Children ‘ping-ponged’ around services
New research published by the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition has found that young people with learning disabilities are struggling to find support for their mental health, despite being four times more likely than their peers to need help. The report titled Overshadowed, commissioned by Comic Relief, reveals that over a quarter of young people (27.9%) with both a learning disability and a mental health problem have not had any contact with mental health services and many families and young people described being “ping-ponged” around the system from service to service due to a lack of co-ordination. Just under a quarter of those who contacted services said they had to wait more than six months for help. The report states that young people with learning disabilities have an increased risk of developing mental health problems due to social and emotional factors, such as living in poverty, parental mental ill-health and negative life events, rather than their disability itself. Although children on the learning disability register are entitled to an annual health check through their GP from the age of 14, most of the research participants said they had not been offered such a check. The report recommends that if such checks were in place at an earlier age, this could potentially lead to better detection and support. The report highlights that: “These young people and families can be in contact with their GP, paediatricians, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, social care and education among other services. Although there may be documents outlining what interventions are on offer, these appear to fail in practice.” Key weaknesses in the current system are not only a lack of early intervention but also the transition from child to adult services, when young people may be moving from multiple services.
Safeguarding remains an EIF priority
Following an extensive consultation period, the new Ofsted inspection framework has been finalised. No longer referred to as “common” the new Education Inspection Framework (EIF), informed by a wealth of research, will come into effect from September. HM Chief Inspector of Education Amanda Spielman said: “I am heartened by the overwhelming support for what we’re doing to focus on the substance of education and place less emphasis on tests and data…the new framework puts the real substance of education, the curriculum, back at the heart of inspection and supports leaders and teachers who act with integrity. We hope all providers will no longer feel the need to generate and analyse masses of internal data for inspection. Instead, we want them to spend their time teaching and making a real difference to learners’ lives.” Overall, there are no real significant changes to the inspection handbook. The emphasis on safeguarding, safer recruitment, qualification records and complaints procedures remain a priority. Despite much discussion around their removal, the four grades (outstanding, good, requires improvement and inadequate), remain the same and safeguarding will impact on such judgements. The recent much publicised downgrading of ‘outstanding’ schools may have had some influence on the decision to retain the grade system. As we have highlighted in previous newsletters, the practice of ‘off-rolling’ features with inspectors directed to detect such practice. Whilst safeguarding remains a priority, a really welcome change is to after school provision. This provision no longer needs to meet, or be constrained by, the learning and development requirements. At last they can be environments where children can just play!
Inadequate funding will not affect Ofsted judgements
Despite admitting that inadequate funding is affecting the quality of council child protection services, Ofsted Social Care Director Yvette Stanley has said this will not be taken into account when issuing inspection judgments.
In a blog published last week, the inspectorate’s director highlighted the harmful impact of cuts on the quality of children’s services at some councils but stated: “The bar for good judgments must relate to practice, not context.“
The blog maintains that inspections already flag resource and demand issues and how they impact on social workers from working effectively, including overly high caseloads and unrealistic expectations of the amount of work managers can safely oversee.
The priority for the new safeguarding partnerships will be to work together to tackle contextual factors and respond effectively to the needs of each child and family. Under the new inspection framework, in place from 2018, only 60 per cent children’s services departments have been rated “good” or “outstanding” in relation to children in need of help and protection.
New Parent View questions on trial
Reflecting on the NHS England project ‘Ask Listen Do’, Ofsted are currently trialling new Parent View questions.
In a blog, Nick Whittaker, Ofsted’s Specialist SEND Advisor described how the new Education Inspection Framework (EIF) places more emphasis on inspecting SEND provision. Whittaker describes how the EIF “gives real weight to how inspectors judge that the needs of children and young people with SEND have been identified, assessed and met.”
The EIF clearly states that schools should have an inclusive culture and that leaders should have ‘a clear and ambitious vision for providing high-quality, inclusive education to all learners’. There will also be a focus on ensuring safeguarding needs are appropriately identified and considered on an equal footing with SEND needs.
Ofsted are also working with the Council for Disabled Children to develop ways of giving children with SEND a stronger voice in the inspections of local areas and schools.
‘Eyes Open’ Campaign
Child Protection Committees Scotland, a nation-wide group of child protection professionals, are urging everyone to be extra observant to help protect potentially vulnerable children during the summer holidays. The ‘Eyes Open’ campaign aims to make members of the public aware and play an important role in keeping all children safe from harm during the long summer break. Launching the campaign, CPCScotland Chair Alan Small said:
“Most children look forward to having lots of fun and free time during the school holidays but for some families the summer break can bring extra stress and pressure. In some cases, children might not be looked after or supervised properly, and some might even experience serious neglect.”
The campaign stresses that everyone in every community across the country is responsible for child welfare and that by taking the ‘Eyes Open’ approach, all members of the public can play a part to protect children. Small stated:
“We’re simply asking people to keep their eyes open for tell-tale signs that all is not well. Signs that a child might be at risk could include being alone and unsupervised, being out and about at all times of day or night or even going into “party” flats. A vulnerable child might be very dirty or persistently hungry, or have parents who are drunk in charge of them. If you’re at all worried, it’s important to take action.”
Children’s Minister Maree Todd is also backing the campaign.
Two more secondary schools have been accused of ‘off-rolling’ following inspection by Ofsted. Falmouth School in Cornwall was rated ‘inadequate’ after inspectors found it sometimes removed pupils against the advice of other agencies and The Sutton Academy in Merseyside was rated ‘requires improvement’ after Ofsted found it ‘off-rolled’ under a process agreed by the local council and other school leaders.
Five schools have now been accused of ‘off-rolling’ in inspection reports since Ofsted produced its December annual report, which identified 300 schools with exceptionally high levels of pupil movement that could be ‘off-rolling’. Whilst refusing to name the 300 schools Ofsted has alerted local authorities and academy trusts to schools it has such concerns about.
Latest statistics prompt call for prioritising online safety
The NSPCC has called on HM Government to prioritise young people’s online safety after statistics revealed police forces in the UK record an average of 22 cyber-related sex crimes against children every day.
Figures gathered by the charity via a series of freedom of information requests from forty forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland reveal the number of sexual offences against under-18s logged by police as having an online element have doubled in four years to more than 8,000 in 2018-19.
Whilst the most common age of victims was 13yrs, 185 offences involved children aged 10 and under some of which were babies. Crimes included online grooming, sexual communication with a child, and rape.
Four years ago the Police began marking sexual offences with a cyber-flag whenever a crime involved the internet. Figures show that in 2015-16, the total recorded was 4,042, which rose to 8,244 in 2018-1.
The HM Government consultation on the Online Harms white paper, which closes on Monday, will outline new laws to for internet companies. Among the proposals under consideration is the introduction of an independent regulator to enforce a legal duty of care on technology companies to keep users safe on their platforms.
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