Safeguarding e-Bulletin – 30th June 2020

Welcome to our news bulletin with a roundup of the latest safeguarding news.

Since our last update we’ve been really busy ensuring new content is both released to meet our planned production release schedule and new content authored. If you logon to your admin dashboard you will see there are two brand new courses added to the safeguarding suite, Domestic Abuse and DSL SEND courses.

Domestic Abuse – We know that in the UK, 1 in 5 children are living with and are exposed to domestic violence and abuse, facing risks to their safety, education, emotional health, wellbeing and development. Witnessing domestic abuse is recognised as a form of child abuse and, whilst the impact and risks vary, all are a cause for concern.

Statistically, all educational settings will have children attending who are living with domestic abuse and colleagues affected too. As such I felt it was essential we produce this course so you can ensure all staff understand and recognise the risk factors and are skilled to implement protective factors to safeguard those at risk.

DSL SEND – Under the statutory requirements of Keeping children safe in education, DSLs are required to be alert to the specific needs of children with special educational needs and to recognise the potential for safeguarding vulnerabilities. This follows several serious cases reviews where safeguarding opportunities were missed for such children. DSLs are not expected to have the knowledge or undertake the role of the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo) however there are key training elements which will benefit the DSL safeguarding role. 

I am delighted to announce that our core DSL training has been extended to provide an additional third module specifically looking at SEND from a DSL perspective. So, who should complete this course?

  • For those new to the DSL role all three parts of our DSL training should be completed. This now forms core training.
  • If your DSLs have already completed DSL parts 1 & 2, they do not have to redo these courses. They simply need to complete the new third DSL SEND course.
  • DSLs who have previously completed core training and our refresher training should also complete the DSL SEND course if they have not accessed SEND training from another source.

For DSLs have completed training from another source e.g. in person training, but haven’t completed the SEND element we are also making our DSL SEND training available as a separate course.

Finally, I’d like to reassure you that despite the COVID-19 pandemic our teams and services remain fully operational. This includes confirming our planned releases for September 2020 with new courses on:

  • First Aid in an Educational Setting;
  • Supporting Bereavement and Loss;
  • Supporting Mental Health & Wellbeing of Children & Young People.

In addition, we will also be producing a bitesize course to use as an update for staff on the September 2020 Keeping children safe in education revisions.

We know the next few months and start of the academic year present settings with new challenges but please rest assured we will continue to work on your behalf to help. If there are any topics you would find as helpful additions to our safeguarding suite let us know!

Take care and stay safe,
Sam Preston
Safeguarding Director

Child abuse victims to sue Celtic FC

A ground-breaking civil action claims that Glasgow based Celtic FC failed to protect victims from sex abusers working around Celtic Boys’ Club.

In the landmark case, three victim-survivors aim to use a civil trial to “knock down the defence wall” they allege the club is maintaining to distance itself from the Boys’ Club. Celtic FC insist that the Boys’ Club is a separate legal entity.

The victim-survivors hope their case will also shine light on the role played by a senior Celtic executive when one paedophile returned to the Boys’ Club after he had been allegedly sacked from it in 1974 by former manager Jock Stein.

There has been some criticism of the Scottish government for failing to set up an independent public inquiry into the abuse scandal within Scottish football however, a Scottish government spokesperson has said there is already an established a wide-ranging review into child abuse across Scotland stating:

“The Scottish government, having listened to the views of survivors, established one of the widest ranging public inquiries that Scotland has ever seen, into the abuse of children in care, focusing on the systemic institutional failures which saw many of our most vulnerable children, including those in the care of the state, abused by the very individuals who were there to care for them. We want that inquiry to be able to undertake its work in a timescale that can address the issues raised by survivors, many of whom are elderly.”

The abusers connected with Celtic Boys’ include the multi-millionaire businessman involved in setting up the club, James Torbett, who received a six-year sentence in 2018 after being convicted of sexually abusing three boys over an eight-year period. Following the High Court trial, the judge, Lord Beckett, stated Torbett had “used the club as a front for child sexual abuse.” Torbett, previously jailed in 1998 for abusing three former Celtic Boys Club players between 1967 and 1974, had been allowed to return to the club.

The team’s former kitman, 73-year-old Jim McCafferty was also found guilty of twelve sex abuse charges in relation to ten boys from 1972 to 1996. Four of his victims played for the Celtic Boys’ Club. After admitting to all twelve charges, McCafferty was sentenced to six years and nine months in prison. At the time of his conviction in 2019 he was already serving a prison sentence for the sexual abuse of a boy in Belfast.

In a statement Celtic Football Club said the organisation “is appalled by any form of historic abuse and has great sympathy for those who suffered abuse and for their families. The Club is very sorry that these events took place. The abuse of young people is an abhorrent crime. Unfortunately, it has affected many areas of society.

With regard to the allegations regarding historic abuse at Celtic Boys’ Club (which, so far as we have been made aware, relate to the period prior to 1997), although Celtic Football Club is a separate organisation, we take these extremely seriously because of the historic contacts between the two organisations. Police investigations were given support, so as to seek to ensure that those individuals who abused young people were brought to justice.”

Hidden in Plain Sight

Frontline youth workers fear that the closure of many diversionary projects and specialist services aimed at helping young people exit gangs safely could lead to an increase in young people coerced into criminal activity. 

Views expressed as part of the Hidden in Plain Sight report reveal that lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic has allowed street gangs to locate their targets much more easily as they know they will be either at home or close to a family address. The report states:

“There are issues emerging around vulnerable young people during lockdown who are in unsafe environments and at greater risk from gang-associated activity. Whereas groomers find it easy to show young people the path they can take and its immediate reward – such as buying a new pair of trainers or drugs – in contrast, families and youth workers are struggling to compete.”

“They are working with reduced services, youth centre closures and the prospect of a summer ahead with fewer residential opportunities, family outings and places to go. Social distancing has also led to a lack of visible positive, aspirational figures for young people in their own communities.”

Concerns have been expressed that young people in potentially unsafe environments are more at risk as they have had limited access to support services during lockdown. Chief executive of the National Youth Agency, Leigh Middleton said: “More young people are in potentially unsafe environments…just at the time when they are needed the most, many youth work projects stopped or became severely restricted due to Covid-19. Now is the time for more youth work, not less.”

The report states that social media apps such as Instagram, Snapchat and House Party are being used to incite gang violence, leading to an increase in gang activity and child criminal exploitation throughout the pandemic. It states that: “these channels are being used to taunt or trap rivals and, in many cases, to incite violence – including one case of a shooting as a direct result of street gangs using social media.”

Whilst acknowledging that online contact has worked well for those whose relationships were already established prior to lockdown, the report highlights the engagement difficulties services have had during and post lockdown in engaging young people in or at risk. In particular the report highlights concern that in some areas an increased number of at-risk children may be slipping under radar of authorities or going missing due to lockdown.

According to the report:

“There is anecdotal evidence from a small sample of local authorities that less supervision of young people and staffing difficulties in care homes may lead to missing potential and actual incidences of child exploitation, exacerbated by a sharp increase in the use of online platforms and social media.”

The NYA is calling on the government to classify youth services as an essential service and give youth workers key worker status in a bid to tackle these issues.

It is also asking for clear Home Office guidance to embed youth services in Violence Reduction Units and other agencies and for HM government to create a Youth Service Guarantee, as recommended by the home affairs select committee, to secure long-term funding and greatly increase the number of youth workers.

Youth workers to be trained to tackle youth violence

London youth workers are to be trained to lead efforts to tackle youth violence through an initiative led by charity London Youth. A hundred youth practitioners are to be recruited to the leadership programme delivered by Clore Social Leadershipand Leap Confronting Conflict, funded through a £550,000 grant from the Mayor of London’s Violence Reduction Unit.

The charity London Youth will select practitioners across its membership and other youth organisations to undertake the youth pratictioners’ leadership programme from September. 

The practitioners selected must have the potential for sector leadership, have influence in their communities and have experienced barriers to progressing into formal leadership roles. It is thought that their lived experiences will help them to connect with young people at risk of violence.

The programme core learning will include:

  • trauma-informed practice;
  • change management;
  • mental health first aid;
  • contextual & transitional safeguarding;
  • business planning.

Participants will also have access to an innovation fund to implement change in their community to benefit young people experiencing violence.

COVID-19: Risk of mental health issues in under-fives

New research published by the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) states that children under five and their families face greater risks to their mental health due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The research, Nurturing Healthy Minds Together calls for the emotional wellbeing of these families should be prioritised, warning that the stress and anxiety caused by lockdown in addition to difficulties in providing face-to-face support, could worsen pre-existing mental health problems in children under five.

Whilst there is a lack of research to indicate how many under-fives have or are at risk of developing mental health issues, a study published by the NHS in 2018 found that 1 in 18 two- to four-year-olds in England have a diagnosable-level mental health problem.

The charity’s report highlights that in many cases provision of services is inconsistent, and take-up is often low and calls for extra support to enable “richer”parent-child relationships as a means to improve young children’s mental health. The report recognises that:

“Secure attachment, where a child feels confident in the loving bond between themselves and their parent or carer, is built through positive and responsive everyday interactions, and is shown to support healthy cognitive and emotional development. Building parents’ understanding of this process, and actively involving them in service design, are the keys to reaping mental health benefits for them and their child.”

Following publication, the NCB is urging HM Government to improve systems for measuring, identifying and responding to infant mental health needs particularly as many parents and very young children are struggling to maintain their emotional wellbeing during the Covid-19 crisis.

Responding to the report Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said “We have already heard anecdotally from providers who tell us that many children under five are anxious, fearful of germs and worried that their loved ones will become ill.”

Updates to SEND pupil risk assessments

Latest HM Government guidance states that all schools, nurseries and Local Authorities must update risk assessments for children with education, health and care (EHC) plans, in order to determine whether they can return to reopening settings. Risk should also be re-assessed where settings have assessments in place for children and young people with complex needs who do not have an EHC plan in place. The guidance has also been updated to include a new section covering the issue of settings requesting medical evidence ahead of readmission.

Sam Preston
Safeguarding Director

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