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Child sexual offences jump 57% in 5 years

The NSPCC has released figures from a Freedom of Information (FOI) request sent to police forces across the UK asking them for the number of recorded sexual offences against children under the age of 18 between 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2020. Figures show there were 73,518 recorded offences including rape, online grooming and sexual assault against children in the UK in 2019/20 – up 57% in the 5 years since 2014/15.

Where gender and age were recorded:

  • girls were 4 times as likely to be victims
  • there were more than 8,000 offences committed against 14-year-olds, making it the most common age group to report offences
  • there were 12,374 sex crimes recorded against children under 10
  • 449 offences were recorded against babies yet to reach their first birthday. 

The figures on child sexual abuse show the need for national leadership in response and the NSPCC has urged the Home Office to publish and implement its Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy.

The strategy was announced by then Home Secretary Sajid Javid at the ‘How Safe are our Children’ conference in June last year. In May the Home Office said it “will shortly publish the first of its kind cross-government Child Sexual Abuse Strategy to improve the UK’s response to tackling this abhorrent crime”. The strategy has yet to be published.

Thanks and credit to the NSPCC

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Department of Transport outlines need for Safeguarding

The Department of Transport has released statutory Taxi and private hire vehicle standards this month which clearly outlines the importance of safeguarding;

"As with any group of people, it is overwhelmingly the case that those within the industry can be an asset in the detection and prevention of abuse or neglect of children and vulnerable adults. However, this is only the case if they are aware of and alert to the signs of potential abuse and know where to turn to if they suspect that a child or vulnerable adult is at risk of harm or is in immediate danger"

The standards outline that Local Authorities with the power to license taxi services should "provide safeguarding advice and guidance to the trade and should require taxi and private hire vehicle drivers to undertake safeguarding training. This is often produced in conjunction with the police and other agencies. These programmes have been developed to help drivers and operators:

• provide a safe and suitable service to vulnerable passengers of all ages; 

• recognise what makes a person vulnerable; and

• understand how to respond"

This is welcome news for a number of Safeguarding Partnerships that have strived to ensure this is implemented. 

The full standards can be accessed here.

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Keeping Children Safe In Education 2020 Published

Released without any warning on 17th June, Keeping Children Safe in Education 2020 was published. Expressions of disappointment were clear from a variety of agencies who had awaited a number of additional updates to this statutory guidance for the education sector which were outlined within the KCSIE 2020 consultation draft.

The government have been clear that the coronavirus pandemic resulted in this guidance being released and a further consultation period to be undertaken in September 2020 at the point where this guidance comes in to force. There are, however some notable changes to the 2019 edition.

These areas include:

  • mental health
  • whole school safeguarding culture
  • emphasising the important role of governing bodies in robust safeguarding
  • information about child criminal exploitation and child sexual exploitation
  • supply staff included in safeguarding concerns re: staff/volunteers
  • children who have a social worker
  • Data Protection: toolkit for schools
  • RSHE – opportunity to teach children about safeguarding 

For more detailed information, please come to one of our safeguarding webinars.

A copy of the full guidance can be found here

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More than 1,000 children have been linked to county lines drug gangs following a three-week crackdown by authorities.

The National County Lines Coordination Centre (NCLCC) said the children were among more than 2,400 vulnerable children protected in October 2018, January and May this year.

Around 131 referrals were made to the National Referral Mechanism, which identifies possible victims of human trafficking.

A total of 1,882 arrests were made, 403 drugs lines disrupted, £182,000 worth of drugs seized and 391 weapons - including 38 firearms - were found during the three week intensified crackdown.

The Home Office NCLCC was set up in a bid to target gangs exploiting children to sell drugs throug the so-called county-lines.

The term refers to the mobile phone lines dedicated to taking orders from drug users, which are operated by gangs from large cities who have expanded into smaller towns.

Young and vulnerable people often have their homes made into bases where drugs are sold from and turned into drug dens.

NPCC lead for county lines, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Duncan Ball, said: “Since the NCLCC was set up we have made great strides in tackling and dismantling cruel county lines gangs and protecting the vulnerable people exploited by them.

“The large number of arrests and weapons seized is testament to the hard work and dedication of the centre and of officers across the country who work tirelessly to pursue and prosecute those involved.”

The NCA predict there are around 2,000 "deal lines" in operation.

Nikki Holland, the NCA’s county lines lead and director of investigations, said: “Thanks to the dedication of law enforcement officers over the past year since the centre launched, we have been able to target county lines networks in a co-ordinated way like never before – taking huge numbers of drugs and weapons off the streets and safeguarding those most vulnerable.”

Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire Kit Malthouse added: “County lines has a devastating impact on our communities and we are working relentlessly to disrupt these gangs and put an end to the exploitation of children and vulnerable adults.”

Credit: ITV

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Forty children as young as 14 recruited to deal drugs inside school

A county lines drug gang forced 40 children to deal cannabis and cocaine at a single school.

The teens, some as young as 14, had been supplied with drugs and dealing kits including deal bags and scales. 

Police say grown-up dealers had a network of 40 pupils dealing at the school which has just over 1,200 pupils - meaning one in thirty was possibly selling drugs.

It is suspected that girls as young as 14 at Kingsdown School in Swindon, Wiltshire, have been pestered for sex in exchange for cocaine.

And the dawn police raid yesterday - on the eve of GCSE results - revealed the extent of the teens coerced into the operation.

Wiltshire Police arrested a 27-year-old man during the raid. He has since been released under investigation.

Sgt Nathan Perry, who planned the 7am raid, said: "We found the person we're looking for, we've managed to safeguard the children who were at risk and we've found drugs.

"We all know about county lines and the risks associated with that.

"The difficulty with this type of drugs operation is that it's specifically targeting very young children in order to get them to deal drugs.

"Some of the information we've been passed is that children are not only being coerced into this activity, but they're also being physically threatened.

"If they go to police or teachers they'll be harmed," he added. 

Police were said to have been alerted to the gang at Kingsdown School.

A pair of older teen boys, both 16, are believed to have been supplying a network of up to 40 children in their mid-teens at the Swindon school.

The 27-year-old was arrested during the morning raid on suspicion of possession of class B drugs with intent to supply and inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.

The raid came as Swindon police focused their sights on modern slavery.

Nationally, police have increasingly turned to modern slavery laws to target drug dealers who force children and vulnerable adults to peddle their product.

Sgt Perry said those convicted could expect sentences of up to 15 years imprisonment.

"You've got children being exploited and young kids being forced to run the drugs. We will take it seriously," he said.

"The sheer nature of the exploitation of these young people is unacceptable.

"If we don't do something to stop that they're potentially going to be at risk for the rest of their lives.

 
"They need that positive engagement and we're not going to be able to do that until we remove their handlers, for want of a better word."
 
If children start becoming more withdrawn, secretive about their possessions and start acquiring cash and expensive clothes without explanation, it could be a sign they are being exploited by the gangs.
 
Article reported by Tom Seaward for the Mirror.
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