Westminster Education Forum

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Child protection in England - new strategy and legislation, online harms, and priorities for service recovery and responding to rising demand post-pandemic

Morning, Wednesday, 12th May 2021


***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference will examine priorities for child protection in the wake of the pandemic.


Areas for discussion include:

  • child protection service recovery, and coping with rising demand following COVID-19
  • lessons learned from service delivery during the pandemic
  • keeping children safe online
  • next steps for improving multi-agency working

The discussion is bringing together stakeholders with key policy officials who are due to attend from DfE; the Crown Prosecution Service; DCMS; and the Information Commissioner's Office.


The agenda:

  • Lessons learned from the pandemic for improving child safeguarding - multi-agency working, staying in touch with vulnerable children, the future use of virtual social work, and next steps for agile service delivery
  • Children and online harms - remote learning and children’s online habits, improving engagement with guardians, tackling revictimization, and the role of the technology and media sectors
  • Implementing a whole-system approach to tackling child sexual abuse
  • Priorities for supporting children with experience of abuse to recover - trauma-informed mental health support, the role of schools, and joining up services
  • Delivery of the recovery of child social care services - addressing drops in referrals, rising demand and funding issues, and priorities for regions worst affected
  • Policy priorities for child protection going forward

Recent Developments:

  • Children need action and support now against sexual harassment and abuse  - the call from the Children’s Commissioner for England urging any serious claims of sexual violence and harassment within schools be reported to the police, following allegations of sexual abuse, harassment, and rape having been made by pupils at some independent schools
  • launch of an Ofsted review into sexual abuse in schools -  announced by the Education Secretary, along with a specific NSPCC helpline for supporting children and adult victims of sexual abuse in schools:
    • in light of a surge in testimonies of sexual harassment and abuse in educational settings
    • with the review to conclude by the end of May 2021, and focusing on evaluating:
      • the severity and extent of sexual misconduct in schools
      • the adequacy of safeguarding policies and processes in schools
      • whether inspection regimes in state and independent schools are robust enough for addressing concerns
  • the Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy - recently announced by the Home Secretary, with three main aims:
    • bringing offenders of all types of child sexual abuse to justice
    • preventing offences and re-offences
    • supporting survivors and safeguarding children and young people
  • The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill - currently being debated in the House of Commons, including proposed new measures on positions of trust
  • the Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy for 2021-2024 - the recent Home Office consultation, reopened in March in light of recent events:
    • seeking input from victims, survivors, and those involved in tackling violence against women and girls or offering support services
    • to inform priorities for the third iteration of a VAWG strategy, and to ensure it takes account of the scale of and emerging forms of violence against girls and women
  • recent NSPCC findings:
    • calls to the charity’s helpline expressing concern about the welfare of children having risen by more than 50% during the pandemic
    • Freedom of Information data showing UK police forces having reporting an unprecedented level of 10,000 online child sex crimes during 2019-20
  • government support packages for supporting vulnerable children, including:
    • £125m to help councils support adult and child victims of domestic abuse in accessing safe accommodation and other support, such as therapy
    • more than £4m to go to supporting vulnerable families during COVID-19, aiming to reach ‘hidden’ children by extending programmes run by children’s charities
    • an earlier package of more than £12m for financing 14 projects supporting children at increased risk of abuse, neglect and exploitation during COVID-19
    • £35.5m to support young people at risk of involvement in serious violence - from the Home Office funding to support Violence Reduction Units
    • increased support for local authorities in England - with £2.3bn to help to help recovery from the pandemic, including £1bn for social care and supporting vulnerable children and adults
    • Next phase of £165m programme for vulnerable families launched - previously known as the Troubled Families Programme, aimed at reducing the number of children going into care and improving support for people seeking to leave abusive relationships
  • Relationships and sex education and health education - new curriculum made compulsory in September 2020, which includes teaching on respectful and healthy relationships as well as online harms
  • social media:
    • Facebook’s recent proposal to move to end-to-end encryption, followed by concern over the potential impact on children’s safety online
    • the Children’s Commissioner warning that the move hinders the ability of law enforcement to prevent child abuse and grooming, and would allow companies to escape their duty of care
  • Children in care homes - the Education Committee inquiry examining areas such as:
    • the quality of safeguarding and support in care homes
    • disproportionately high levels of youth criminalisation in children’s homes
    • the impact of the pandemic on demand for places in children’s homes
  • major related policy developments:
    • the Domestic Abuse Bill:
      • seeking to improve the effectiveness of the justice system in bringing perpetrators of domestic abuse to justice as well as protecting victims
      • including a statutory definition of domestic abuse and placing a duty on local authorities to support victims,
    • the Online Harms White Paper - outlining plans for a new regulatory framework and duty of care for online companies, including keeping children safe online, with an Online Safety Bill to come
    • the National Data Strategy:
      • setting out plans for improving the national data infrastructure and data sharing, and for unlocking the potential of data to improve productivity
      • committing to review the data infrastructure underpinning the monitoring of online harms such as child sexual abuse
  • the previous update to working arrangements around child safeguarding - whereby Local Safeguarding Children Boards were replaced by Safeguarding Partners consisting of CCGs, local authorities, and police forces, implemented in September 2019

Key areas for discussion:

Lessons learned through the pandemic:

  • multi-agency working:
    • building on the experience of collaboration between schools, social services, law enforcement and others to identify and support vulnerable children
    • next steps for innovative and agile co-operation in this area
  • remote social work - quality of contact and safeguarding, possible future uses of combining in-person visits with digital interactions, and tailoring for the needs of specific cases
  • preventative measures - including:
    • harnessing the experience to improve understandings of the root causes of child abuse, so as to better predict rises in abuse and improve early intervention during possible future crises
    • broadening the evidence base around children who are most at risk from changing circumstances, as well as action plans for supporting them

Online harms:

  • education - looking at opportunities, including:
    • matching increased screen time with a possible increase in remote learning post-pandemic, with guidance on online harms and how to stay safe
    • integrating with the delivery of the new RSE curriculum
    • improving engagement with households
  • the role of industry - looking ahead to the Online Harms Bill and options on duty of care, social media encryption, further technology company responsibilities, and the role of the EdTech sector
  • safety by design - latest thinking on inbuilt features in technology used by children, and opportunities for improving child safety through apps with specialised safeguarding

Addressing child sexual abuse - including implementing the Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy:

  • harnessing data - improving the range and quality of data, deepening collaboration between schools and social services, and dovetailing with the National Data Strategy
  • developing a whole-system approach:
    • joining up communications between law enforcement, technology companies, as well as schools and social workers
    • working with local authorities and agencies to develop place-based strategies
  • supporting recovery - particularly for those children with experience of abuse during the pandemic
    • trauma-informed support, sharing best practice and developing a joined-up support system between clinical psychologists, schools and charities
    • balancing recovery in other areas, such as educational attainment, with emotional healing amongst traumatised children 

Child social care services recovery:

  • improving service capacity:
    • assessing local authority funding levels in the wake of post-pandemic financial instability
    • preparing for predicted increased demand for services
    • the impact of recent allocations of funding support
    • priorities for supporting regions most affected
  • the social care workforce - supporting social workers and their colleagues to cope with rises in child abuse, including guarding against burnout, workload sharing, and improving access to resources
  • reconnecting with vulnerable children:
    • priorities for re-engaging with children who have fallen through the cracks during the pandemic
    • reinstating and strengthening support networks and targeting children most hidden
    • improving information and data sharing
  • new working arrangements - assessing the effectiveness of the 2019 changes in supporting child safeguarding during the pandemic, as well as their potential in role in service recovery

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by officials from the Crown Prosecution Service; the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport; the Department for Education; and the Information Commissioner's Office.


Overall, we expect speakers and attendees to be a senior and informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior government officials involved in this area of policy across Whitehall, together with representatives from local authorities, clinical commissioning groups, police forces, charities, consultancies, social workers, schools, early years practitioners, EdTech providers, technology and social media companies, mental health services and child psychologists, parents’ groups, law firms, think tanks, academics with a focus on this field and members of specialist and national media.


This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference



Keynote Speaker

Stephanie Brivio

Director for Children’s Social Care, Improvement and Learning, Department for Education

Speakers

William Ham

Director, Greens Solicitors

Dr Laura Kelly

Research Fellow, Department of Social Work and Social Care, University of Birmingham

Dr Arnon Bentovim

Child and Family Psychiatrist and Director, Child and Family Training

Richard Simpson

Corporate Head of Safeguarding and Quality, Barnado’s

David Wright

UK Safer Internet Centre Director, SWGfL

Lewis Roberts

Vice Chair, British Association of Social Workers

Lisa Hackett

Delivery Director, Frontline

Nicola Noble

Co-Headteacher, Surrey Square Primary School, London

Douglas Lloyd

CEO and Co-Founder, Azoome

Manjit Sareen

CEO and Co-Founder, Natterhub

Jenny Coles

Director of Children’s Services, Hertfordshire County Council