Safeguarding e-Bulletin – 6th February 2020

Welcome to our Safeguarding e-Bulletin, keeping you up-to-date with all safeguarding news, information and updates. Between publications you can also get in the moment updates on safeguarding news by following us on Twitter @SSSlearning and my commentary on @Sam_SSSLearning

Emergency legislation for terrorist sentencing

Despite being ridiculed for repeatedly vowing to tackle ‘counter-terrorism offenders’ following the knife attack in Streatham, Home Secretary Priti Patel this week announced HM Government plans to introduce ‘fundamental changes’ to the way terrorists are released from prison in the wake of the attack.

Convicted terrorist Sudesh Amman, who had been released from his previous conviction after serving half his sentence, was shot dead by police in Streatham on Sunday 2nd Feb after three people were injured in the terror attack carried out by Amman.  Despite being under active counter-terrorism surveillance at the time, Amman carried out knife attacks in the south London borough whilst wearing a fake bomb vest. Remarkably those injured in the attack all survived.

In the wake of the attack Prime Minister Boris Johnson commented on the difficulties associated with de-radicalising extremists stating:

“There is a big psychological barrier, people find it hard to get back over, and that’s why I stress the importance of the custodial option and that’s why I have come to the end of my patience with the idea of automatic early release and I hope that people will understand why we’re doing that.

This is a liberal country, it is a tolerant country, but I think the idea of automatic early release for people who obviously continue to pose a threat to the public has come to the end of its useful life.”

Under pressure following three attacks by men convicted of terror offences who were released, HM Government is proposing introducing emergency legislation. This would mean prisoners convicted for terrorist offences would no longer be freed at the halfway point of their sentence. The new plans, which would apply to current and future offenders, would mean terror offenders would only be considered for release once they had served two-thirds of their sentence and with the approval of a Parole Board.

However, the plans are likely to be challenged. In a BBC  interview Lord Carlile, a former independent government reviewer of terrorism legislation, said that “The decision to lengthen the sentences of people who’ve already been sentenced and therefore expected to be serving half the sentence may be in breach of the law”.

Sam Preston, Safeguarding Director of SSS Learning, commented: “It is understandable that, in the wake of attacks involving men previously convicted of terrorist offences, we need to review legislation. But simply lengthening sentences will not address the issue that at some point such criminals will be released and the public need to be safeguarded. To ensure this there has to be a focus on the process of de-radicalisation and indeed how /if that can be effectively achieved in the prison setting.”

Haleema Faraz, mother of Amman, has  claimed that in addition to watching online extremist material, her son had become further radicalised by inmates in whilst serving his sentence in high security Belmarsh Prison.

The proposals follow a broad package of counter-terrorism measures previously announced by the Home Office and Ministry of Justice, which included plans to introduce lie detector tests for terrorist offenders as well as the recruitment of specialist counter-terrorism probation officers.

Whilst it is likely that HM Government will justify the planned changes on the grounds of national security, the proposals will face legal challenge that may result in progression to the Supreme Court.

Welsh smacking ban

The Welsh Government has passed a new law banning people from smacking their children, the second country in UK to bring in such a ban. The legislation removes the defence of “reasonable punishment” in cases of common assault, giving children the same protection as adults in Wales. (As stated by The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), a reasonable punishment defence only applies if victim’s injuries are “transient and trifling and amounted to no more than temporary reddening of the skin”).

The law banning people in Wales from smacking their children will begin in 2022 and will be enforced by the criminal justice system. However, it will rely on evidence gathered by the police, who also have the option to caution someone instead of taking them to court. They could also issue community resolution orders, which would not go on a criminal record but could show up on an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check in some circumstances when people apply for certain jobs.

Experts call for national review of home schooling following serious case review

Northamptonshire Children’s Services, described by Commissioners as “one of the worst performing yet most expensive” in England, are again in the spotlight as children’s protection experts call for a national review of procedures around elective home schooling.

The call follows a serious case review in which a young boy faced “extreme neglect and abuse” by his stepfather and mother. Before eventually being taken into care, the boy (who cannot be named for legal reasons) endured four years of abuse which included being beaten, locked in his room and forced to defecate on the floor, being fed stale food and banned from speaking to his siblings.

Although Northamptonshire county council social services set up a “child in need” plan for the boy, it closed the file after three months after deciding there were no concerns for the child’s welfare.

The official serious case review published by the Northamptonshire Safeguarding Children Partnership found significant failures by social workers and NHS staff, who it said had missed early chances to remove the boy.

Within weeks of closing the case, his stepfather made professionals aware of his intention to electively home educate the boy. This resulted in the boy not being seen by any professional for over a year. The review described the boy as being “hidden from view” whilst the abuse perpetrated by his stepfather and lack of protection by his mother continued. The review found that the boy’s mother had “abdicated her responsibilities and duties as a parent” to the stepfather.

In fact, the boy was never home educated as his stepfather did not submit an application form. This resulted, the review says, “in the child being out of school, effectively out of sight for a period of 14 months”. Attempts by the school to get the forms completed appear to have been rebuffed.

His parents, a 34-year-old man and a 36-year-old woman were convicted of five counts of child cruelty and jailed for seven and three and a half years respectively.

Northamptonshire county council’s cabinet member for children’s services, Fiona Baker, said: “We are deeply sorry for any poor decision making and mistakes which may have contributed to this awful case of abuse. Children’s services in Northamptonshire are on an improvement journey and although much progress has been made there is still a lot to do.”

The case is the third high-profile serious case review in recent years involving Northamptonshire county council children’s services. Last year two reviews found that professionals missed crucial opportunities to save two toddlers who were murdered by men with histories of domestic violence, crime and drug use.

APPG for young carers & young adult carers

The first all-party parliamentary group (APPG) for young carers and young adult carers is set to be formed.

According to charity Carers Trust, the new APPG will provide “an invaluable opportunity to develop a cross-party platform to encourage improved support, services and recognition for young carers and young adult carers. It will also promote awareness of their needs and issues affecting them”.

The APPG will also enable Young Carers and Young Adult Carers to meet MPs giving them a forum to explain the pressures and challenges faced because of their caring responsibilities and how such pressures might be addressed by decision-makers.

Dublin FGM conviction

For the first time in the history of the state, a married couple have been sentenced for aiding and abetting, counselling or procuring the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) of their then 21-month-old daughter.

The couple, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the child, had pleaded not guilty to procuring an act of FGM claiming the child had sustained her injuries by falling backwards onto a toy while not wearing a nappy. However, the paediatric surgeon who performed a procedure to stop the girl’s bleeding, came to the conclusion that her injury had not been sustained accidentally and referred the case to gardaí for investigation. The surgeon, Sri Paran, told the court that the child would have gone into shock within 20 hours had her bleeding not been stopped. The parents’ version of events was disputed by several medical experts and the couple, who were also found guilty of one count of child cruelty, were convicted at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court last November.

Sentencing the couple, Judge Elma Sheahan said the offence had resulted in serious harm to the child, who may suffer psychological or psycho-sexual effects that may not be fully known for years. She described the offence as the “most egregious breach of trust by those presumed to be the protectors of their infant child”. She said the girl had suffered an “appalling act of cruelty”.

The husband and wife were sentenced to five-and-a-half years and four years and nine months respectively for the female genital mutilation of their then 21-month-old daughter. In addition, the husband was sentenced to three years on one count of child cruelty and the wife to two years and nine months.

FGM is a criminal offence under the Irish Criminal Justice (Female Genital Mutilation) Act 2012, and carries a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment. It is estimated that 5,800 women and girls in Ireland have undergone FGM, with human rights charities warning that another 2,700 are at risk. See my blog

Safeguarding failures found at pre-registration of independent school

An inspection of the Empire Coaching Academy’s proposed site at Smithfield House in Digbeth, Birmingham, has been deemed “not likely to meet” all independent schools standards and failed pre-registration. The Ofsted inspectors discovered boarded up fire escapes which failed to work when a kitchen fire set the alarm system off. Inspectors also found fallen-in ceilings, sharp steel ceiling retainers dangling at head height and windows that opened wide enough so that a pupil “could easily fall out”.

Ofsted conduct pre-registration inspections to determine if the school is likely to meet independent school standards, filing their finding to the Department for Education.

On the alarm sounding, lead inspector Dan Owen said it wasn’t possible to “easily leave the building by the stairs because many adults were coming up the stairs to other floors as opposed to evacuating the building”. A school leader suggested to him it was a test alarm and the inspector should continue his inspection.

However, Mr Owen found he couldn’t escape on the ground floor because a “magnetic door exit would not operate properly”. A second fire exit was “tied shut on the inside with a power cable and was firmly covered with wooden boards from the outside”. The report added: “In the event of an evacuation, there is no clear route out of this building.”

The inspection also found that upper floors of the building were in “a state of dereliction and pose serious hazards to pupils”. Although not proposed for school use, the upper floors were fully accessible. Office furniture was found on fire escape routes and a shopping trolley on a staircase. Low-dangling light fittings and sharp steel ceiling retainers were found to be dangling at head height. Mouldy food was observed together with signs of “rodent activity”. The report concluded that whilst these areas are not part of the proposed school they are “readily accessible” and “could have an impact on the safety and welfare of any pupils” adding that “Leaders’ risk assessments have failed to evaluate the risks associated with the building”.

In addition, when assessing the accommodation at the school the report found “serious hazards to pupils” which present even higher risks as “the pupils the proprietor proposes to educate are highly vulnerable”. This included exposed wires, with some sockets were found to not be properly fixed to the wall. Some windows could not be opened at all whilst others opened without restriction where pupils “could easily fall out”. One large window came off its hinges when opened by the inspector.

The decision to open the proposed school, which would employ eight full-time staff and teach a total of 70 pupils aged 12 to 16, 10 of which would be part-time pupils will be made by the DfE in due course.

Parents let down by professionals’ poor grasp of child sexual exploitation

A damning report has been published by the charity Parents Against Child Exploitation (Pace) / focusing on the experiences of parents and grandparents whose children were sexually abused outside the home.

The report, consisting of semi-structured interviews and focus group sessions with 32 parents or grandparents, describes lengthy delays in any action taken, not being listened to by social workers, feeling that their child had not been helped, and that they were often viewed as bad parents, or even possible abusers themselves.

The majority of participants felt social workers had a poor grasp of child sexual exploitation, often minimising or dismissing the physical and mental harm their children were being subjected to by criminal gangs.

One father, a single parent from the West Midlands and experienced community work professional, who participated in the study described how the sexual exploitation his daughter was suffering wasn’t part of children’s services discussions. Nicholas Beale said “I kept raising it with [children’s services], but they were constantly questioning my parenting, my failings. And the language that was used was so patronising, condescending, dehumanising … if it had just been one person, I’d have put it down to their individual failings, but it was every social worker with the exception of one.” In fact, he felt so unsupported that he felt he had no option but to request that his daughter go into temporary foster care.

The report indicates that this experience is far from unique. Gill Gibbons is chief executive of Pace, the charity which supports parents attempting to extricate their children from the clutches of the gangs that serially rape vulnerable teenagers for profit, said that, although things have changed from the time of the Rotherham scandal when social workers explicitly viewed children as consenting to their own abuse, the testimony in Pace’s report leads her to believe “the shift away from blaming parents has taken a lot longer. It has been hardwired into all the training around child abuse that the first perpetrator you look at is parents”.

Commenting, Leeds’ Director of Children’s Services Steve Walker acknowledged that the approach taken towards families in some children’s social work departments is problematic. “Families are assessed through the lens of risk, where they are either causing harm or failing to protect, which is unhelpful in all but the most severe cases of abuse. As a result, families experience social work interventions as judgmental and adversarial. This makes it difficult to achieve the kind of partnership with families that is needed, particularly where there are concerns about sexual exploitation.”

February publications

Ofsted, Care Quality Commission, HM Inspectorate of Probation, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (2020), The multi-agency response to child sexual abuse in the family environment

This report summarises findings from our joint targeted area inspections of ‘the multi-agency response to child sexual abuse in the family environment’.

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Safeguarding e-Bulletin – 24th January 2020

Welcome to our Safeguarding e-Bulletin, our first publication of the new year.

Here at SSS Learning the team have been busy and I’m delighted to update you on forthcoming additions to our course range.

Our new Fire Warden course for staff in educational settings will be available before half-term. This course has been developed with specialist advice from David Parker who is an independent Fire Consultant, former Assistant Divisional Officer in the South Wales Fire Service and Graduate Member of the Institution of Fire Engineers. Enhanced with stunning animation, the course provides comprehensive training for all staff undertaking this role. The course will be available to purchase as an individual course and will be automatically added at no additional cost to the safeguarding suite for all suite customers.

We also have a further two courses currently in development. The first course looks at the topic of Domestic Abuse and will be invaluable to those leading on safeguarding and for all staff. In addition, following the new requirements of KCSIE 2019, we will be producing a course on SEND for those undertaking DSL and named person roles.

To further enhance CPD, in addition to these bulletins we will also be publishing a series of feature articles on key safeguarding areas throughout the year. The first feature examines Safeguarding policy, essential to get right to ensure best practice. Packed with top tips it will also help you audit your current policy, helping you and governance make sure your policy is fit for purpose.

As ever, we will continue to keep you up-to-date with all safeguarding news, information and updates throughout the year. Between publications you can also get in the moment updates on safeguarding news by following us on Twitter  @SSSlearning and my commentary on  @Sam_SSSLearning

Here’s to a productive 2020!

Sam Preston
Safeguarding Director

New counter-terrorism measures

This week the Home Office announced a new counter-terror package which includes tougher sentences for offenders, an overhaul of probation and a £90m increase in funding for counter terrorism police. The measures will be part of the Counter Terrorism (Sentencing and Release) Bill, promised to come before the Houses within the Government’s first 100 days in office.

Longer sentences include 14 years for those involved in planning and training others to commit terrorist offences. There has been some criticism of how effective such longer sentencing measures will be. David Merritt, father of Jack Merritt who was killed in the November London Bridge terrorist attack, stated “keeping terrorists in prison longer will not per se keep people safe, particularly if they are exposed to radicalisation inside”.

The new measures include:

  • Forcing terrorists who receive extended determinate sentences to serve their full term in prison
  • Ensuring individuals convicted of serious offences like preparing acts of terrorism or directing a terrorist organisation spend at least 14 years in prison
  • Getting rid of early release for those classed as dangerous and given extended determinate sentences
  • A doubling in the number of counter terrorism probation officers
  • A cash injection of £500,000 to support victims of terrorism and a review of the current services on offer
  • An increase in the number of places in probation hostels, designed to allow authorities to monitor terrorists in the weeks after their release
  • A boost to counter terrorism police funding of £90m year-on-year for the coming year to £906m
  • More special psychologists and trained imams to help assess the risk of radicalised offenders
  • More training for frontline staff in prison and probation, in order to identify and challenge extremism

In response to the announcement, Head of Counter Terrorism Policing, Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said the additional funding is “gratefully received” and that he was “pleased the government is willing to help strengthen the world class Counter Terrorism network protecting the UK”. 

11-13 year-olds coerced into performing sexually over their own webcams

In PMQs last week (15th Jan), Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced “further action” is to be taken by HM Government to keep young people safe online and protect from exposure to Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE). 

This statement follows information released by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) which highlighted the staggering number of pre-teen girls being ‘tricked into sex acts on webcams’.

Data released by the IWF reveals that girls aged between 11 and 13 are increasingly being tricked and coerced into performing sexually over their own webcams. 80% of the sexual selfies the IWF found in a trawl for images of child sexual abuse were of children this age. Of all web pages found featuring images of child sexual abuse, a third consisted of self-generated images, mostly by girls in a domestic setting. The images showed them looking into cameras, reading messages asking them to do something and complying.

Susie Hargreaves, IWF chief executive, stated that said the number of such cases was growing at an alarming rate. Ms Hargreaves said: “These are images and videos of girls that have been groomed, coerced and tricked into performing sexually over webcam in what is fast becoming a national crisis. They are being flattered, told they are beautiful. They often think they are in relationship with someone… and they don’t have the emotional maturity to understand what is going on”.

The charity took action on 37,000 self-generated images of children last year. About 30,000 were of adolescents. The charity has urged anyone discovering child sexual abuse images and videos or non-photographic child sexual abuse images to make a report to the IWF. This can be done confidentially and anonymously at the following link

County Lines- young people being failed by the services designed to protect them.

The Children’s Society has warned that too many children vulnerable to exploitation by county lines gangs are being let down by frontline services that consistently fail to identify young people at risk.

The charity’s comments are in response to a report Both Sides of the Coin; The Police and National Crime Agency’s Response to Vulnerable People in ‘County Lines’ Drug Offending published on the progress made by police and the National Crime Agency (NCA) in tackling county lines at local, regional and national levels. The charity also highlighted that crucial information which could prevent young people from becoming victims of Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE) was also not being shared.

The report, published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services, stated that despite an improved understanding by police forces and the NCA of county lines activity, current policing models are too “disjointed to allow for the most effective response”. The report identifies areas where improvement is needed finding that:

  • “Professionals from other agencies often have contact with county lines victims before the police become involved. They need to ask the right questions to recognise the signs of exploitation”.
  • “Systems for collating and sharing intelligence and information between the police and other agencies are crucial to preventing exploitation efficiently and effectively”.
  • The demand for services often outstrips supply, such as a lack of 24/7 multi-agency support, healthcare provision and insufficient beds in secure accommodation.
  • One organisation’s lack of resources can result in a negative effect on the demand other organisations face.
  • “Gaps in youth service provision can mean that young people are not diverted away from crime”.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said the report identified “strong collaborative work” between policing and the NCA to tackle county lines and highlighted the “significant progress” made since the launch of the National County Lines Co-ordination Centre

Whilst welcoming the progress made by police forces in responding to the problem of county lines, The Children’s Society highlighted that all agencies are consistently failing to identify children at risk. Mark Russell, chief executive of the charity said “These are children who may have been groomed with drugs, alcohol, or promises of status and wealth who then face the trauma of being coerced with terrifying threats, violence and sexual abuse to carry drugs around the country”, adding that in some cases, this led to young people being treated as criminals rather than recognised and supported as victims.

New LGBT + Bullying and Hate Crime Schools Project Pack launched

A new LGBT+ Bullying and Hate Crime Schools Project pack has been launched to to protect potential victims by deterring would-be abusers and encouraging and supporting victims of identity based bullying to report incidents.

A hate crime is any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice, based on a person’s disability or perceived disability; race or perceived race; or religion or perceived religion; or sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation or transgender identity or perceived transgender identity.

At the launch of the resource, Chris Long, Chief Crown Prosecutor and CPS national lead on hate crime said: “Hate incidents and hate crimes can have a devastating effect on the individuals and communities who are targeted for simply being who they are. Everybody has the right to live free of persecution, but hate crime tramples upon this right.”

The resource pack is for teachers of key stages 3 and 4 and is an updated version of a pack first developed by the CPS in 2014. It has been developed by the CPS in partnership with a number of organisations, including Stonewall, the National Police Chiefs’ Council, Gendered Intelligence and NASUWT.

Further trauma for vulnerable children suffering PTSD

A report by the Centre for Mental Health has found that vulnerable children suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are being further traumatised through school punishments such as being secluded and excluded.

The mental health charity report found that around a third of children in England and Wales are exposed to trauma, such as neglect and abuse, before they are 18 and that a quarter of these children will go on to develop PTSD. The report also states that children who are violent and showing challenging behaviour such as stealing and ignoring rules are more likely to have been affected by trauma.

The report also highlights that schools often fail to understand the effects of trauma on children and are responding to their challenging behaviour through “restrictive action” that is leaving them further traumatised. This includes responsive actions such as restraint, isolation and seclusion from their peers or excluded from school.

The report states that “In some cases, challenging behaviour is a symptom of trauma,” and that “exclusion and seclusion can echo relational trauma and systemic trauma; whilst physical restraint can echo physical and sexual abuse”.

In addition, the report also highlights that such interventions may “cause harm and potentially drive even more challenging behaviour”.

The charity is calling for educational settings to become “trauma-informed schools” in order to better understand the effect of trauma on children, promote positive behaviour and “minimise the trauma causing potential of the school environment”.

Sarah Hughes, Centre for Mental Health Chief Executive commented that: “Attempts to improve school discipline through restrictive interventions and exclusions will not work. For some of the most vulnerable and marginalised children they will entrench behavioural problems with lifelong consequences for them and their families. Helping schools to become trauma-informed is much more promising. As part of a ‘whole-school approach’ to mental health it has the potential to benefit everyone, to make all children feel valued and understood and prevent exclusions and their devastating consequences.”

Hughes went on to add “The government has recognised this by investing in new mental health teams to go into schools and putting the subject on the curriculum. It must now take the next step and help schools to boost children’s mental health in the ways they manage behaviour and create a safe and consistent learning environment for all”.

Although HM Government measures were introduced to improve support within schools through closer links with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in December last year, only around a third of schools and colleges will benefit from improved mental health services by 2023.

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services has criticised these measures as not being ambitious enough.

Ofsted call for deeper inspection of ‘stuck’ schools

An Ofsted report published on 8th January 2020 has found that more than 200,000 children, mainly in disadvantaged areas, are being educated in schools that have been consistently weak over the last 13 years. 

‘Fight or flight? How ‘stuck’ schools are overcoming isolation’ is an evaluation report investigating why some schools that have previously delivered a low standard of education have managed to sustainably improve whilst other have not. Perhaps unsurprisingly given Ofsted’s role, the report states that a system of deeper inspection is needed, together with better support, to improve the educational experience for children in such schools.

Ofsted inspection finds children “at significant risk of harm”

A Gloucestershire children’s home for young people with autism and learning difficulties has been rated “inadequate” in all areas of its provision after an Ofsted inspection found a series of leadership and safeguarding failures judged to place the children at “significant risk of harm”.

Inspectors, who visited Orbis Abbey Rose in Tewkesbury in December last year, described finding children and staff smeared with faeces and children engaged in “highly dangerous behaviours” which included smashing car windows, throwing furniture and assaulting staff.

Ofsted carried out the inspection following receipt of a number of allegations made about practices in the home. Inspectors concluded that there were “serious and widespread failures that mean children are not protected, or their welfare is not promoted or safeguarded”. 

The report noted that “incidents of staff, children and the premises being smeared with faeces to be a common occurrence”. One of the houses had only one toilet roll between six bathrooms and no handwash or towels in the staff bathroom. The children were also being fed a diet of processed food with staff making daily visits to fast food outlets to collect meals.

Two members of senior staff with child protection responsibilities were found to not have appropriate safeguarding training and the report states that “on occasions, staff have remained working alone with children despite allegations being made about them by other staff”. Repeated patterns of staffing changes led to agency workers frequently hired to cover vacancies, including the support of children with serious complex needs. The report states that allegations have been made about four agency staff.

The home, part of the Orbis Education and Care group, is one of a number of schools, residential homes and facilities for children and adults with autism run by Cardiff-based Orbis. Reflecting on the outcome of the inspection, a spokesperson for Orbis Abbey Rose said “This is clearly a concerning matter for us and we have taken swift action to make alternative care arrangements for all our young people during this temporary suspension. We will continue to work closely with Ofsted, the Local Authorities and families as we implement the improvement plan”.

Please do let us know what you think of the e-Bulletin:
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Please feel free to share our e-Bulletin. We are passionate about the role we play in safeguarding children and the more people that know about it the better. They can sign up to our safeguarding e-Bulletin by clicking here.

Safeguarding e-Bulletin – 5th Dec 2019

Welcome to our Safeguarding e-Bulletin, keeping you up-to-date with all safeguarding news, information and updates. Between publications you can also get in the moment updates on safeguarding news by following us on Twitter @SSSlearning and my commentary on @Sam_SSSLearning

How to talk to children about terrorism

As media coverage of the most recent London Bridge terrorist  attack once again demonstrates, the ongoing reporting following such incidents pervades news and social media coverage. New NSPCC tips and  advice is now available if you are concerned about how a child is feeling following such events. In addition, the charity has also released a supporting video – how to talk to children about terrorism. You may also wish to make parents / guardians aware of this resource.

Domestic Violence behind rise in child protection figures

On average, 88 children are taken into care each day in England where there has been a 53% rise in child protection cases over the last ten years. A  survey conducted by the  Local Government Association(LGA) reveals that domestic violence, family conflict and drink and drug abuse are the biggest drivers of the rise in child-protection cases. In response to the LGA survey, more than 80% of the councillors in charge of children’s services identified domestic violence and substance misuse as the reason for the increase in intervention to protect children in their local authorities, 18,000 more children than a decade ago.

The Department for Education has also published  figures which show domestic violence to be the most common factor for “children in need”, higher than issues such as abuse, gangs, trafficking or anti-social behaviour.

Extended sentence for vile predator

Michael Williams, one of Britain’s most notorious paedophiles, has been jailed for another 18 years. Williams groomed children on his post round and online, with pictures of himself and Manchester United stars, including Sir Alex Ferguson, Peter Schmeichel and Ryan Giggs. He used the pictures to impress the children he later went on to abuse.

In 2010 when  Williams was jailed for eight and a half years for grooming up to 1,000 children, some of whom he also abused. He targeted children on his postal route, at local football clubs, tricked his victims into performing sex acts on webcams and convinced some to visit his home. Online, he pretended to be teenage to meet children aged 11 to 16.

Williams, 38, has once again been convicted after further offences committed both before and after his previous jail term came to light. Williams admitted to seven indecent assaults on two girls aged 13 that occurred before the offences he was earlier imprisoned for. He was also found guilty of three charges of making indecent images of a child and one charge of possession of an indecent photograph of a child, after his release.

Described by  Judge Simon Carr as ‘a predatory paedophile with an entrenched sexual interest in children that will last the rest of his life’, Williams has been jailed for an extended 12 years in custody and further six years on licence. 

EU report focuses on UK “county lines”

A new EU report highlights the “extensive exploitation” of vulnerable young people, by county lines drug trafficking gangs operating across the UK. The  EU Drug Markets Report 2019 is the third comprehensive overview of illicit drug markets in the European Union by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction ( EMCDDA) and  Europol

The report highlights how the “county lines” model of drug supply, which involves drug supply from a central base to rural supply areas using dedicated mobile phone lines to take orders, has become widespread in the United Kingdom. The report details how this exploitative business model is allowing criminal groups to expand to new areas at low cost and minimal risk through the recruitment and exploitation of vulnerable children, for example those in the care of social services or excluded from school.

The 2017 National Crime Agency threat  assessment on county lines showed that nearly every police force in England and Wales has been affected to some degree. The new EU report also states that “In the United Kingdom some provincial police forces have highlighted concerns about increasing firearms use related to the phenomenon of county lines”. The report also reveals that in the UK heroin is one of the main drugs now supplied through “county lines” and that the crack trade through this model is associated with increasing levels of violence.

This is a lengthy report which reviews the markets for heroin, cocaine, cannabis, amphetamine, methamphetamine, MDMA and new psychoactive substances, providing action points to inform policy development at EU and national level. 

Serial killer charged with Estelle Mouzin murder

Michel Fourniret, known in the media as the “Ogre of the Ardennes”, is one of France’s most notorious serial killers. He has now been charged with the abduction and murder of Estelle Mouzin, the nine-year-old girl who vanished without trace in 2003. Estelle disappeared in 2003 whilst walking home from her school. Her body was never found. 

Detectives first suspected 76-year-old  Fourniret was behind Estelle’s abduction and murder in 2006 after a photo of her was found on his computer. A white van, resembling the one Fourniret drove, had also been spotted in the area when Estelle disappeared.

Fourniret, previously jailed for life in 2008 for the rape and murder of seven girls and young women, has now been charged over Estelle’s disappearance from a village east of Paris after his wife came forward to contradict his alibi.

Fourniret always maintained he had nothing to do with Estelle’s disappearance, claiming he was at home in Sart-Custinne, southern Belgium, at the time. This alibi held until last week when his former wife, Monique Olivier, told investigators that the phone call Fourniret said he made from his home on the day the child disappeared was in fact made by her at his request.  Monique Olivier is serving a 20-year sentence for helping Fourniret kidnap the girls and watching through a one-way mirror whilst he raped and killed them.

Fourniret is already sentenced to life with no possibility of parole however, an additional successful conviction for the abduction and murder of Estelle Mouzin will offer closure to a case which has gripped the nation for years.

Serious safeguarding failures at multi-site college set to be exposed

According to an  article published in FE Week last week, the independent learning provider  City College Nottingham is preparing to receive the publication of a grade-four Ofsted report. 

The Ofsted inspection was conducted after a whistle-blower brought concerns to the Education and Skills Funding Agency ( ESFA).

It is reported that inspectors found no restrictions on the internet for material such as pornography and radicalisation and a complete lack of security over who was coming and going to the provider’s multi-site campus.

In addition to its own students, City College Nottingham teaches young people and adults on courses in construction, beauty, care, IT and business courses under a £1 million subcontracting agreement with Nottingham College. Ofsted has alerted Nottingham College to its findings which has terminated the contract with City College Nottingham.

According to a spokesperson for Nottingham College, quick and decisive action has been taken after being made aware of the safeguarding situation, which includes providing reception and security staff at the Carlton Road campus whose role is to “ensure secure access and strictly enforcing the use of lanyards for staff and students to ensure only people with a legitimate reason to be in the building are in the building”. The college has also “suspended IT access to control safeguarding risk online until such time as adequate software monitoring can be introduced”.

The college was graded “ Inadequate” by Ofsted in January 2018, which included a judgement that “Teachers do not do enough to develop learners’ understanding of British values and their relationship to radicalisation and extremism”. The report included a recommendation for:

support staff to improve their own understanding of British values, and to improve the ways in which they make links between these values and the dangers of radicalisation and extremism, for example, by:

  • training staff so that they understand British values more fully 
  • sharing the good practice that already exists in parts of the organisation 
  • providing staff with details of news items that might provide useful discussion topics, along with guidance notes and helpful questions to ask. “

Despite a monitoring  report, published in January 2019, which judged that the college was making “reasonable progress” in this safeguarding area, it appears the latest report will contradict this judgement.

Published updates

State-funded schools inspections and outcomes as at 31 August 2019 – Provisional data for the period April to August 2019 and revised data for the period September 2018 to March 2019.

School inspection update: academic year 2019 to 2020 – This is the first edition since the rollout of the EIF. It focuses on the minor changes to section 5 and section 8 handbooks following the first two months under EIF. A summary of the changes is included and the edition also includes information on the release of key stage 4 checking data.

Social care questionnaires 2019: what children and young people told Ofsted – Published data of survey responses which captures children’s views about social care settings, including children’s homes, boarding schools and living with foster carers and adopters.

Research into further education subcontracting launched – Ofsted is launching a new research project to look at the subcontracting landscape within further education.

Please do let us know what you think of the e-Bulletin:
e-bulletin@ssslearning.co.uk

Please feel free to share our e-Bulletin. We are passionate about the role we play in safeguarding children and the more people that know about it the better. They can sign up to our safeguarding e-Bulletin by clicking here.

Safeguarding e-Bulletin – 21st Nov 2019

Welcome to our Safeguarding e-Bulletin, keeping you up-to-date with all safeguarding news, information and updates. Between publications you can also get in the moment updates on safeguarding news by following us on Twitter @SSSlearning and my commentary on @Sam_SSSLearning

New free resource for parents/ guardians

Following on from our Parental Controls Streaming Resource link we produced last month, in this edition we’re including another support link to help parents/ guardians set up parental controls on mobile phones so they can set restrictions and limit the content their children may be exposed to. Please let us have your feedback and feel free to place the link:https://ssscpd.co.uk/parentsandguardians/parental-controls on your websites as a free parent resource. If there are any other resources you’d like us to provide let us know!

Record high of pre birth “children in need”

Latest Department for Education annual figures, published last month, reveal there were concerns about 400,000 children identified as children in need. Domestic violence, parents with mental health problems, and drug and alcohol abuse are among the biggest factors impacting on the children’s health or development, making them more likely to be at risk of significant impairment without extra support.

More than 7,000 of such vulnerable children fall into this category before their birth, leading to pre-birth child protection plans or other social services / local authority intervention. The annual figures (2018-19) record a new high of 7,360 children considered as vulnerable before their birth, a figure which has risen steadily over recent years.

The statistics show abuse or neglect to be the biggest concerns, together with family dysfunction, family in acute stress, parents’ disability or illness and low income factors. More than 50% of children in need cases, over 200,000 incidents, involved domestic violence.

Commenting on the latest figures, the Local Government Association (LGA) said:

“It is absolutely vital that councils are able to support families and help children who are at risk of significant harm, but it is also important that help is available before problems escalate to that point.”

The LGA has also raised concerns about children in need for reasons “linked to faith or belief”, which had risen by 320 to 1,950 cases, stating that some cases include beliefs in witchcraft or “spirit possession”.

Man who blamed baby’s brain damage on a puppy jailed

Paul Carlton has been found guilty of attempted murder despite his claims that the injuries to a baby boy in his care had been caused by a puppy. Carlton was looking after the boy while the baby’s mother went for a beauty appointment and lunch with her sister.

Carlton told jurors he had been briefly tidying his garden and had left the child on a baby swing in the flat. He claimed he heard a “loud cry” from the boy who he had left alone in the flat with his two dogs, one a cross breed American Bulldog-Staffordshire terrier puppy. He stated that he realised something was wrong when he went back into the flat and the boy was not opening his eyes properly. Carlton told the jury he could only “speculate” that the dog had seriously injured the baby.

The baby boy had no bite marks or cuts associated with a possible dog attack and when Professor Robin Sellar, a neuroradiologist, was asked in court how the injuries could have occurred he told jurors: “In that time frame, something very dramatic has happened. The injuries are consistent with a shaking injury.”

The eight-week-old boy, who has been left with severe brain injuries and cannot crawl, walk or talk, is now wholly dependent on his mother and the support of others.

Sentencing Carlton for 12 years, Judge Lord Burns said: “These cases are always tragic. The boy has been rendered helpless by your actions. He was as vulnerable a child as could possibly be imagined. You have tried to deflect responsibility by various means but the jury found you guilty.”

Jodie Chesney murderers sentenced

In follow up to the report in our last bulletin, the two teenagers found guilty earlier this month of the brutal and unprovoked murder of 17-year-old Jodie Chesney in Harold Hill have been jailed.

Jodie, who was stabbed once in the back when sitting with a group of friends in a park, died due to a combination of shock and haemorrhage.

Svenson Ong-a-Kwie, 19, was jailed for life with a minimum term of 26 and Arron Isaacs, 17, was jailed for life with a minimum term of 18 years.

Following the conviction of Ong-A-Kwie and Isaacs, DCI Whellams said:

“Jodie’s life was ended in the most brutal way by Svenson Ong-A-Kwie and Arron Isaacs, and I hope her family and friends feel some measure of justice has been served. On that Friday in March, Jodie was not in the wrong place at the wrong time, she was simply living her life as a teenager should – carefree and with her friends.”

Commander for the East Area Borough Command Unit, Detective Chief Superintendent Stephen Clayman, also said:

“Our thoughts and deepest sympathies remain with Jodie’s family as sentencing is today passed down to the two people responsible for her murder. It has almost been nine months since Jodie was killed in Harold Hill, and nothing could ever have justified the extinguishing of her young life. Havering, like many boroughs across London, has experienced the tragic and inexcusable loss of young life as a result of knife-related violence. This is why bearing down on violent crime on the streets of our capital continues to be the Met’s top priority. We will continue to work tirelessly – day and night – to identify and pursue offenders, help bring perpetrators to justice, take weapons off the street, support victims, engage and reassure the public, and keep our communities safe.”

In an impact statement, Jodie’s father Peter Chesney said: 

“The murder of my beloved daughter has destroyed my life and the full extent as to how this has affected my family and me cannot possibly be explained simply in words. I have no idea how I am going to continue with my life or even come to terms with the loss.”

£700,000 compensation for head teacher sacked after having sex with two 17-year-old boys.

A tribunal has ordered the governing body of Tywyn Primary School, Port Talbot, to pay former Head Teacher Matthew Aplin more than £696,000 in compensation.

Safeguarding issues were raised when the school became aware that Aplin had sex with two teenagers he had met on a gay dating app in August 2015, resulting in the Governing Body’s decision to sack him.

Aplin was accused in May 2016 of “behaviour bringing the school into disrepute, conduct incompatible with the role of the head teacher both which seriously undermined the trust and confidence of the school in its head teacher”

However, in September 2017, a tribunal upheld Mr Aplin’s claims of unfair dismissal and sexual orientation discrimination. The tribunal ruled he was unfairly dismissed and was discriminated against by the school’s investigating officer from Neath Port Talbot council, on the basis he was gay. School governors appealed that decision and lost earlier this year.

The tribunal criticised the governors for “acquiescing” to the wish of the Local Education Authority (LEA) to dismiss Mr Aplin stating: 

“The panel had no understanding of the reasons given for dismissal, the tribunal drew the conclusion that the panel decided upon dismissal but were entirely reliant on the LEA advisers for its reasoning.”

However, it found Mr Aplin would not have been treated differently by the governors if he was heterosexual, and they would have followed the LEA advisers either way. In its decision, the tribunal noted Mr Aplin had found it difficult to obtain new employment close to his home, which he believed was because he was being “deliberately undermined”. Since September last year, he has been working as a teacher at a primary school in the Merthyr area on a series of temporary contracts.

New guide to help primary teachers deliver LGBT-inclusive curriculum.

A new resource is now available which offers practical support and ideas for primary schools to include issues around lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and families into their lessons.

The free resource, published by Stonewall and education publisher Pearson has been produced in response to research carried out by the charity which found that two in five pupils (40 per cent) are not taught anything about LGBT issues and nearly half (45 per cent) of LGBT young people are bullied because of their gender identity.

The resource contains a glossary for pupils and staff, as well as example lesson plans and tips on building LGBT role models into the curriculum. It also advises providing examples in lessons that refer to different family arrangements where children might be looked after by same sex parents.

Launching the new resource, Sidonie Bertrand-Shelton, head of education programmes at Stonewall, said:

“Our new school guide will support primary school teachers and leaders to deliver an LGBT-inclusive curriculum so every young person feels safe, included and able to reach their full potential.”

Seven Staffordshire residents charged with child sex offences

Following an investigation by Staffordshire Police’s Child Protection and Exploitation Team, three men and four teenage boys from Burton-on-Trent have appeared at South Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court charged with serious sexual offences involving children.

David Korosi, 25, was charged with two counts of sexual assault and rape of a girl aged 13 to 15.  Adrian Demeter, 19, was charged with rape of a girl aged 13 to 15 and sexual assault. 

Jeno Maka, 18, was charged with causing/inciting a girl aged 13 to 15 to engage in sexual activity.

Four boys, two aged 15 and two aged 16, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were also charged with sexual offences against a child. One of the 16-year-olds was also charged with burglary and theft.

Leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales gives evidence to IICSA

Giving evidence to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has said the Church was “shocked to the core” by child sexual abuse perpetrated by members of the clergy.

The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, said the community had struggled to cope with “the presence of evil embodied in its members”. He went on to add that although the Church’s culture had improved “radically” in recent years, there was still “more to achieve”.

Giving evidence for the second time to the Inquiry, Archbishop Nichols said he had learned lessons about tackling abuse at a summit called by the Pope at the Vatican for senior bishops. He told the inquiry the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales had already implemented some of the measures discussed at the summit.

Lead counsel for the inquiry, Brian Altman QC, asked if he believed there was still much to improve, despite major inquiries held in 2001 and 2007. The cardinal replied: “The culture of the Catholic Church today is radically different from 2001 or even 2007, but I do think there’s much, much more to achieve.”

In response, Richard Scorer, specialist abuse lawyer at Slater and Gordon, acting on behalf of 27 abuse victims in the inquiry, said: “Cardinal Nichols’s evidence will cut little ice with victims. The Catholic Church has spent the last two decades promising to get safeguarding right, but the evidence in this inquiry has exposed these promises as so much hot air.” Mr Scorer said improvements had been “lamentably slow”, treatment of survivors was “consistently poor”. 

Archbishop Nichols was also asked why the Vatican’s ambassador to Britain, Monsignor Edward Adams, had refused to give the inquiry a statement about abuse at Ealing Abbey and St Benedict’s School and specifically why it had taken so long for the Vatican to remove a particularly abusive priest from the Church.

The cardinal said he had stressed the importance of the inquiry to the other members of the clergy but added he was “not a diplomat” and did not understand “the niceties of international law in these things”.

Teenager jailed for Ellie Gould murder

Thomas Griffiths, the teenager who stabbed his 17-year-old girlfriend Ellie Gould has been jailed for life, with a minimum term of 12 years and six months. 

The teenager killed Ellie Gould at her family home in Wiltshire the day after she ended their relationship. Griffiths stabbed Ellie, then attempted to cover up his actions by dumping evidence and texting Ellie’s phone despite knowing she was dead. Forensic post-mortem reports showed that Ellie was stabbed at least 13 times.

Initially Griffiths attempted to cover up the crime by trying to clean his clothing to avoid forensic links and by telling neighbours and mutual friends on a group phone chat that he had started to self-harm because of the break up and exam stress in a bid to explain scratch marks to his neck obtained during the murder.

Griffiths, who was arrested just hours after the murder, initially denied involvement however later pleaded guilty to the murder.

22,000 young people face homelessness in England this Christmas

A new report by the youth homeless charity Centrepoint has revealed the extent of the issue of homelessness facing 16- to 25-year-olds this winter.

The charity sent Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to all 326 councils in England asking how many 16- to 25-year-olds had presented as homeless or were at risk of becoming homeless last winter. A total of 248 councils responded. Under the Homelessness Reduction Act local councils must take the details of all people presenting to them as homeless.

The research suggests that between November this year and January 2020, more than 22,000 young people will seek help for homelessness, however this does not include data for a significant number of young people classed as “hidden homeless”. In a poll by the charity Centrepoint, almost three quarters of young people polled said they had stayed in abusive or overcrowded homes, sofa-surfed or slept rough.  The poll showed that:

  • 37% had stayed in an abusive home with a parent or guardian;
  • 46% stayed in an overcrowded property because they had nowhere else to stay;
  • 33% of young people spent a night in a park because they had nowhere else to stay;
  • 27% had spent a night in a tent;
  • 7% of young people had spent the night in a public toilet.

Of more than 200 people who participated in the survey, 4 in 10 said homelessness had made it more difficult to access education and more than two thirds said it had affected their mental health.

Centrepoint is calling on HM Government to change Universal Credit, which limits the amount of money available to young people to pay rent.

Additional funding for schools blighted by youth violence

Schools in areas of London blighted by youth violence will receive £4.7m to prevent children from being excluded and to better protect them after school hours. Researchthis year found that violence incidents involving young people are more likely to happen at the end of the school day.

The money, awarded through the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s Violence Reduction Unit will be used to: train teachers and staff in identifying and supporting young people who are at risk of committing violence or becoming victims; help teachers and staff reduce violence and challenging behaviour; better support pupils in high-crime areas; provide peer support schemes and after- school activities. The action is seen as crucial to reducing the number of children who are excluded from school, who are at a greater risk of becoming involved in violence according to the mayor’s research. The research found that excluded pupils are particularly vulnerable to exploitation from criminal gangs.

In a statement Khan said:

“Evidence shows that nine out of 10 young people in custody have been excluded. That’s why London’s VRU is investing in a package of measures to support schools to reduce exclusions and support young Londoners with the most complex needs.”

The funding also aims to help pupils better cope with the transition from primary to secondary school, including offering summer schools and peer mentoring as pupils make this change in their education.

Pupils call for online sexual harm lessons from outside agencies

A new report from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) shows that less than half (43%) of primary school pupils found lessons on online sexual harm at their schools “very helpful” and only 28% of secondary school students deemed their own experience of education about online sexual harm “very relevant” to what they had encountered themselves. In addition, 65% of young people said they would prefer to be taught by someone other than their teachers, preferring classes to be delivered in school but by a young person with experience of or expertise in online sexual harm “because it is coming from someone who knows what they are talking about”.

Issues of credibility related to teachers’ familiarity with the current social media landscape were also raised by young people. The majority felt that they had more extensive online experience than most teachers educating them on the topic.

The inquiry surveyed 213 young people aged 10 to 18 years old and held a focus group with 45 young people aged 14 to 16. Nine 13 to 20-year olds who had experienced online sexual harm while under the age of 18 were also interviewed.

Earlier this year the Department for Education published guidance on teaching online safety in schools.

Modern slavery in Birmingham soars

New statistics published by the Home Office show that the number of modern slavery cases has continued to remain at an alarmingly high level across the West Midlands this year. Of the 293 cases of suspected modern slavery taken place, around 70% of cases involved children.

Looking at cases from West Midlands Police as well as local councils, there were 86 cases in the first quarter of this year. The potential victims included a Vietnamese woman and a Polish man in domestic servitude, 35 cases of labour exploitation involving adults and children from 8 different countries, 4 cases of adult women and 2 underage girls being sexually exploited and two cases of unknown exploitation of Vietnamese men.

Across the UK, 2019 has seen a dramatic rise in modern slavery cases and the number of potential victims referred in the first three quarters of 2019 has already surpassed the 2018 total. Shockingly, the figures for the most recent quarter also included 3 cases where people were referred after potentially having their organs harvested. (In 2018 there were 6 cases of potential organ harvesting).

The Home Office suggest that a rise in county lines criminal activity is behind the increase in young people being exploited for their labour.

Please do let us know what you think of the e-Bulletin:
e-bulletin@ssslearning.co.uk

Please feel free to share our e-Bulletin. We are passionate about the role we play in safeguarding children and the more people that know about it the better. They can sign up to our safeguarding e-Bulletin by clicking here.

Here are the relevant online courses we provide that relate to this article:

To find out about our Safeguarding Suite click here

Safeguarding e-Bulletin – 7th Nov 2019

Welcome to our Safeguarding e-Bulletin, keeping you up-to-date with all safeguarding news, information and updates. Between publications you can also get in the moment updates on safeguarding news by following us on Twitter @SSSlearning and my commentary on @Sam_SSSLearning

As I hope you know, at SSS Learning we really value your feedback and ideas on how we can further develop our service – we love your suggestions so keep them coming! 

Recently one of our schools asked if we could develop a service on our platform that would allow them to direct staff to read their bespoke policy documents, or any other publications, and provide evidence to track they had been accessed.

We thought this was a great idea so we’ve done it. You can now create a library of links and individually direct each member of staff to the documents relevant to them / their role.

To access this part of the service simply click on the ‘your policy documents’ button in the ‘your account’ section at the bottom of the admin dashboard follow the instructions to input links to your documents (for example on your school/academy website) then follow the instructions to issue an email to your team asking them to read the documents.

As soon as the documents are read by each team member this will be evidenced in the ‘show other reports‘ section accessed from your admin dashboard.

We’d love to hear what you think of this new resource, included at no extra cost, and if you have any ideas for further enhancing the system please contact us at: support@ssslearning.co.uk”

In the news:

Huddersfield grooming gang: guilty of multiple sex offences against young girls

Six members of a West Yorkshire grooming gang, convicted of multiple sexual offences against young girls in Huddersfield between 2005 and 2007, were sentenced last week.

The convictions were secured following Operation Tendersea, a police investigation into the systematic sexual exploitation of young and vulnerable girls in the Huddersfield area between 2004 and 2010.

Umar Zaman, 31, and Samuel Fikru, 32, were both found guilty of two counts of rape, each receiving a sentence of eight years. Zaman, who has previous convictions including burglary, drugs supply, violence and racially-aggravated offences, is currently on the run and believed to be in Pakistan. Fikru, who has previous convictions for sexual assaults and battery, was found guilty of two attacks on the same girl.

Three other men, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were also found guilty and sentenced:

A 32-year-old man jailed for fourteen years for five counts of rape against two girls, which included raping one victim orally at knifepoint and another girl who he left lying bleeding in a park after taking her virginity; Another 32-year-old man jailed for eight years for raping a teenage girl outside near to a school; A 38-year-old man jailed for seven years for attempting to rape a teenage girl, who was wearing her school uniform, behind a shop.

A sixth man, 36-year-old defendant Banaris Hussain, also found guilty of raping a “particularly vulnerable” girl when others were present and abusing her at the same time, was sentenced to ten years this week.

The successful prosecutions and convictions are the culmination of over four years’ close collaboration between West Yorkshire Police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The evidence, submitted to the CPS following an intensive and complex police investigation, included hours of detailed victim evidence against a large number of potential suspects.

Michael Quinn from the CPS said: “This case involved the cynical exploitation of a number of young girls by a group of predatory men in the Huddersfield area. These men deliberately targeted vulnerable children. The men cynically groomed and exploited children for their own sexual gratification, drawing them into a dark and sordid world in which they had little or no control over their lives. Throughout, the men cared only for themselves and viewed the girls as objects to be used and abused at will. At the heart of this case are the victims. They have all suffered trauma as a result of their childhood abuse. They have all shown immense courage in coming forward to assist the investigation and support the prosecution case.

Detective Chief Inspector Richard McNamara, West Yorkshire Police, said: “We welcome the sentencing of these six men for offences which can only be described as depraved.

Nursery licence suspended following sexual offence arrest

Following a number of unannounced visits last month, Ofsted have suspended the licence of Jack and Jill Childcare in Torquay. The visits to the nursery were carried out by the regulator following the arrest of a male employee, who is being currently being questioned on suspicion of multiple sexual offences.

The male suspect was arrested after a child alerted parents to an alleged incident. Having reviewed more than 250 hours of CCTV footage recorded within the nursery setting, Devon and Cornwall Police have launched a “major investigation” having also identified a number of additional potential victims aged between two and five.

To date officers have contacted around 100 families of children who attended the nursery, however have stressed that not all of these contacts have been made to identify potential victims. 

Acting Detective Chief Inspector James Stock, Devon and Cornwall Police, said contact with the suspect appeared to be “limited to within the nursery setting and we do not believe that any other member of staff had knowledge of these matters. These appear to be the actions of a lone individual and the offences do not involve the taking or distributing of any images.”

The male suspect is under strict bail conditions until 22 November.

(Note: SSS Learning has produced a Child Protection course, designed to meet the statutory requirements of KCSIE (2019), which is bespoke to supporting non-maintained nursery settings. You may wish to share this link with your feeder nurseries).

Child Abuse offences reach an all-time high

New figures, as a result of NSPCC Freedom of Information (FOI) requests sent to police forces, state that in the year 2018-2019 there were 76,204 recorded sexual offences against children in the UK – a 60% increase on the previous year. The offences recorded included grooming, sexual assault and rape with 16,773 offences recorded against children 10 and under. This included 341 offences against babies under the age of 1. 

Statistics obtained by the NSPCC also report that a child abuse image offence is recorded every 7 minutes in the UK. 

Times investigation links trafficking and private education

An investigation carried out by The Times claims that private schools are making hundreds of thousands of pounds from Vietnamese children who are entering Britain on student visas then subsequently disappearing.

The investigation carried out by the newspaper found that children thought to be as young as 15 are being brought to the UK by suspected trafficking gangs through legitimate visas sponsored by private schools. It uncovered at least 21 Vietnamese children, in Britain on Tier 4 child visas, have vanished from boarding schools and private colleges in the past 4 years including 8 children who have gone missing from the £25,000-a-year Chelsea Independent College, the west London school owned by the for-profit body Astrum Education. Astrum Education Group stated it had been targeted by “organised criminal activity” and has reviewed safeguarding procedures. 

All the schools and colleges identified in the investigation followed protocol and reported the disappearances to police and the Home Office. 

APPG calls for review of school exclusion

A cross-party group of MPs, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on knife crime, has called for a review of school exclusions as evidence presented revealed that children outside of mainstream schools are at serious risk of grooming and exploitation by criminal gangs. A report produced by the APPG is calling for a government-led review to examine why many excluded children do not get the full-time education they are legally entitled to and calls for an end to part-time education for excluded pupils. 

Crucially the report calls for measures to make mainstream schools more accountable for the children they exclude. Under current legislative powers, if proposed action by a parent / guardian is deemed to place a child at further risk then social care action can be taken to prevent this action in order to safeguard and protect the child. However, there are no legislative measures in place to prevent exclusions when social care deems such action may increase the contextual safeguarding risk to a child.

Exclusion background statistics:

  • In England, there were 7,900 permanent exclusions in 2017/18 – a 70% increase since 2012/13;
  • APPG research has found that a third of local authorities in England do not have spaces in their pupil referral units (PRUs) for excluded children. (Young people who do secure a place are sometimes only taught for a couple of hours each day, with a restricted curriculum of just English and Maths);
  • Young people receiving free school meals are about four times more likely to be permanently excluded from school;
  • young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are over five times more likely to be excluded permanently;
  • children with SEND make up an alarmingly high percentage of all children who are excluded – 44.9 of permanent exclusions and 43.4 % of fixed-period exclusions in 2017/18;
  • There were 47,513 offences involving a knife or sharp instrument in the year ending June 2019 across England and Wales – a 44% increase since March 2011.
  • Home Office statistics (2019) show that more than 17,500 boys aged 14 carry a knife or weapon in England and Wales; a third of those arming themselves have had weapons used against them.

Chair of the APPG, Sarah Jones, said:

“The number of children being excluded from school and locked out of opportunities is a travesty. They are easy pickings for criminal gangs looking to exploit vulnerable children. Excluding children must be a last resort. Our fight against this knife crime epidemic must start from the principle that no child is left behind. Schools and local authorities must be supported by government to do this.”

The link between school exclusions and knife crime has previously been raised by the cross-party youth violence commission.

DfE Direction Notice for Stoke Children’s Services

Stoke City Council Children’s Services, rated inadequate by Ofsted in February this year, have until January next year to identify another council with which it can enter into a formal partnership to help turn around provision. In their judgement following the last inspection, Ofsted warned that vulnerable children were not being safeguarded. A DfE-appointed commissioner of children’s services, Eleanor Brazil, was placed at the authority to determine how improvements could be made.

Her report for the Minister of State for Children and Families has found that the council does not have the capacity to make the necessary improvements on its own. Whilst recognising Stoke on Trent as an area of high deprivation with a high proportion of children living in poverty in some areas in the city and that the council have a number of strategic plans in place, the report found that those “relating to children do not seem to have driven improvements in the support and care for the most vulnerable children in the city.” Brazil also warned that the issues at Stoke are so significant that it is likely to take at least 2 years to see improvements in services

By 31 January 2020 the authority must have an agreed formal partnership arrangement with a strong local authority to deliver all of its children’s social care services functions. Whilst such a partnership is being sought the council will receive support from Stockport and Essex Children’s Services Departments, both part of the DfE Partners in Practice programme.

Children’s services in St Helens downgraded to “inadequate”

Children’s services in St Helens Metropolitan Council have been downgraded, rated “inadequate” for “widespread and serious failures” in the quality of services for looked-after children and care leavers.

Previously rated as “requires improvement” in 2014, services were subject to an Ofsted focussed visit focussing on children in need and child protection services in 2018 which criticised the department. The most recent inspection, carried out in September this year, found that while children that required help and protection were not at risk of immediate harm those in care experienced “significant drift and delay“.

Parental Controls Resource

Although the report produced by the Office of Communications (Ofcom) still identifies mainstream TV channels as the most common way we watch television, it cannot be denied that the world of online streaming is a growing medium offering access to a multitude of films, box sets and programmes. With so many options and such variety of choice it is increasingly difficult for parents to ensure they can monitor and regulate what their children are watching. 

To help we’ve produced a quick guide with links to the most popular online streaming services which you may like to place on your website. Simply use the following link.

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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.

Please do let us know what you think of the e-Bulletin:
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Please feel free to share our e-Bulletin. We are passionate about the role we play in safeguarding children and the more people that know about it the better. They can sign up to our safeguarding e-Bulletin by clicking here.

Here are the relevant online courses we provide that relate to this article:

To find out about our Safeguarding Suite click here

Safeguarding e-Bulletin – 10th October 2019

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

Knife crime- FOI reveals top 25 most dangerous cities

Over recent months, the increase in knife crime has become a common focus of news coverage with London featuring as one of the most dangerous cities with almost 15,000 knife crimes recorded last year. However latest analysis of police statistics suggests the rate of knife attacks in regional towns and cities is higher than in many of the London boroughs.

Data collected from 34 police forces, obtained by the BBC from a Freedom of Information Request, reveals that serious knife crime offences are rising sharply, exceeding London borough figures, in other cities. Manchester, Liverpool, Nottingham, Blackpool and Slough are within the top 25 most dangerous cities in England and Wales for serious knife crime.

The data also reveals a worrying upward trend across other regional areas, such as Lancashire where knife crime offences have doubled over the last five years (981 offences in 2018 compared to 455 in 2014). As police crime statistics are collected differently in Scotland it is only possible to measure knife possession, also on the increase with more than 2,300 crimes reported in 2018. The safest areas, with less than one crime per 10,000 people, includes Dorset, Monmouthshire the Cotswolds and Malvern.

Last year, almost half of all suspects in serious knife crime offences in England and Wales, were aged 24 and under. Drugs gangs (including County Lines), school exclusion rates, poverty, unemployment and cuts to services are all factors blamed for a rise in youth violence. Deprivation is seen as a key factor in children and teenagers’ engagement in this behaviour, where they carry out illegal activity to support households. Blackpool, which Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government figures reveal has eight out of the ten of the most deprived neighbourhoods in England, is also listed in the top 25 most dangerous places for knife crime.

In 2018, 15% of knife crime suspects were female. It is thought that there may be deliberate recruitment of girls and young women being exploited to carry weapons because they are much less likely to be stopped and searched by police.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council lead on tackling serious violent crime, Assistant Chief Constable Jackie Sebire, has blamed police funding cuts for the fall in charge rates saying:

“The large reduction in police funding since 2010 has meant fewer detectives with less time and a bigger workload taking on long investigations, meaning it can be more difficult to get a charge.”

According to a Home Office spokesperson, 20,000 new police officers will be recruited over the next three years and £10m in additional ring-fenced funding will allow forces to increase the number of officers carrying Tasers.

However, as reported in our last newsletter, there has been criticism of HM Government plans to introduce new laws to tackle knife crime. Children’s services leaders warn that controversial proposals such as Knife Crime Prevention Orders (KCPOs), may negatively impact on relationships between the police and local communities. The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) has also questioned what equality measures will be put in place to prevent a disproportionate increase in the use of KCPOs. (Half of young people in youth custody are from black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities). The Association have also called for guidance to include details of circumstances in which it is deemed appropriate to seek an order without “tangible evidence” of knife carrying.

£20m funding for National County Lines Co-ordination Centre

Home Secretary Priti Patel has announced a £20m funding package is to be made available to support child victims and disrupt “county lines” activity. The funding will be used to expand the National County Lines Co-ordination Centre to offer a specialist support service for victims and their families. 

In her speech at the Conservative Party conference, the Home Secretary said the additional funding would stop gangs: “terrorising our towns and villages and exploiting our children”.

The extra money will be used to grow the National County Lines Co-ordination Centre to increase its capacity at regional and national level, enabling it to employ extra officers and staff and offer strategic resources to regional organised crime units. Dedicated teams from the British Transport Police will also be based at railway stations across England, earmarked as key hubs for county lines drug trafficking. Investment will also be made in automatic number plate recognition to proactively target vehicles suspected of being used in “county lines” activity.

Since its launch a year ago, the centre has made more than 1,800 arrests and safeguarded 2,400 vulnerable people, of which more than 1,000 were children.

Scottish smacking ban

Scotland has become the first country in the UK to legislate and make it a criminal offence for parents to smack their children. The ban on all physical punishment, which was backed overwhelmingly by 84 votes to 29 by the Scottish Parliament this month, will give children in Scotland the same protection from assaults as adults. Under current Scots law, all physical attacks on adults can be treated as assault however children do not have the same protection. This is because a person accused of assaulting of a child can claim a defence of “reasonable chastisement” or “justifiable assault” when they have used physical force as a form of discipline on children under the age of 16.

The smacking ban bill was introduced by Scottish Green Party MSP John Finnie, a former police officer, who won the support of the SNP, Labour and Lib Dems as well as his own party and many children’s charities. Mr Finnie said the ban would “send a strong message that violence is never acceptable in any setting” stating there was “irrefutable” evidence of physical punishment damaging children, that it is not an effective form of discipline and that it can escalate into physical abuse. The ban was opposed by the Scottish Conservatives, who claimed the bill was bad legislation that risks criminalising “good parents” for using “reasonable chastisement”.

Sweden was the first country in the world to ban smacking in the home, Scotland is the 58th to do so. Whilst Wales is also on the verge of introducing a ban there are not currently any plans for England or Northern Ireland to follow suit. Northern Ireland has similar legal provisions to those currently in place in England and Wales. Ireland banned smacking in 2015.

New research project to support vulnerable children

The Economic and Social Research Council, ESRC, has launched a new £1.9m four-year research project aimed at finding better ways to protect vulnerable children from the threat of child sexual exploitation (CSE) and “county lines” drug dealing.

The project will investigate how local authority social care systems can improve their safeguarding work with vulnerable children. The project will examine the risks children and young people face in areas of criminal exploitation including CSE and gang association.

Abuse between children, known as peer-on-peer abuse, is another safeguarding issue the project will explore.

The overall aim of the evidence-based project is to gather information to assist local authorities better support and protect children and young people. The research will scrutinise the work of six councils focussing on three specific areas of safeguarding work:

Trauma-informed practice – the potentially long-lasting impact on young people’s mental health when dealing with adversity and trauma in their life;

Transitional safeguarding – safeguarding issues when young people are making the transition from childhood to adulthood;

Contextual safeguarding – an approach to understanding and responding to risk and young people’s experiences of significant harm beyond their families.

The project is being co-ordinated by academics at the University of Sussex, involving researchers at the University of Bedfordshire, which has developed work around contextual safeguarding over the last six years, together with Research in PracticeBecome and the Innovation Unit

On behalf of the University of Bedfordshire, contextual safeguarding programme head Dr Carlene Firmin MBE (who will directly work on the project) stated: 

“We are thrilled to be partnering others in this project at a critical point in the development of contextual safeguarding as more as areas beyond those with whom we are directly working – begin to take up and develop the approach.”

CAWNs used combat CSE & “County Lines”

In recent years Child Abduction Warning Notices (CAWNs) have become a valuable safeguarding tool. Now they are also being used in the fight against Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE), particularly when served upon members of “county lines” criminal networks to prevent children being harboured.

CAWNs may be used by police and social workers as a preventative tool to protect children from people who may place them at risk. They can be an effective safeguarding measure in combatting potentially exploitative situations, such as inappropriate associations or relationships, for children who regularly go missing for periods of time and where there are risks of CSE. Colloquially known as “Harbourers Warnings”, CAWNs are issued as a warning to people believed to be harbouring children, alerting the respondent that authorities are aware of their involvement with a child.

As they are not within the remit of any legislative statute a breach of a notice is not in itself a criminal offence. Where breaches occur actual offences are dealt with through existing legislation such as Section 49 of the Children Act or Section 2 of the Child Abduction Act. However, CAWNs are proving to be an effective early warning deterrent measure and an important tool in combating increasing exploitative abuse such as “county lines”.

Domestic Abuse Bill moves a step closer to becoming law

As the Domestic Abuse Bill progresses on its pathway through parliament, local authorities have stated that investment in children’s services and prevention is crucial to the success of the revived Bill. 

Prior to the second reading in the House of Commons, the Local Government Association (LGA) stated: 

“In order for the bill to have real success in tackling domestic abuse and creating consistency of services, it must be underpinned by adequate, long-term funding in key services including children’s services and housing.”

The association is also advocating a cross-government approach for prevention of domestic violence and early intervention to the problem, involving Health, Housing and Education.

Former children’s minister Tim Loughton has also called for local domestic abuse commissioners to be appointed to ensure councils are protecting vulnerable children and families. Describing the current system of support as a “postcode lottery”, the MP for East Worthing and Shoreham voiced support for the planned appointment of a national domestic abuse commissioner but also believes that local commissioners are also needed to ensure that councils are properly supporting children with experience of, or at risk of, living in violent households.

FGM- labia elongation

Here at SSS Learning we are dedicated to raising awareness of the practice known as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and highlighting safeguarding protection against this type of abuse and support for victims. This week we are highlighting a form of FGM often misinterpreted or not recognised as a form of this harmful and dangerous practice- labia elongation.

Labia elongation or stretching is a cultural custom, originating and practiced in parts of Eastern and South Africa and countries in the South Pacific region. However, due to migration, this practice is a global safeguarding concern. In the UK it is practiced in migrant communities originating from areas where labia elongation is culturally accepted. The process is deemed by communities as a young girl’s rite of passage into womanhood.

In the main, the process of labia elongation starts between the ages of 8 to 14 prior to commencement of a girl’s menstruation cycle however it can continue into adulthood. If girls refuse to undertake the process they are often stigmatised, seen as less desirable and isolated by and from their communities.

The two to three-week process involves pulling or stretching the labia minora either manually or by using weights or harnesses. As detailed in World Health Organisation (WHO) information, the procedure is usually started by an elderly woman, designated to perform this task, by placing sticks of a special type to hold the stretched genital parts to prevent them reverting to their original size. The girl is then instructed to pull her genitalia every day to stretch the labia further, adding further sticks to hold the labia as it stretches.

As with other forms of FGM, the effects of labia elongation often severely affect health and wellbeing with symptoms including severe pain, open sores / ulcers, irritation, infection and psychological trauma.

Please do let us know what you think of the e-Bulletin:
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Please feel free to share our e-Bulletin. We are passionate about the role we play in safeguarding children and the more people that know about it the better. They can sign up to our Thursday safeguarding e-Bulletin by clicking here.

Here are the relevant online courses we provide that relate to this article:

To find out about our Safeguarding Suite click here

Safeguarding e-Bulletin – 27th September 2019

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

Former HM Government lawyer convicted for Upskirting

Yesterday, Daren Timson-Hunt has become the fourth person to be convicted of upskirting since it was made a crime under new UK legislation in April this year.

The 54-year-old former HM Government lawyer, who was charged with using his mobile phone “for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification”, pleaded guilty last week to “operating equipment” beneath another person’s clothing while at Embankment underground station in July this year.

The first person to be prosecuted under the new legislation was Salim Ahmed, a 33-year-old shop worker. Police observed Ahmed filming over a two-hour period on his phone at the entrance to Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park in north London. Some 16 recordings taken under women’s skirts or dresses were unearthed when his iPhone was confiscated. 

The second individual, Michael Adjetey, was also convicted after CCTV captured him taking photos at a TK Maxx store in Hackney in east London on two consecutive days in July. After being caught, the 28-year-old confessed he had taken hundreds of upskirting pictures.

Thomas Hetherington, 21, was the third person to be successfully convicted after seeking out his upskirting victim at a bus depot in Wakefield. His victim confronted him and directly reported him to the police for the new offence. Hetherington plead guilty in August.

Timson-Hunt was given a 2-year community order which includes a court ordered 35-day programme, 30 days rehabilitation and 60 hours of unpaid work. He was also ordered to join the sex-offenders register for five years and pay £175 in court costs and victim surcharge.

Social emergency- rising levels of youth violence

Following a recent recommendation of the cross-party Home Affairs Committee to respond to the “social emergency” caused by rising levels of youth violence, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner is calling for police officers and youth workers to be based in schools to help protect pupils from violence.

The report, Guess How Much We Love You- a Manifesto for Children, features key recommendations, which Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield urges all political parties to include in their upcoming general election manifestos. The manifesto recommendations are in response to increased concerns that children are being exposed to serious violence. The report highlights that “in more and more areas of the country, gangs operate openly in streets and parks, and groom increasingly younger children“. 

In addition to the placement of police and youth workers, the report also calls for the next government to:

  • have a child and adolescent mental health counsellor in every school;
  • adequately fund SEND, including pre-statutory support;
  • open schools during evenings, weekends and holidays to provide high quality youth support;
  • establish a cabinet committee for children.

Longfield is also calling for a further extension of the Troubled Families Programmetargeted intervention for families with multiple problems, including crime, anti-social behaviour, truancy, unemployment, mental health problems and domestic abuse, or an equivalent family support system. (The current funding commitment is to April 2021).

Knife crime curfews

In line with new HM Government proposals, curfews could be imposed on children to steer them away from knife crime. Under the proposals, courts in England and Wales will get extra civil powers to tackle concerns about those suspected of carrying bladed weapons and serious violence.

New Home Office draft guidance, as part of the Offensive Weapons Act, reveal plans to introduce Knife Crime Prevention Orders (KCPOs). The planned orders can be imposed on any person aged 12 or over if police believe they are carrying a knife and on those who have a previous conviction for a knife crime. In addition to curfews, the proposed orders also include measures to stop persons over the age of 12 meeting or associating with certain people and geographical restrictions i.e. restricting which parts of the country or local areas they can visit.

HM Government has stressed that the proposed orders are aimed at preventing knife crime and are not a punishment. Home Secretary Priti Patel stated “We are cracking down on violent crime. Our Offensive Weapons Act will help to stop acids and knives making their way onto our streets and being used to carry out horrifying attacks.

The proposed orders also have the backing of senior police officers. National Police Chiefs’ Council series violent crime lead Jackie Sebire said: “Knife crime prevention orders will provide police with a further means to help deter young people from becoming involved in knife possession and knife crime. These orders will help to make young people stop and think about the choices and consequences of carrying a knife.

The Metropolitan Police’s violent crime task force lead, Ade Adelekan also stated that: “The Met supports the proposed knife crime prevention orders. We feel they will help to discourage more young people from carrying knives in a positive rather than punitive format, giving them support and pathways away from potential crime or negative influences.

Figures published by the Home Office show an 80% increase in the last five years of knife crime or sharp implement offences in England and Wales, with 43,516* offences in the 12 months ending March 2019. 

*Figures exclude Greater Manchester due to data collection issues.

Increase in child suicide rate prompts mental health “crisis” fears

The marked increase in the number of children dying by suicide has prompted a call for urgent action to address a “crisis” in young people’s mental health support.

Office for National Statistics figures reveal a rise of 13.9% in suicides among 10 to 19-year olds in 2018, 188 recorded, compared with 2017 statistics. Worryingly latest provisional figures indicate this rise is set to continue. Comparing the first 6 months of 2019 to 2018, the number of 15 to 19-year-olds who took their own life shows an increase from 37 to 56, bringing the total to 93 this year so far. Additionally, the number of 10 to 14-year-olds who died by suicide over the same period increased from one to four. Statistics confirm that boys continue to be the higher risk group. From April to June this year 39 boys aged between 15 and 19 took their own life, compared with 17 girls.

Campaigners including the charity Young Minds are calling for HM Government to develop a new strategy to address the causes of young people’s mental ill-health and prioritise early support mechanisms. A survey survey of more than 7,000 young people conducted by the charity cites school pressures, concerns around appearance, bullying and dealing with trauma as having a devastating effect on children’s mental health. The survey also found that two thirds of young people with mental health conditions had been unable to access support when they first needed it and that more than 75% are managing their mental health by themselves.

The Good Childhood report, published in August this year by the Children’s Society, also found that one in five children have concerns about their mental health, with those in living in poverty particularly worried.

In a statement, the Department of Health and Social Care said: “Every suicide is a preventable death and we are working urgently with partners across government, businesses and communities to tackle this problem. All councils have a suicide prevention plan in place backed by £25m and we work closely with them to ensure they are effective”.

Domestic Abuse Bill to be progressed

As the suspension of Parliament has now been ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court, this now means draft bills already in place may continue their passage through the House of Commons and House of Lords. Great news as this avoids the situation where they would have to be re-tabled, effectively starting the process again. The draft Domestic Abuse Bill, published in January this year, which includes proposals to introduce the first statutory definition of domestic abuse, new legal protections for victims and a range of measures to support women and children, will now continue its passage through the House of Commons. Great news as this legislation is needed and will be an effective safeguarding benchmark.

NCA director of investigations, Nikki Holland said: “Tackling county lines and the misery it causes is a national law enforcement priority”. Research suggests up to 800,000 children live in homes where domestic abuse occurs. Ofsted has previously warned that “far too little” is currently being done to prevent domestic abuse  and to repair the damage it causes afterwards.

Children’s experiences of online harm

Findings from a joint consultation conducted by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Children’s Commissioner’s Office reveal children are being exposed to disturbing, abusive and potentially illegal content whilst online. The consultation set out to obtain the views of primary and secondary pupils on the proposals within the Online Harms White Paper and makes for interesting and informative reading.

Both groups were critical when asked how they learn about online safety, stating they felt disengaged by lengthy and repetitive talks. Of particular note the participants said they wanted more creative and engaging online safety sessions and teaching from individuals with relative personal experience. They also felt there should be more education around technical and legal issues e.g. reporting, data collection, privacy and how to interpret terms and conditions documents.

Crucially the findings revealed that online gaming environments were just as important to the children as social media and that they were less likely to report online gaming abuse. The Children’s Commissioner’s Office is currently working on a project looking at the benefits and drawbacks of online gaming which will be published later this year.

“County lines” and modern slavery

As part of the strategy to combat the phenomenon known as “county lines”, the police and National Crime Agency (NCA) officers are using modern slavery legislation to combat gang exploitation of young people. Gang leaders are being warned that they will be treated as child traffickers, not just as drug dealers, if they exploit young people to support their illegal activity.

NCA director of investigations, Nikki Holland said: “Tackling county lines and the misery it causes is a national law enforcement priority”.

As part of the national strategy to combat “county lines”, an operation run by the National County Lines Coordination Centre earlier this year resulted in officers taking action to protect more than 900 people, including more than 350 children, and helping more than 30 people thought to be at risk of human trafficking and modern slavery. 

Click here for more information on our “County Lines” training course (10% discount available on purchases before 30th September 2019).

Please do let us know what you think of the e-Bulletin:
e-bulletin@ssslearning.co.uk

Please feel free to share our e-Bulletin. We are passionate about the role we play in safeguarding children and the more people that know about it the better. They can sign up to our Thursday safeguarding e-Bulletin by clicking here.

Here are the relevant online courses we provide that relate to this article:

To find out about our Safeguarding Suite click here

Safeguarding e-Bulletin – 18th July 2019

This is the last bulletin this academic year. We’ll be back in September and hope you have a well-earned break.

Over the summer, our safeguarding courses will be fully updated in line with KCSIE 2019 ready for September. We will also be releasing Administration of Medication this week and adding our new County Lines course ready for September.

Response to High Court ruling on children’s centres

Campaigners, who have vowed to continue the fight to keep children’s centres despite losing a High Court challenge over local closures, are considering appealing the ruling.

Alka Dass of Save Bucks Children’s Centres, is calling for users to step up their campaigns to protect centres nationally. Following the judicial review ruling, Buckinghamshire County Council plans to go ahead with closing more than half of its Sure Start children’s centres in September. The judge rejected the claim on all grounds, which included accusations that the decision had been made before the consultation ended, and a breach of the county’s duty to ensure there are sufficient childcare services across Buckinghamshire. The judicial review was launched after concerns were raised over the decision to close Millbrook Children’s Centre in High Wycombe.

Following a public consultation in 2018, the council announced it was restructuring provision as part of a drive to save money in the face of budget cuts. The number of children’s centres in Buckinghamshire will be cut from 35 to 14 and the remaining buildings will become family centres and focus on children and young people up to the age of 19, rather than to age 5 as they are currently.

In her ruling relating to a claimed breach of the Childcare Act 2006, Mrs Justice Andrews said she was satisfied that the consultation had been fair. She stated: “I am satisfied that the material before the court is sufficient to establish that the council did assess the overall needs and locally based needs of families with young children, and of the children themselves, for children’s centres; and that it did make a conscious and informed decision that the 16 centres at the selected locations would be enough to meet those needs.”

Research, conducted by the Sutton Trust, revealed that more than 1,000 children’s centres closed between 2010 and 2018 and published Department for Education figures show that council spending on centres fell by £110M last year. Earlier this year, the DFE announced it was reviewing children’s centres and other delivery models to find out “what works well”.

Norfolk County Council has also announced plans to close 87% of the locality’s children’s centres.

New AI technology to safeguard children & catch more predators

Police can now analyse indecent images of children in minutes with pioneering new technology.

Speaking at the Child Abuse Image Database hub, Home Secretary Sajid Javid has announced that police forces across the UK will have access to new tools to speed up investigations of online child abuse and limit the number of indecent images of children (IIOC) police officers have to view.

Three revolutionary new technology tools will be rolled out to improve the capability of the Child Abuse Image Database (CAID), in a huge boost to bring child sexual abusers to justice and safeguard victims. CAID is a single database of IIOC which enables UK law enforcement to work collaboratively to safeguard children and bring people to justice.

The new tools consist of:

  • a fast-forensic tool to rapidly analyse seized devices and find images already known to law enforcement
  • an image categorisation algorithm to assist officers to identify and categorise the severity of illegal imagery
  • a capability to detect images with matching scenes to help identify children in indecent images in order to safeguard victims

CAID was first introduced to police forces from December 2014. There are currently 13 million images on CAID and the number grows on average by half a million every two months. The Home Office has invested £18.2 million into the programme since 2014, with the new innovations costing £1.76 million.

In his speech, the Home Secretary said:

“Vile predators who are creating, viewing or sharing indecent imagery of children are constantly adapting their tactics to evade capture. We must move at the same pace and evolve to ensure we catch these paedophiles, bring them to justice and protect vulnerable victims. This game-changing tech will help us do this and will be vital in the fight against online child abusers.”

The fast-forensic tool will allow a more rapid analysis of a device against images on CAID, taking just 30 minutes to process when previously it would take up to 24 hours. Police officers currently grade up to 200 images an hour from grade ‘C’ to ‘A’ for the most extreme form of IIOC. The image-categoriser will sort these before officers have to see them and see up to 2,000 images an hour graded. Whilst officers will still have to look at the images, this use of computers will relieve them of the psychological pressures of viewing the imagery.

Importantly, the third innovation will help identify victims using scene matching technology in indecent images of children.

Commenting on the new technology, the National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Child Protection, Chief Constable Simon Bailey said:

“There have been year on year increases in reports of people accessing indecent images of children and as a service, we are searching more properties, arresting more suspects and safeguarding more children than ever before.
The improvements to the Child Abuse Image Database will enable us to catch more offenders, rescue more children from harm and reduce the pressure and trauma on our officers from having to review every image manually.”

The tools were developed in partnership between the CAID Innovation Lab and UK-based companies Qumodo, Vigil AI and Cyan Forensics as part of the government’s efforts to tackle all forms of child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA).

Qumodo CEO, Benjamin Gancz, said:

“The level and extremity of this content can be truly harrowing to investigate. Current practices expose police officers and content moderators to it for unnecessarily long periods of time with very little support. By teaming up with an AI we can moderate this exposure and identify when staff may be struggling.
This will provide an entirely new capability to the world of child protection and forensics. We are proud to have developed a product that will directly support the police and help to safeguard children in the future.”

Last month the Home Secretary announced HM Government would be publishing a Child Sexual Abuse strategy to drive the improvement in tackling offenders and supporting victims, both online and offline.

Domestic Abuse Bill

Whilst not yet finalised, yesterday the Domestic Abuse Bill was introduced to parliament before summer recess to ensure the momentum of progressing legislation is maintained in the autumn legislative programme.

The Bill will place a legal duty on councils to offer secure homes for those and their children fleeing violence. Local authority spending on refuges for abuse victims fell from £31m in 2010 to £23m in 2017.

the key measures in the Bill include:

  • The first HM Government definition of domestic abuse, which will include financial abuse and controlling and manipulative non-physical behaviour;
  • Proposals for a Domestic Abuse Commissioner to champion survivors and hold local and national government to account on their actions;
  • Domestic Abuse Protection Notices and Domestic Abuse Protection Orders, which would allow police and courts to intervene earlier where abuse is suspected;
  • Prohibiting the cross-examination of victims by their abusers in the family courts;
  • Automatic eligibility for special measures to support more victims to give evidence in the criminal courts.

It is estimated that almost two million adults in England and Wales are victims of domestic abuse every year.

Carers of Margaret Fleming sentenced

Yesterday, the two carers of a murdered a vulnerable teenager whose body has never been found were each been ordered to spend more than 14 years in prison.

Edward Cairney (77) and Avril Jones (59) killed 19-year-old Margaret Fleming, whose learning difficulties were so complex she couldn’t manage her financial affairs, sometime between December 1999 and January 2000. Jones then continued to claim £182,000 in benefits until it finally emerged Margaret was missing in October 2016.

Sentencing at the High Court in Glasgow, Lord Matthews told Cairney he must serve at least 14 years. Jones, who was additionally found guilty of benefit fraud as Margaret’s benefit money (£182,000) was paid directly into her account, was also sentenced to a minimum life tariff set at 14 years. Margaret’s body has never been found and in sentencing the pair Lord Matthews told them: “Only you two know the truth. Only you know where her remains are.”

The last independent sighting of the Margaret was on 17 December, 1999. Three weeks later, on 5 January, 2000, Jones told her mother that Margaret had run off with a traveller. The couple then embarked on covering up Margaret’s disappearance which involved them travelling to London to send bogus letters supposedly from her and erasing all trace of her from the cottage where she had lived. Despite a painstaking search of the dilapidated property and garden, no trace of Margaret has ever been found.

Margaret moved in with the couple following the death of her father in 1995. Cairney, a friend of her father, offered to help and took advantage of Margaret’s strained relationship with her mother. All ties between Margaret and her mother were severed in November 1997, after an assault by Cairney when she arrived to see her daughter. The couple took control of the teenager’s life and subjected her to what police described as a “living hell”.

Detective Superintendent Paul Livingstone, who led the investigation, said Ms Fleming had been: “a very vulnerable young woman who was manipulated, abused, neglected and ultimately murdered by the two people who should have been looking after her”. He went on to state that the couple kept the teenager in conditions that were “utterly disgusting and uninhabitable” before killing her.

Livingstone added: “We will never know just how Margaret was killed. What we do know is that she lived her last days in what can only be described as a living hell. She must have felt that she was alone in the world with no-one coming to help her, which is just heart-breaking to think of.”

Trial evidence revealed that in June 2012, a benefits investigator attempted to visit the teenager but was told by Jones that Margaret would not see her. The investigator said a duty social worker should have visited the “totally chaotic” property to follow up on the young woman’s welfare, but no-one did.

Four years later police were finally alerted as a result of an application for Personal Independence Payments (PIP) which had been filled out by Jones. In the application Jones wrote that Margaret “needs constant care”, had self-harmed and had been “caught eating out of a dog bowl”.

Police Scotland subsequently launched a missing persons’ investigation in October 2016. The couple maintained Margaret was still alive and often returned to visit them. In an interview, the couple also told a reporter that Margaret was a gangmaster organising and overseeing the work of casual manual labourers in Poland, highly unlikely given her known learning difficulties. From December 1999 there had been no record of her having seen a doctor, access her bank account or any social media presence.

Despite an exhaustive investigation, police have failed to find any trace of Margaret. Detectives have been unable to establish how she died or what happened to her body, although a former firefighter told the trial he once smelled what he believed was burning human flesh coming from a bonfire at Cairney and Jones’ home.

Inverclyde’s multi-agency public protection committees are now working with all the organisations involved in Margaret’s case on a full, detailed examination of the events leading up to her tragic death.

Free food for FSM pupils

During prime minister’s questions yesterday, Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed that 50K children who qualify for free school meals will be provided with free food over the summer holidays at a cost of £9M from the DFE. Whilst welcome, concerns have been raised given that this only equates to a quarter of children attracting the pupil premium.

Luton man & woman charged with terrorism offences

A Luton man and woman charged with terrorism offences appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court yesterday. The brother and sister were arrested on 3rd July following a vehicle stop as part of an investigation by the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command. The investigation is reported to have uncovered an alleged terror plot in its early stages against London Pride.

Mohiussunnath Chowdhury, 28, appeared charged with one count of preparation of acts of terrorism, one count of dissemination of a terrorist publication, and one count of possession of terrorist information. Sneha Chowdhury, 25, appeared charged with two counts of failing to disclose information regarding terrorist activity. Sneha Chowdhury was released on bail whilst Mohiussunnath Chowdhury has been remanded in custody.

Last year Mohiussunnath Chowdhury was involved in an incident outside Buckingham Palace and arrested. Chowdhury had driven his blue Toyota Prius at a marked police van. Officers sprayed him with CS gas when they saw him sat in his car with a sword and a knife sharpener. PC Ian Midgley and PC Gavin Hutt approached and managed to overpower Chowdhury, retrieving the sword. PC Hutt said Chowdhury started screaming ‘Allahu Akbar’ while wielding the sword. Investigators found Chowdhury had searched beheadings in Chechnya, Islamic State beheadings and Jihadi John on the internet. In a WhatsApp group chat Chowdhury was asked if his profile picture was an Isis flag. He responded: “It is an Isis flag. I support Isis,” followed by a laughing emoji. He later told jurors it was all “in jest”.

However, he was unanimously acquitted by jurors at the Old Bailey of one allegation of preparing acts of terrorism after a retrial. (The first jury had failed to reach a verdict in June). Chowdhury told jurors he only wanted to be killed by police and had no intention to hurt anyone himself. He said he had been feeling lonely and depressed and only wanted to get himself killed by brandishing the blade to police officers. After the Old Bailey jury cleared him, Chowdhury smiled and waved at them.

Further social media was revealed showing Chowdhury praising the Westminster Bridge terrorist Khalid Masood and claiming all the non-Muslim victims of the atrocity would go to hell. In a “suicide note” left on his sister’s laptop Chowdhury urged his family to “struggle against the enemies of Allah” which included the Queen and British soldiers.

Mohiussunnath and Sneha Chowdhury will appear at the Old Bailey on the 29th of July.

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Safeguarding e-Bulletin – 11th July 2019

7-year-olds’ gang involvement

New research by The Children’s Society reveals that children as young as seven are being used to move drugs for organised gangs.

The report findings, reveal that whilst teenagers are most at risk of exploitation, the targeting of children of primary school age is increasing. The report also states that many police forces and councils are not recording data about children who are exploited and nearly two-thirds of councils do not have a strategy in place for tackling child criminal exploitation.

The charity is calling for independent advocates to help children who are referred using the National Referral Mechanism get the support they need. The report also calls for children to be treated as victims rather than criminals, child criminal exploitation to be defined in law and for more funding for early help.

The Children’s Commissioner for England estimates there are at least 46,000 children involved in gang activity. Although boys are believed to be most at risk, one in six children referred as suspected victims are girls. The report found that affluence is not a bar to this type of exploitation. Whilst family breakdown, living in poverty and being excluded from school make children vulnerable, loneliness and wanting to fit in are also risk factors.

Nick Roseveare, The Children’s Society chief executive said: “This shocking report reveals how cowardly criminals are stooping to new lows in grooming young people to do their dirty work and in casting their net wider to reel in younger children. Children are being cynically exploited with the promise of money, drugs, status and affection and controlled using threats, violence and sexual abuse, leaving them traumatised and living in fear.”

He went on to comment that: “the response from statutory agencies is too often haphazard and comes too late and a national strategy is needed to help improve responses to child criminal exploitation.”

ADCS calls for coordinated knife crime strategy

Members of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) are calling on HM Government to deliver a coordinated and sustainably funded knife crime strategy, to put child protection and safeguarding at the top of the agenda.

The call is in response to a sharp rise in knife related incidents which has left increasing numbers of young people injured or fatally stabbed. The organisation states that doctors are reporting children involved in knife crime being admitted to hospital in school uniform.

A discussion paper published at the ADCS annual conference sets out the need for a strategy which focuses on prevention and a long-term commitment to cultural change.

In a statement, the ADCS said: “A reaffirmation from government of the importance of treating this first and foremost as a child protection and safeguarding concern would be helpful as would a reassertion of the role of the director of children’s services as a systems leader.”

The ADCS is urging HM Government to recognise that “one-off, time limited funding” which councils have to bid for to tackle complex issues such as knife crime is unsustainable. The paper states that whilst funding alone will not solve the problem, it is an important part of the picture.

In her speech at the annual conference, ADCS president Rachel Dickinson said: “Children tell us they are carrying a knife because they are scared for their safety – it’s clear something has to change and fast. Stricter laws, longer sentences and the expansion of police powers alone would not address the underlying social issues which lead some children and communities being more vulnerable to risk or harm in the first place.”

Dickinson also added that lessons could be learnt from youth offending teams, the Troubled Families programme, initiatives such as Prevent and youth work as well as agency responses to child sexual exploitation.

The Home Office announced last month  that anti-knife crime lessons would be delivered in schools before the start of the summer holidays. This followed the £1.35m “#knifefree” advertising campaign which featured real stories of young people who decided not to carry a knife in an effort to inspire others to do the same.

Statutory services at risk

A research survey conducted by the Local Government Association (LGA) has found that a third of councils fear funding for statutory services, including child protection, will run out within three years as they face an overall funding gap of more than £3bn by 2020. The findings from the 339 councils who participated also found this number rose to almost two thirds by 2024/25. 17% of the participating councils reported they were not confident they will make the savings they need to in the current financial year.

The report states: “Between 2010 and 2020, councils will have lost 60p out of every £1 they had from central government to run local services. As such, the next Spending Review will be make or break for vital local services and securing the financial sustainability of councils must be the top priority.” The report also identifies that the growing demand pressures, particularly for areas such as children’s services and special educational needs, had contributed to a predicted funding gap of more than £3bn by next year.

Increase in reporting of online images of sexual abuse

In a speech at the NSPCC annual conference, Home Secretary Sajid Javid has said self-help resources are increasingly being used by people worried about their sexual attitudes towards children and that: “more potential offenders are being stopped before they prey upon children”.

The Home Secretary stated that more people are reporting online images of sexual abuse, and more of those who are viewing or considering viewing the images are seeking help. The specialist helpline run by the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, which aims to protect child victims of online abuse, has seen calls increase by nearly 25 per cent in a year and it’s Stop It Now website has also seen a 40 per cent increase in the number of people accessing its resources.

Javid stated: “We know it’s working, with independent evaluation showing web users concerned about their behaviour reported increased awareness of the law and positive behaviour changes. So more potential offenders are being stopped before they prey upon children – something we undoubtedly need to see more of.”

The news comes as figures released by the NSPCC this week show there are an average of 22 online child sex abuse offences committed every day. UK referrals of child abuse images from industry are also 10 times greater than in 2013. HM Government’s education campaign with the Internet Watch Foundation and Marie Collins Foundation have also seen a 72 per cent increase in public reports of indecent images of children online.

The consultation on the Online Harms white paper, which sets out the government’s package of online safety measures, closed this week and we will keep you up to date with findings when published.

Private schools encouraged to offer places to vulnerable children

As part of a £500,000 HM Government drive, private schools have been told to open up places and facilities to children in care.

This follows the publication of a HM Government-backed report last year which found that placing vulnerable youngsters at boarding schools can be “significantly more cost-effective” than keeping them in local authority care.  Its researchers followed the progress of 52 children over ten years who were either in care or at risk of being taken into care by Norfolk County Council. After being sent to a boarding school, almost 63per cent of the children came off the risk altogether while 71 per cent showed a reduced level of risk.

The minister for children, Nadhim Zahawi, has said he wants private schools: “to play a greater role in helping raise outcomes for these vulnerable children”. This statement comes amid mounting pressure on the country’s most prestigious private schools to step up their efforts to help less well-off pupils.

Three quarters of independent schools in England are registered as charities, which earns them favourable business rates and VAT exemptions on fees. To qualify as a charity, they must demonstrate that they provide “public benefit” to a reasonably wide section of the public, rather than to a narrow group of wealthy individuals.

Other news:

The latest vulnerability reports were published last week by the Children’s Commissioner Office, showing that 2.3m children in England are at risk due to family circumstances.

Ofsted have published the last school inspection update, the last before inspectors begin to inspect under the new education inspection framework (EIF) from September 2019.

Amanda Spielman’s speech at the National Governance Association discussed the response to the consultation on the EIF and what it means for governors.

Amanda Spielman’s speech at the Wellington Festival of Education discussed education’s role in preparing young people for life in modern Britain.

Ofsted repeated the call for outstanding school exemption to be lifted as more schools lose the highest Ofsted grading. Only 16% of outstanding primary and secondary schools inspected this academic year retained their top Ofsted rating, according to official statistics.

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