Insights

Gareth Copeland: 4 minute read

Safeguarding is not limited to the classroom

Teaching today includes an element of safeguarding, as for some children their teacher is the only stable relationship that they have. Without effective intervention and safeguarding from a young age, children can be driven into the arms of gangs where they can commit unspeakable crimes. We have seen this recently with the increase in teenage knife crime, but what can be done?

Where do the problems stem from?

Society is full of problems like a sieve with too many holes. People are leaving the system in greater quantities every year to be left outside alone, with no effective support network. Whether this is troubled families, vulnerable adults or disruptive children, there are thousands of people who are not receiving the care and attention that they need, when they need it. Safeguarding policies are failing to protect everyone and change is required. We all know that these problems exist and in the majority of cases they are stemming from funding cuts.

With so many people requiring care, the system cannot cope and needs major re-development and investment. We all know this but change can only happen from the government, to realise that by working together and connecting all the dots we can effectively safeguard. By not cutting early intervention sources down to the absolute minimum we can ensure that everyone gets the help the need and not passed between services until they give up.

Off-rolling

This is a dark practice that has been lurking in the shadows of education for years. It is the process by which the school, in one way or another removes a student from a school’s roll, being complete behind the scenes to avoid the student being counted in official statistics. Police commissioners and the Mayor of London recently wrote to the Prime Minister about this and the recent increase in knife crime. In the letter they called for an end to off rolling, in addition to using permanent exclusion as a last resort only.

In other countries this practice is not commonplace. It has emerged through budget cuts like a spider emerging from its web to cut off vital life lines for vulnerable children in England. Off rolling and exclusion should be last resorts, with the former being banned. It does not help anyone and simply passes the child around to another frontline service until they reach the police or NHS. Nobody wants this outcome. 

Alternative provision can provide a lifeline to these children but these services are full to capacity. In the last five years the number of children being taught in alternative settings, in the most deprived areas of England has increased by more than 70%. Close to 50,000 pupils are now taught in this manner.

The Department for Education has stated that every child should "benefit from a high-quality education and equal opportunity, regardless of their background". Alternative provision can be a lifeline for children and parents, offering smaller classes alongside tailored support. Not all children are provided with this opportunity and with the delays in SEN assessments, cuts to youth and children’s centres, alongside the growing practice of off rolling you have to ask if all the children that need alternative provision are being provided with this lifeline?

Cuts to youth and children’s centres

In the letter to the Prime Minister, the Police Commissioners and Mayor suggest that pupils who are formally and informally excluded, are being "sucked into criminality". Cuts to youth services mean that these children once they are removed from school have nowhere to go. They are cast adrift and left without direction or purpose, which can lead to some falling in with the wrong crowd.

Figures gained from the Guardian at the start of last year point to as many as 1,000 Sure Start children’s centres being shut down in England since 2010. This is double the official estimate in terms of the number of closures, which leaves the flagship programme floundering. Youth centres have also closed in great quantities with more than 750 closing since 2012 and 4,500 youth worker jobs being lost. In addition to this delays in assessments for children with SEN or SEND needs have been delayed by more than 850 days in some counties. These are having devastating effects for the children as without a needs assessment taking place, some parents are being asked to keep their children at home. This is because the schools they apply to are saying that they cannot meet the needs of the child.

All of this paints an undeniable fact that with funding cuts come failures in the system. Safeguarding is replaced with immediate needs and so some vulnerable children's need are not being met, which can leave them out in the cold. When you are young and you feel as though you have nowhere to go, you will become desperate for connection.

What can be done?

Much like the problems associated with the NHS and social care, more money is required, with a top down plan of every frontline service needed. Too long have they worked in isolation when society needs to work as a collective with a hive mind. By doing so we can effectively safeguard all those who need help, from vulnerable children to adults and beyond. This is what we should be aiming for, sharing the limited resources we have to give everyone the best start possible.

As the letter to the Prime Minister states, the police cannot combat knife crime alone. They have suffered budget cuts along with everyone else and need the support to work with schools and communities to tackle this.

"...excluded children are at much greater risk of becoming either perpetrators or victims of serious youth violence."

Technology can assist

Technology is an enabler of change and we have proved this during our near 28 years in operation. We work with local authorities, health and care providers, education establishments and charities to provide a 360 degree view of the child or vulnerable individual. We believe that the quicker an issue can be raised, the quicker assistance can be provided.

We need to work together to realise that we all hold a piece of the puzzle, a key to that child’s future. Technology can showcase this to all agencies by sharing information and generating trends. If you see in one area that a number of children have been affected by knife crime then you can look to set up a youth area centre. You can also increase the police presence and ensure the greatest return on investment from your frontline assets.

In Conclusion

Safeguarding is a long term process and the budget cuts that are prominent in this government have robbed some children of their best start. We need to work together to tackle this problem and make the most of the resources available by combining this with technological updates that speed up processes.