This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Child protection review

It has been a while since I posted here: other writing has taken precedence, not least my forthcoming book on improving productivity and efficiency. But watch this space as we run up to the PCC elections in May...

Meanwhile I continue to volunteer for ChildLine: delivering workshops to 8/9/10 year olds on staying happy and safe. This means I get sent regular updates from the NSPCC on their work. I have just received this email which lists an impressive year of action by the charity in support of children leading happy lives, free from fear.

We launched Share Aware, our campaign aimed at parents of 8-11 year olds, to give parents ‘no-nonsense’ advice about social media networks and keeping children safe online. This included a new tooldeveloped in partnership with Mumsnet, which is a guide to the social networks, apps and games that children use including reviews and quotes from children and young people themselves. As part of the campaign one of our new animated films ‘I Saw Your Willy’ had over two million hits over social media.

Justice Lowell Goddard was named as Chair of the Home Office Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. In a statement Peter Wanless commented on the appointment. Justice Goddard later said that internet firms will be called to the child sex abuse inquiry to explain what more they could do to tackle child porn. In a statement covered on the Mail Online we said: “There are clear links between accessing this horrendous material and contact offending. This vile trade needs to be tackled as a priority. These are not just images – they portray the agony of a real child being abused and to all intents and purposes are crime scenes.”

Our new service Women as Protectors was launched in York, Croydon and Belfast. The service is for women whose husband or partner has sexually abused a child or children, which can lead to feelings of isolation and being concerned about the safety of their children. Previously, support hasn’t been widely available, recovery plans often focus only on the person who poses a risk and women’s needs can be side-lined. That can have a damaging effect on her ability to protect her children, leaving them at risk of sexual abuse. 

We launched our ChildLine campaign, FAPZ (Fight Against Porn Zombies), dealing with the growing issue of online pornography. A UK-wide survey of 2,000 children revealed that nearly one in ten 12-13 year olds are worried they are addicted to porn, and the campaign raised awareness and provided advice to young people. The campaign illustrated that online porn does not reflect real life, and worked to build young people’s resilience towards online porn

The Virgin Money London Marathon took place, with many people taking part in support the work of the NSPCC and ChildLine receiving mentions in regional news outlets across the country. We officially announced our partnership as charity for next year’s London Marathon. Peter Wanless said in a statement: “2016 is shaping up to be a huge year for the NSPCC and, in particular, our ChildLine service which will be marking 30 years. It's fantastic that in this milestone year, we've been chosen to be the official charity of the Virgin Money London Marathon, and we're calling on runners across the UK to join Team NSPCC to make it our biggest and best team ever.” We aim to raise £2.3m through the partnership.

We reported a 200% rise in children requesting counselling for exam stress. ChildLine received more than 34,000 approaches in 2013-14 for worries such as revision, workloads, and problems with teachers, putting education into the top 10 concerns we hear for the first time. There were also more than 87,500 visits to the ChildLine website for the same issues, where we have advice for young peopleon coping with exam stress. Peter Wanless said: “The exam period can be a very stressful and anxious time for young people. As these figures reveal, the pressure to do well is being felt by an increasing number of young people across the country.” Along with nearly 300 pieces of regional coverage, there were features in the i, Evening Express, Daily Mirror, Sky News, Daily Mail, IndependentITV, and The Guardian. ChildLine supervisor Alex Gray was also interviewed by Eamon Holmes on Sunrise.

The ‘How safe are our children? 2015’ report revealed a massive rise in children on protection plans. Since 2002, the number of children in the child protection system has risen by 80%, and for every child officially at risk, we estimate there are eight more who have suffered abuse and remain outside the system.


The Daily Mail's investigation team launched a campaign focussed on charity telephone fundraising, which has seen a number of charities come under criticism on several of their front pages. In response we took a number of measures, both externally and internally, including publishing our fundraising promise which was sent to hundreds of thousands of supporters. We subsequently submitted our response to Sir Stuart Etherington, who was asked by the government to publish a review into the current system of self-regulation of fundraising. We proposed that the charity sector has a single independent regulator, with a robust and authoritative mandate, to ensure that the charity sector is held accountable. We emphasised that we are keen to build trust and public confidence in the sector.

We announced football superstar Wayne Rooney as our first ‘Ambassador for Childhood’, leading the way in our fight for every childhood. The England and Manchester United captain and dad is the first of five of our Ambassadors, who will help us reach more children and parents than ever before. Wayne’s ‘testimonial’ football match, will take place on 03 August 2016 and we will be one of the charities that the proceeds will be donated to.

Google, Facebook and Twitter joined with the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) in a new crack down on child abuse images. Using ‘hash codes’, akin to a digital fingerprint, images can be identified and quickly removed to prevent them from being repeatedly shared. Our head of child safety online Claire Lilley was interviewed live for The Today Programme and Victoria Derbyshire Show (from 1:13:55) and commented that this initiative is encouraging but a range of approaches is still needed to tackle the issue.

Alfie the astronaut, our first major brand advert in six years, premiered during Educating Cardiff. It marked the start of the four-week campaign across TV and digital channels, seeking to increase awareness about what we do and how the public can help us in the fight for every childhood. The advert has out-performed against nearly all targets and we will have the full evaluation available in the New Year.

We published this year’s ChildLine Annual Review. ‘Always There When I Need You’ revealing that a child is counselled by ChildLine about mental health-related concerns every six minutes. Counsellors have helped children and young people suffering from unhappiness, suicidal thoughts, low self-esteem and diagnosed mental health disorders like bipolar. Many young people felt they had been left to deal with these problems alone without support services with issues such as experiencing lengthy waiting times, lack of out-of-hours support, service closures and an absence of information.

At our Annual Council Meeting (ACM), hundreds of volunteers and supporters from across the country gathered at Imperial College London. As well as publishing our annual report and accounts, we heard from young people in our NSPCC Visionaries who gave a brilliant presentation about their time with us so far and what they’d learnt. Another young person gave an excellent presentation with development manager Mandy Wilkins about life in care, and how our service Taking Care is an example of a simple tool for social workers which can make a big difference. Do take a moment to watch ‘What can we do about child abuse?’, a new animation about our core story, which was premiered at the ACM and received rave reviews.

Data we obtained through Freedom of Information requests shows a postcode lottery in waiting times for children accessing local mental health services. The average waiting time between referral and assessment by local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) ranged from just a week in some areas to more than 26 weeks in others, with an average waiting time of nearly two months. Look out for a lot more on this subject from us in the New Year.

We issued a warning to parents about online grooming risks when buying mobile phones, tablets and games consoles this Christmas. Peter Wanless said: “The internet offers an amazing environment for children to be creative, explore their interests, play with friends, learn or socialise, but there are risks every parent buying enabled devices this Christmas should be aware of. Parents have a vital role to play in keeping children safe online and it doesn’t have to be daunting. Just asking children what sites, apps and games they use could be a great way to start a conversation. And there is a wealth of advice available on the NSPCC website.”