Safeguarding e-Bulletin – 24th January 2023

Sam Preston 24 January 2023 14 min read
 

Welcome to the first SSS Learning ebulletin of 2023. There is no doubt that education, like many other sectors, face huge challenges in staff recruitment / retention with ever increasing demands on budgets. In response to this, I am delighted to say that we have pledged to support all educational settings by maintaining our pricing structures without any increases for 2023.

But that doesn’t mean we will compromise on our safeguarding service delivery. We have a full development plan for the year with new courses, resources and system developments, not to forget our new website which is a hub of information.

I know that information is crucial to support safeguarding best practice and to support you so, in addition to our regular news e-bulletins, we will also be delivering a selection of feature articles each week on a wide range of topics. For example, our January titles include:

From expert opinion pieces to providing latest topical safeguarding information, we’ll be covering all things safeguarding!

In February we will be adding a brand-new course, designed specifically to support staff in educational settings, 'The Role of the Appropriate Adult' as part of our specialist roles training offer. This comprehensive course explores the role in detail and provides specific guidance to support best practice and help staff gain an understanding of the appropriate adult role.

As ever, we have a comprehensive schedule of additional new courses currently in development. This includes training for another specialist role, The Designated Teacher for Looked After Children (LAC). The course explores the statutory requirements of the role with guidance for best practice.

Media coverage of Andrew Tate has led many schools to contact us to request information on INCEL subculture. (INCEL subculture is an online community of young men who consider themselves unable to attract women sexually, and who typically have views that are hostile and derogatory towards women). I can confirm we are currently developing a new thematic course titled INCEL subculture – the safeguarding implications for schools, which explores the philosophy and terminology used by this subculture and will provide practical guidance for educational settings.

In addition, we are currently authoring a new course on how to support families which do not meet social care thresholds, another topic which your feedback has shown to be presenting a real challenge for schools. I will keep you up-to-date on a release date for this and our other new courses in our forthcoming ebulletins.

Following on from the positive feedback we received, I can also confirm we will be providing our usual bespoke KSCIE training update once the HM Government annual review of Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) is completed. Of course, we will also ensure all our training courses are updated with any necessary revisions to meet KCSIE standards.

So, it's an exciting start to the year! Rest assured that, although there will be no cost increases this year, we are continuing our full development programmes and, as ever, are fully committed to providing you with the highest levels of support.

Child-specific terrorism orders- will they put vulnerable children at risk?

Former children's commissioner for England Anne Longfield, Chair of the Commission on Young Lives and former Children’s Commissioner for England, has voiced her concerns that the plans for child-specific terrorism orders could place vulnerable children at risk. (The orders were devised in response to the growing numbers of children being arrested for terror related offences).

'While protecting the public from harm must always be the top priority, other than in very extreme cases, we should be looking at every option available to divert these young people away from the criminal justice system.'

The plans under consideration mean that offenders could either be prosecuted and face imprisonment or accept behavioural conditions under order, such as limitations on access to certain devices or online material.

Latest Home Office arrest statistics, show a continued increase in teens arrested for terrorism-related offences, with under 18s making up 16 per cent of the total number of arrests for counter-terrorism, a 3 per cent increase on the previous year.

In an interview with The Guardian, Jonathon Hall KC stated that he hopes the new measures will provide better outcomes for cases in which the relevant criminal conduct relates entirely to what children are saying or downloading online.

Whilst these proposals provide scope for diverting children and young people from entering the criminal justice system, should a breach of the alternative conditions occur then the offence could still be punishable by the courts.

As we advocated in our article 'Rhianan Rudd: Radicalised, Groomed and Exploited', for a child to become radicalised there must be an instigator who feeds and grooms them through coercive control and exploitation. It is important to consider this as a form of exploitation and recognise the child as a victim of adult manipulation and exploitation rather than merely labelling them a terrorist. Taking this approach shifts the focus to the causes of this type of exploitation and will direct appropriate support to vulnerable children at risk.

Huge increase in child mental health care referrals.

As we highlighted in our recent article, the number of children in England referred for serious mental health problems has risen by 39 per cent in a year, with mental health treatment referrals for under-18s having increased to more than 1.1m in 2021-22.

Chair of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Dr Elaine Lockhart, reflects that the rise in referral includes children who are suicidal, self-harming, suffering psychosis, serious depression or severe anxiety, and those with eating disorders. In particular, Dr Lockhart highlights that targets for seeing children with eating disorders are sliding 'completely', urging that more trained staff are needed. Dr Lockhart commented:

“I think what's frustrating for us is if we could see them more quickly and intervene, then the difficulties might not become as severe as they do because they've had to wait.”

NHS Digital data shows hospital admissions for eating disorders among children have risen by 82% over 2 years.

Whilst Department of Health and Social Care plans include growing the mental health workforce, it is clear that staff in schools also need the skills to support children with eating disorders in the school setting. For more information access our article Eating Disorders - Supporting children and Young People in schools or watch our YouTube video presentation.

Will the new Online Safety Bill Hold Tech Bosses to Account?

Whilst it is still the intention to pass the Online Safety Bill during this parliamentary session, there are concerns that, in its current form, it will not go far enough towards making social media companies liable.

Campaigners including Ruth Moss, mother of Sophie Parkinson who died after having viewed suicidal and self-harm posts on social media, fear that in its current form the Bill fails to place liability for decisions made by social media bosses which result in preventable harm or abuse. They are advocating for tougher social media regulation and that the Bill should include making social media bosses liable if they fail to give information to the proposed new regulator Ofgem.

Sophie, who died at her home in Scotland aged just 13, not only viewed social media posts on suicide and self-harm but was also groomed via these platforms. Ms Moss, a nurse, has joined the campaign to make social media and technology companies liable for the content on their sites, with the intention of making the internet safer for children and teenagers.

Commenting, Ms Moss said:

“As far as I'm concerned, where companies wilfully break the law and put the lives of children like my daughter at risk, of course senior managers should be criminally accountable. There is no reason in my mind as to why big tech executives should be treated any differently. The consequences of non-compliance are life-changing for children like Sophie. Criminal liability drives the right behaviours in those with the most responsibility. It works in other industries and there is no reason in my mind as to why big tech executives should be treated any differently.”

To date, 2,192 people in Scotland have signed an open letter to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Michelle Donelan, in support of this legislative change.

House of Lords finds inadequate implementation of the Children and Families Act

Criticisms have been made in a report published by a House of Lords committee which was set up to scrutinise and assess if the Children and Families Act 2014 was being followed.

The report has found that the Act has 'largely missed an opportunity to improve the lives of children and young people'. Whilst the Act 'should have been a landmark piece of legislation' the report highlights failings in 'insufficient data and inadequate implementation and monitoring' which it says has contributed to children and their families feeling let down by the system.

The report calls for more robust systems of monitoring and assessing the act in practice with a focus on vulnerable children, children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, support for separating families and ethnic and racial disparities in the adoption system.

It particularly highlighted the lack of consideration for the mental health needs of children, which the report states is 'notably absent from the act'. The findings criticise HM Government for the crisis in Child and Adolescent Mental Health services (CAMHs) and their part in 'allowing services to deteriorate to this level', stating that ministers have 'not grasped the important and severity of this problem'.

The inquiry heard directly from children, young people and their families who shared the challenges they face and how they felt let down by the systems designed to support them. Baroness Tyler of Enfield, Committee Chair stated:

“The welfare of children and young people should be the government's paramount concern when developing policies in this area. We urge them not to allow another eight years to pass before they make the improvements which are so demonstrably necessary.”

Should 'care-experience' be recognised as a protected characteristic?

A report produced by Coram Voice in partnership with the National Youth Agency has found that more than half of care-experienced young people said they would like care experience to be a protected characteristic.

Background:

The Equality Act (2010) currently protects people from discrimination, defining 'protected characteristics' on the following grounds:

  • Ethnicity
  • Sex
  • Gender Reassignment
  • Disability
  • Religion and belief
  • Age
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Marriage and civil partnerships

These characteristics have the potential to impact on a person's opportunities. To ensure equality of opportunity, everyone should have an equal chance to access and take up opportunities, to make full use of opportunities on offer and to fulfil their full potential regardless of the above stated characteristics. They should not be treated differently or discriminated against because of their 'protected characteristics'.

Findings:

The research, which included more than 80 care-experienced children and young people aged 8 to 25yrs as respondents, found that more than 60 per cent supported identifying care experienced as a protected characteristic.

In addition, worryingly the report also found that 31 per cent of children and young people did not know how to access an advocate. The report also suggests that this figure is probably lower across the entire population of children in care, suggesting that children who are not in contact with youth organisations are unlikely to have an awareness of their right to advocacy.

The report recommendations include:

Implementing the Care Review's recommendation for an opt-out model of independent advocacy support; Redevelopment of the independent visitor service in collaboration with young people, including the addition of a legal duty for local authorities to offer children in care and care leavers an independent visitor or befriending service up to the age of 25; Prioritisation on consulting widely on making care experience a protected characteristic, with more resources produced to explain to young people what this means.

Action called to address safeguarding concerns in out-of-school settings (OOSS)

The Department For Education are being urged to introduce powers to enable Local Authorities to regulate out-of-school provision.

The Local Government Association is calling on the DFE to implement the findings of the a report detailing the lessons learnt from the DFE pilot, which has identified safeguarding concerns in out-of-school settings. The DFE provided £3 million of funding to pilot 'an approach to demonstrate the benefits of multi-agency working between local authorities (LAs) and relevant agencies to help LAs enhance their identification and engagement with out-of-school-settings (OOSS), and intervention in those of safeguarding concern.'

Findings – what are the safeguarding issues?

This pilot identified the following key safeguarding issues in the OOSS sector:

  • OOSS (from tutors to sports clubs; tuition centres to arts and drama groups; youth organisations to afterschool clubs) have no obligation to notify anyone of their existence. This means that every day of the week millions of children attend activities that have no mandatory compulsion to be checked, have no requirements for basic safety standards to be in place, nor are regulated by a government or regulatory agency;
  • OOSS have no compulsory obligations with regards to their safe practice. Although some providers will choose to put checks and safeguarding policies in place, there is no national requirement to prove children in their care are at no risk, staff do not have to be DBS checked, and they don’t have to have basic first aid knowledge in order to run their business. There is therefore no way for LAs, or LA OOSS teams where they exist, to check if providers have any of these practices in place or to require them to do so;
  • The capacity of agencies and local authority teams who are set up to deal with safeguarding issues (such as the LADO or police) is limited, evidence thresholds for raising concerns in OOSS are high and there is a lack of clear legal accountability – including no nominated person within an LA with responsibility for OOSS specifically. This lack of accountability for OOSS within LAs means that issues raised (including those that are not taken further) are not consistently recorded and monitored. This all results in these settings being more susceptible to abuse;
  • There are limited, disparate and poorly understood powers for anyone to get entry to OOSS premises, especially if they take place in a private dwelling. This means that unless very specific circumstances are satisfied (for example, the home is registered as a business premises; evidence of fire or health and safety standards has been provided) it is very difficult for anyone to intervene;
  • The DfE OOSS Safeguarding Code of Practice is voluntary and very few providers or parents are aware of its existence. It therefore only impacts those who are proactive and engaged and is unlikely to shift the behaviour and practice of those who want to remain under the radar, which are the settings of highest concern;
  • From their work with parents, LAs identified that there is a common misconception that the OOSS sector is regulated and that there are similar levels of oversight in place as there are with other educational and childcare providers. It was reported that some parents also said they would have concerns about what questions to ask of providers to ensure they were safe, or how to raise concerns about them.

Recommendations – how can safeguarding be improved?

Based on these findings the report suggests the DFE should consider addressing the following issues:

  • Consider aligning safety in OOSS to existing practice in schools, childcare and other services for children.
  • Explore making all OOSS providers register with the LA or an appropriate agency with oversight responsibilities, as is the case with childcare providers and others who work closely with children, such as chaperones. This could be a resource intensive system, but necessary in order to keep children safe. It would differ from the register proposed in 2015, in that the register would be held within the LA, and the LA would be responsible for knowing who was providing OOSS and would be able to check basic safeguarding procedures, such as DBS checks, were in place (as opposed to checking the content of teaching or activities being delivered).
  • Investigate making all OOSS comply with basic (and repeated) safeguarding checks – DBS, first aid, health & safety, safeguarding policies, etc.
  • Consider increasing capacity in LAs and designating them as responsible for supporting and overseeing that OOSS are safe – to ensure safeguarding requirements are being met, take preventative action, and investigate and record issues that do not meet LADO threshold. This could either be through increased LADO capacity or with a designated role for OOSS responsibility within LAs.
  • Clarify guidance and applicability of 'Working together to safeguard children' to make regulations apply to OOSS. Review further legislation to enforce compliance with safeguarding practice, to record individuals in breach of this (for example through the DBS system, which may then prevent them operating) and to close down OOSS who are not compliant.
  • Set up clear routes to enable the notification of issues of concern in OOSS, identifying them as such (for monitoring purposes) and escalating them effectively – from LADO level to local MASH teams and through to senior LA Departments.
  • Improve and effectively disseminate information for parents on using only 'safe' providers.

Alternative provision for primary-age pupils in England: a long-term 'destination' or a 'temporary solution'?

Ofsted has produced a report on alternative provision (AP) for pupils of primary school age.

The report details the findings of a qualitative research study, which explored the purpose of alternative provision, the reasons why primary-age pupils are referred to it, and the expectations for their progress and outcomes. Whilst the report identifies examples of joined-up working that would benefit pupils, it also highlights the challenges in supporting primary-age pupils with additional needs. This includes lack of access to specialist help and breakdowns in relationships between parents and school staff.

Sam Preston

SSS Learning Safeguarding Director


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