drive turns spotlight on parents

New truancy sweeps
resulted in 12,000 children being stopped in one month, according to the latest

They were found by
more than 900 truancy patrols carried out been 29 April and 30 May, with 32 per
cent of the children being of primary school age and 68 per cent of secondary
school age.  

Figures released by
education minister Stephen Twigg show that about half of the children stopped
were with their parents and half of these were judged to have no good reason
for being out of school.

Meanwhile, education
welfare officers trying to curb truancy among young teenagers are fighting a
losing battle, according to new research.  

The Cambridge
University study found strong links between school absenteeism and child
poverty, with primary school children much more likely to be affected by
economic deprivation in the locality than their secondary school counterparts.
While early intervention to address family welfare issues may stop primary
school truancy, by the time children reach secondary school it is likely to be
too late to have an impact.

The correlation
between truancy and child poverty diminishes with age, to be replaced by
multiple influences such as peer relationships, school work, and youth
offending, the study says.

research on self-harm

Fresh evidence has
emerged of links between teenage self-harm and the difficulties young people
face in their lives.

Research carried out
by NCH and Coventry University examines why young people self-harm, in the
light of government figures showing that one in 17 adolescents, or two in every
classroom, have harmed themselves.

The research found
significant links between the onset of self-harm and being bullied at school,
unwanted pregnancy, parental divorce and bereavement.

Self-harm began from
as young as seven years old. Frequency varied, with one young person having
harmed herself 10 times in one day by cutting or blood-letting.

NCH director of
public policy Caroline Abrahams said: “The government’s own research suggests
that more than 200,000 11-15 year olds are self-harming, but our study shows
that behind every one of them is a young person – and often a family – in deep

Paul Bywaters, from
Coventry University, called on professionals to be much more alert to this

“We must lift the
taboo that surrounds self-harm so that children and families get help,” said

NCH has produced a
leaflet and a website with advice and information about self-harm for young
people, their families and friends: www.nch. org.uk/selfharm

Whitehall boost for young people

Eight government
departments have published action plans on how they intend to involve young
people in their policy-making.

The action plans have
been heavily influenced by the Children and Young People’s Unit and its
associated Young People’s Forum. The CYPU will monitor progress with the action
plans, which cover the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, the Department
for Education and Skills, the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,
the Department of Health, Home Office, Lord Chancellor’s Department, Ministry
of Defence, and the Treasury.

Other departments are
expected to publish action plans shortly.

Guidance to
government departments on the action plans called for a visible commitment to
the participation of children, and equal opportunities for children and young
people to get involved.

Bid to reduce re-offending by young people

A “going straight”
contract should be developed to reduce re-offending and then tested out with 18
to 20 year olds, the Social Exclusion Unit has recommended.  

The SEU’s report,
Reducing Reoffending by Ex-Prisoners, looks at ways of responding to the
failure of prison to turn  offenders
away from crime in most cases. Of prisoners released in 1997, 58 per cent were
convicted of another crime within two years. Among 18 to 20 years olds, the
reconviction rate was 72 per cent over the same period.

The contract would be
designed to support the rehabilitation of offenders,  during and after their sentence.  

It would be tailored
to the individual, address the factors contributing to offending behaviour, and
cover all groups responsible for delivery.

Compared with the
general population, the report points out, prisoners are 13 times as likely to
be unemployed, 13 times as likely to have been in care as a child, and 10 times
as likely to have been a regular truant. Their basic skill levels are often
poor, the report says. Eighty per cent have the writing skills, 65 per cent the
numeracy skills and 50 per cent the reading skills at or below the level of an
11-year old child.

Teachers to take on protection

Teachers have been
given a more prominent child protection role in new education legislation.

The Education Bill,
which was passed by parliament at the end of June, penalises teachers who fail
to report signs of suspected abuse among their pupils, thanks to an amendment
made at the last minute.

Schools and local
education authorities will have to take steps to safeguard and promote the
welfare of children.

The amendment follows
the death of six-year-old Lauren Wright, who was killed by her stepmother and
whose teachers did not inform social services that she had attended school
covered in bruises and weighing just two stone.

pledge to teenage mothers

In a bid to cut the
risk of long-term social exclusion, the government has pledged to double the
number of teenage mothers in education or work to 60 per cent by 2010.

Health minister Hazel
Blears, announcing the commitment as part of the government’s teenage pregnancy
strategy, said it would include an action plan to build on the reduction in
conception rates already achieved and work towards the social inclusion of
teenage mothers.  

Responding to the
advisory group on teenage pregnancy’s first annual report, Blears said that
much remained to be done. The strategy’s main targets are to halve the rate of
conceptions among under-18s by 2010, establish a downward trend in under-16s’
conception rates by 2010, and increase the participation of teenage parents in
education and work.

are carers of choice, say mothers

Mothers of babies
looked after by childminders are happier about the care provided than those
using other types of child care, suggest interim results from a new study.

When their children
were three months old, mothers were asked what their ideal child care
arrangements would be if money were no object. About half of the mothers wanted
to care for their babies, while grandparents were top of the list of
alternative carers.

Four per cent cited
childminders as the ideal, while fathers were the least favoured option with 1
per cent. But when questioned again at 10 months, childminding was both the
most used and the preferred option.

Penelope Leach,
president of the National Childminding Association and one of the study’s
authors, said it showed that the government should invest more in childminders
rather than focus resources on nursery provision.

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.