March & April 2020 Newsletter
Welcome to our regular new round up which was, understandably, interrupted by recent events. The most important news item is the Coronavirus Act 2020, enacted on March 25th 2020, that grants the government emergency powers to handle the 2020 Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic across the UK.
The online version of this newlsetter can be accessed here
The key temporary changes relevant to safeguarding are :
- the closure of schools except for key workers' children and vulnerable children who include children who are supported by social care, those with safeguarding and welfare needs, including child in need plans, on child protection plans, 'looked after' children, young carers, disabled children and those with education, health and care (EHC) plans.
- the removal of the duty of local authorities under the Children Act (1989) and Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act (1970) to carry out a detailed assessment of the needs of young adults, on turning 18 years of age, and their carers when transitioning to adult services.
- the removal of the duty of local authorities to undertake any assessments of need under the Care Act for either persons appearing to be in need of care and support and/or carers' assessments
- allowing changes to the Mental Health Act 2005, which could weaken the safeguarding of children and young people who display challenging behaviour or are autistic and a cause for concern.
- allowing NHS and social workers , who have retired in the last three years, or who are not currently in clinical practice, to return to work.
- the suspension of both the Care Quality Commission's (CQC) and Ofsted's inspection regimes
The government has published specific Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance:
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): increased risk of fraud and cybercrime against charities alert
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): support for victims of sexual violence and abuse
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) and domestic abuse
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance for the charity sector
- DBS and Coronavirus (COVID-19): Frequently asked questions
- The ICO's coronavirus information hub.
Other Legislation and Bills
Dame Vera Baird, the Victims' Commissioner for England, and Nicole Jacobs, Domestic Abuse Commissioner have written a letter to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Priti Patel, to request the progress of the Domestic Abuse Bill be delayed: "The Domestic Abuse Bill is too important to be rushed through" following its second reading in the House of Commons.
1. Any defence of reasonable corporal punishment of a child under customary law is abolished.
2. (Accordingly, corporal punishment of a child cannot be justified in any civil or criminal proceedings on the grounds that it constituted, for the purposes of any rule of customary law -
- reasonable punishment; or
- acceptable conduct.
3. In this Article, "corporal punishment" means, in relation to a child, administering a physical act on the person of a child for the purpose of punishing that child (whether or not there are other reasons for administering the act) which would constitute assault.
Reports, Reviews, Resources, Research and Inquiries
1. The NSPCC has added eight case reviews to the repository this month featuring:
- Serious neglect and physical and emotional abuse of a 9-year-old boy and his siblings by their parents. Bilal (known as Billy) had not been seen by any professional since the age of 14-months and had not received education, health or social care services to meet his diagnosis of autism. Children were removed from state education and faith schools to be electively home educated. Parents believed spirit possession had caused Billy's autism and sought faith-based treatment overseas. Older sibling emailed Childline after concerns about Billy's declining health and possibility that parents would take family to Africa.
- Death of a 3-month-old girl in March 2019. Tracy was found deceased at home. Criminal investigation commenced by police and care proceedings instigated for siblings. Tracy was the youngest of three siblings; all had recently been made subject to a Child Protection Plan for neglect.
- Death of a 10-week-old baby boy in March 2017. Child G was a twin, born prematurely and spent the first six weeks of his life in hospital. When discharged the twins lived with their mother and father, and older half sibling (Child I) and Mr B, Child I's father who pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Child G. Mother had a child who was removed from her care by a neighbouring local authority and placed for adoption. Child I was on a supervision order to this authority, but this was not transferred to other council. Child G's mother shared this information and her history of depression and self-harming with a community midwife; no further action was taken.
- Significant non-accidental head injuries to a 7-week-old infant in 2018, attributed to shaking.
- Sexual abuse of a girl between the ages 10-16 years old. Child N disclosed the abuse to a mental health worker in September 2015 at age 19-years-old. Perpetrator convicted of multiple offences against her.
- Neglect and physical abuse of a child over many years.
- Neglect of a 5-year-old girl in September 2015. Child Q was admitted to hospital in a severely malnourished and dehydrated state. Family was known to children and family services, police and housing authorities.
- Death of a 2-month-old girl in 2017 due to injuries consistent with being shaken
2. Anne Longfield, Children's Commissioner for England, has published We're all in this together? which is an analysis of the extent of child vulnerability around the country, warning that much of it is hidden from sight under lockdown. The Children's Commissioner's local area profiles of child vulnerability in the report will help national government and councils identify how many vulnerable children there are in each local authority area, and highlight groups at heightened risk during the coronavirus emergency - such as those in overcrowded or inadequate accommodation, with fragile parents, young carers, or without internet access. This analysis is being used to inform the Government's work to create a dashboard by which it can monitor the safety and care of vulnerable children and young people through the coronavirus crisis. Hundreds of thousands of children in England are living with a cocktail of secondary risks that Covid-19 may exacerbate: lack of food in the house, homelessness, sofa-surfing or living in cramped living conditions, neglect, domestic abuse, substance abuse and parental mental health problems.
3. The Secretary of State for the Home Department, Priti Patel clarifies rules during the coronavirus emergency:
"Domestic abuse victims are permitted to leave home to seek help at refuges despite the imposition of emergency rules to stop the spread of coronavirus. I am acutely aware that the necessary guidelines about social distancing and self-isolation may leave the victims of hidden crime, such as domestic abuse and child sexual abuse, feeling especially isolated, vulnerable and exposed. I also want to make clear - whilst our advice is to stay at home, anyone who is at risk of, or experiencing, domestic abuse, is still able to leave and seek refuge. Refuges remain open, and the police will provide support to all individuals who are being abused - whether physically, emotionally, or otherwise."
And the reason to remain vigilant in all aspects of safeguarding
1. The National Crime Agency is warning the public to be vigilant as criminals adapt their tactics in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Fraudsters, cyber-criminals, online child sex offenders, and drug dealers are all trying to evade law enforcement with many adapting their behaviour under lockdown. As a response the NCA is redoubling its efforts - deploying officers, working online and in the real world to relentlessly pursue these high harm threats.
2. New research produced by Get Safe Online shows that 21 people are targeted every minute as a result of unwittingly 'oversharing' on social media. A survey of 2,000 adults produced for Get Safe Online Week found that people are unaware of privacy risks associated with over sharing on social media platforms with over a third of the UK (39%) experiencing fraud because of it. Worryingly, 26% of people targeted by fraud due to over sharing didn't realise they were targeted, 22% did nothing and 32% just ignored it.
The survey also highlighted that 23% of people used social media to show off about their holidays and 20% use it to let connections know about life milestones such as buying a house. Get Safe Online's top 5 risks to be aware of are :
- Different social media channels might require different levels of privacy. For example, Facebook settings should be on private as the way we use the platform is different to Twitter or Instagram where the platforms are more suitable to being open.
- Think twice about posts and photos you're sharing. Driving licences, passports, some letters and other documents contain sensitive information that you need to prove your ID.
- When you enter your details to a website or app, always check terms and conditions, and even then be careful what you're agreeing to others knowing about you or your account.
- Posting and sharing photos of when you're away on holiday or business could be signaling that your home is empty. Remember that today's burglars are as social media savvy as you are.
- Turn off location services in app settings on your and your kids' mobile devices: that's social media apps, cameras and any others that might reveal location. This isn't just about privacy, but also you and your family's personal safety.
3. A part-time DJ who fantasised about raping and murdering a child has been sentenced for making and showing some of the worst child sexual abuse images NCA investigators have ever seen. Haitch Macklin, 38, sold access to his horrendous catalogue to other offenders via an encrypted messaging app from his home in Higher Broughton, Salford, Greater Manchester. His collection included sexual torture videos of babies and toddlers and Macklin spoke of his desire to acquire 'snuff' films showing real-life murders. He also told another offender that he wanted to murder someone and film it.
He admitted three counts of making indecent images of children (IIOC) and two of showing it. He was jailed for 20 months at Manchester Crown Court. NCA operations manager Hazel Stewart said: "A team of officers viewed, assessed and graded the material Macklin sold access to, and all noted that this is some of the most horrific and disturbing content they've ever seen in many years investigating child sexual abuse.
"Macklin posed a very real and dangerous threat to children. Not only was he viewing and profiteering from indecent images of children, he was also harbouring thoughts of committing rape and murder. The NCA knows there is a direct link between offenders looking at abuse images and going on to commit even more severe acts."
4. 44-year-old Melvin Miller from Merseyside, sexually assaulted and raped two young girls on several occasions over a period of two years. One of the girls spoke of the abuse to a friend, the friend told her parents and her teacher and the police were called in.
Miller denied the charges but officers from Merseyside police discovered explicit video footage of him raping and sexually abusing both girls on two computer hard drives that belonged to him. They also found 140,000 images of children being abused - the largest number to have been discovered to date on Merseyside.
At a Plea and Trial Preparation Hearing on 6 April 2020, Miller pleaded guilty to all 35 counts on the indictment.
The hearing was done entirely via Skype as the Coronavirus restrictions meant that the advocates and the defendant could not be together at court. The only people in the court room at Liverpool Crown Court were the Judge and the court clerk. The advocates logged onto the hearing from home and the defendant appeared via video link from prison. At Liverpool Crown Court, Judge Neil Flewitt jailed Miller for 16 years and he will be put on the Sex Offenders Register for life.
As the Action Counters Terrorism (ACT) Awareness e-Learning course for organisations marks its second anniversary, police are launching an updated version, with the latest advice from security experts and a simplified registration system so anyone wanting to take part can help keep the UK safe. It takes just 45 minutes and it explains how to spot the signs of suspicious behaviour and what to do to help yourself, others and the emergency responders if an attack should take place.
Senior National Coordinator for Protective Security, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Lucy D'Orsi says: "This is really useful training that anyone can do and access at any time. It's an opportunity for you to play your part in protecting the national security of the UK in these difficult and unprecedented times. During COVID-19 CT Policing continues and we would ask that you help us by being a Counter Terrorism (CT) Citizen and undertaking this training."
If you require any further information please don't hesitate to contact us.
The SAFE Team