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How safe are our children? NSPCC releases annual child protection overview report

Posted by admin on August 23, 2017
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The NSPCC has released its latest annual report today giving an overview of child protection in the United Kingdom. The 84-page report contains statistics and information on the rise and fall of child protection incidences such as child sexual exploitation, neglect and emotional abuse, using data from a variety of sources including police records.

The new report highlights key findings throughout, as well as including a timeline of important moments in child protection during recent years, and listing a glossary of common words and phrases used when referring to child protection, both in and outside of this report.

There is evidence contained in the report to suggest that child homicide is in long-term decline. The report also states that suicide rates for 15 to 19-year-olds in England and Wales have started to rise after years in decline. Their findings reveal that offences relating to indecent images are increasing across the UK, and the proportion of UK children on a child protection plan or register is higher now than it was a decade ago, despite government cuts to funding for early help and prevention.

Other parts of the report reveal that there was a 30 per cent increase in the number of suspected trafficked children referred between 2015 and 2016. Also worryingly, between 17 and 22 per cent of children put on a child protection plan or register in 2015/16 had been on one before.

The report aims to deliver a comprehensive overview of the current status of child protection in the United Kingdom, drawing on data from multiple agencies, however, the Chief Executive writes at the start of the report:

“While at the NSPCC we do have some important insights, we don’t pretend to have all the answers… It also isn’t enough to simply know the numbers of reported cases of children being abused or neglected – we need to understand the full scale of maltreatment… That’s why there’s an urgent need for the UK Government to commission a new nationwide study that looks at the prevalence of all forms of abuse and neglect.”

The report is publicly available and can be accessed via the NSPCC website.

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140,000 children at risk in England are being ignored by local authorities

Posted by admin on August 22, 2017
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New charity research has unearthed a worrying number of children who are “falling through the cracks” in the social care system, leaving them vulnerable to abuse or neglect.

Action For Children’s report was based on evidence from Freedom of Information requests to 152 councils, and their research found that there is a dramatic difference between the amount of children in need, and those being referred for statutory support. This suggests that children in need who are being assessed by social workers are not being considered high-risk enough to meet the threshold for referral.

In situations where a family or child does not meet the referral threshold for access to statutory services, they should instead be referred to alternative support services, such as children’s centres – many of which are operated by Action For Children nationwide. However, the research found that only 1 in 4 children went on to be referred for alternative support. Of the 184,500 children’s needs assessments that were closed in 2015-16 as requiring “no further action”, this means that an estimated 140,000 children were left without support.

This figure should be a particular concern for local authorities, who have been cutting funding for support services including children’s centres on a drastic level in recent years. Denying children the early help they need first time round increases their chance of being re-referred to social services later on. This was proven by an Ofsted study in 2015.

The charity considers this the “revolving door” effect – whereby children are being continually assessed and denied referral, yet only receiving help when their situation reaches crisis-level.

Action For Children is calling on the government to deliver adequate funding to statutory and early help services, to provide children at risk with help as soon as they need it.

 

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Why the benefits of training can extend beyond your duty of care

Posted by admin on August 14, 2017
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When we designed our courses, we specifically looked to make them relevant to areas such as child protection for dental teams, music teachers, childminders, equestrian volunteers and, of course, education, because we wanted to make the learning as effective as possible. Our desire was, and still is, to make the training as relevant and appropriate to the professionals in each field as we possibly can. If you or your staff are required by legislation, or suggested by good practice, to take child protection training, then you are probably already aware of the need for safeguarding. Safeguarding children and vulnerable adults is everyone’s concern and it is absolutely vital that anyone who comes in contact with potentially vulnerable groups is able to recognise and respond to possible abuse appropriately for their circumstances.

There is more to training than just ticking the completed box. Not only does receiving appropriate learning meet your safeguarding requirements, it also tells teams that there is an expectation of care, and it formally reinforces that expectation by setting a clear milestone of certification dates.

Did you know that one of the biggest motivators for staff when it comes to loyalty and the decision to stay in a job role is not salary? This is, of course, even more the case when it comes to the volunteer or charity sectors, where the people involved are often there for the love of the sport or activity. Job satisfaction and feeling valued are one of the main reasons people stay in their roles or continue to support organisations. According to research, a large influence on job satisfaction is the amount of support and guidance staff – and by inference, volunteers – get to help them perform their duties well. This makes perfect sense, of course, because we all like to feel that we are valued. Meeting industry expectations and being able to perform well in a role is important, and seeing that there has been an investment in training helps generate the feeling of being valued.

For your team, the investment in online safeguarding training may mean more than just taking a training course – it could also demonstrate your commitment to their development and that can lead to a more dedicated and happy employee or volunteer.

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Ofsted inspectors to receive training reminding them “what safeguarding is really about”

Posted by admin on August 09, 2017
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The Chief Inspector of Ofsted has criticised schools for “wrapping children in cotton wool” with over-cautious safeguarding policies, which she claims are denying children the chance to learn resilience and limiting their experiences.

Ofsted inspectors will soon receive new training that Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman says she hopes will remind them “what safeguarding is really about”. Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, she claimed the new training will ensure inspectors are not rewarding schools for “overbearing” policies.

“I want Ofsted to make sure that schools are properly focused on pupil safety but that it doesn’t come at the expense of opportunities to broaden and enrich young minds.”

Mrs Spielman criticised schools for matters such as dressing children in hi-vis jackets on school trips, or enforcing bans on conkers, stating that every minute spent focusing on these “imagined risks” obscures real safeguarding issues and “is a minute away from tackling a multitude of real issues we know schools face”.

Many schools and teaching staff have responded to the criticism, arguing that Ofsted would be the first to question what measures were in place to prevent risk if one of Mrs Spielman’s “imagined” incidents was to occur in their school. Others have expressed relief in the new policy, hoping it will encourage schools and nurseries to offer a more hands-on and adventure-oriented childhood experience.

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Lockdown in Schools – Do we need a standard procedure?

Posted by admin on July 25, 2017
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With the focus very firmly on Prevent strategy at the moment, and recent events in London and Manchester adding immediacy to the need for increased security measures in schools, it is no wonder that the issue of lockdowns is in the news.

Teaching union NASUWT are calling for the government to issue a standard policy on how to implement a cohesive procedure should a lockdown become necessary. At the moment, although many schools do have some form of procedure in place and there are some general published guidelines on emergency procedures, the level and form of implementation varies.

A lockdown would normally be triggered by the potential or actual invasion of the school by a hostile presence.  While this seems like a remote possibility, and indeed incidents of this nature are thankfully few and far between, just this week a school in Stuttgart found itself in a situation where a suspected gunman was at loose on the premises and we are all familiar with the seemingly regular incidents of shootings in US schools. Here in the UK, while we all remember the horror of the Dunblane incident with sadness, thankfully we have been relatively free of other major incidents. However, we do see individual incidents such as the recent events in Merseyside where a man armed with a knife was believed to have entered the school after fleeing police. The school premises were locked down following the speedy response from constabulary the children and teachers allowed to leave as soon as possible, however this must still have been a terrifying incident for those caught up in it. In addition, we must all face up to the potential, no matter how remote the possibility, of a terrorist incident.

From the point of view of the school there is the standard expectation that it will seek to protect the children and staff so the question raised is really more one of how is that to be achieved rather than should a protection procedure be in place. Other safety procedures, fire drills for example, are commonplace because effective fire marshalling and suitable equipment are all required by law. Staff are usually all trained in fire procedures and the need to evacuate in an emergency is almost second nature to everyone in the school. One potential issue therefore is that the lockdown procedure really asks everyone to behave in the opposite way to the fire drill. Instead of leaving the building and keeping exits clear we are being asked to countermand years of training and stay put and barricade ourselves in. A further complication is the addition of a new method of alerting staff to the problem which needs to be sufficiently different from an existing alarm to ensure the wrong action is not taken. Add to all the above the training needs of the staff and the understanding of appropriate response required from the kids and it seems logical to have a national set standard.

However clearly while some advice such as how to barricade a classroom will probably be standard some flexibility is likely to be needed in circumstances such as incidents occurring at break times or during lunch. Late teens are likely to behave very differently in an emergency than a reception class. Any nationally imposed procedures will therefore need some element of flexibility to allow for local circumstances.

The question of lockdown procedures is likely to rumble on for some time and hopefully a suitable solution will be found, until then the onus is going to still rest with the individual schools.

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Keeping Perspective on Prevent

Posted by admin on July 14, 2017
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It would seem that the Prevent strategy is a little bit of a political football at the moment. However, while the high-level discussions about whether it unintentionally marginalises groups or if it is even having the desired effect continue, it is still a part of the safeguarding strategy for all schools and colleges.

One of the most difficult aspects of safeguarding in regards to potential radicalisation is recognising when to report or when to be concerned. There is a very big difference, for example, between a teenager becoming politically aware and questioning the world around them (a process that we probably want to encourage) and the move towards a more radical and potentially violent affiliation. Similarly, devout religious belief is only an issue when those beliefs are manipulated towards radicalisation. Political or spiritual standpoints are not in themselves an area of concern, it is the manipulation of these by groups seeking to radicalise young people that is.

So, how do we spot the difference between radicalisation and perfectly acceptable allegiance to a religious or political group? Well, unfortunately there is no single answer to that question. We want to catch potential radicalisation as early as possible, because the sooner the intervention the faster the prevention will take hold. At the same time, any programme of observation, recording and reporting that is focused on a belief system is open to the dangers of accidental overuse and is thereby potentially further marginalising those in danger.

There are bound to be some mistakes made in a programme of this size. That said, cases of 4-year-olds reported for mispronouncing cucumber as ‘cooker bomb’ and others reported for accidentally writing ‘terrorist house’ instead of terraced house in a school project may well make good headline material, but they are probably few and far between. For the majority, reports are likely to be a balanced judgement call by a professional.

We should also remember that, while religious extremism is certainly still the most reported concern, right wing radicalisation is on the rise. Around 1 in 4 reports are related to right wing groups and in some areas of the country this spikes to a majority. Again, the professional needs to make an unbiased judgement on whether radicalisation is taking place, regardless of the target of the hatred.

Just some outward signifiers of the shift towards extremism, regardless of the group involved, are likely to be:

  • Sudden attitude changes
  • A more argumentative nature, particularly in relation to specific groups and a refusal to accept any contrary opinion regardless of the facts
  • Accessing extremist materials online or through social media
  • New social groups that feature a particular affiliation
  • The displaying of iconography such as symbols, flags, slogans, and so on

The amount, gravity and level of alert raised by the above, and other warning signs, will all be a factor in the decision for referral, so our online training will help you to develop a balance on this via a series of realistic scenarios.

The fallout from the scrutiny placed on Prevent during the recent election is yet to be fully assessed, but it seems likely that an overhaul is on the cards at some point in the future. Our Awareness of Prevent Duty training is regularly updated to reflect current policy and of course we will include any future changes as and when they occur, so you can be certain that whenever you take your training it will be current.

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Ofsted check safeguarding records back to 1997! Don’t get caught out…

Posted by admin on July 11, 2017
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Some useful advice was given to us this week from a former Ofsted inspector who is now involved in current inspections for a local authority. Schools staff will want to take note of this key information, as it could cost your school crucial marks during the next inspection.

Our expert has picked up on a trend during inspections that has seen schools being marked down because of the references they have on record for all staff. The current requirement is that all members of school staff should have 2 signed references, and with no exceptions—inspectors are even looking at personnel files to check the records of staff who have been employed in schools for 20+ years.

If your school was to have an inspection tomorrow, would you meet this requirement?

Here at the ChildProtectionCompany.com, we receive handy inspection tips and insider knowledge from our experts on a regular basis. Make sure you’re subscribed to our blog so that you never miss an update!

Our Safeguarding in Education online training course offers a great overview of the wide range of safeguarding considerations that should be taken into account in a school or Early Years setting. For more information, or to receive a tailor-made quote for your school, please get in touch by calling us on 01327 552030, or emailing help@childprotectioncompany.com today.

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“Nobody knows the exact number of vulnerable children”

Posted by admin on July 07, 2017
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Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield has revealed that nobody knows the exact number of vulnerable children living in the United Kingdom, and that this news should be a “wake-up call” to the government and policy-makers.

Ms Longfield has attempted to create a report calculating the total number of vulnerable children because there is so little data currently available. However, despite researchers’ best efforts, it has become clear that this report will be no light work to create. Data is being drawn from sources that are 13 years out of date in some cases, and a lot of data contains overlaps and double-counting.

There have been some startling figures revealed from the research so far. The Children’s Commissioner fears that these figures are only the “tip of the iceberg”, and that actual numbers will be much higher.

According to the evidence collected by Ms Longfield’s team, around 670,000 children live in high-risk family situations in the UK, and 119,000 children are homeless or living in insecure or unstable accommodation. 500,000 children are so vulnerable that the state has to step in with support, and a worrying 200,000 children are thought to have experienced trauma or abuse.

There is no data to cover the so-called “invisible children” who have not been reported to the government, or who have not been picked up on throughout the research due to gaps in data.

“The actual numbers are likely to be much higher. The truth is nobody knows the exact number of vulnerable children,” Ms Longfield said of the report.

Work will continue on a larger scale to clarify the amount of vulnerable children living in the UK, alongside a wider campaign to encourage the government to collect better data and give an exact definition of what counts as vulnerability.

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Bringing the Fake News Discussion into the Classroom

Posted by admin on July 04, 2017
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There can be no doubt that the amount of fake news, the language of propaganda, the selective use of statistics and what can only be called actual lies, are a problem for education professionals. Every part of the education chain is facing the same core issue: ensuring that learners are equipped to critically evaluate the mixed messages they see in the media and online. Safeguarding policies and the Prevent Duty policy all touch on the issue of misinformation and potential danger to children and young people online.

Issuing strict rules about research for older learners and installing filters on the school website is a start, but it is only reducing the symptoms. Really, the best result is to inoculate against the disease. Systems that address radicalisation, such as the Prevent strategy, will work far more efficiently if learners can identify fake news in the first place.

So, in a sea of misinformation, how do we get children to recognise the truth?

The technology and the people who post the material are not going to go away, so the only option available is education. Empowering children to recognise when the things they are seeing or reading are fake is likely to have an ongoing effect. Here are some ideas you could perhaps adapt to your classroom setting and learner needs.

  • Talk about the meaning of key words in context. We need to ensure that regardless of the level of the learner, they fully understand what a fact is. Perhaps you could host a discussion on the difference between something being fact, as opposed to something that is agreed on by a lot of people with the same agenda. The process of thinking about the word itself means the learners are practicing critical evaluation techniques. For older learners, you could introduce the problem of interpretation into the discussion.
  • Use some classic examples of fact supporting unlikely conclusions. A great example is the so-called ‘waving flag’ evidence that is regularly floated on social media to suggest the moon landings are fake. You will find pictures on the internet of the flag apparently waving in the wind, which is not possible if there is no atmosphere to blow the flag around. Of course, the base fact used is true, but it demonstrates quite well how pre-supposition and personal agenda can make a fact fit the needs of the person. In actual fact, the atmosphere is not relevant to the rippling effect. The act of waggling the pole to get it to stick in the ground is a much simpler reason the flag is rippling. However, this myth persists for the conspiracy theorists.
  • Get learners to create a fake news story about your school or institution. Arm them with some innocuous facts about budgets, or changes to timetables or similar, and ask them to ‘fake news’ them up. For example, ‘We had a bit of a discussion about school starting earlier at the last staff meeting,’ could be changed to, ‘Secret plan to extend school hours.’ This exercise can then be extended to reverse-engineer a fake news story by fact-checking and rewriting.
  • Get the learners to create some golden rules of fact-checking to apply to what they see. This is a great way for children and young adults to practice verifying facts, and a good time to remind learners that social media is primarily written by people with an agenda – not a desire to report the news.

Whatever methods you choose, it is vital that our children grow up questioning what they read and see because the small rolling pebbles of the occasional biased news item or propagandist material can turn into an avalanche of influence to an impressionable mind. Keeping children safe online is all about empowering them to understand the danger.

Here at ChildProtectionCompany.com, we provide specific courses on Awareness of Prevent Duty and e-Safety, which may be of interest if you want to learn more about strategy and online safety.

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Snapchat’s ‘Snap Map’ update shares your child’s precise location and activity with the world – a major child protection concern

Posted by admin on June 30, 2017
Child Protection News / Comments Off on Snapchat’s ‘Snap Map’ update shares your child’s precise location and activity with the world – a major child protection concern

Last week, the highly popular mobile app Snapchat introduced a new feature, the ‘Snap Map’, which enables users from across the world to access a map publicising the precise location of any user at all times unless they have enabled the so-called ‘ghost mode’.

Unsurprisingly, this new feature has caused a great deal of concern, in particular, for parents of children who use the app frequently. With just the touch of a button, anyone using Snapchat can view another user’s exact location—right down to the building they are in at any given time—without even needing to be accepted as a ‘friend’. Fears have been raised over the invasion of privacy, since the new feature could enable all manner of crimes. The ability to see when someone is home, for example, could lead to break-ins and burglaries. From a child protection angle, the ‘Snap Map’ could pose even more danger.

Consider a situation in which, after school each night, your child walks part of the journey home with a friend and the rest on their own, arriving at your house for 3:45pm and being alone until you return from work at 5:00pm. This is a normal daily routine for many families, and generally quite safe. However, now imagine the same situation, but in this scenario, your child has the ‘Snap Map’ enabled on their phone and his/her location is public information. Another user could be watching your child walk home each night, following the exact journey from school to your front doorstep through the screen, and they could figure out your child’s routine after just a few days of ‘following’. With access to this level of information, all sorts of potential risks come to the surface. Following online could quickly turn into stalking in real life, and knowing when your child is home, or out and about, could endanger them on a number of levels.

It might not necessarily be a stranger following your child’s location, either—consider what might happen during an argument with friends, or if your child is experiencing bullying and the perpetrators decide to take advantage of this constant stream of access to your child’s exact location. There are countless examples of the threats Snapchat’s new feature could deliver to your child.

Another layer of intelligence has been added to the ‘Snap Map’, which enables your phone to ‘know’ what you are doing at any given time, and to project this onto your avatar within the app. For example, periods of inactivity will register with Snapchat as you being asleep, and your ‘Bitmoji’ avatar will show this on the map. Likewise, there are reports that avatars have been spotted driving, listening to music and flying, based on the user’s activity, speed of travel, and location at the time.

Of course, enabling ‘ghost mode’ will allow your child to continue to use Snapchat safely, providing they only accept ‘friend’ requests from users they know personally, and avoid contact from people they do not know or have never met in real life.

However, Snapchat has other ways in which your child’s privacy could be compromised. The ‘Our Story’ feature, for example, enables your child to post their normally private ‘snaps’ onto a publicly-accessible stream of photos based on the location where they were uploaded, simply by touching one button. With the introduction of the ‘Snap Map, this feature is now much more easily accessible to all users.

Neither of these features will work if you have adjusted the location sharing settings on your phone to disable Snapchat from accessing them. You can do this by going into the settings on either the app, or on your device.

We recommend discussing the potential dangers with your child, and showing them how to access their location sharing settings in order that they understand how to prevent danger. As a precautionary measure, it would be sensible to ensure your child has ‘ghost mode’ activated at all times, and that they avoid posting snaps to ‘Our Story’.

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