300 allegations of rape in British schools have been reported to police

More than 300 allegations of rape in British schools have been reported to police in the past three years, a rise of 40 per cent. Reports of other sex crimes in schools have also been growing, with 2,865 claims of sexual misconduct recorded by police in 2011 to 2013. These included 1,052 sex offences reported in schools last year, of which 134 were rape claims

Source: The Times

Child protection IT system set for launch

Child protection IT system set for launch

An IT system that will help child protection and health professionals share information about children at risk of abuse and neglect will launch imminently, the Department of Health (DH) has confirmed.

The DH said the Child Protection Information Sharing (CPIS) system will shortly be available for use in the first wave of NHS organisations and councils taking part in the project.

The system is the government’s attempt to improve information sharing on safeguarding between health and children’s services, and comes four years after the closure of ContactPoint, the previous Labour government’s controversial database of children and young people.

The CPIS will alert health professionals of any child protection concerns about children who visit hospital emergency departments, walk in centres, out-of-hours GP clinics, paediatric wards and maternity units. Ambulance services are also included.

It aims to ensure health professionals with concerns can access information about children with a child protection plan or who are looked after, as well as pregnant women whose unborn child is subject to a pre-birth protection plan.

It is hoped that by 2015 eight out of 10 councils will be involved. By 2018 it is hoped that the same proportion of NHS settings will be integrated.

First announced in late 2012, the CPIS has been set up following a number of recent serious case reviews that cited poor information sharing across health and social care as a factor in professionals not taking action sooner.

The system will differ from ContactPoint in that it will not constitute a standalone database, but instead provide a method for basic information to be shared between existing systems.

Among groups backing the CPIS is the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), the NSPCC and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Lisa Harker, head of strategy at the NSPCC, said: “In around 60 per cent of SCRs a lack of information sharing is one of the things that has been highlighted as a contributing factor to children not being protected or safeguarded properly. When professionals share information about a child’s circumstances it informs how they respond to a child’s immediate need and a system which underpins that will help keep children safer and save lives.”

However, the ADCS has previously raised concerns that the wide range of software systems used by NHS organisations and local authorities could result in information not being updated properly and so create a false sense of security.

At the time of its launch, the DH estimated the cost of delivering CPIS would be £9m, significantly less than the £224m spent on creating ContactPoint. Coalition ministers scrapped ContactPoint, which held the names of 11 million under-18s and the services with which they have had contact, in August 2010 citing cost and security concerns.

Source: CYPNow

Stonewall: Porn survey shows why we need better sex education in schools

Stonewall: Porn survey shows why we need better sex education in schools

A survey showing sexting is now part of “everyday life” for teenagers highlights the need for compulsory sex and relationships education, says Stonewall.

Research commissioned by the IPPR think tank found 80% of young people said it was too easy to stumble across explicit images and videos on the internet.

Almost half (46%) said the phenomenon of sexting, where people send explicit pictures of themselves to others, was “part of everyday life for teenagers nowadays”.

A majority said pornography was making life harder for adolescents and 70% said watching porn was seen as normal among their classmates at school.

Two-thirds also described porn as addictive. Stonewall, Britain’s largest gay rights charity, said the survey highlighted why the government needed to improve sex and relationships education.

Stonewall Head of Policy, James Taylor, told PinkNews.co.uk: “We know that, all too often, young lesbian, gay and bisexual people aren’t getting the information they need about sex and relationships.

“When those resources aren’t available, pornography can become the sole source of information for young people, setting wildly unreasonable expectations and standards.”

Mr Taylor added: “Schools urgently need to talk about what makes a healthy relationship so that young people can make safe and informed choices. Compulsory sex and relationship education needs to be the starting point for these conversations in schools.”

Today, in a PinkNews interview, former Health Secretary Lord Fowler urged the Tories to back statutory Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Education, in a bid to safeguard the health and wellbeing of young people.

Under Michael Gove’s reign as Education Secretary, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats whipped their parliamentarians to vote against statutory PSHE.

But Downing Street has indicated to PinkNews that a new position could be struck by Mr Gove’s successor, Nicky Morgan, allowing for support to be given to statutory PSHE.

Such a move could lead to the abandonment of the whipping arrangements, meaning Tory MPs who support the motion would be free to vote in favour.

Last month, Green MP Caroline Lucas tabled a new Private Members’ Bill urging for statutory PSHE. It will receive its second reading in the autumn.

Source: Pink News, Stonewall

The number of fines issued to parents in Suffolk for allowing their children to miss school has risen by almost 500 per cent

The number of fines issued to parents in Suffolk for allowing their children to miss school has risen by almost 500 per cent in the space of five years. The East Anglian Daily Times reports that there were 303 fines for unauthorised absences handed out to parents between September 2013 and July 2014, compared with just 61 in 2009/10.

Children to be given greater voice in care proceedings

Children to be given greater voice in care proceedings

More will be done to ensure children over the age of 10 who are involved in care proceedings or custody cases have their views heard in court, the government has announced.

Under the Children Act 1989, courts considering a public or private law order in relation to a child already have to pay regard to “the wishes and feelings” of the child concerned.

However, speaking at an event today, justice minister Simon Hughes said that the legal right is often overlooked.

“Children and young people have a legal right to be heard before decisions are made about their own future, and where decisions are being made that will impact on them,” Hughes said at a conference held by the Family Justice Young People’s Board today.

“Too often that legal right is not being exercised or it is being interpreted to mean others can make a presumption about a child’s view – often for the best of intentions and acting in their interest, but nevertheless the outcome is that the child does not feel that their own distinct voice has been heard.”

Hughes said the government is committed to all children and young people having a role in all family proceedings affecting them so that they can put across their views and feelings.

“It is my clear intention that where disputes about children are settled in court or through an alternative form of resolving disputes such as mediation, children and young people aged 10 and over will in the future be given the chance to make clear their views, in person or if preferred in an another way, as to what is the best resolution of the family dispute in their interest,” he said.

Hughes said he will work alongside the president of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, and other family court judges, as well as the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), local authorities, and young people to implement this change.

Ensuring children and young people are able to make their views known was one of the recommendations to come out of the Family Justice Review, which was published in November 2011.

It said that children should, as early as possible, be supported to make their views known, and older children should be offered a menu of options, to lay out the ways in which they could, if they wish, do this.

Anthony Douglas, Cafcass chief executive, said the government had outlined “some progressive and practical ways” for how children can be more included in their own cases.

He added: “All agencies will be sitting down together to find a way to make these changes happen on the ground in a way which improves the responsiveness and sensitivity of the whole family justice system to children and young people who need our help, and to find better and better ways of improving their lives.”

Andrew Webb, immediate past president of the Association of Director’s of Children’s Services, said his organisation is in favour of giving young people more of a say, but attention must be paid to how it is achieved.

“In public law cases, the court spends a lot of time dealing with very difficult issues of child abuse, sexual abuse, and has to hear detailed evidence about the child’s life, which is not always an appropriate thing to put children in front of,” he said.

“There’s a lot to do to get children of an appropriate age engaged in the process, and to debate or examine what is in their best interest, in a way that is not making the system abusive.

“It can also be the case that what the child wants, and what is in their best interests, are not necessarily the same thing.

“We would have to make sure courts, and particularly judges, take the child’s view in the context of the much bigger picture.”

Source: CYPNow

Costs of children in care hit £3.4bn

Costs of children in care hit £3.4bn

The cost of supporting children in care has reached £3.4bn, according to an Audit Commission report that exposes widespread variation of spending across councils.

The spending watchdog’s briefing on councils’ expenditure on looked-after children revealed that a 12 per cent rise in the children in care population from 2010 to the end of March 2013 had pushed the total bill to £3.4bn during 2012/13.

The briefing highlights “significant variation” in the amount each council spends. The average spend on looked-after children across all councils came to £137 a day, or just over £50,000 for the whole year.

However 21 councils spent less than £40,000 a year per looked-after child, and 32 councils spent more than £60,000.

Local differences in foster care commissioning was identified as a key factor. The Audit Commission found that shortages of local carers pushed costs up as councils rely more on out-of-area placements and on fostering agencies, which were on average a third more expensive to use than in-house council fostering services.

Those councils that bulk purchased care and set up rosters with a wide variety of care suppliers also tended “to get a better price,” the Audit Commission said.

Audit Commission chair Jeremy Newman called on councils to work better together and focus on joint commissioning to push prices down.

He said: “’Councils should use their collective purchasing power to get maximum value for the £1.5bn they spend on foster care.

“Rather than competing with each other, potentially driving up prices, councils should consider whether collaborating with neighbouring councils can secure the services they need, at a price they can better afford.”

But making savings should not bring down the quality of care, Newman warned.

He added: “We encourage all councils to review their spending and in particular urge higher spending councils to understand the reasons for this and to consider whether they can secure more cost-effective placements without compromising on the quality of care.”

Among examples of council co-operation is a two-year government-funded fostering recruitment project that got under way this year, where councils and agencies are working together.

A total of 11 councils across three areas, West Yorkshire, the North West and Oxfordshire, are taking part.

Helen Berresford, head of public affairs at 4Children, said councils should invest in early intervention support for families to keep children in care costs down further.

She said: “We need a system of early and intensive support which sets sights high for struggling families and helps reduce the risk of children falling into care.”

The Audit Commission report also highlights the long-term social and economic cost of supporting looked-after children into adulthood.

It flags up figures showing that 23 per cent of the adult prison population have been in care and a quarter of homeless people living on the street have a care background.

Source: CYPNow

Government U-turns on early years qualification entry requirements

Government U-turns on early years qualification entry requirements

he government has backtracked on plans to require applicants to have at least a GCSE grade C in English and maths before they can begin an early years apprenticeship.

Instead the two GCSE qualifications will become an exit requirement for those taking the apprenticeship.

The move has been made amid concern from the early years sector that making GCSEs an entry requirement would set the bar too high.

Earlier this month the Early Years Trailblazer Group, which is made up of early years employers and groups had urged the government to ensure applicants could study GCSEs alongside their vocational training.

The new entry requirements have been approved by the Department for Business, Skills and Innovation and the Department for Education, and will be reviewed after a year.

Source: CYPNow

DfE approves childminder agencies plan despite safeguarding concerns

DfE approves childminder agencies plan despite safeguarding concerns

Childminder agencies will be introduced in September despite widespread safeguarding concerns from the sector, the Department for Education has confirmed.

The DfE has said the plans are subject to parliamentary approval but expects the new arrangements to be in place in time for next month’s deadline.

Under the plans, childminders will have the option of registering with and being inspected by Ofsted.

The proposed inspection framework, published in May, prompted the early years sector to warn about potential safeguarding issues and called on the government to abandon the plans.

However, in its response to its childminder agencies and changes to the local authority role consultation, the DfE reveals that it will not request any changes to the proposed framework.

The report reveals that a number of respondents raised concerns about the “clarity of safeguarding arrangements” but states that the views expressed do not “warrant changes” to the draft regulations.

However, the report does acknowledge that the issue is complex and states that the government will say more about it in due course.

Liz Bayram, chief executive of the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years, is disappointed with the decision.

She said: “The assurances from the DfE that Ofsted’s registration and inspection criteria will be enough to ensure quality mean little when you consider agencies will not be providing direct services to parents, and that childminders who register with an agency will no longer have an Ofsted registration.

“Although the decision to require agencies to share agency-registered childminder inspection grades with local authorities is welcome, the fact agencies won’t be required to share those grades publicly risks parents being unable to easily access information about childminder quality, thus further confusing the system.”

The DfE received 678 responses to its consultation, including those featuring comments on extremist views.

Earlier today Education Secretary Nicky Morgan announced plans to give councils powers to stop funding for early years providers with links to extremism.

Source: CYPNow