Rise in restraint and self-harm in youth custody

Rise in restraint and self-harm in youth custody

Young people in custody are increasingly likely to be subjected to restraint and resort to self-harm, latest figures show.

Annual youth justice statistics, published today, show that although the overall number of restraints in the youth secure estate fell 23 per cent from 8,419 in 2011/12 to 6,455 in 2012/13, use of the controversial practice increased proportionally.

Due to falling numbers of young people in custody, the number of restraint incidents per 100 young people actually rose two per cent from 25.1 restraints per 100 young people in 2011/12, to 25.6 in 2012/13.

Likewise, although the overall number of self-harm incidents fell by 20 per cent, from 1,725 in 2011/12 to 1,388 in 2012/13, there was a proportional increase of seven per cent from 5.1 incidents per 100 young people in 2011/12 to 5.5 incidents in 2012/13.

However, the statistics showed improvements in first-time offender numbers, total offences committed and reoffending rates. It found:

  • In 2012/13, there were 27,854 first time entrants to the system, a drop of 25 per cent compared to the 2011/12 figure of 36,677.
  • The total number of proven offences has fallen for the seventh consecutive year, down 28 per cent from 137,335 in 2011/12 to 98,837 in 2012/13.
  • Of 43,601 young people sentenced in England and Wales in 2012/13, 2,780 were given an immediate custodial sentence – a rate of 6.4 per cent, compared to 6.7 per cent in 2011/12.
  • The proportion of young people who offended in 2011/12 and went on to reoffend in 2012/13 people was 35.5 per cent, compared to 35.8 per cent the previous year.
  • 69.3 per cent of those who left custody reoffended within a year, compared to 72.6 per cent the previous year – the lowest level since current recording methods began in 2000.

Penelope Gibbs, chair of the Standing Committee for Youth Justice, said: “There’s some really good news in the new youth justice figures – reductions in the number of children entering the system for the first time, fewer proven offences, and a 21 per cent drop in the number of children in custody.

“But the situation in custody is really worrying.

“It’s very disturbing that we’re seeing a rise in the use of restraint and in the instances of self-harm, particularly because this could indicate these children are not getting the intensive support they need.

“The government needs to act urgently to improve the situation.”

Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “We should not accept the premise that having fewer children in custody means that the proportion of restraints will rise.

“Falling numbers should mean there is an opportunity to achieve a safer and better environment because there are more resources and more staff to care for each child.

“The fact that, on average, 18 children are being restrained every day emphasises the inability of these institutions to safely manage the young people in their care.”

Attempts to reduce the use of restraint are already under way.

A new restraint system that focuses on so-called “de-escalation techniques” and the use of restorative justice was announced in July 2012, four months after the most recent reporting period started, and is in the process of being rolled out across the secure estate.

Lin Hinnigan, chief executive of the Youth Justice Board, said the falls in the number of new entrants to the youth justice system and those held in cutody were “very encouraging”.

She added: “These achievements are a great credit to the wide range of agencies involved in working with young people who are at risk of offending or have offended.

“However, whilst the number of young people reoffending has fallen, reoffending by a small group of challenging and troubled young people remains high. This remains a priority for the YJB in the coming year, as we enter the second phase of a three-year programme of work to address this issue.”

Source: CYPNow

Ryan Clark verdict highlights youth custody failings

Ryan Clark verdict highlights youth custody failings

Ryan Clark, who died in April 2011 after being found unconscious in his cell at Wetherby Young Offender Institution (YOI), was the first child to die in youth custody for four years.

An inquest jury this week found that a string of failures contributed to Ryan’s death:

  • The extent of his vulnerability and susceptibility was not picked up on from relevant documents
  • Not all support that could have been available for him was provided – including the personal officer scheme, where an officer is allocated to a young offender on arrival in custody to provide support
  • Wetherby YOI’s scheme to address bullying and intimidation was ineffective

In light of the verdict, campaign organisation Inquest reiterated calls for a major review of deaths of young people in custody to be staged.

The jury concluded that Ryan’s actions were a “cry for help” due to the amount of verbal abuse and physical threats he was experiencing, rather then intentional suicide, and ruled by majority that his death was accidental.

Jane Held, independent chair of Leeds Safeguarding Children Board, had told the inquest that the system failed Ryan.

Although he was a looked-after child, who had been in care since he was 16 months old, during the last 12 months of his life, there was no single consistent professional responsible for him, his housing situation prior to his remand was dire, his care plan was insufficient, and he was treated as “troublesome” rather than “troubled, vulnerable and emotionally damaged”.

Deborah Coles, co-director of Inquest, which supports families of young people who have died in custody, said the system is failing “time and again” to protect children in its care.

“It is clear that basic safeguards that should have been implemented to protect Ryan, a vulnerable 17-year-old, were either absent, ineffectual, or simply ignored,” she said.

“Deaths of children and young people do not just raise criminal justice issues but important issues outside the prison walls such as the role of social services, support for ‘looked after’ children and questions as to why a vulnerable child was imprisoned in the first place.

“There have been a pattern of deaths of children and young people with worryingly familiar themes which is why we are calling for an independent, wide-ranging and holistic review into the deaths of children and young people in prison.”

Ruth Bundey, solicitor for Ryan Clark’s family said: “It is welcome that the jury has recognised the very serious failings in the lead up to Ryan’s death.

“However, it is also clear that he was failed by those who were supposed to protect his welfare for a long time before that.

“Over 50 per cent of the children held in Wetherby YOI are looked-after children.

“Ryan’s death has raised serious questions about the protections afforded by the state to very vulnerable young people.”

Ryan Clark’s death was one of six cases of teenagers apparently taking their own life in custody in the space of just two months in 2011.

Source: CYPNow

Racism fear held back white working class pupils – Ofsted inspector

Racism fear held back white working class pupils – Ofsted inspector

Teachers have not paid enough attention to poorly performing white children for fear of being seen as racist, an Ofsted inspector has suggested.

Chris Wood told MPs Ofsted was now urging schools to focus on white working class children, amid concerns they are getting a raw deal.

Lib Dem MP David Ward said most ethnic groups had representatives to speak up for their children’s education needs.

But there were few pushing the cause of white working class children.

“Is there any evidence that anyone is actually speaking up for the white working class?,” the Bradford East MP asked a panel of education experts.

“I get representatives from the Bangladeshi community complaining about ‘our children in our schools’ or the Pakistani community or the Kashmiri community. I find it difficult to think of a representative for the white working class who comes to me and says ‘what about our children’… if they are, they are probably the BNP or would be accused of racism.”


Mr Wood, who heads an Ofsted review into access and achievement, agreed with Mr Ward’s assessment but said the emphasis had changed over the past two years.

He told MPs: “There is a much clearer focus on the performance of different groups of pupils who are eligible for free school meals, with white British being a clear focus group that we have identified through our reports, through this year’s annual report.

“So it’s finding its way into our inspection activity so schools are much more au fait with talking about those groups of pupils.

“I would argue in the past that was not the case and it could very well be because of a certain discomfort about talking about that group for the reasons you have suggested, around it being seen as an extreme view.

“But that is changing and we are certainly putting additional focus on that area.”

Mr Wood was giving evidence to the Commons education committee, which is investigating how to improve the performance of white working class children in primary and secondary schools.

Some schools in disadvantaged had made great strides in boosting the performance of pupils from all backgrounds, particularly in the London boroughs, the committee was told.

But other schools, in similar areas, still had very low standards.

Kevan Collins, chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: “On average you see this low performance but we have these schools which are bucking the trend.”

The way to boost performance was to make schools work more closely together and ensure the best teachers were given the most challenging pupils to teach, he suggested.

‘Quality leadership’

The government’s pupil premium scheme, which gives more money to schools for each child on free school meals, should also be more focused on aiding white working class children, he added.

“High quality” leadership was also important – but there were not enough incentives for the best heads and teachers to go and work in difficult schools, the MPs were told.

“Our best teaching is serving our more affluent children,” said Mr Collins.

Getting parents involved with learning, particularly those who struggle with literacy and numeracy themselves, also helped, the committee heard.

But the parents most likely to be helped by such schemes did not attend them – and more effort had to be made to get out into the community.

There was also no evidence that making children get to school earlier or stay longer had any impact on standards, the committee was told.

Chris Wood said: “If it is more of the same and the same isn’t very good in the first place I think that is likely to have a negative effect, rather than a positive effect.”

Source: BBC News

Somerset County Council child protection plans ‘inadequate’

Somerset County Council child protection plans ‘inadequate’

More than a third of Somerset County Council’s child protection plans are inadequate, a review has found.

Government inspectors ordered a review of 453 child protection plans after the council was given the lowest rating for its child protection work by Ofsted.

Of those audited, 170 were inadequate, with 250 found to be adequate or above.

The council said all inadequate cases will be re-audited to make sure recommendations for these children have been complied with.

The plans are made for children identified as being at risk of harm and aim to protect the most vulnerable children in society.

Following an unannounced inspection in the summer, Ofsted inspectors told the social services department to review its child protection plans including cases that have been closed in the last three months.

Very low base’

That work will be discussed at an audit committee meeting on Friday.

Peter Lewis, interim director of children’s services, said: “We have been doing some work anyway that has moved us on from the majority being inadequate to the majority being adequate, and that is not to say that that job is finished yet, not by a long stretch, but it is forward and positive movement.

“We started last summer with a very, very low base, and we’ve had to work hard to build up from that, what the audit committee will see is that there has been that movement.”

Ofsted inspectors found that in some cases the child protection plans were being closed too soon and that “very few” plans were sufficiently specific.

Fulfil obligations

In November, the Department for Communities and Local Government also issued children’s services with an Improvement Notice.

This gave the council a target of 75% of cases being judged adequate or better through assessment audits.

The review found 170 (37.5%) child protection plans were inadequate, 190 cases (41.9%) were adequate, 58 (12.8%) were good, 2 cases (0.4%) were outstanding.

Thirty-three cases (7.2%) were ungraded.

Mr Lewis said they expect to have fulfilled all the obligations of the notice within about 12 or 15 months.

Source: BBC News

More Guernsey children on ‘at risk’ list

More Guernsey children on ‘at risk’ list

The number of children considered “at risk” in Guernsey rose last year, according to the Child Protection Committee report for the States.

The actual number on the register has not been revealed, but in 2012, there were 95 children at risk – a rise of 26% on the previous year.

The decision over whether a child is at risk of abuse or neglect is based on assessments by professional services.

Cases are usually reviewed after a period of three months.

David Foote, business manager of the Island’s Child Protection Committee, said trends indicated “increasing levels of registrations.”

The States introduced a Sex Offenders Law to protect children from individuals known to present risk.

Extra training is also being implemented for all staff who work with at risk children.

Source: BBC News

Sex crimes against young children rise, research suggests

Sex crimes against young children rise, research suggests

Recorded sex crimes against children under 11 in England and Wales went up by 16% last year, research suggests.

There were 5,547 incidents, against the previous year’s 4,772, according to data from 41 police forces obtained by children’s charity, the NSPCC.

This means that 24% of all recorded sexual offences against children involved the youngest age group, with some victims as young as one.

The NSPCC said nearly half (46%) of parents had not tackled the issue.

The charity said the number of recorded crimes could have increased because more people were now coming forward in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.

The NSPCC launched a campaign last summer to encourage parents to discuss sex abuse with their children.

Chief executive Peter Wanless said: “Sexual abuse continues to be a terrible scar on our society which won’t heal by itself.

“Our campaign has started to make inroads in giving children the protection they need but there is obviously still a long way to go.

“The police figures are worrying because they should be going down not rising, although the ‘Savile effect’ may be resulting in more people reporting abuse.

“Whatever the reason, this highlights the urgent need to tackle this problem from an early age and parents and carers can play an important role by ensuring their children are armed with the knowledge to recognise the wrong kind of behaviour and keep themselves safe.”

Five principles

The NSPCC wants parents to teach children five basic principles: “Privates are private, always remember your body belongs to you, no means no, talk about secrets that upset you, speak up – someone can help.”

The overall figures for under-age sex abuse remained stable last year compared to the previous one.

A total of 22,654 sexual offences against under-18s were reported to police with nearly four out of five cases (17,354) involving girls.

Most of the offences, including rape, sexual assault, abuse through pornography and grooming, were against children of secondary school age.

Source: BBC News


Teaching assistants (TAs) believe that without their support many challenging children would be excluded from mainstream school

Teaching assistants (TAs) believe that without their support many challenging children would be excluded from mainstream school. A study carried out by the British Psychological Society on the role of TAs showed that most felt they had a positive effect on the children and young people they work with and are proud of the role they play in schools.


The British public is less outraged by neglected children than neglected older people

The British public is less outraged by neglected children than neglected older people, Maggie Atkinson, the children’s commissioner for England, has said. Atkinson told the education committee that too many people assume children in care are “in trouble,” leading to resistance to opening new children’s homes in some areas, the Telegraph reports.

Source: CYPnow

ChildLine has reported a sharp rise in the number of kids contacting it over online bullying concerns

ChildLine has reported a sharp rise in the number of kids contacting it over online bullying concerns, with the number cyberbullying cases almost doubling in the past year.
During the 2012-13, the charity saw 4,507 cases of cyberbullying, up from 2,410 registered in 2011-12, and there was 87% rise in contacts about online bullying, with 41% rise in contacts concerning self-harm and a 33% increase in youth feeling suicidal.
ChildLine founder Esther Rantzen said the report had to act as a wake-up call.
“Far too many of the nation’s children seem to be struggling and in despair. It’s so important that we support children to talk about issues and look out for signs that they’re not able to cope,” Rantzen said.
“No matter how hard pressed we are, we must commit to giving children time and space to talk about their lives.
“If they are concealing unhappiness, encourage them to open up and if they can’t talk to you, maybe they can talk to ChildLine.”
There has also been a 69% rise in racist bullying online, with over 1,400 youth notifying ChildLine they had been called a terrorist, bomber or had been asked to return where they originated from.
In addition, the charity also witnessed increase in concerns about self-harming, while depression and complicated family relationships had been the top reasons for seeking assistance.
NSPCC charity chief executive Peter Wanless said that the issues facing children today are very different from those that faced us as children.
“Stranger danger, for example, rarely comes up in contacts to ChildLine but depression, self-harm, online bullying and even suicide contacts are increasing exponentially,” Wanless said.
“If we are to help young people we need to listen to what they are telling us about the issues they are facing.
“ChildLine is one of the most important sources of information about vulnerable children in the UK and these regular snapshots will help us keep one step ahead and focused on the areas that are really concerning them right now.”