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”.

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