Safeguarding News March 2021

Dear Colleague,

Welcome to the latest SAFEcic news round up from March 2021.

With lockdown easing, SAFEcic is now, subject to any further changes, accepting bookings for face to face training from September.  For organisations needing to update training now, our new blended training courses are proving extremely popular, as well as our Open House option for those who just have one or two people to train. To continue to help by making our online training affordable we are also offering 15% discount on our online safeguarding courses which, if you are a SAFEcic member, you will also  benefit from our members 10% discount.

Legislation & Bills

England and Wales

1.  A raft of new amendments to the Domestic Abuse Bill have been presented, providing greater protections for victims and further clamping down on perpetrators.

The proposals include making non-fatal strangulation a specific criminal offence, punishable by up to five years in prison. The act typically involves an abuser strangling or intentionally affecting their victim’s breathing in an attempt to control or intimidate them. Today’s announcement follows concerns that perpetrators were avoiding punishment as the practice can often leave no visible injury, making it harder to prosecute under existing offences such as Actual Bodily Harm (ABH).

The Government will also strengthen legislation around controlling or coercive behaviour (CCB) – no longer making it a requirement for abusers and victims to live together. The change follows a government review which highlighted that those who leave abusive ex-partners can often be subjected to sustained or increased controlling or coercive behaviour post-separation.

Meanwhile, so-called ‘revenge porn’ laws – introduced by the government in 2015 – will be widened to include threats to disclose intimate images with the intention to cause distress. More than 900 abusers have been convicted since revenge porn was outlawed but Ministers are determined to further protect victims, with those who threaten to share such images facing up to two years behind bars.

The measures confirmed today have been developed closely with peers, advocates and victims who campaigned on these important issues. They form a series of amendments being tabled to the landmark Domestic Abuse Bill which enters Report Stage next week, with Royal Assent expected in the Spring.

Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland QC MP said:

"This Bill provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to strengthen our response to domestic abuse and its many forms. From outlawing non-fatal strangulation to giving better protections in court – we are delivering the support victims need to feel safer while ensuring perpetrators face justice for the torment they have inflicted."

Safeguarding Minister Victoria Atkins said:

“The Domestic Abuse Bill is a game-changing piece of legislation that will help millions of people who are subjected to many different forms of abuse.

“Controlling or coercive behaviour is an insidious form of domestic abuse that can destroy lives.

Since we introduced the offence within the Serious Crime Act 2015, controlling and coercive behaviour recorded offences and prosecutions have increased year on year, but we have listened to concerns and understand that perpetrators of CCB can continue to abuse their victims when they no longer live together.

“I am pleased that the offence is being extended so we can protect more victims and send a clear message to perpetrators.”

The Government is also tabling a number of other amendments to the Domestic Abuse Bill  which will:

  • provide special measures in civil courts similar to those available in family courts. This could include the use of protective screens in court or the ability to give evidence via video links to support vulnerable courts users.
  • make it easier for victims who may prefer not to report abuse to avoid being cross-examined in person, by widening the list of evidence to prove abuse has occurred to include things such as a letter from a doctor or an employer.
  • clarify the use of ‘barring orders’ in the family courts to prevent abusive ex-partners from repeatedly dragging their victims back to court – which can be used as a form of continuing domestic abuse.
  • require public authorities conducting domestic homicide reviews to send a copy of their completed reports to the Domestic Abuse Commissioner – strengthening the opportunity to learn lessons and prevent future deaths.

2. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill seeks to equip the police with the powers and tools they need to protect themselves and the public, while overhauling sentencing laws to keep serious sexual and violent offenders behind bars for longer, and placing greater emphasis on rehabilitation to better help offenders to turn their lives around and prevent further crimes.

Measures include widening important laws which prevent adults in ‘positions of trust’ from engaging in sexual relationships with young people under the age of 18, bringing sports coaches and religious leaders in line with other occupations such as teachers and doctors. The move follows an extensive review which raised concerns that predators could exploit the particular influence these roles can often have in a young person’s life – making them vulnerable to abuse.

Meanwhile, new court orders will boost efforts to crack down on knife crime, as well as make it easier to stop and search those suspected of carrying a blade. New laws will also enable police to better tackle unauthorised encampments, and safely manage protests where they threaten public order or stop people from getting on with their daily lives.

The Bill will also enshrine a Police Covenant in law, strengthening the support received by serving and retired officers, staff and their families. In addition, maximum penalties will be doubled from 12 months to 2 years for those who assault police or other emergency workers, such as prison officers, fire personnel or frontline health workers – helping to protect those who put their lives on the line to keep communities safe.

Other sentencing reforms – first outlined in a landmark government white paper last year – will also be brought into legislation to ensure punishments fit the severity of crimes. These include Whole Life Orders (WLOs) for child killers, with judges also allowed to impose this punishment on 18 to 20 year olds in exceptional cases - for example, acts of terrorism which cause mass loss of life. The Bill also introduces life sentences for killer drivers who wreak havoc on our roads, ends the automatic halfway release for serious violent and sexual offenders, and ensures community sentences are stricter and better target underlying causes of crime such as mental health issues, alcohol or drug addiction.

3. Proposals to improve protections for victims whose intimate images are taken or shared without their consent have been published by the Law Commission of England and Wales. The proposals include:

An expansion of the types of behaviours outlawed by existing criminal laws on taking and sharing intimate images without consent to include ‘down blousing’ and sharing altered intimate images, such as deep fakes.

Criminalising threats to share intimate images (including other forms of ‘sextortion’).

Automatic anonymity for all victims of intimate image abuse.

A new framework of offences better focused on this form of criminal conduct and the harm it causes.

The non-consensual taking and sharing of intimate images can have a significant and long-lasting impact on victims. The harms they experience are serious and significant. These can include psychological harm such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), worsening physical health and financial harm either through time off work or through withdrawing from online spaces which reduces access to networking opportunities. In some cases, there have been reports of attempted suicide and self-harm.

However, the law has not kept up with this behaviour, resulting in significant gaps that have left victims unprotected. These gaps include:

Inconsistency over what type of intimate images are covered. For example, upskirting is currently a criminal offence but down blousing is not. Sharing an altered image – usually involving adding someone’s head to a pornographic image is also not covered.

Not all motivations for non-consensually taking or sharing an image are covered by current laws. Whilst motivations such as sexual gratification and causing distress are covered (although not consistently), other motivations such as sharing the images as a joke or to coerce an individual are not covered at all.

Threats to share are not adequately covered, especially when a threat was made to humiliate, coerce, control or distress an individual.

The Law Commission’s proposals, which are now being consulted on, aim to ensure that victims are adequately protected from a range of behaviours related to non-consensual taking and sharing of intimate images. The provisional proposals include a new framework of four offences which would cover a broader range of behaviours and motivations.

Professor Penney Lewis, Criminal Law Commissioner at the Law Commission said:

 “For victims, having their intimate images taken or shared without consent can be an incredibly damaging and humiliating experience. However, the law does not adequately protect victims from this behaviour and reform is clearly needed.

 “Our proposals would reform the existing law and ensure that victims are given the protection they need.”

Gina Martin, the campaigner whose efforts led to the criminalisation of upskirting, said:

“During my time campaigning and lobbying for upskirting to be criminalised, I spent a significant amount of time with victims of intimate image abuse. Like me, they felt that their experience either wasn’t understood, captured adequately in law or taken as seriously as it should be by the authorities. This shows a huge gap in our efforts to protect people.

“I support the Law Commission’s approach to improving protections for victims of this abuse and encourage everyone to respond to this important consultation paper.” 

Julia Mulligan, APCC Victims’ Co-Lead and North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, said:

“The Law Commission’s recommendation to extend anonymity to all victims of intimate image abuse, including so-called revenge porn, is absolutely the right one. I welcome their report, not just for this conclusion but for all their attempts to future-proof laws so they reflect the way technology is changing our world.

“In 2015, I launched the ‘No More Naming’ campaign to protect the identities of those who have had their most private moments shared online. 16,000 people signed our petition and victims shared their stories with us to try and make sure others didn’t have to go through what they had. The Commission’s conclusions are down to their bravery and commitment.

“Changing the law will mean the system no longer causes pain and distress to those who it should be protecting. It will support victims not stigmatise them, is long overdue and now needs to happen as soon as possible.”

Statutory Guidance


CQC have updated their guidance on meeting the duty of candour

The guidance has been updated for providers on Regulation 20 - the duty of candour.

This is to make it clear what providers must do to meet the requirements of the regulation and the circumstances in which it must be applied.

The duty of candour was introduced in 2014 in response to concerns raised following investigations into Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. It also followed a tireless campaign by the parents of Robbie Powell who sadly died in 1990 and whose case highlighted the need for a statutory duty of candour.

The regulation puts a legal duty on all health and social care providers to be open and transparent with people using services, and their families, in relation to their treatment and care.

It also sets out some specific actions that providers must take when a notifiable safety incident occurs. These include:

informing the people affected about the incident

offering reasonable support

providing truthful information and a timely apology.

The  updated guidance gives a more specific explanation of what is defined as a notifiable safety incident and examples covering a range of scenarios. And, it makes clear that the apology required to fulfill  the duty of candour does not mean accepting liability and will not affect a provider’s indemnity cover.

The guidance will support providers in all sectors to fully understand the duty and know what they have to do to carry it out. In turn, this will have a positive impact on people using those services.


National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day.  The Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services issued a Written Statement announcing the publication of ‘Working Together to Safeguard People, Volume 7 – Statutory Guidance safeguarding children from child sexual exploitation’

The statement reads:

“Today, I am publishing, statutory guidance  Working Together to Safeguard People Volume 7 – Safeguarding Children from Child Sexual Exploitation 2021

It is now 10 years since the Welsh Government published the first statutory guidance on child sexual exploitation for Wales. Over the past decade, we have learnt from research and practice about the most effective ways to prevent abuse through child sexual exploitation, to protect children at risk and to support children and young people into recovery from abuse. The guidance was developed with a multi-agency advisory group, chaired by Dr Sophie Hallett, Cardiff University, which considered this evidence. Importantly the guidance is also informed by evidence from children and young people themselves.

Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse and causes significant harm to children and young people, affecting their well-being into adulthood. It is vital that agencies work together to safeguard children and support their recovery from abuse. This guidance, together with the Wales Safeguarding Procedures provides advice to promote consistent safeguarding practice across agencies and across Wales. We know that it is time to move beyond risk management and to promote child-centred practice, which considers what matters to children and young people and supports their well-being.

This must happen in conjunction with work to tackle perpetrators of child sexual abuse and exploitation and this guidance is issued jointly with the Secretary of State for the Home Office, who leads work by the police and criminal justice system to tackle this crime.

There has never been a more important time to promote work to safeguard children and young people and the implementation of this guidance will make an important contribution in mitigating the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.  I am clear in my commitment to promote a position where children in Wales feel listened to, benefit from child-centred practice and can realise their right to be safe.”

Reports, Reviews, Resources, Research, and Inquiries

1. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights has published its response to the Government's Independent Human Rights Act Review, which concludes that the HRA has had an enormously positive impact on the enforcement of human rights in the UK, and finds that there is no case for reform under the terms of reference of the Government's review. On the basis of evidence heard to date, the Committee have found that there is no compelling case for reform of the HRA under the Independent Review's Terms of Reference. The JCHR found that the legislation:

  • Respects parliamentary sovereignty;
  • Does not draw the UK courts into making decisions which should be made by Parliament and Government;
  • Provides an important mechanism which allows individuals to enforce their rights, which would be impossible for most people, were it to require the great expense and years of delay of going to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg;
  • Reduces the likelihood of the UK Government being found in breach of the Convention by the ECtHR by enabling the UK courts to rule on Convention rights, which they do in a way which is respected by and helpful to the ECtHR;
  • Helps the ECtHR by providing greatly valued UK judicial input into European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) jurisprudence;
  • Improves the work of the criminal justice system and other agencies by instilling a "human rights culture" in training and guidance.

2. Independent Review into Child Sexual Abuse in Football 1970-2005 (The Sheldon Report) has been published

FA head of safeguarding Sue Ravenlaw reflects on process which led to Sheldon Report

We instinctively support, promote and safeguard the things we love. Football is one of those things for me and millions of other people in this country.

I’ve been privileged to spend a lifetime in football, initially as a player for club and country – playing in grassroots clubs as well as for England in the mid-80s to early 90s, when the women’s game was run by the phenomenal and mostly voluntary Women’s Football Association. 

And for the past 20 years and since 2006 as head of safeguarding, working for the FA to influence the way the game seeks to protect and safeguard those involved – especially children and adults at risk.

Two notable child sexual abuse cases came to light in sport settings in the mid-to-late 1990s (Hickson in swimming and Bennell in football), and as a result the NSPCC and Sport England came together and formed a task force to look at what needed doing to assist sport’s governing bodies – I was part of that process, even though at that time I was working elsewhere. 

The task force’s recommendations included the creation of a Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU), to support sport’s governing bodies to drive safeguarding across their work. That’s when I joined the FA, as part of a team helping to establish football’s strategic approach, which is underpinned by:

  • Safeguarding policies and procedures, including clear procedures for reporting concerns; 
  • A network of designated safeguarding officers across the game;
  • Safeguarding training programmes that are a requirement for coaches, referees, welfare officers and committee members;
  • Mandatory disclosure and barring service checks for everyone in regulated activity; 
  • A cohort of safeguarding professionals to manage any reported safeguarding concerns; 
  • Safeguarding standards for professional clubs, county associations and grassroots clubs; 
  • Safer working practice guidance; 
  • Working alongside external expert agencies such as the NSPCC’s CPSU, the Police, children and adult social care teams and the disclosure and barring service.

As a result of all of the awareness-raising work in football and society, the FA’s safeguarding case management team deals with a steady flow of referrals and works closely with the statutory agencies for advice and guidance. We see referrals as an important and positive indicator that more people are recognising, responding and reporting when they have concerns.

3. Six UK political parties have now either created or improved their child safeguarding policy in response to recommendations made by the Inquiry during the Westminster report, with three parties named in the report yet to respond.

First published in February 2020, the report examined seven key issues including police misconduct, political parties, whips’ offices, the Paedophile Information Exchange, prosecutorial decisions, the honours system and current safeguarding policies in government, parliament and political parties. The Inquiry found a consistent pattern of deference towards people of public prominence, with political status repeatedly valued above the welfare of children.

Former police officer Robert Glen told the Inquiry his team had enough evidence to prosecute Cyril Smith in the 1970s for sexual offences against young boys. However, he said the investigation was thwarted by senior officers who claimed it was “too political”. Meanwhile, Liberal Party members, who were likely to be aware of allegations against Smith, did nothing to inhibit his political progress. 

In the late 1980s, allegations arose that Peter Morrison, the Conservative MP for Chester, had either been caught by police molesting a boy on a train at Crewe or had been arrested in the men’s toilets having carried out sexual activity with young men, ‘depending on who was telling the story’. The evidence shows his party made efforts to suppress these rumours rather than conduct a formal investigation. 

Even now, safeguarding remains a crucial problem for political institutions to address. In 2017, Green Party election candidate Aimee Challenor was able to appoint her father as her election agent, despite the fact that he had been charged with 22 offences, including false imprisonment, rape and sexual assault of a child.

As a result of the Inquiry’s investigations six UK political parties, as well as the current government departments, have created or improved their child safeguarding policy.

  • On 12 March 2021, the Green Party updated its whistleblowing and safeguarding policies.
  • On 8 March 2021, the Democratic Unionist Party published its safeguarding policy.
  • On 11 December 2020, the Ulster Unionist Party confirmed that its Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy had been distributed via email to party employees and members in January 2018.
  • On 9 December 2020, the Labour Party confirmed it has developed comprehensive safeguarding policies and procedures.
  • On 18 September 2020, the UK Government confirmed that all government departments have whistleblowing policies in place.
  • On 10 July 2020, the Co-operative Party told the Inquiry that elected representatives and lay officers will be reminded of the Party’s safeguarding policy by 31 July 2020.
  • On 26 June 2020, the Liberal Democrats confirmed that it has amended the Party’s safeguarding policy and code of conduct for working with children and vulnerable adults to clarify and expand on the procedure for whistleblowing in relation to child sexual abuse allegations.

The Westminster report found that the Conservatives, Plaid Cymru, and UKIP did not have proper safeguarding policies in place, and as of writing are still yet to issue formal responses to the Inquiry.

Six new case reviews for March from the National Repository

1. Review relating to Child A, following concerns about suspected fabricated or induced illness including the prescription of opioids for pain management, covering the period from birth to the age of 11-years-old. Child A was born by emergency caesarean section at 27- weeks-old and was diagnosed with a condition found in premature babies. Child A underwent a wide range of medical and surgical investigations, suffering from an increasing number of conditions leading to more health professional involvement. Evidence of mother declining heath visiting support and cancelling and postponing appointments. Child A attended a school for children with physical disabilities and additional sensory needs, before parents opted for home tutoring. Poor health and authorised absences requested by mother impacted on educational progress. Findings: practitioners did not listen to the voice of child; acceptance of what mother said, and responding without any objective assessment led to unnecessary and inappropriate medical intervention; lack of professional challenge and curiosity culminated in the ongoing medicalisation; an insufficient response in meeting educational needs. Recommendations: embedding the voice of the child in procedures and training and ensuring that children are involved at each stage of their care; review practice guidance on fabricated and induced illness to ensure it takes account of children who are coming to harm through excessive medical intervention; training should include the potential safeguarding impact on children not being brought for health appointments; ensure escalation policy incorporates supporting professionals being able to challenge colleagues.

2. Baby Harris was found dead in the family home, after having been asleep in his parent's bed. Baby Harris had lived with his mother, father and half-sibling (Child A). Family were known to children's services and the police due to concerns around potential parental drug misuse and issues around Child A's school attendance. Family had two social work assessments, and police had intervened in domestic abuse incidents between the father and mother. Father had a history of mental health issues, violence, and alcohol and drug misuse. Family was White British and European. Learning includes: lack of professional understanding around Child A's lived experience, which could have alerted professionals to risks and harm; invisibility of unborn Baby Harris and Child A, partly due to inconsistent parental engagement with services; a lack of access to and understanding of the family's history by agencies resulting in parental risk factors not being identified; issues around multi-agency responses to domestic abuse, including issues with information sharing; safer sleep messages provided to the family were difficult to put into practice, due to the family's living arrangements. Recommendations include: improving the engagement of children, and an understanding of the lived experience of children; improving the quality of assessments where children and unborn children are experiencing neglect; improving the understanding of the cumulative effects of neglect; ensuring that there is sufficient staff capacity in social work services to offer the conditions for good social work practice.

3. Death of a 16-year-old boy, who was found dead in his bedroom in April 2019. There was insufficient evidence that Jacob had intended to end his life. Jacob had been criminally exploited by adults operating county lines, and exposed to serious levels of youth violence. Support for Jacob included: early help pathways, nine inter-agency strategy discussions, a child protection plan under the category of neglect. Jacob was placed in residential care in 2018, eventually returning home under a supervision order. Jacob repeatedly went missing from home and care. There were several police reports and recorded offences against Jacob, mainly relating to violent crimes; there were no investigations or convictions. Jacob missed education for 22 months. Jacob was White British. Findings include: issues with professional knowledge, skills and safeguarding systems for children at risk of criminal exploitation; a single agency approach instead of multi-agency coordination that could have identified contextual risks; focus on responding to Jacob's behaviours, without enough focus on reducing risks to Jacob in the community; issues of unconscious gender bias in relation to criminal exploitation; missing education playing a significant role in levels of risk not being identified; importance of agencies responding quickly at critical times in a child's life to keep them safe. Recommendations include: a review of the effectiveness of the National Referral Mechanism; statute and guidance on schools who cannot be mandated to accept children on roll; a national review of placement sufficiency for children who need to be in care or placed under secure arrangements.

Other resources Read practice review (PDF)

4. Chronic neglect, physical and sexual abuse of eight siblings and three older half siblings perpetrated by their parents and one sibling. Both parents and the oldest sibling of their relationship were convicted and sentenced for sexual offences and neglect. Initial case review commissioned in 2016 and covered a period of 26 years involving six Local Authority areas; reviewed in 2019 to focus on home area partner agencies and services responsible for the family from 2005-2015. Children were removed on Care Orders in 2007 but sexual abuse continued to be perpetrated by their parents and an older sibling. Two criminal investigations - the first in 2007 did not progress; the second concluded with charges and a trial in 2017. Ethnicity or nationality not stated. Learning includes: the impact of securing evidence in criminal proceedings and safeguarding children; mothers as sexual abusers of their children and the impact of disguised compliance by parents; the level of knowledge, skills and training available to practitioners on child sexual abuse within the family; the continuing need for escalation and professional challenge by practitioners; the historical and current issues around the retention of records; the central role of the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) needs to be recognised when there are a number of children within a family in different placements; and children “not brought” to medical appointments. Recommendations are provided under the following themes: child sexual abuse investigation processes and management oversight; professional escalation and challenge; training and professional development for front line practitioners; and information sharing.

5. Death at home of Sam, a 2-year-old boy in January 2018. Cause of death was unascertained. Sam's older sibling Kyle was placed on a Child Protection Plan after Sam's death, and subsequently placed in foster care. Sam and Kyle's mother was a looked after child, placed in foster care at 10-years-old following sexual abuse by her father. She was 18-years-old when Kyle was born. Father was known to social services when a child. Kyle was registered as a child in need until May 2015 when the case was stepped down to early offer of help. Concerns about home conditions, the maturity of mother, and father's offending, alcohol misuse and incidents of domestic violence. Evidence of cuts and bruises on Kyle. Kyle's behaviour was seen to be aggressive and destructive at nursery and at school. Family identified as white British. Learning includes: the impression is of agencies working in silos rather than developing a shared understanding of the case; professionals concentrated on their own engagement with parents and their compliance, rather than attempting to place the child at the centre. Recommendations include: review procedure for the escalation of concerns and for resolving differences of view between professional and agencies; explore better co-operation between agencies when handling complex or persistent cases; review interagency procedures for establishing agreement with families of written care plans.

6. Serious injury to a 4-month-old baby consistent with shaking and an impact to the head in November 2015, resulting in permanent impairment. Mother was convicted of child cruelty to the baby and their sibling in March 2020. Both baby and older sibling were taken into care and adopted. Family were known to multiple agencies, including Children's social care. Concerns that neither parent seemed to have bonded with the baby. Parental history of: refusal to accept support or engage with services; social care interventions; teenage pregnancies; adverse childhood experiences; violence and crime (father), mental health issues (mother). Ethnicity or nationality of the baby is not stated. Lessons: if families do not want or refuse early help it, concerns should be escalated; intervention pathways need to be clear; new birth visitors should have all the information before the first visit; need to remain focused on all family members and their needs; information should be linked, shared proportionately and well-recorded; assessments should identify risks and vulnerabilities; referrals should be seen in context; engage with fathers. Blended approach based on Root Cause Analysis. Recommendations include: improved provision and organisation of early help services including how new birth visits are carried out; develop operational guidance to enable triggers where there are multiple referrals/contacts including using chronologies; fast decision-making when there is an open case and another referral is made.

Worthy of Note

1. The CSEthe Signs initiative has been launched to help children and young people recognise the signs of online harms including child sexual abuse and exploitation (CSE). It aims to raise awareness among those aged 11 to 17 and their parents and carers of what constitutes CSE, and where they can go for advice and support if they have concerns. 

It is part of a coordinated response from the Scottish Government, Police Scotland and Child Protection Committees Scotland,who will each run campaigns this month to help keep young people safe online.

Police Scotland recently announced that reports of online sexual abuse and exploitation increased by 13.4% from April to December 2020 compared with the same period in 2019.

Children’s Minister Maree Todd said:

“We are determined to tackle child sexual exploitation in all its forms and it is very worrying to see a rise in reports of this abhorrent type of abuse online.

“Many children and young people have been spending more time online as a result of the pandemic, so now more than ever it is vital that they and their parents and carers know how to stay safe. The CSEthe Signs campaign provides valuable information on what to look out for and where to get advice and support if there are concerns about CSE.

“The campaign adds to the extensive range of work the Scottish Government and partners have been doing to prevent CSE, including delivery of our National CSE Action Plan.”

Assistant Chief Constable Judi Heaton, lead for Public Protection and Major Crime, Police Scotland, said:

“The internet brings huge benefits and opportunities but it also opens the door for abuse and online predators. Children and young people should be able to access the virtual world, platforms and apps, chat with their friends and explore without the threat of abuse and exploitation. By working together we want to empower children and young people to protect themselves online, to identify when something is not right and to report it either to their parents, their teachers or to the police.”

Child Protection Committees Scotland chair Alan Small said:

“Parents and carers play a vital role in protecting their children from the predatory behaviour of online abusers. It’s important that support and guidance is provided to help parents feel confident about asking what their children are looking at online and who they are talking to. Campaigns like CSEthe Signs help parents and carers understand what they can do to keep all of our children and young people safe from online harm.” 

The CSEthe Signs campaign will run during March through social media channels including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.

2. The UK has launched a new programme, Resource and Support Hub,  which will help bring perpetrators of sexual abuse, exploitation or sexual harassment in the aid sector to justice and provide vital support for survivors.

The programme will build on the extensive work the UK has done to stamp out abuse in the aid sector. It will strengthen the support available to survivors and make it easier for them to report abuse.

This will include developing a new way of reporting abuse anonymously through an online platform which will be piloted in Zambia. It will connect survivors with organisations who can help them access further support, including taking their case to the police or the perpetrator’s employer, if they wish.

New UK aid will also fund investments for local and community based organisations so that they can give a range of direct support to survivors including counselling and psychosocial support, financial help and access to justice.

A new training scheme will also be introduced to improve the quality of safeguarding investigations carried out by NGOs and international bodies like the UN.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said:

The UK is taking action to ensure the aid sector cannot be a safe haven for the perpetrators of sexual abuse and exploitation of the vulnerable. We have led in driving up safeguarding standards across the aid sector. Our new support will help survivors get the assistance they need and report their abusers without fear.

Since the Safeguarding Summit in October 2018, the UK has taken a number of concerted steps to drive up standards in the delivery of aid around the world. The focus has been led by the need to support survivors, prevent further abuse and bring perpetrators to justice.

Steps taken include a new tougher screening system for aid workers to allow charities and other organisations to share data on staff misconduct and prevent perpetrators from moving job-to-job. This has seen at least 75 people rejected for jobs because of negative or absent data.

The UK government and ACRO Criminal Record Office has worked with Interpol to improve criminal records checks and promote information sharing between aid and law enforcement agencies. The  Resource and Support Hub  is actively supporting aid organisations operating on the ground to improve safeguarding standards and support provided to victims.

The UK is clear all organisations bidding for UK aid must meet the high standards of safeguarding required and do everything in their power to keep the people they work with safe. Today, the government confirmed that Oxfam GB can once again bid for funding, after the Charity Commission found last month that its approach to safeguarding had been “significantly strengthened” and that the charity should return to standard regulatory oversight.

3. The new children's commissioner is launching what is claimed to be England's biggest survey of children - the "Big Ask" - which will gather children's views on the impact of the pandemic, and what they think are the barriers to children's ambitions The new children's commissioner for England wants to "rebuild childhood" after the disruption of the pandemic.

Dame Rachel de Souza says the scale of the challenge is like reconstructing the social security system in the wake of World War Two.

She also wants short-term measures - such as free school meals - being extended into the summer holidays, and not "dropping" Universal Credit levels.

Dame Rachel says she will be "fearless" in representing children's interests.

The online survey, to be sent to all schools and also children in youth custody, children's homes and mental health units, will provide information for a "once-in-a-generation" review of how children's lives might be improved.

It takes its "spirit and the ambition" from William Beveridge's 1942 report, which laid the foundations for the post-war welfare state, identifying the five great challenges as "want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness".

"Our response to the trauma of the Second World War was to create a blueprint for a social service system and a National Health Service that improved our lives. We have the chance to do the same again now for children," says the children's commissioner.

Dame Rachel wants a 10-year plan to emerge from her review - with the promise of tackling a political system which can "often short-change children".

For more immediate challenges, on whether free school meals should run across the summer holidays, she told the BBC: "I absolutely want to see free school meals extended.

"And I'm very concerned about suggestions of dropping Universal Credit. If it was dropped down again, I'd like to see services provided in its place, but I'd rather it wasn't dropped."

A former teacher, head teacher and chief executive of a school academy trust, Dame Rachel promised to be an "independent voice, there to fight to protect and promote the rights of children".

If government was "doing something wrong", she said, "I will be fearless in exposing that and challenging them". 

The review will consider how children will recover from so much disrupted education - calculating that collectively pupils in England have lost 840 million days of in-person schooling since the start of the pandemic, representing about 19 weeks each.

It will address the "social fault lines" and inequalities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, between generations, the wealthy and the disadvantaged, by ethnicity and geography.

This includes how the gulf between rich and poor and young and old has widened, with older, higher earners increasing their savings in the lockdown, while poorer families and younger people have faced job losses and increasingly fragile finances.

Today's young people are the first post-war generation to be less well-off than their parents, says the report launching the children's commissioner's review.

"As we emerge from the Covid pandemic, this is the moment for something big, for children to recognise the sacrifices they have made," said Dame Rachel.

"I have seen first-hand the effect of this crisis on young people's hopes and dreams, and sometimes our answers simply have not been good enough."

Labour's Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green said: "Over the last decade the Conservatives have overseen record numbers of children being pushed into poverty, a worsening mental health crisis and an 18-month gap in learning between disadvantaged children and their peers at GCSE."

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "We know that children and families have faced unprecedented challenges during the pandemic. 

"We've expanded frontline charity support and provided new resources for schools and teachers to support children and young people's mental health.

"Our £1.7bn investment in recovery support will help tackle the impact of any lost learning and we are investing an additional £79m to increase the number of mental health support teams working with schools and colleges."

4. A Family Court judge has made a care order for two children described as "severely overweight" to be taken into long-term foster care, following an application by West Sussex County Council.

In West Sussex County Council v A and B [2020] EWFC B62, a judgment which was handed down on 29 October 2020 but only published on Bailii last week, District Judge Gillian Ellis said: "Everyone agrees that this is a very sad and unusual case, of a loving family, where the parents meet many of the basic needs of the children, but the local authority has been concerned that the parents are not meeting the children’s health needs, in that both children are severely overweight, and the parents have shown an inability to help the children manage this condition."

The Guardian supported West Sussex's position but both parents opposed it.

Concerns about the two children, who are 16 and 13 years old, were initially raised more than ten years ago in 2010 when West Sussex was made aware of their weight, poor hygiene and poor home conditions. Numerous interventions had been made since then, but the children continued to gain weight.

The final hearing took place over three days in October 2020.

The children's social worker said that their weight was the primary reason for applying for the care order, but the children had also suffered neglect through poor home conditions and lack of guidance on their personal care.

The children's personal presentation was poor, according to the social worker, who said they had dirty nails. One child had tangled hair while there was concern with the other about body odour. Every effort had been made by the council to encourage regular washing and teeth-brushing but to no avail.

This resulted in them being bullied at school and in having low self-esteem.

The council tried to assist the family in tackling these issues, including the provision of Fitbits (to monitor their activity levels) and gym memberships, but the children failed to engage consistently in exercise despite the authority's efforts, the court heard.

Upon hearing the evidence from the social worker, who was described as a "compelling witness", Judge Ellis said that she accepted "that there are no other measures which can be taken by the local authority to assist this family".

A, the mother, with whom the children had remained when the parents separated shortly after the proceedings were issued, said she could not explain why the children were not losing weight as they were sticking to the healthy eating and exercise plans.

Judge Ellis acknowledged that A "presented as a loving mother, who clearly has a good relationship with her children". The judge said she had been "in many ways" a good mother. However, she said A had failed to instill in the children habits of healthy eating, exercise, and good self-care.

"I accept what she says about the difficulty of compelling teenagers to act in a certain way but, clearly, had these habits been encouraged and modeled to the children from an early age, no element of compulsion would now arise," the judge said.

Judge Ellis said she believed that A had tried to comply with the written agreements in this case but that the issues had simply proved too hard for her.  "It cannot be the case that she and the children have been adhering to the healthy eating and lifestyle plans discussed because, had they done so, when there is no evidence of any medical condition, it is undoubtedly the case that the children would have lost weight."

Turning to the order to be made in the case, Judge Ellis said the advantages of [the children] remaining in their family home were "many and obvious". She described the family as "loving" and "close-knit". Even though the parents had separated, they maintained good relations and the children were close to both parents. If they remained in their parents' care , they would remain in the environment in which they had grown up, and with the people they loved.

However, the judge noted that if they remained in their parents' care, their health needs would continue to be neglected and they would continue to put on weight, and suffer the long-term and serious health consequences that she had identified.

On the impact of removal to foster care on the children, Judge Ellis recognised the potential struggle of settling in a new environment and suffering the loss of day-day contact with their parents. She also noted the potential loss of contact between C and D, since C's 17th birthday was in a week, and as such, he could elect to not go into foster care.

Despite this, she said: "Having reviewed the factors in the Welfare Checklist, and having considered the balance of harm test, I am satisfied that it is in the children's welfare interests for these orders to be made, that these children need the chance to learn ways of living more healthily, and to improve their health by losing weight.

"I am aware that this is a serious, life-changing order, and one with which many people may disagree, taking the view that issues of obesity are matters of choice and lifestyle, with which it is inappropriate for the state to interfere. I have therefore asked myself whether this order, which I consider is in the children's welfare interests, is one which is necessary and proportionate to the risks in this case. That is obviously a question which has particular relevance in relation to C in view of his age. However, having specifically addressed my mind to this issue, I am satisfied that this order is both necessary and proportionate for both children, in view of the serious and lifelong risks posed to their physical and mental health if nothing is done to change their lifestyle.

Judge Ellis confirmed that she was satisfied that it was proportionate to make an order in relation to C. "He may choose not to comply with it but I do think it is of benefit for him to know that a judge, having reviewed all the evidence, is so concerned about his situation that she has thought it necessary to make an order."

She added: "I am aware that this order is an interference with the Article 8 rights of these family members but, for the reasons I have set out, I am satisfied that it is necessary and proportionate, and that these are the least intrusive measures which can be taken to promote the children's stability, security, and welfare. I therefore make the care order sought by the Local Authority and approve the care plans, and I do also approve the plans in relation to contact.

"I will say to B and A, as has been said many times, that contact is kept under continual review but what is being proposed is just the initial arrangement, which is being done for the assistance of everyone, to ensure that support is in place, to make sure that emotions are regulated, the placement supported, and that there are no issues with food, and I do consider that that support is necessary to keep the contact on track. Obviously, if C does decide not to remain in placement then arrangements will have to be made for the sibling contact, and I am confident the Local Authority will take that on board."

5. The family of a murdered woman have backed calls for laws requiring more rigorous safety checks for taxi and private hire drivers.

Sian O'Callaghan was killed by driver Christopher Halliwell after getting into his taxi to leave a nightclub in Swindon on 19 March 2011.

Her relatives said the tenth anniversary of her death had reminded them of how much she had missed out on. 

They are supporting calls for the establishment of a national database.

Ms O'Callaghan's family is supporting an initiative by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust personal safety charity. 

It said a database was in development of licence revocations and refusals for taxi and private hire vehicle (PHV) drivers.

The database would help to reduce the risk of unsuitable drivers whose licence had been revoked being given a licence by a different local authority, it added.

The trust is also campaigning for national minimum standards that would require licensing authorities to carry out DBS checks on all taxi and PHV licence holders at least every nine months.

It wants to see the development of a policy too that clearly specifies which crimes and behaviours result in the revocation of driver licences, which is not limited to convictions, but also considers the nature of alleged crimes.

A spokesman for the trust said: "We believe that current taxi and private hire vehicle licensing requirements are not fit for purpose and should be urgently addressed as part of a much-needed push by government to prioritise the safety of women in public spaces and transport."

Ms O' Callaghan's body was found five days after her disappearance in Uffington, Oxfordshire.

Her mother Elaine Pickford said: "People say time is a healer but the passing of time also brings home the time Sian hasn't lived."

She said she was reminded of how much they had all missed out on, all the experiences her daughter should have had and where she would now be in life.

"We as a family are coping and going forward, which I know is what Sian would want for us."

Halliwell, 57, was jailed for life in October 2012. He was later handed a whole-life sentence for the murder in 2003 of Becky Godden from Swindon.

Police said there was a "distinct possibility" Halliwell was a serial killer, although he is not currently under investigation for any other crimes.

6. Allegations of sexual abuse made by school pupils on a website are "shocking and abhorrent", Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has said.

No school should be a place "where young people feel unsafe" or where abuse can take place, he added.

Mr Williamson pledged to take "appropriate action" and urged victims to tell someone they trust.

The website Everyone's Invited has recorded 8,000 testimonies of sexual abuse from pupils.

It was set up last year as a place where victims can post anonymous accounts of abuse they have suffered.

Many of the accounts describe allegations of sexual harassment and sexual violence carried out against young women by young men who are at school or college or university with them, or part of the same social groups.

Robert Halfon, who chairs the House of Commons education select committee, called for a "full independent inquiry to find out why so many female students have suffered from sexual abuse and harassment".

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: "There's got to be an inquiry and it has got to get going very fast, this is serious."

He also called for "cultural change in terms of behaviour in our schools and in our young people, but also in the respect that is shown particularly for women and girls".

Jess Phillips, Labour's shadow minister for safeguarding, said ministers had failed to act on "most" recommendations put forward following a 2016 inquiry into sexual harassment in violence and schools.

"We need a better inspection regime, we need to have a proper inquiry, we need the government to actually be collecting the data - they're not actually currently collecting this data anywhere," she told BBC Breakfast.

"Whilst I don't think that we should be criminalising every single person who makes an inappropriate joke to a woman, I do think it should be part of every single school's disciplinary proceedings," she added.

Ms Sara told the BBC that allegations on the site included "sexual harassment, groping at a Christmas party, image-based abuse, revenge porn, non-consensual sharing of intimate photos - and just general sexism and misogyny".

"These are stories of rape culture - so where behaviour that's not normal is normalised," she said.

Anonymous testimonies listed on the site do not reveal the identity of the pupils or their attackers, but many schools are named.

Highgate School, among the private schools caught up in the claims, says it is launching an "immediate external review of the sexual abuse and harassment allegations" and is "working on an anti-sexism plan".

Dulwich College's head teacher Joe Spence said: "The behaviour described is distressing and entirely unacceptable" and "we are meeting with victims to listen to their experiences and their concerns, and we will act on them".

The website initially drew attention to private schools, particularly in London, but Ms Sara, who is now 22, said that was a consequence of her own background - and that the range of testimonies, from state and private schools, showed this was a much wider issue.

Many of the incidents recounted took place outside school or university premises, however. 

Paul Whiteman, leader of the National Association of Head Teachers said school leaders had to "ask ourselves what more we can all do to prevent sexual harassment and violence" - but he said "this is a problem that reaches far beyond the school gates".

Norfolk Chief Constable Simon Bailey blamed the "volume of pornographic material that's being consumed".

"There's an erosion of an understanding of what normal sexual relationships look like," said the National Police Chiefs' Council lead on child protection.

And The Reason to Remain Vigilant in All Aspects of Safeguarding

1. Peter Tomlinson paid for girls as young as five to be abused in the Philippines 

A businessman and former president of the Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for child sexual abuse offences following a National Crime Agency investigation. Peter Tomlinson, 63, admitted 20 charges, including ten of paying for the sexual services of a girl under 13 - by arranging, directing and paying for the live-streamed sexual abuse of children in the Philippines. When arrested by NCA officers in October 2019 at his home on Baring Road, Cowes, he said: “The thing you’re looking for is on my computer in there. It is my escape from reality. That is all it is.”Tomlinson paid £5,511 via 127 transactions to accounts in the Philippines between May 2015 and April 2017 for a mix of live-streamed child sexual abuse (CSA) and adult sex shows. The NCA uncovered evidence that over a three-year period (2016-2019), he repeatedly paid facilitators for the live-streamed abuse of at least eleven young girls. The youngest was just five when the abuse began. In January 2018, Tomlinson paid £22 to view a live sex show he had requested involving the child. In a further exchange January 2019, he said he would pay a Filipino woman £7.66 if she performed a sex act on a ten-year-old girl. Investigators unearthed proof of thousands of messages between Tomlinson and the female facilitator – who has been arrested and the children safeguarded.

They exchanged 4,166 lines of chat on Skype – 358 indicated to be video calls and 3,809 text messages. During those calls Tomlinson repeatedly asked for “harder” abuse footage, spelling out what he wanted to see and then complaining about what he received.

In June 2018 he paid the woman £12.99 and then complained saying for that price: “I will expect a show with two girls for 30 minutes.”

Communication between Tomlinson and the woman was at all times of the day and night with him telling her: “I am busy in meetings” and “I’m still working”.

During interview with NCA officers he admitted arranging, directing and paying for live streamed CSA and possessing indecent images of children.

His electronic devices contained 47 category A images (the most severe), 148 category B, 353 category C and 46 extreme images.

Tomlinson pleaded guilty to the initial 12 counts put to him - which included paying for the abuse of two young girls and making indecent images of children, - at Newport Magistrates Court on 18 December 2020.

NCA investigators charged him with the additional eight counts in February this year after proving he was responsible for the abuse of a further nine children in the Philippines.

At Newport Crown Court, he pleaded guilty to the eight charges and was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

NCA operations manager Phil Eccles said: “Peter Tomlinson believed he could carry out his sickening offences from the comfort of his own home and get away with it.

“He was directly responsible for the most heinous abuse of children thousands of miles away from him.

“Live-streaming sex crimes exploits the vulnerable; he was helped in this case by facilitators whose motive is to make money.

“Live-streaming is a key threat to the UK, and one of the main forms of financially-driven offending, for which the Philippines remains a key hub.

“The NCA does important work with international law enforcement partners in the Philippines to combat these sorts of crimes.

“Anyone like Tomlinson should know that the NCA and UK police will never give up our pursuit of offenders who commit these horrific crimes.”

Child protection charity The Lucy Faithfull Foundation also runs the Stop It Now! helpline – 0808 1000 900 – which offers confidential advice to anyone concerned about their own or someone else’s behaviour towards children. 

2. A former Great Ormond Street Hospital porter has admitted a total of 69 sexual offence charges against children. Paul Farrell, 55, pleaded guilty to sexually abusing eight children between 1985 and 2020. This amounted to at least 500 instances of abuse.

He appeared at Wood Green Crown Court today (Friday, 12 March) where other charges were left on file.

The charges Farrell has pleaded guilty to include indecency with a child, causing a child under 16 to engage in sexual activity and indecent assault. The youngest child Farrell abused was believed to be five years old in the 1980s. Farrell had been a babysitter for some of the children.

He was arrested in January 2020 after victims came forward and spoke to the police.

A search of Farrell’s home address in 2020 discovered a safe in his bedroom which contained numerous indecent DVDs and photographs of children. An analysis of his mobile phone also found indecent images of children and extreme pornographic material. He pleaded guilty to a further five counts of possessing indecent images and extreme pornographic material of children in relation to this at a previous hearing.

Jane NetIQ, from the CPS, said: “Paul Farrell carried out an appalling campaign of sexual abuse against eight young children over a period of 35 years.

“He was a prolific sex attacker who presented himself as a loving family man with a stable job in London’s biggest children’s hospital for nearly three decades.

“Sexual offences against children are abhorrent crimes. These guilty pleas mean that Farrell’s victims will now be spared the ordeal of giving evidence in court.

“The CPS is committed to securing justice for victims of sexual crimes and will continue to work with the Metropolitan Police Service to prosecute these cases robustly.”

Farrell will be sentenced on 24 May.

3. A Suffolk teacher has been told he faces the "very real probability" of going to jail after admitting engaging in sexual activity with a teenage girl while in a position of trust.

Tristan Gasper appeared at Ipswich Crown Court for a plea and trial preparation hearing on Wednesday morning.

The 38-year-old, of Lavenham Road, Ipswich, pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual activity with a teenage girl, while being a person in a position of trust, on two specific dates.

He also admitted a third charge of sexual activity with a teenage girl, while being a person in a position of trust, on at least five occasions other than in the first two counts.

Judge Emma Peters granted an application from barrister Danielle O'Donovan for a pre-sentence report to be compiled by the probation service.

Judge Peters told Gasper: "Let me be very clear. You should prepare yourself for the very real probability that you may go to prison. But that will be up to the sentencing judge on the day.

"Undoubtedly, there will be a custodial sentence. The only question on the judge's mind will be if it should be immediate or suspended."

Gasper was ordered to start signing the sex offenders register.

Sentencing will take place at Ipswich Crown Court on April 29. 

4. A man has been sentenced to 22 and a half years’ imprisonment today for a series of rapes and sexual assaults on children over a period of approximately 20 years.

Mark Stephen Hubbucks, aged 63, pleaded guilty to 17 charges relating to four different victims whose ages ranged from around 10 to 14 years old. He also pleaded guilty to three charges of making indecent photographs of children. The charges cover a period from 1994 to 2015.

Stella Waata of the CPS said: “Mark Hubbucks carried out repeated rapes and sexual assaults on vulnerable children and made threats to prevent them reporting his crimes. Thanks to a diligent police investigation we were able to build a compelling case that resulted in guilty pleas.

"We want every victim of rape and sexual assault to be able to come forward with the confidence that the police and CPS are dedicated to securing justice for them. The victims in this case showed immense courage in reporting the offences and I would like to commend their bravery throughout the whole investigation.

“This conviction shows that even when many years have passed since an offence was committed, offenders can still expect to face justice”.

5. Met officers have executed a number of warrants as part of a proactive operation targeting the human trafficking and sexual exploitation of females from Romania into and around the UK, by a well-established organised criminal network.

Four men and two woman have been arrested for modern slavery offences following a pre-planned operation by officers from the Met’s Specialist Crime Command.

Officers have been working in conjunction with the Romanian authorities on this enquiry.

Five warrants were executed this morning, Tuesday, 30 March, in Station Road, Hindes Road and Stirling Road in Harrow. They were carried out with assistance from officers from the Territorial Support Group (TSG).

Those arrested are aged between 22 and 37 years-old. They have been arrested for a variety of offences, including on suspicion of holding a person in slavery, human trafficking, controlling prostitution and money laundering.

One address visited in was identified as a brothel.

14 women who were found at the addresses are now receiving support from specialist officers.

Searches at the addresses are ongoing. Enquiries continue.

Acting Detective Inspector Nick Bland from Central Specialist Crime, said: “Unfortunately, this type of exploitation is still happening across London and the UK. The Met’s modern slavery team have been working around the clock to identify people involved in sexual exploitation.

“This operation is one of many where we safeguard hundreds of victims each year.

"We need the public’s help as they have an important role to play in recognising and reporting modern slavery. If you suspect someone may be a victim of modern slavery, report it. You will always be taken seriously, and protection and support is available.

"Often those affected do not see themselves as potential victims of sexual exploitation and many will have been coerced into this life to make money for an organised crime network. 

"We believe there are victims of modern slavery in every borough across London and the public may encounter them every day, possibly without realising. As well as being sexually exploited, victims have been found working in construction, domestic servitude, agriculture, cannabis factories and in places you use yourself, such as car washes, barbers and nail bars.

"Victims are often told the police and authorities in the UK are not to be trusted and with limited English the victims are unable to seek help, even if they want to."

If you suspect that you, or someone you have come into contact with, may be a victim of modern slavery or trafficking and require support, please call The Salvation Army’s 24 hour confidential referral helpline on 0800 808 3733. This is the best way to get support to anyone you suspect might be a victim

You can also report a suspicion or seek advice through the Modern Slavery Helpline confidentially on 08000 121 700. This is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can also report to the police online at or by calling 101, in case of an emergency dial 999. Alternatively, you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at

And Finally

Stop It Now! – the UK’s first confidential and anonymous helpline dedicated to preventing child sexual abuse by supporting adults concerned about their own sexual thoughts and behaviours towards children – is urging people to call if they know or suspect a loved one is viewing sexual images of under 18s online.

The charity’s appeal comes as new research, released today, finds that almost two thirds of UK adults wouldn’t seek help or advice where they knew or suspected their partner, parent or child was viewing sexual images or videos of under 18s online. Well over half (57%) say they wouldn’t know where to turn for support – for their loved one or themselves.

A large proportion of callers to the helpline who have offended online say they had a heavy adult pornography habit before seeking out sexual images of under 18s. Reports from Pornhub demonstrate a substantial rise in individuals accessing legal, adult pornography online across the first Covid-19 lockdown in 2020. New data released today by Stop It Now! demonstrates increased usage of both its helpline and self-help website over this same period of first lockdown to the end of the year.

Over the course of 2020:

A total of 3,553 people in the UK contacted the helpline with concerns about online sexual behaviours towards children.

Over 1,000 people contacted the helpline, concerned about someone else’s online behaviour. With family and friends spending more time together during lockdown, signs of risky or illegal online behaviour may have become more apparent.

Of these, 42% were a current partner, 24% were a son or daughter and a further 27% were a close friend or other family member.

Nearly 92,000 users visited the Stop It Now! website for information and self-help for themselves, or someone else, to stop viewing illegal images of children.

Despite the pandemic, the Stop It Now! helpline had its busiest ever year in 2020, handling more than 12,500 contacts – up from 10,700 in 2019.

Between June and August (2020), the helpline was contacted by 47% more people compared to the three months of the first lockdown.

Insights from the helpline’s team of operators and advisors, highlight that a large proportion of people contacting the Stop It Now! services, cite increased isolation, unemployment, stress, escalating mental health issues and relationship breakdowns, as factors that have contributed to their online offending.

Established in 2002, the Stop It Now! helpline along with its Get Help self-help website are run by The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, the only UK-wide child protection charity dedicated solely to preventing child sexual abuse.

Stop It Now! campaigns to prevent the growing problem of online sexual offending against children. It highlights the harm to victims, the personal and legal consequences for those who do offend and also for their families, and directs individuals to its confidential and anonymous helpline and self-help website. Since 2002, more than 53,000 people have contacted the helpline for support with all aspects of child sexual abuse prevention offline and online, including more than 6,000 people in the last year.

Callers to the helpline concerned about their own behaviour agree actions they will take to stop their illegal online behaviour in both the short and long term. Helpline advisors also explore with callers – both those offending and their adult family members – the possibility of any direct risks to children, including in the caller’s own family, to ensure these children are protected. All calls remain confidential and anonymous, except where a child is at risk of harm or a crime has been committed and identifying details have been provided by the caller.

Recent independent evaluation of Stop It Now! found that after receiving advice, callers who are currently offending take steps to control their behaviour and stop. For some this means completely ceasing all use of the internet or all pornography; for others it involves installing controls and filters on devices. Some seek support from their partners or family members to help manage their behaviour in the future.

Latest data from the National Crime Agency (NCA) estimates that at least 300,000 people in the UK pose a sexual threat to children, either through physical contact abuse or online abuse. Police forces around the UK are making around 700 arrests each month relating to illegal online behaviour. Many of these arrested people go on to contact Stop It Now! to start dealing with their offending behaviour and thoughts.

Donald Findlater, Director of the Stop It Now! helpline, said: “Tens of thousands of people in the UK are viewing sexual images and videos of children online. They aren’t all the stereotypical loners of popular imagination – they are our friends, family, neighbours and colleagues.

“Many move to viewing this illegal material after beginning with an adult pornography habit, somehow not noticing or perhaps caring that they are watching children being abused. Some don’t know the law and need it spelling out. A few are struggling with a long-standing sexual interest in children and think that looking at ’only pictures’ is a way of managing that interest.

“Whoever they are, they need to know this behaviour is illegal; that children are harmed by it; that serious consequences await those involved in it; but that our helpline and website give anonymous, and confidential support and advice to stop and stay stopped. Friends and family need to know this too – so they notice worrying or illegal behaviour at an early stage and do something about it. They don’t have to deal with it alone – we can help.”

Jennifer, advisor on the Stop It Now! helpline, continues: “People who offend often aren’t who you would expect. Feelings of isolation, stress and general uncertainty, over the last year in particular, are often what leads to our callers’ escalating pornography habits, and in turn, illegal online behaviour.

“Obviously for most people these worries don’t lead to offending, but for some people they do.  Recognising those triggers and warning signs, and reaching out for help, can mean that offending can be prevented. We listen and don’t judge, and will help the person on the other end of the line express their worries, as well as suggest practical things that will ultimately help keep children safe It may feel hard to stop, but it is possible, and it is easier to stop with confidential help than on your own.”