Social Workers attempt to identify Romanian working children

Posted on October 26th, 2010

Social Workers in Worcestershire were drafted in by West Mercia Police last night to try to identify children found working in a field yesterday.

The seven children were found picking spring onions in a field in freezing conditions.  The children had not been given appropriate clothing for the cold temperatures, and were being transported to the farm in the back of a truck.

Six of the children were still in care last night while Social Workers try to ascertain how the individuals are linked.  The operation, which was instigated by West Mercia Police and the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA), found five boys and two girls at the scene, as well as a small group of Indian workers.

This is the first time the GLA has found children working in fields in Britain.  There have been no arrests as yet, but two men are reported to have escaped from the police after they attempted to detain them.

In the UK, there is a minimum working age of 14, and the hours that they work are strictly limited to school holidays and weekends.  Under-16s are not covered by the national minimum wage.

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Work pressures affect Social Workers’ ability to protect Children

Posted on October 15th, 2010

A survey by the British Association of Social Workers last week revealed that a staggering amount of Front Line Social Workers feel that they have been unable to protect children in their care due to the pressure of work.

1390 Social Workers were interviewed for the survey, and the results show that the constraints of Front Line Social Work have put a significant amount of pressure on staff.  Of those surveyed 70% believed that they had been unable to protect a child due to the constraints of their job.  95% of respondents were of the opinion that children’s health and safety had been put at risk due to them being forced to make key decisions based on insufficient information.

Janet Foulds, a Front Line Social Worker for 36 years said; “I have felt overloaded and overburdened with concerns about the decisions I have to make in such an increasingly stressful, pressured environment…  I try to cope with the workload by working late at night and over weekends but have felt at times that I have not been able to do the best job I can do.”

85% of Social Workers said that public criticism of their job had reduced the number of potential new recruits to the Social Work profession, and that this had lead to an increase in workload.

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services welcomed the report.  A spokesperson said, “Child protection services risk being overwhelmed.  Ministers must ring fence funding for early intervention projects.”

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Is the government to blame for Child Protection Chief Executive’s resignation?

Posted on October 6th, 2010

Jim Gamble resigned as Chief Executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) on Monday, leading to widespread criticism of the government’s actions involving the agency.

The government has recently been looking to merge CEOP with other agencies to create a National Crime Agency.  The agency would comprise CEOP, the UK Border Agency and the Serious Organised Crime Agency.

Gamble had warned Theresa May that the proposed agency would undermine the work done by CEOP and their attempts to keep children safe from abusers and paedophiles whilst on the internet.  CEOP claims to have disrupted or dismantled 262 sex offender networks and instigated over 1000 arrests since 2006.

The concerns are that CEOP’s work would be diluted by dissolving it into the National Crime Agency, and that child protection work would suffer as a result.  “Jim Gamble is an outstanding child protector” said Shy Keenan, from the Phoenix Chief Advocates, who asserts, “May doesn’t like him.  It’s a clash of personalities, and as far as we’re concerned, because she has decided she doesn’t like his particular personality, every child in the country has to suffer’”

CEOP released a statement backing Gamble, and said that the move to assimilate it into the National Crime Agency was not in the best interests of children and young people.

In a statement, May said “As chief executive, Jim Gamble has done a great job at CEOP and made a huge contribution to protecting children.  I wish him all the best for the future and arrangements for his successor will be outlined in due course.”

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Looked after children statistics released by the Department for Education

Posted on October 6th, 2010

30th September saw a Statistical First Release (SFR) of information regarding the numbers of looked after children in the UK.  It also looked into the reason a child is looked after, their legal status and the type of placement they are currently in.  The information also takes into account the numbers of children no longer looked after, and the number who started to be looked after during the year ending 31 March 2010.

The figures are based on data from the SSDA 903 return collected from all local authorities.

The key points from the report are as follows:

  • The number of looked after children as at March 2010 was 64,400.
  • 27,800 children started to be looked after during the year ending March 2010.  Of these children 9,500 are classed as being taken into care.
  • 25,100 ceased to be looked after during the year ending 31 March 2010.
  • 52 percent of the children who started to be looked after during the period were due to abuse or neglect.
  • 73 percent of children who were looked after at March 2010 were in a foster placement.
  • 3400 Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) were looked after at March 2010
  • 350 mothers aged 12 and over were looked after at March 2010.

For more information, the entire report can be found on the Department for Education Website

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BBC appeal lifts restriction on naming Local Authority

Posted on October 6th, 2010

A court appeal by the BBC has lifted restrictions on naming a local authority after a recent court case.

The case followed a previously unnamed local authority initiating child care proceedings regarding a family with 3 children.  Coventry City Council applied for care orders for the 3 children, who are now aged 12, 9 and 8 following allegations that the children had been subjected to unnecessary hospital admissions, tests and medical examinations by their parents.  The parents had allegedly lied and exaggerated the children’s symptoms to enable the tests to take place.

Coventry City Council dropped proceedings after re-evaluating its evidence and concluding that there was ‘no, or very little’ material that would satisfy the threshold criteria for the orders to be made.  During the case, the defence had run up legal aid bills of £400,000.  The council was ordered to pay £100,000 towards the costs after the judge described the case as one where, ‘something had gone badly wrong’.

After the judge’s decision had been published, an informal application was made by The Press Association to enquire as to the name of the local authority concerned.  The request was denied by the judge, who explained that a formal application would need to be made.

The Press Association decided against this due to the costs involved, so the application was taken up by the BBC.  The QC for the local authority argued that naming the council would lead to identification of the children involved – which was disregarded by the judge as a low risk.

The judge summarised that he was, ‘…not persuaded that this is a point of real substance.  In the event that the local authority agreed to participate in any broadcast of the court’s criticisms it would be unnecessary, in my judgement, for the local authority to descend to that level of detail in order to address the points.’

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