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New Research on Protecting Disabled Children from Sexual Abuse

An interesting piece of research commissioned by the NSPCC has been released.

A key finding is that schools and other agencies should work in partnership with parents to ensure that disabled children receive consistent, clear, accessible information on safe touch, choice and control, puberty, sex, relationships and abuse, and knowing how to let others know when they feel unsafe.

Research identifies that disabled children are three to four times more likely to experience abuse (Jones et al, 2012). Professionals, communities and parents all play important roles in keeping disabled children safe from sexual abuse. Despite the important role that parents play, there is a lack of research evidence on how parents understand and address issues around child sexual abuse, particularly preventing child sexual abuse. The study aimed to address this gap in understanding in order to provide better support for parents.

To view the report click 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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International Child Protection Certificate Launched

It has become common practice that UK nationals or UK Registered Sex Offenders will travel overseas to gain access to vulnerable children for the purposes of sexually abusing them. They do this by seeking direct contact with children through employment, volunteering and charity work.

In a joint initiative, the National Crime Agency's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command (NCA-CEOP) and ACRO have developed the International Child Protection Certificate (ICPC) to help protect children from offenders.

The ICPC is a criminal record check against police and intelligence databases located in the UK. It is similar to the DBS check and provides information on convictions and cautions as well as impending prosecutions and offences that are under investigation.

Schools and organisations that are registered for the ICPC scheme can request a job applicant to provide a certificate as part of their recruitment process. Furthermore, existing employees can be asked to periodically produce an ICPC as part of their ongoing inspection processes.

When used alongside robust safeguarding procedures, the ICPC enables overseas schools and organisations to make informed decisions about whether the people they employ are suitable to work with children.

If you are an organisation functioning abroad, please include the ICPC within your recruitment process. You will be taking an important step in helping to protect vulnerable children from those individuals who intend to sexually abuse and exploit them. For more information, including in other languages, please visit: www.acro.police.uk/icpc.

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Following another death at a University due to mental illness, the student’s father has been working with Universities around the UK, such as Bristol and East London, to develop a new system to assist with individuals who require support. The aim is to identify students who need but don't ask for help by analysing their digital footprint. A trail is left when they attend lectures, take out books at the library or log in to the computer system. Through analytics they then can build a student profile that is updated regularly.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show 95 recorded university student suicides for the 12 months to July 2017 in England and Wales. But around half of students who take their own lives are not known to mental health services.

Last September, vice-chancellor Hugh Brady brought in an initiative that allows students to opt in to a scheme that would allow staff to contact a friend or relative if there were serious concerns about a student's mental health. According to Mr Brady, around 95% of students have signed up and since the scheme started, just over a dozen students had been a cause for concern. "We've probably considered it so far this year in maybe about 15 students. We have actively used it in about five.”

Other institutions doing their part are Wolverhampton University, who have trained 450 staff including security guards, caretakers and cleaners to recognise early warning signs in students; and Nottingham Trent University has a dashboard for staff and students that generates an alert after 14 days of lack of engagement.

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