News roundup: April 2021

01 May 2021, Thirtyone:eight

Here are our top safeguarding stories from April 2021. To access or view the full articles click on the link embedded in the title:

Oxfam: UK halts funding over new sexual exploitation claims

The United Kingdom has suspended aid funding for Oxfam again after fresh allegations of sexual exploitation and bullying were made against staff. Two Oxfam workers in the Democratic Republic of Congo were suspended in March following the latest claims. The charity had only been allowed to start reapplying for aid funds in March. It had served a three-year ban after evidence of sexual exploitation by staff in Haiti came to light in 2018.

‘This dispels false narratives that the Church has nothing to offer’: New report highlights resilience of Scottish churches during pandemic

New research has pinpointed the “remarkable adaptations” church leaders in Scotland have made during the coronavirus pandemic to reach their communities. A study found that 96 per cent of 369 congregational leaders spanning 27 different denominations continued with ministry and mission work.  The lockdown and subsequent Covid-19 restrictions to the opening of buildings resulted in a dramatic rise in online worship and other content, with 92 per cent of churches offering some form of weekly material.

Government urged to ensure convicted sex offenders cannot work as tutors

The government has been urged to close a legal loophole to stop convicted sex offenders working with children as private tutors. The impact of closed schools during the Covid-19 pandemic has led to an increase in demand for private tuition. Although most tutors working for agencies are required to have a DBS check, including those signed up for the government’s National Tutor Programme, private tutors are not legally required to have their background record checked before working with children. Read our blog on this story here.

Mother and baby home 'must not repeat mistakes of past inquires'

A new group that will help shape an inquiry into mother and baby homes says a lack of prosecutions from the historical abuse inquiry must serve as a lesson. Research from Amnesty International and Ulster University shows no prosecutions were brought despite nearly 200 complaints to the PSNI. Amnesty International and Ulster University have launched a series of online events to help and inform survivors of mother and baby homes and Magdalene laundries.

Big Ask: Children in England asked their hopes for post-Covid future

Millions of children across England are being asked to contribute to a survey about their hopes for the future. Children's Commissioner for England, Dame Rachel de Souza, says the results will inform a review aimed at tackling "generational problems that have held back too many children for decades". The Big Ask is aiming to be the largest consultation with children undertaken in England. It will be introduced with an online assembly by footballer Marcus Rashford.

Lockdowns hurt child speech and language skills - report

There is growing evidence that the past year of lockdowns has had an impact on young children's language skills, according to research. Data from 50,000 pupils and a survey of schools across England have shown an increased number of four- and five-year-olds needing help with language. Evidence shows poor speech development can have long-term effects on learning. The government says it is investing £18m in early-years catch-up, including extra help for those in Reception year.

General Synod digest: members hear Church’s progress on IICSA recommendations

The General Synod has taken note of a report on the work undertaken by the Church national in response to the recommendations made by the IICSA investigation report published last October. This includes support and redress schemes, changes to policy and practice, the introduction of diocesan safeguarding officers, and the creation of an independent safeguarding board.

Domestic Abuse Bill to become law after stalker plans defeated

The Domestic Abuse Bill is set to become law, after peers backed down in a dispute over how best to monitor stalkers and abusers. The Lords has been pressing for legal changes to ensure offenders are automatically monitored under an existing police database. The government has rejected this, arguing changing monitoring rules would be more effective. The bill - which only applies to England and Wales - aims to strengthen rules surrounding controlling or coercive behaviour, target revenge porn and end the "rough sex defence" in court. It also recognises children as victims of domestic abuse.

Everyone's Invited: Schools abuse helpline and review launched

A helpline and immediate review into sexual abuse in schools have been set up by the government in response to thousands of allegations from students. Ofsted will look at safeguarding in both state and independent schools. The helpline will be run by the NSPCC to both support potential victims and provide advice to children and adults.

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