|In Northern Ireland, the Health Minister has announced an independent, expert-led inquiry in to child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Northern Ireland. The proposed remit will be to examine the nature and extent of CSE in Northern Ireland; determine issues which need to be addressed to prevent, tackle and disrupt CSE; consider the effectiveness of measures to secure the safety and wellbeing of children in care; and to make recommendations to improve the effectiveness of these measures.
|Source: Northern Ireland Executive
|The Department for Education has released statistics for looked after children for the year ending 31 March 2013. Findings include: there were 3,980 looked after children adopted during the year ending 31 March 2013, an increase of 15% from 2012 and an increase of 20% from 2009.
|Source: Gov.uk 26 September 2013|
Children looked after in England (including adoption and care leavers) year ending 31 March 2013 (PDF)
Northern Ireland’s health minister Edwin Poots has announced an independent inquiry into child sexual exploitation. The BBC reports that the announcement follows the arrests of more than 30 people as part of a major child sex abuse investigation. However, the NSPCC has said Poots should focus on providing “immediate help” for victims of sexual exploitation, rather than on an inquiry.
The NSPCC will publish serious case review (SCR) reports on its website from October. The decision to publish SCRs is the result of an agreement between the charity and the Association of Independent LSCB Chairs. Karen Childs Smith, head of knowledge and information at NSPCC, said lessons need to be learnt from SCRs, which tend to “raise the same issues over and over again”, and that publishing them in an easily accessible central location is the solution.
The Department for Education has revealed that 3,980 children in care were adopted between April 2012 and March 2013. The annual Looked After Children Statistical First Release, published today, shows an increase of 15 per cent on the previous year, when 3,470 children were adopted. The figures also show that the number of children fostered rose two per cent over the same period.
Health watchdog announces launch of targeted child protection inspections
he Care Quality Commission (CQC) is to launch a dedicated child protection inspection regime of health services in England next week
The two-year project will target health services in 110 council areas where CQC research has shown children are at greatest risk.
Factors taken into account include child protection concerns highlighted in latest inspection reports, serious case review findings and the length of time since services were last inspected.
Areas likely to come under scrutiny first include the 20 authorities that have been judged to be failing by Ofsted over the past few years, including Birmingham, Doncaster and Sandwell.
The health watchdog will also target areas based on whistle-blowing information from NHS staff.
Services being looked at include GP surgeries, health visiting, school nurses, hospital emergency departments, maternity services and mental health services. According to a CQC statement “the focus is on the child’s journey through this maze”.
The inspections will also focus on how well local health services are working together to safeguard children. A lack of information sharing and communication across services that support children is a key factor highlighted in serious case reviews and in Professor Eileen Munro’s 2011 review of child protection.
Other factors being considered by inspectors include how “safe, effective, caring, well-led and responsive to children’s needs” services are, the CQC statement adds.
A particular focus will be on how health services are supporting children in care.
The quality of child protection training and the timeliness of referrals to services such as mental health and substance abuse are among other issues inspectors will look at.
A specific issue the CQC will examine in hospitals and other acute care settings is whether they have alert systems in place to identify and track children who are at risk of harm.
This latest move by the CQC comes ahead of plans in 2015 for a multi-agency inspection of child protection across health, social care, education and the justice system that will involve Ofsted, CQC, HMI Probation, HMI Prisons and HMI Constabulary. Ofsted is to launch a consultation on the move next year.
CQC head of operational improvement Sue McMillan, said: “CQC and other inspectorates are working together to start a joint inspection programme in 2015. In the meantime, we are continuing to follow up our responsibilities in making sure children using health services are safeguarded from abuse and that children in the care of local authorities have their health needs met.”
The CQC previously inspected child protection jointly with Ofsted.
Rather than an Ofsted-style rating, CQC inspectors will make recommendations for improvement that will require a response from the service. There will also be a national report at the end of the first and second years of inspections.
The announcement comes just a day after Ofsted unveiled its new single inspection framework for local authority children’s social care services.
Ofsted unveils inspection framework for children’s services
Ofsted is to push ahead with the introduction of a tougher inspection regime for children’s services, ignoring warnings from the sector that the system is too simplistic and will fail to deliver improvements.
The regulator’s new inspection framework for children’s services, published today, will start being used from November to assess the quality of all local authority services for vulnerable children, including those in a care placement, at risk of harm, care leavers up to 25 years old and those not in the education system.
The framework will use a standard four-point scale – outstanding, good, requires improvement and inadequate – used by Ofsted to grade services in the education and early years sectors to score the overall quality of children’s social care services.
A department’s performance and grade in three key service areas – the experiences and progress of children who need help and protection; the experiences and progress of children who are looked after (including adoption and care leavers); and leadership, management and governance – will be used to set the overall score.
If a local authority is judged “inadequate” in any of the three key areas, it will automatically be judged “inadequate” overall.
Debbie Jones, Ofsted national director for social care, said the new framework has children and young people and the quality of professional practice at its heart, and captures the “journey” of the young person through the care system.
She said: “It is our ambition to establish ‘good’ as the new minimum and for this to become the agreed standard for all services for children and young people. It is right to introduce the harder test asking what difference we are all making and I am impressed with the extent to which the new framework sets this out.”
But Andrew Webb, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), said he “fundamentally disagreed” with the use of graded judgments.
“Graded judgments can and do hide a multitude of strengths and weaknesses, and there is no certainty that two local authorities with the same judgments are providing the same quality of service and achieving the same outcomes for children in their area,” he said.
Webb added that using narrative judgments, setting out more detail on what was working well and needed to be improved, would have created a more transparent regulation system and enabled progress to be more clearly tracked.
The Local Government Association and Society of Local Authority Chief Executives said they stood by their previous criticism that the framework would produce “unrepresentative judgments of authorities’ performance”.
All 152 local authorities in England will be inspected under the new framework over the next three years, with those judged as “inadequate” facing re-inspection within 12 to 18 months.
Ofsted plans to consult widely next year on the development of a multi-agency inspection regime that evaluates and judges the contribution of health, police, probation and prison services in the help, care and protection of children and young people, and which is set to be introduced in 2015.
Experts warn against witch hunt of male child carers
Childcare experts have urged early years practitioners to not focus on gender when learning lessons from the Little Stars Nursery child abuse case.
The call comes after a serious case review published this week highlighted evidence that staff at the now-closed Birmingham nursery were reluctant to challenge Paul Wilson, who used his position as an assistant at the setting to rape a child, “in case this was seen to be discriminatory”.
Although the review did not suggest Wilson’s gender was a factor in his crimes, Richard Harty, the programme leader for early childhood studies at the University of East London, said the case revealed problems with “policy and procedure at all levels rather than individuals and gender”.
“The worst thing that can happen from this would be a witch hunt about men and pedophilia,” he said.
“The witch hunt should be on the other side – why did Ofsted not investigate concerns? There’s been a real failure of safeguarding here.
“Safeguarding agencies need to speak to each other and we need to have good systems in place.”
Harty’s call was echoed by London Early Years Foundation chief executive June O’Sullivan.
“This is a time when we have to be responsible and sensible. This is not about men – it’s about systems,” she said.
O’Sullivan plans to review processes at the foundation’s 24 nurseries as a result of the case, which will look at HR procedures, mobile phone policies and social media regulations among other matters.
She suggested that Ofsted, which the serious case review found had failed to properly investigate concerns at Little Stars Nursery, might react to the report too forcefully.
“I suspect Ofsted will come in all guns blazing and get heavy,” she said. “I wonder if it would pick on nurseries where there are men as a starting point – but I don’t think it would be that focused.”
Laura Henry, director of Childcare Consultancy, said early years practitioners must avoid “knee-jerk reactions”.
“The clear message should be that these issues are not gender-specific
“In the Birmingham case, the problems quite clearly seemed to be around attitudes and behaviour.
“As a result, we should have intelligent conversations and be more solution-driven about what we can do in the sector to prevent this happening again.”
Henry said the Department for Education should lead an initiative to promote strong leadership in early years settings and consider how organisational culture could be defined and measured.
She also highlighted the 2009 Plymouth child abuse case involving female nursery worker Vanessa George, who was found guilty of sexual assault and making and distributing indecent pictures of children, to counter claims males always perpetrated such abuse.
In November 2012, the London Early Years Foundation published research to coincide with the launch of the London Network for Men in Childcare that showed men are deterred from working in childcare because they worry they will be perceived as being a paedophile.
12% rise in children at risk of human trafficking for exploitation
Charity warns the government is continuing to fail child victims of trafficking as report reveals the number of potential victims has risen for the second year in a row
The number of children identified as potential victims of human trafficking in the UK rose 12% last year, according to a report by the UK Human Trafficking Centre.
The research identified 2,255 child potential victims of trafficking for exploitation – up from 2,077 the previous year.
Victims were most likely to be trafficked from Vietnam, Nigeria, Slovakia, Romania and the UK, while 84% of UK national children trafficked domestically were found to be potential victims of sexual exploitation.
It is the second year in a row that the number of potential victims has increased, signalling the growing scale of the problem and, according to the charity ECPAT UK, the government’s continued failure to make the UK a safe place for children.
The research also discovered more inadequacies in the way victims of child trafficking are supported in the UK.
Of the 2,255 potential victims, only 1,186 were referred to the National Referral Mechanism in 2012, on which the government relies for data to identify and support victims. Only 402 were officially judged eligible for protection.
Debbie Beadle, ECPAT UK head of youth and training, said: “We have seen time and time again children who are victims of trafficking failed by the system.
“They may have come into contact with a professional, but due to lack of training they may have not been identified, leaving them vulnerable to further exploitation. Many frontline police and local authority workers are just not aware of child trafficking and do not identify victims.”
The charity is urging the home secretary to fulfill her promise to introduce a Modern Slavery Bill, with a modern slavery commissioner responsible for strengthening identification, data collection and safeguarding procedures.
Source: Community Care Online
The overall number of free schools will more than double this month as 93 welcome their first intake of pupils. The new schools are creating 46,000 pupil places, and are in addition to the 81 free schools already operating. The National Union of Teachers said the government was spending money needlessly on free schools that could be better used to increase primary school places. – See more at: http://www.cypnow.co.uk/cyp/news/1078260/daily-roundup-school-bulger-killer-reading#sthash.yO2F6zE3.dpuf