VoiCeS Weekly Update 3rd December 2015

Inquiry Report On Child Sexual Abuse In The Family Network  

The Children’s Commissioner has published a report on child sexual abuse in the family network. Key points include:
  • Research shows that 1 in 20 children are sexually abused
  • Only 1 in 8 children who are sexually abused are known to the police and children’s services
  • Two thirds of cases of sexual abuse happen within the family
  • Child sexual abuse in the family is most likely to occur around age 9 although victims are most likely to come to the attention of authorities in adolescence
  • BAME victims are underrepresented in the criminal justice system as victims of child sexual abuse in the family environment
  • Victims of child sexual abuse in the family with learning / physical disabilities may be less likely to be identified as victims as they face additional communication barriers to disclosure
Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) Providing Local Leadership To Respond To Child Sexual Abuse In The Family

The Association of Independent LSCB Chairs (AILC) welcomes the report published by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England, highlighting the extensive reality of child sexual abuse within the family.

‘Local Safeguarding Children Boards have a key role to play in developing local responses to support young people who are victims of this abuse and providing independent monitoring of the effectiveness of agency responses’, said David N Jones, Chair of the Association.  ‘LSCBs have made great progress in developing new ways to support young people who have experienced sexual exploitation, building on learning from recent well-publicised cases’, David Jones said, ‘and local agencies are already dealing effectively with cases of child sexual abuse within the family.  However this report from the Children’s Commissioner shows that the number of children affected is very much higher than previously realised. The report also makes clear that this is a hidden form of abuse’, David Jones continued, ‘usually with no physical signs and only subtle changes in behaviour. It is very difficult to detect without a disclosure. It is therefore essential:
  1. that the Government legislates to make Personal Social Health & Economic Education (PSHE) a mandatory element across the school curriculum in ways appropriate to the age of the child, so that young people know how to seek help;
  2. that teachers in all types of schools, health professionals, youth workers and others in regular contact with children have training in the subtle signs of sexual abuse in the family;
  3. that young people must feel able to seek help - with confidence that they will be respected, and
  4. that guidance about acceptable and unacceptable forms of touch and relationships is available to the significant number of parents who clearly need it’.
David Jones continued.  ‘It is worrying that these new and extensive expectations to provide interventions for a very large number of young people and their families come at a time when there is already an increase in child protection investigations and evidence of increasing family stress. Cuts to funding of local councils and voluntary organisations and in early help for parents are evident all over the country. The risks involved in this strategy are real and serious and the consequences will last for a generation. We call on the Government and local decision makers to think again and to protect essential family support services’, David Jones urged. ‘LSCBs already bring together all the agencies working with families in each locality. We share the commitment to provide a safe environment for all children and young people and will work with all agencies to achieve this goal. The LSCB annual reports will chart progress being made. Above all, those in contact with young people need to ensure that there is a supportive and respectful environment, enabling children to seek help when they are being abused and responding decisively to ensure they are protected’.

Young People's Sex And Relationships Education (SRE) Survey 2015

'A curriculum to prepare us for life', including sex and relationships education has been voted the 2nd most important issue in the UK Youth Parliament 'Make your mark' poll 2015.

The Sex Education Forum campaigns for good quality SRE and is running a national survey about young people's experiences of SRE and would like your views!  The questions are about whether or not you learnt about your body, sexual development and consent at school and if you discussed this at home too. None of the questions are about your personal experience of relationships or sex. If you are aged 11-25, you can take the survey by following from this link

Closing Date: 10th December 2015

Supporting Children And Families Affected By Parental Offending In The North East

On 25 November, over 120 key strategic leads, managers and practitioners from across the north east (including local authorities, probation, prison service, children’s services, education, health and the voluntary sector) came together for the first time to discuss a local response to the needs of some of society’s most vulnerable young people.

The conference was organised by the i-HOP service (a national information and advice service for professionals working with offenders’ children and families) in partnership with Nepacs (a charity supporting prisoners and their families in the north east). i-HOP has been developed and delivered by POPS (Partners of Prisoners and Families Support Group) and Barnardo’s in partnership, funded by the Department for Education.
200,000 children are affected by parental imprisonment every year in England and Wales (approximately 9,000 in the north east) and on average 10,000 visits are made to public prisons every week by children and young people. The outcomes for these children are often significantly worse than for their peers: children of prisoners are twice as likely to suffer from mental health problems and having an increased likelihood of experiencing poverty compared to their peers. In addition, research has shown that creating and encouraging healthy family contact between offenders and their families can reduce the likelihood of reoffending by up to six times.
The event presented the real life experiences of children affected by parental imprisonment through the findings of the pan-European research project COPING (2013)*, led by the University of Huddersfield. A unique child-centred study which placed the voices of children and young people with a parent in prison centre-stage, exploring the differential impact of parental incarceration across four different countries: the UK, Romania, Sweden and Germany.
As well as examining the research base the event heard from a young person who presented a moving account of their experience of parental imprisonment.

Rebecca Cheung, senior i-HOP engagement officer, said:
“Children of offenders often have to serve their own ‘hidden sentence’ as a result of a family member entering the criminal justice system – yet they have not committed a crime themselves...Although this is not an issue that is regularly discussed or identified – there are significant numbers of children affected – over twice the number of children are affected by parental imprisonment every year than divorce...Research increasingly highlights the negative impact that parental imprisonment can have on their outcomes: mental well-being, relationships with their peers, educational attainment, behaviour and financial stability...It is essential therefore, that local authorities develop multi-agency responses to supporting these children and their families, so that they are able to achieve to the best of their potential and the cycle of inter-generational offending that we often see is broken down.”

Rob Brown, head of 'Stronger Communities' at Middlesbrough Council, said:
“Events like this are so important.  The outcomes for children with parents in prison are often significantly worse than for their peers and a key part of the solution is to facilitate healthy family contact between offenders and their families. Councils, supported by organisations such as Nepacs and i-HOP, play a key role in making this happen.”

Helen Attewell, chief executive of Nepacs, a north east charity supporting prisoners’ families, said:
“I am delighted to partner with i-HOP in delivering this important opportunity to highlight the effect of parental imprisonment on children and their families. This is a particularly vulnerable group of children in the north east who are deserving of our support and understanding – They cannot be blamed for their parent or relative’s actions. Nepacs welcomes the opportunity to work with others to look at how we can create the best possible futures for them.”

The event aimed to:
  • Raise awareness about the impact of parental offending on children and the importance of early help
  • Raise awareness of the i-HOP service which supports professionals in their work with children affected by parental offending
  • Inform the initiation and development of strategic action plans in each local authority.
The event also included workshops about the key issues arising from i-HOP’s work across the UK including; how children with a parent in prison are identified, the importance of training professionals to support the issues which arise, how awareness is sustained and where this vulnerable group sits within local strategic planning.
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