The latest child welfare stories that should be right on your radar:
- New children’s services inspections announced by Ofsted
- Children’s Social Care Statistics Get Updated
- And… Ofsted’s Annual Report on children’s social care
The latest child welfare stories that should be right on your radar:
Up to date information and awareness of trends in child welfare are important aspects of the family justice system, and also a vital source of reassurance for parents and families going through the courts.
Today we’re bringing you three sites you might find interesting. The first is called Research Gate, which offers international scientific research on a wide range of topics. There are a lot of reports on this hub looking at child welfare issues, and the research is current.
The Child Protection in Sport Unit (which is a partnership with the NSPCC and national sports bodies), also has a Resource Library, filled with videos on every aspect of child welfare and best practice content for professionals. You can access policy documents, videos, webinars and forms as well.
A big thank you to Janie Doe for sharing Research Gate with us.
Welcome to another week.
A damning report released on 24th November by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), has claimed that the Metropolitan Police’s handling of child protection cases is for the most part substandard. Of the 135 cases investigated, 90% were found to have been dealt with poorly.
The report looked at cases involving domestic abuse, police powers to protect children, sex offender management, missing children, child sexual exploitation (CSE), as well as the detention of children in police custody.
Whilst some improvements were noted, the overall picture was not encouraging, with one of the most concerning cases involving a missing 15-year-old girl, who was later found at the address of a registered sex offender.
The report follows an initial investigation by HMICFRS around the same time last year, which also highlighted serious and widespread failings by Britain’s largest police force.
The Met has blamed deep budget cuts for the ongoing problems, however the latest report suggests that there is more to the failings:
Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, Matt Parr:
“Building on the previous two reports, inspectors have seen continued improvement to the Met’s governance of child protection, despite the challenges and complexity of policing in London. For this report inspectors assessed the extent this strategic intent to improve had translated into better services to protect children.
“To do this, inspectors reviewed a sample of child protection cases. This found there were still significant weaknesses in the service provided to the children of London. Whilst inspectors recognise the scale of the task the Met faces, and would not necessarily expect to see immediate improvement in all areas, there is still clearly much work to do. The force now needs to take prompt and effective action to translate the strategic commitment into improving the service to children at risk of harm.”
The report itself specifically outlines failures which have nothing to do with budget cuts. These include failures to record communications with social services during missing children episodes and wide inconsistencies in how investigations were approached.
The report also notes that police made inappropriate comments about missing children, for example officers saying “It’s what they always do” – which also highlighted a lack of understanding in relation to additional risks associated with children who repeatedly go missing.
A raft of recommendations, with set time periods in which they should be completed, were made in the first report. The latest report confirms that whilst some recommendations have been picked up within the required time frames, several are yet to be implemented, including a skills audit of officers and staff responsible for conducting safeguarding investigations. This is a hugely important action, which could be a major factor in easing ongoing difficulties in handling child protection cases.
Our question this week then, is just this: what recommendations do you have for the Met in order to improve the way it handles child protection cases?
Researching Reform’s Freedom Of Information request asking the government what had happened to all of its child welfare consultations has finally been answered, and the reply is interesting.
Having failed to address the request within the set period, it looked as if the government was attempting to ignore the question, which asked for an update on several of its long standing child focused consultations. Researching Reform wrote to the government asking for an internal review into the failure to reply to our request. In a not altogether unsurprising move, The Department For Education then blocked the internal review with a hasty response:
Dear Natasha Phillips
Thank you for your letter requesting information on a number of government
With regards to the consultation on Mandatory Reporting Of Child Abuse:
The consultation sought views on the advisability, risk, nature and scope
of a mandatory duty to report child abuse and neglect and an alternative
duty focused on taking appropriate action, as well as the effects of
embedding current Government reforms. The Government has committed to
laying a report before Parliament on the outcome of the consultation.
Submissions are being considered and a Government response will be
published in due course.
The consultation on Vulnerable Witnesses Practice Direction: This
information is not held by the Department for Education and suggest that
you contact the Ministry of Justice (MOJ).
We published two documents on 1 November 2017 in response to the
consultation on the Care Of Unaccompanied and Trafficked Children. These
documents can be found at:
Consultation on National Fostering Stocktake: A summary of the call for
evidence for the National Fostering Stocktake will be published alongside
the reviewers’ final report in the New Year.
Consultation Analysing Family Circumstances and Education: The Department
will publish a response in due course.
Your correspondence has been allocated reference number 2017-0049974. If
you need to respond to us, please visit:
https://www.education.gov.uk/contactus and quote your reference number.
Whilst we’re told that one consultation has published its findings (the one focusing on child trafficking), we’re not actually given any firm dates for the others. The closest we get to a date is in relation to the consultation looking at the state of the Foster Care sector in England, which we’re told will publish its findings in early 2018. We chose that announcement as the headline for our post as it’s arguably the most interesting piece of news in the reply.
And the author of this letter, Paul Lucas, though he doesn’t state his role within the Department For Education, seems to be a member of the Education Funding Agency, which produces reports like this one looking at national funding formulas for schools. Whether it’s a sign of the times, the way things are done at the DfE, or an indication of the government’s knee jerk reaction to the threat of an internal review, Mr Lucas is an odd choice of author for this kind of letter.
We’ll keep you posted on these consultations.
Former Liberal Democrat MP, and family justice campaigner John Hemming has called on the Family Court to make the ruling behind murdered toddler Elsie’s adoption, public.
Elsie, whose real name was Shayla, was killed by her adoptive father in May last year. Following a national outcry over the case, pressure has begun to mount on the judge, or judges, who pushed the adoption through.
Evidence has now emerged which confirms that Shayla suffered several serious injuries in the run up to her death. As a result of these injuries she was taken to hospital twice, over a nine month period, though it is not clear how child protection and medical professionals addressed these incidents.
Hemming, who campaigns for reforms within the UK child protection system, has demanded that the reasons for allowing the adoption be published. Talking to the Swindon Advertiser, John explained:
“A family court judge must have decided that Elsie could be placed for adoption in September 2015.
A family court judge, maybe the same judge, maybe a different judge, must have approved the adoption in May 2016.
There must have been hearings, evidence and rulings.
The name of the judge or judges involved and their rulings should be made public.
There are clearly questions which need to be answered given that Elsie suffered injuries in the nine months before her death.
What evidence did the judge who approved the adoption have? What evidence was not made available? What did social services staff know?
The priority is not to point the finger blame but to learn lessons and make sure other children are protected.”
What do you think?
Many thanks to Sabine for alerting us to this development.
The child welfare developments that should be right on your radar:
Welcome to another week.
Javed Khan, Chief Executive of Children’s charity Barnardo’s has told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that children who escape from care do so because traffickers “feed them a web of lies, leading them to fear the authorities.”
The claim comes after statistics revealed that 16% of children referred to Barnardo’s own fostering network had been sexually exploited or abused, and 17% were trafficked. These figures are likely to be a conservative estimate, as it is often difficult to assess the full extent of children being exploited.
The Reuters article published in Turkey’s Daily Sabah, goes on to reference Department of Education statistics which show that over 50,000 children in England are in foster care, with thousands disappearing more than once.
2017 was also the worst year for the UK in relation to child trafficking, with the UK being the most prominent country of origin for children being trafficked. It was a record breaking effort, with the UK seeing the highest number of child trafficking cases from any country in the world this year.
And yet very little effort has been made to find out why children in care in the UK really go missing in the first place.
A 2013 report from Research in Practice is one of a handful of investigations which has tried to look at root causes of children running away from care homes and foster homes. The researchers suggest that Placements may be an issue. Their report tells us:
“Placement moves and instability in care can leave CYP [Children and Young People] lacking a sense of identity or agency, which they may try to re-establish through running away. Changing school at the same time as changing placement may increase feelings of instability… Supporting carers to stabilise placements, making well matched placements in the first instance and forward planning to avoid emergency placements can all support placement stability.”
The report goes on to detail several forms of placement which are routinely used, and which place children at much higher risk of running away from care and into the arms of traffickers.
Our question to you this week then, is just this: who is to blame for children going missing whilst in care?
A big thank you to Dana for alerting us to this story.
The latest child welfare stories that should be right on your radar:
A new piece of research written by social workers predicts that forced adoption will come to an end in the UK. The document also offers new research on the impact of adoptions on birth parents and asks whether it is right for the government to pursue adoption at any cost.
The report, entitled, “The End of Non-Consensual Adoption? Promoting the Wellbeing of Children in Care,” has been co-written by Joe Smeeton, Director of Social Work Education at the University of Salford and Jo Ward, a Principal Lecturer in the Division of Social Work and Professional Practice at Nottingham Trent University.
It’s a brave piece of research which in part goes against the grain in a country where removing vulnerable children without parental consent is seen as an acceptable practice.
The paper predicts that non consensual adoption will eventually come to an end in the UK, largely due to fierce opposition of the practice, and because fewer and fewer countries are engaging in forced adoptions, preferring instead to get parental consent first before an adoption can take place.
The research itself is balanced and fair. Jo and Joe look at the history behind adoption, the relative benefits it can sometimes offer children, particularly very young children who may not have suffered neglect or abuse for a long period of time, and the arguments against removing children from parents without consent.
They explain the paradoxes inside the world of adoption, for example, the long held view that adoption is part of our social fabric and a priority in child protection, as set against an emerging view that it must now be a method of last resort. They look too, at the guidelines shortening the time care proceedings must take and by contrast the need to move slowly in some cases. Interestingly, they pinpoint the forced element of adoptions in the UK as an underlying driver for many of these paradoxes.
The researchers also mention the tension between what they perceive to be a child rights versus parental rights paradox – and here, we would disagree with them. Whilst they explain, quite rightly, that sometimes harmful delays inside the system are down to parents trying desperately to exercise their rights with a view to halting an adoption, the research doesn’t fully explore the importance of a child needing a connection with its biological family.
We have spoken with many adoptees over the years, and several have told us that even when placed with the most loving families they carry a deep hole in their hearts not knowing who their birth parents are, and that this has left them feeling angry, a feeling which they have spent their entire lives trying to manage. It is this important connection which the research doesn’t delve into, and so we warmly invite Jo and Joe to look at this element.
The research also touches briefly upon post adoption contact, which has now become possible since the introduction of a new clause inside the Adoption and Children Act (2002). This section allows the court to make an order in favour of post adoption contact either during the making of the adoption order or any time afterwards. The contact may be in favour of:
There is also a deeply sensitive and insightful discussion on the ethics of adoption, how it affects already vulnerable people, both mothers and fathers, and completely ignores the impact it has on families, to the point where no after-care is offered to the grieving parents or extended family members.
Ultimately, the paper asks us to rethink the ways in which we care for vulnerable children, and invites a discussion on what permanence should look like in the twenty first century.
For their courageous effort and their determination to start a positive discussion about more humane ways forward in child protection, we would highly recommend reading Joe and Jo’s research. Do also take a look at a paper by Joe which he co wrote with Kathy Boxall, called “Birth parents’ perceptions of professional practice in childcare and adoption proceedings: implications for practice.”
We’d love to hear what you think.
Further information has been provided by the MP hosting a debate tomorrow in Westminster, looking at Fathers’ Rights during divorce.
The debate, which will be held in one of Westminster’s committee rooms, has been set up by Suella Fernandes MP. The agenda for the evening has been put together by Fathers’ Rights group Families Need Fathers Cymru, although they appear to have changed tack and are now attempting to call themselves a children’s rights group. We’re not very big on labels, especially when they look like a PR exercise, so you can decide for yourself if the debate below focuses on children or not.
The list of topics for the evening has now been added on the event’s page, and we add them below too for ease of reference:
The event’s page tells us that the debate has been inspired by Suella’s failed Private Members Bill looking at creating a presumption of shared parenting in law and more rigorous enforcement of court orders. These issues have historically been ones Fathers’ Rights groups have campaigned on.
As for the rest of the agenda, it also features topics that men tend to favour when discussing divorce and separation, with ‘opening up family courts’ being used in this context to try to raise awareness of the issues they feel are important.
Whilst we don’t believe for a moment that all women are blameless and all men are monsters in divorce, we have always been cynical of Families Need Fathers’ ability to truly place children at the heart of these matters. We also don’t believe a presumption of shared parenting will achieve the desired outcome of ensuring children spend time with both their parents.
As an aside, if you’re looking for a Fathers’ charity that understands how to put children first and offers the kind of support fathers really need, we highly recommend DadsHouse, the UK’s leading charity for dads, which also pioneered temporary accommodation for fathers during divorce and separation, in Europe.
Interestingly, Suella doesn’t mention the Conservatives’ Manifesto in the event’s agenda, which we suspect is the underlying reason for this debate. We also think Suella and her Tory colleagues have set up this debate as a Fathers’ Rights event to work a little like a dangling carrot. They may be hoping that their initiatives, which include trying to financially incentivise marriage, will appeal to fathers.
We would be interested to hear about the debate if you’re attending, so do stop by and let us know what you thought of it.