheme will identify a child’s mental health and wellbeing needs and if referral to more specialist services is needed. Current statistics indicate that 50% of all children in care meet the criteria for a possible mental health disorder, compared with one in 10 children outside the care system. The pilot areas, yet to be announced, will benefit from a share of £650,000 to deliver the programme. £150,000 has also been awarded to carry out an independent evaluation to look at the effectiveness and impact of the pilot schemes. The University of Huddersfield is to carry out a survey of 10,000 children and young people across the UK in a major study to investigate whether being a victim of child abuse can lead to mental health problems. Professor Daniel Boduszek, a co-director of the project, has stated ‘We strongly believe that (child abuse and neglect experiences) can link not only to anxiety, depression and self-harm, but also to development of psychopathic traits.’ The UK survey is one of five taking place across the world, with the research team carrying out similar-scale exercises in China, Uganda, Jamaica and India and the team hope to complete their analysis of the 50,000 responses in 2019.

DFE Report on Bullying

A DFE report has shown girls are much more likely than boys to be bullied at school, with almost twice as many on the receiving end of cyberbullying and social exclusion by other pupils. Whilst the figures revealed a decline in reports of bullying overall, particularly incidents of violent bullying which mainly affects boys, girls reported a rise in bullying with more than one in three telling researchers they had been affected in the previous year. For girls the most common form of bullying was name calling and social exclusion, where one in five girls reported being a victim. Only one in four boys said they had been victims of bullying in any form. Other key findings include:

  • 10% of the children reported being affected by cyberbullying;
  • SEND children reported much higher incidents of bullying than other pupils. This supports the focus of the revised KCSIE 2018 direction for staff to consider safeguarding on an equal footing with SEND;
  • pupils who were victims of bullying received lower GCSE results than peers who hadn’t been bullied however, as the researchers state ‘this simple correlation does not demonstrate causation between bullying and lower GCSE performance; there are likely to be many other factors involved’.

Prevent retained by HM Government

HM Government retains Prevent anti-radicalisation programme HM Government’s anti-radicalisation initiative Prevent is to be retained as part of the revised counter-terrorism strategy. Home Secretary Sajid Javid has confirmed it will remain a ‘vital part’ of the government’s counterterrorism work stating ‘I recognise the criticisms, but I absolutely support it. Misapprehensions around Prevent are often based on distortions. They are based on a lack of understanding about the grassroots work that is involved, and the efforts by civil society groups and public-sector workers to protect vulnerable people. We have a moral and social obligation to safeguard vulnerable people from the twisted propaganda of those seeking to radicalise them. And Prevent is about doing just that.’ The counter-terrorism strategy, Contest is informed by latest research and secret intelligence, incorporating lessons learned from and response to the 2017 terror attacks. Under the new proposals announced for Contest, three new multi-agency centre (MAC) pilots will be held in London, Manchester and the West Midlands involving a wide range of partners, including government departments and local authorities, to help improve the government’s understanding of those at risk of becoming involved in terrorism.