Safeguarding news round up – July 14, 2023

Posted: 14th July 2023

Overspends on children’s services ‘unsustainable’

Analysis by the County Councils Network (CCN) has found that sharp increases in the number of vulnerable children needing care have led to multi-million pound budget overspends at 30 of 36 county councils – with a total overspend of £316m. The number of children seeking support rose by 16,030 between 2020/21 and 2021/22, compared to a rise of just 1,044 the previous year. CCN children’s services spokesperson Cllr Keith Glazier said councils have “little choice but to overspend on their children’s services budgets to protect young people”, but warned that this is “unsustainable”.

The Independent 


Accommodation shortages could leave children in illegal homes

Care providers have warned the Commons education committee that a crackdown on unregulated accommodation for children – and a shortage of alternative accommodation – could see local authorities faced with no option but to continue using unregulated accommodation this winter even after it becomes illegal, due to a lack of options. Mark Kerr from the Children’s Homes Association, said the sector faces a “crisis” that is “going to deteriorate”, and urged the Department for Education to act. Cllr Louise Gittins, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said the LGA has “long raised concerns over the availability of homes for children in care and it is vital government works with us to address these”.

BBC News 


Support for young people leaving care an issue

Joe Swash’s foster sibling, Daniel, will always be part of their family, according to the TV star. However, many young people leaving care face a lack of support when they turn 18. Become, a charity for children in care and care leavers, highlights the challenges faced by these young people, who often feel unprepared for independence. The care system in England has been criticised for leaving care leavers without the necessary skills and emotional support. An independent review of children’s social care in England has called for a complete reset of the system. Joe Swash emphasises the need for more emotional support and lifelong relationships for care leavers. The Department for Education provides support and funding for care leavers, but there are calls for extended support until the age of 25. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are also working towards providing more support for young people transitioning from care to independent life. Joe Swash and his wife, Stacey Solomon, are considering fostering in the future, inspired by the fulfilling experience of Joe’s mother as a foster carer.

BBC News 


Government urged to pursue a ban on ‘social transitioning’ in schools

The Government has been criticised for not pursuing a ban on “social transitioning” in schools. Transgender guidance for schools due to be published in the next few weeks will allow pupils to choose their own pronouns if parents give their consent, although this will potentially be subject to certain conditions. The Sunday Telegraph reports that Whitehall sources believe that banning a child from being known by another name when it is the express wish of the parents would be “very legally difficult”. However, Maya Forstater, director of the Sex Matters campaign group, said: “This is a principle that needs to be defended, and if someone is going to end up in court it should be the Department for Education, not individual schools. Avoiding a judicial review is not what the Government should be aiming for. They should be aiming for guidance that is legally watertight and can be defended in a judicial review. That would take the risk off schools and create a safe harbour.”

The Sunday Telegraph  


Trans pupils will be able choose their school uniform and change their pronouns

New Government guidance is expected to advise that children are allowed to “socially transition” to their preferred gender identity if there is parental consent. The guidelines will allow children to change their names and pronouns and to wear the uniform of their choosing, with decisions being taken school by school. The advice, which will be published in the next fortnight, will also state that schools will be told to bar children from using toilets or changing facilities of the opposite sex, while it is expected to point to exemptions in the equality act that allow schools to provide “same-sex services” as long as they are “objectively justifiable”. The guidance will also advise that a biological male who has socially transitioned should not be permitted to join girls’ teams for certain contact and competitive school sports, such as rugby, and vice versa.

The Daily Telegraph  The Times  


Parents protest outside school over LGBT material

Parents have protested outside Birchfields Primary School in Manchester, opposing the showing of LGBT material to their children. About 100 people gathered for the rally, holding signs that read “stop sexualising our children” and “too much, too soon”. The school said it was working closely with parents to address the issues raised about the Government-set curriculum. Protesters called for all LGBT material to be restricted to relationship and sexuality education (RSE) classes, claiming a video of a seven-year-old transgender activist was shown to pupils in another lesson last year. Manchester City Council urged parents “not to disrupt learning”, adding that children and staff had the right to go to school “without fear and interruption”.

BBC News  


Teenage boy arrested after teacher stabbed in school

A teenage boy has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after a teacher was stabbed in a school corridor. The teacher, named as Jamie Sansom, was taken to hospital with a single stab wound but has since been discharged. The incident occurred at Tewkesbury Academy in Gloucestershire. The suspect fled the scene but was later apprehended by armed officers. The academy was locked down and two neighbouring schools were also asked to close as a precaution. Laurence Robertson, MP for Tewkesbury, expressed shock and sadness over the incident. Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, called the stabbing “appalling”. The Department for Education is offering support to the school.

The Daily Telegraph The Guardian  The Independent  The Times  


Pupil left behind on school trip

A pupil from Broadstone Middle School was left behind on a coach in a hotel car park after falling asleep at the end of a school trip to London. The incident was described as a “highly serious error” by the headteacher, Dawn Wilks. The school has launched an investigation into the incident and has apologised to concerned families. The pupil, who was locked in the vehicle overnight, continued with the trip the following day. This is not the first time the school has faced a safeguarding scare, as in 2017, four children were taken to hospital over fears they had ingested cocaine, which turned out to be sweets. The school and the Castleman Academy Trust, which sponsors the school, have been contacted for comment.

Daily Mail


Teacher admits child sex offences

A teacher has admitted to a string of child sex offences, including possession of thousands of child abuse images and sexually assaulting a pupil. The National Crime Agency (NCA) investigated Mark Langford after receiving a report of child abuse material. He had written a letter to his victim instructing them on what to say to investigators. Langford was found with over 2,000 indecent images of children and had engaged in conversations about child rape and child sexual abuse online. NCA operations manager Holly Triggs described Langford’s actions as “despicable and manipulative.”

BBC News 



House of Lords votes to protect children online

Social media firms, including Meta and Google, will be legally obligated to protect children from addictive online features under a new law. The House of Lords voted in favor of an amendment to the online safety bill, requiring tech giants to design their services in a way that does not harm children. The law aims to address issues such as autoplay, reward loops, and nudges that can be addictive. Ofcom will enforce the rules and can impose fines of up to 10% of a company’s global turnover for breaches. Tech bosses may also face up to two years in jail for persistent failures. The legislation is opposed by ministers, but campaigners argue that it is necessary to safeguard children online.

Daily Telegraph 


Schoolchildren outline support for stronger online regulations

Schoolchildren from Gloucestershire told an audience in the House of Lords that they back stronger online regulations, as they shared their views on the negative impact of social media. Pupils from All Saints’ Academy in Cheltenham and The Cotswold School, Bourton-on-the-Water were speaking ahead of scrutiny of the Online Safety Bill which is due to be heard in the Lords on Thursday. They were hosted by the Bishop of Gloucester, the Right Revd Rachel Treweek, who is calling for stronger age verifications online. Bishop Treweek said viewing harmful content online can have a “long-lasting, negative impact” on how young people view themselves.

BBC News  


Pupils vote to ban mobile phones

Pupils at Glasgow Gaelic School have voted to ban mobile phones in order to reduce screen time and improve social skills. The school has implemented a policy of not allowing phones to be used during and between classes. The head teacher, Gillian Campbell-Thow, stated that the move has already proven to be popular, with more people talking to each other and reading. Parents and pupils have voiced their support for the changes. The school plans to expand the policy by designating technology-free zones. This comes after parents at Dunbar Secondary School petitioned to have mobile phones banned due to behavioural issues. The ban aims to combat pupils’ growing addiction to their devices.

The Times  



Former refugee urges MPs to reject plans to detain children indefinitely

Ali Ghaderi, a former refugee who came to the UK as an unaccompanied child, has called on MPs to reject the Government’s plans to detain children indefinitely. Ghaderi emphasised that children should not be punished and put in “prison” for seeking safety, and warned of the devastating psychological toll that detaining youngsters will have. He urged politicians to vote against the Illegal Migration Bill, stating that punishing innocent children who are victims of those in power is against humanity. Ghaderi’s plea is supported by over 150 charity and healthcare bosses, as well as religious leaders, who have signed an open letter to Rishi Sunak, warning that 45,000 children could be locked up in just three years. The letter highlights the significant deterioration in the mental and physical health of detained children. Refugee Council chief executive Enver Solomon emphasised the need to protect refugee children rather than punish them. The Home Office has announced concessions to address concerns about child detention, but maintains that excluding certain cohorts from the legislation could incentivise dangerous journeys and put them at greater risk.


Gangs exploit children in UK drug trade

Merseyside’s gangs are exploiting children by sending them across the UK with drugs, weapons, and cash. British Transport Police Inspector Brian Buddo warns that crime groups do not see any boundaries to their criminal activities as they establish county lines around the country. The gangs treat the UK as a “buffet table” for illegal commodities, targeting vulnerable children as young as nine. These children are drawn into the lifestyle through social media adverts promising them £500 a day. Once involved, it is difficult for them to escape. The gangs have no hesitation in using violence to achieve their aims, and parents and carers feel a profound loss as their children become strangers to them. Authorities are determined to target and arrest those who exploit children, bringing them to justice for modern-day slavery and human trafficking offenses.

Liverpool Echo


Man sentenced for child drug trafficking

Dominic Francis has been sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison for recruiting children as young as 14 to sell drugs in Newham. Another man was also sentenced to three years and two months for his involvement in the drug operation. The investigation by the Met’s Modern Slavery and Child Exploitation unit found that Francis had been ordering the recruitment of children to sell drugs throughout London and the south east. Detective Chief Inspector Laura Hillier stated, “This investigation has brought justice to a man who used the lives of young and vulnerable people for his own personal gain.” Over 25 children, aged between 14 and 17, were identified and safeguarded during the investigation. Francis also implicated higher-level drug suppliers, leading to a further investigation and the disruption of a drugs line that had been operating for over 15 years.

London Evening Standard



Teacher who tried to build army of child jihadists struck off

A teacher who was jailed for life after using Islamic State propaganda to recruit child jihadists for terror attacks in London has been struck off from the profession. Umar Haque, who was sentenced to a minimum of 25 years in prison, appeared before a disciplinary panel convened by the Teaching Regulation Agency. Haque, who made children aged between 11 and 14 act out battles between police and ISIS fighters, was employed at the Lantern of Knowledge School in east London. The panel found that Mr Haque’s conduct demonstrated a lack of tolerance and/or hatred on the grounds of race/religion and/or the undermining of fundamental British values.

The Sunday Telegraph  

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