|The Education Secretary is under pressure to explain why his department signed off on a professional conduct panel’s decision to allow a teacher who had been cautioned for downloading child abuse images to return to work. The teacher was dismissed by his employers in December 2011 after police found nearly 200 illegal images on his computer. However, the conduct panel ruled that he should be allowed to return to teaching as he did ‘not represent a risk to children and young people’.
|Source: BBC Online 06 June 2013|
Students who are the first in their family to attend university are to work with local young people on community projects, as part of a new scheme launched by the National Children’s Bureau. The Life Skills Programme aims to help 14-to 17-year-olds build their skills and confidence. NCB participation and involvement manager Sophie Wood said many of the young people on the project do not aspire to attend further education or training but it is hoped that working with “first-generation students” will “inspire them to make positive choices.”
Google have been urged to restrict access to images of child abuse, after paedophile Mark Bridger was jailed for the murder of April Jones.The Guardian reports that John Carr, a government adviser on child internet safety, said it should be made more difficult to access hardcore pornography sites. He said he will be urging Google to take measures in a meeting with the company next week.
The number of young people getting into trouble with the law for the first time is continuing to plummet, latest figures show.
Statistics released by the Ministry of Justice yesterday show that 28,711 under-18s entered the criminal justice system for the first time in 2012, a drop of 24 per cent on the 2011 figure of 37,787.
Meanwhile, the total number of young people sentenced for offences fell from 63,424 in 2011, to 47,515 in 2012.
First-time entrants are categorised as those receiving their first conviction, caution, reprimand, or warning. The latest fall continues the trend of recent years.
Numbers peaked in the year 2007 when there were 110,826 first-time entrants.
Tim Bateman, criminologist at the University of Bedfordshire, said the abolition of police targets for crime “detections” in 2008 contributed to the fall in first-time entrants to the system.
He explained that this has given the police greater discretion to make decisions according to the circumstances of the case, meaning fewer children and young people are criminalised unnecessarily for minor offending.
The police are issuing far fewer reprimands and final warnings – there was a 26 per cent drop in their use in the year 2012 compared with 2011. Bateman said this suggests that police and youth offending teams are using alternative, informal measures such as community resolutions and triage for relatively minor offences.
“Given the evidence that formal contact with the youth justice system can increase the chances of reoffending, this would appear to be a sensible approach,” he said.
Lucy Dawes, Youth Justice Board (YJB) lead on community, said the fall is a result of partnership working across youth offending teams, the police, and local authorities.
“The YJB’s aim is to prevent children and young people from entering the youth justice system. Strong evidence shows that once deterred young people move on to live a life free from crime.”
Figures for the year 2012 build on the latest financial-year figures, published in February, which showed that there were 36,677 first-time entrants between April 2011 and March 2012. This represented a 20 per cent decrease on the 2010/11 figure of 45,910.
The numbers of first-time entrants is one of the Youth Justice Board’s three “headline measures” for the system, alongside numbers of under-18s in custody and reoffending rates.
Like first-time entrants, the numbers of young people in custody has been dropping. In March this year, there were 1,291 under-18s in custody – less than half the figure for 2009.
However, the rate of young people reoffending within 12 months of leaving custody remains above 70 per cent.
Children’s homes will be required to notify local councils when children move in from other areas, under new government measures to tackle child sexual exploitation
The changes will also oblige homes to carry out a risk assessment of their local area alongside police and the local authority to make sure children are safe from sexual exploitation, gangs and other threats.
Children’s homes could be closed down or refused registration if their local area poses too many risks.
The reforms will also require decisions on placing children in care far from their home to be made by a senior official.
The measures are a response to the Office of the Children’s Commissioner’s inquiry into child sexual exploitation in gangs and groups, which followed the sentencing last May of nine men who groomed and abused young girls in Rochdale.
The Department for Education said the measures will help develop “strong, constructive relationships” between children’s homes and the local authority area they are located in.
In addition, the DfE will review the effectiveness of children’s homes provision and test alternative ways of delivering support.
There will also be a comprehensive review of the training, qualifications and career pathways for both new and existing staff in children’s homes.
Ellen Broome, policy director at The Children’s Society, said last year’s parliamentary inquiry into children going missing from care identified that thousands of children were being failed by the systems and professionals tasked with keeping them safe.
“Changing these damaging professional attitudes, alongside measures to address the poor quality of care too many children receive, is key to making sure these vulnerable children are kept safe,” she said.
“We look forward to seeing more detail about the plans and working with the government and professionals to make the system better.”
Jonathan Stanley, chief executive of the Independent Children’s Homes Association, said that while his organisation is committed to “comprehensive transformation of children’s homes”, there is a need to reform the entire looked-after children system.
“We hope that these are the start of many more announcements,” he said.
“If these are all that results then it will be too little, too slow.”
The DfE will also release a data pack in the summer that will include detailed information about each children’s home in England by local authority and area.
It hopes the data will make it easier for local authorities to find good quality placements.
Government confirms changes to adoption process
The government has confirmed it is to push ahead with a series of legal changes to speed up the adoption system.
In its response to the Adoption and Fostering: Tackling Delay consultation, the government has outlined measures to ensure adopters are approved more quickly and to overcome blockages in the legal system that slow the adoption process.
Changes include a two-stage approval process for adopters to ensure the majority of adopters are approved to adopt within six months. A fast-track procedure for approved foster carers and previous adopters who wish to adopt will also be introduced.
There will be a legal obligation on all adoption agencies to refer prospective adopters to the Adoption Register within three months of approval, and ensure information on children waiting to be adopted is kept up to date.
Minister for children and families Edward Timpson said prospective adopters had been dissuaded from adopting children in the past because of delays.
“So we’re overhauling the system to encourage more people to adopt, and making it swifter, more effective and robust,” said Timpson.
“The Children and Families Bill will place a new duty on local authorities to inform adopters about the support available to them.”
According to research published by the DfE in March, about 658,000 people feel they are very likely or certain to consider adopting at some point in the future, but may be put off by misconceptions about the process, including lack of support.
An investigation has been launched into why hundreds of children go missing after being placed in care in Kent. The BBC reports that in 2011/12, more than 200 children were reported missing for more than 24 hours. Kent has around 1,800 children in its care system, with a further 1,200 children placed in care in the county from other areas, who remain the responsibility of their home local authority. Jenny Whittle, head of children’s services at the authority said a working group of county councillors will be set up to find out why children are going missing.
Parents back schools to teach about dangers of online porn
Both primary and secondary schools should play a major role in teaching children about the dangers of online pornography, new research suggests.
A survey of 1,009 parents, carried out on behalf of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), found that more than three-quarters (83 per cent) thought schools should share with them the responsibility for teaching children about the risks associated with viewing pornography online.
The majority (51 per cent) of survey respondents said lessons about internet porn should not take place until secondary school, however 42 per cent thought it appropriate for schools to teach children about the risks as soon as they were old enough to access the internet, even if aged five or six.
Just seven per cent of parents thought the subject was inappropriate to be taught in school, while 13 per cent thought it should be the sole responsibility of parents to educate children about it.
The survey also found that 60 per cent of parents were worried or very worried about their children viewing explicit material of a violent or sexual nature online, while 90 per cent supported the idea that all equipment that can access the internet should come with a default block on pornographic websites that require users to “opt in” to view.
Despite parents’ concerns, 80 per cent said they felt confident or very confident about protecting their children online, and a similar proportion felt confident about talking to their child about sex and relationships.
The issue of pornography is becoming increasingly troubling to teachers as they attempt to manage the impact of readily-accessible explicit material on pupils’ self-image and perceptions of sexuality.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of NAHT, said: “NAHT has repeatedly said that young people must be protected from pornography and children should receive appropriate guidance as part of relationship and sex education. We would also like to see improved advice for schools to help them manage these issues most effectively.
“There is no place for explicit materials in the classroom or school, even in the course of teaching about their dangers, but many young people are exposed to such materials on the internet and phones. In the face of this, young people need to know how to cope with and avoid these distorted views of relationships.
“It is reassuring to see that parents accept that schools are an essential part of the support network for their children. In a fast-paced communications environment that can present pupils with confusing messages, few parents believe there is an option to pretend it isn’t happening.”
|The Fostering Network has published the results of a survey of 1,439 foster families in the UK which shows that in the last two years, 61% of foster carers have cared for children who had previously moved at least twice between homes. 43% had looked after at least one child who had been moved four or more times. 11% of carers had looked after children who had had at least 10 previous placements. The charity warns that this instability is due to a nationwide shortage of foster carers.
|Source: The Fostering Network|
|CEOP has published its annual review which reveals that in 2012/2013 it safeguarded 790 children, an increase of 85% on the previous year. Over the next year, CEOP will focus its activities on tackling: the proliferation of indecent images of children; online child sexual exploitation; transnational child sexual abuse; and contact sexual abuse, particularly organised abuse and the risks posed to missing children.
|Source: CEOP press release 14 May 2013 / Caspar|
Annual review 2012-2013 and centre plan 2013-2014 (PDF)