Child victims of exploitation left ‘invisible’ during school holidays

Our review of the week in social work.

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Social Work Recap is a weekly series where we present key news, events, conversations, tweets and campaigns around social work from the preceding week.

From a report warning of inadequate risk assessments increasing the vulnerability to domestic abuse by people on probation to an initiative calling for better care for pregnant women involved with children’s services, here’s the week in social work:

Child victims of exploitation left ‘invisible’ during school holidays, says charity

Image of teenager looking sadly towards window (credit: fizkes / Adobe Stock)

(credit: fizkes / Adobe Stock)

Barnardo’s has raised concerns over child exploitation victims being “invisible” during school holidays due to the absence of trusted adults.

Police records of child sexual exploitation dipped by one-fifth during school holidays of two weeks or longer, and then increased by the equivalent amount when schools reopened, according to Freedom of Information data the charity obtained from UK forces.

Barnardo’s warned there was a lack of specialist support in place for victims, as two-thirds (68%) of councils and four in ten police and crime commissioners had not commissioned any child sexual, criminal or combined exploitation services in the past year.

“With many children spending several hours a day without adult supervision, and without activities like youth clubs, there’s a greater risk of harm and a higher likelihood they will go unidentified and unsupported,” said Bernardo’s CEO Lynn Perry.

She further called for the government to invest in a nationwide specialist support service for child victims and in services that provided safe spaces with trusted adults during school holidays.

Perry said such specialist provision was necessary for children to rebuild their lives in the wake of “horrific abuse” whose impact was felt long into adulthood.

Charity urges better care of pregnant women involved with children’s services

Pregnant woman holding her belly

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Charity Birth Companions has launched an initiative advocating for better care for pregnant women and new mothers involved with children’s services in England.

According to the charity, outcomes for mothers with social care involvement are getting worse as they remain overlooked in national policy and guidance on social care and family justice.

“The health of many mothers in these situations is poor, and their treatment is often unfair,” said Birth Companions’ director, Naomi Delap.

“For example, women can be required to attend family court hearings very soon after birth, when they are still recovering, and they are not always given help to understand complex legal documents or processes.

“Despite the clear evidence of need, most general and specialist services are not designed with these mothers in mind. There is no national pathway and these women are missing from key health and social care policies.”

How well do practitioners support pregnant women and new mothers involved with children's services?

  • Variably (61%, 14 Votes)
  • Badly (35%, 8 Votes)
  • Very well (4%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 23

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Launching its Birth Charter for women with involvement from children’s social care this week, the charity set out 14 principles to help inform and shape policy, commissioning and professional practice.

This included mothers receiving support that was woman-centred, culturally appropriate and trauma-informed during pregnancy, birth and early motherhood, access to mental health services and opportunities to bond with their baby and retain or regain care where possible.

The charter was backed by chief social worker for children and families in England Isabelle Trowler, who said: “Today we see a great milestone towards family justice. I am very happy to support this charter as a signpost to us all, that we can do great things collectively to support women and their families throughout pregnancy, those crucial early years and beyond.”

Inadequate risk assessments by probation increasing vulnerability to domestic abuse, report finds

The brick exterior of the National Probation Service building.

Photo by Mara Louvain/ AdobeStock

Inadequate risk assessments and a lack of services are leaving many vulnerable to domestic abuse by people on probation, a report has found.

The probation inspectorate said 30% of people on probation were current or previous perpetrators of domestic abuse.

Yet, in the 60 cases it reviewed of offenders with a history of perpetrating domestic abuse, only 17 had a “sufficiently clear and thorough analysis” of the risk the person could pose.

In 45% of the cases, the inspectorate found that the person on probation should have received a domestic abuse intervention but didn’t get one.

The report found that probation officers’ caseloads were often too high for them to do meaningful work, while in “too many cases”, information sharing between probation and services including children’s social care had been inadequate in managing domestic abuse risks.

“I had hoped that more progress would have been made to address the very serious need to improve probation practice around the risks of domestic abuse,” said chief inspector of probation Justin Russell. “Unfortunately, there has only been minimal positive change.”

Charity Women’s Aid called the findings “alarming” and “unacceptable”.

“The scale of change required is significant and urgent. Improving training, which must be designed and delivered by specialist domestic abuse services, is a vital first step for improving the Probation Service’s response to survivors. Perpetrators must be held to account and prevented from inflicting further harm while serving probation.”

8,000 Afghan individuals and families at risk of homelessness, says LGA

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About 8,000 Afghan individuals and families are at risk of homelessness due to housing shortages, the Local Government Association (LGA) has warned.

The refugees have been housed in 59 temporary hotels across England, but were recently served notice by the Home Office to leave by the end of August.

The government has provided £35m to councils for case working in such hotels and any potential homelessness demand, along with £250m to help house Afghans leaving this accommodation.

However, councils are struggling to house the refugees because of the short notice period and acute lack of housing, the LGA warned.

The association also raised concerns about a lack of government recognition for wider pressures on councils including rising numbers of homeless Ukrainian households and small boat crossings, and a lack of notice to authorities of where and when hotels will be used for asylum seekers.

“We are at a crisis point,” said LGA chair Shaun Davis.

“We want to work with the government to get this right. Not just in a way that best supports the people arriving in the UK but also tackles the unsustainable pressures on our local services and on our communities.”

Tweet of the week: Happy 75th!

As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the NHS, professor of health and social care Jon Glasby reminds us that the modern adult social care system shares the same birth date. Find out more about the history of adult social care by reading the thread he shared.

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