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Research uncovers ‘troubling’ picture of the care system for children

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CHILDREN who are constantly moved around the social care system are more likely to be vulnerable to sexual exploitation, new research concludes.

Dr Sophie Hallett of Cardiff University led the study, which used case records to track a cohort of 205 children involved with social services in one Welsh local authority. These were the first young people in the UK to be assessed for their risk to child sexual exploitation (CSE) – as a whole group – back in 2006.

The analysis offers the most extensive insights into what factors contribute to children being more vulnerable to experiencing this form of abuse later on.

Child sexual exploitation happens when victims receive something such as gifts, money or affection as a result of performing sexual activities or others performing sexual activities on them. Dr Hallett’s previous research has shown that CSE is bound up with other problems and difficulties young people are experiencing – problems which can mean that some young children and young people exchange sex as a coping response.

The report shows that females in the cohort were more likely to be victims of child sexual exploitation. If the child had been a victim of sexual abuse previously, they were more than five times more likely to be abused through sexual exploitation.

The other significant factor was moving children from their living circumstances. The more moves a child experiences, the higher their chances are of becoming victims of sexual exploitation later on. On average, children in the cohort were moved to alternative living arrangements nine times. The highest number of moves for one child was 57.

Dr Hallett, based in the School of Social Sciences, said: “Although only focusing on one local authority, the systemic issues we have uncovered are representative of the sector throughout the UK. A less predictable home environment can have huge consequences for children. Without a stable home life, feelings of rejection and insecurity are exacerbated. For multiple complex reasons, it leads to them becoming more susceptible to this form of abuse.

“The analysis also highlights a number of other problems which, despite their best efforts, make it extremely difficult for those tasked with caring for these young people to be able to offer the right support.”

The report, Keeping Safe? An analysis of the outcomes of work with sexually exploited young people in Wales, also shows: As well as increasing the risk of experiencing CSE, moving children more frequently from their accommodation raises the chances of them going on to experience abuse in intimate relationships in early adulthood, as well as having an unstable housing situation. It also makes it more likely that the young person is not going to be in education and/or employment.

One in three young people in the entire study (33.7%) had experienced sexual abuse at some point in their childhood. This figure is higher for young people at high risk of CSE (46.3%).

Over two thirds of the entire sample had previously experienced emotional abuse (70.2%), more than half had experienced physical violence (58%) and half (50.7%) had experienced neglect by parents/caregivers prior to going into care.

More than half of young people who had experienced CSE had become parents in the period of the study (57.4%) compared to 17.9% in the non-CSE group.
Interventions commonly used for responses to CSE, such as healthy relationships education, did not have a positive impact for the majority of young people who received this support, and were in some case associated with negative outcomes.

Having a supportive adult in their lives had the most positive impact for young people. One-to-one work such as spending time with a young person, engaging them in activities, or addressing their confidence and self-esteem, was also the intervention most likely to help – those who received this type of support were less likely to have issues with alcohol and drug misuse and to have involvement with social services later in life.

Alongside this analysis of case files, Dr Hallett spent six weeks in a children’s residential home with young people deemed to be at risk of CSE. She also gathered opinion from social workers, residential care workers, foster carers and young people.

She said the research pointed to frustrations that little could be done to tackle the root causes of this abuse.

She said: “The report presents a troubling account of the entire care system. Young people were angry at the bodily or behavioural attention they received and the seemingly limited concern for them and their happiness.

“Foster carers said there was no support to address the abuse or rejection children had experienced and were concerned that the safeguarding measures they were having to put in place were sending messages to young people that they were the ones at fault.

“Residential workers and social workers felt their work revolved around managing risky behaviours and they did not have the resources to focus on deeper causes, such as issues of identity, loss, abuse and rejection that many of these young people struggle with.

“Unless more is done to recognise and address these widespread concerns, child sexual exploitation is going to remain a serious problem.”

Dr Hallett is presenting her findings today to social workers and policy makers. She will share a range of visual tools and materials produced from the research, to generate discussion and to support practitioners and service managers to challenge and change their practice.

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Water company fined £40,000 in NRW prosecution after 500 fish killed

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THE OPERATOR of a Swansea water treatment plant has been fined £40,000 at Swansea Magistrates Court after a chemical discharge killed more than 500 fish.

The incident took place at Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water’s (DCWW) Felindre water treatment works, just outside Swansea, in July 2018. Felindre is one of the largest water treatment works in Wales, producing water for up to 400,000 customers in Swansea, Bridgend and Cardiff.

The pollution happened when lime slurry that was being transferred spilled into a surface water drain which led to the River Lliw.

An inspection of the river by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) officers found dead fish including trout, lamprey and bullheads, and invertebrates including 200 freshwater shrimps, mayflies and caddis flies.

In total, three quarters of a mile (1.2 kilometres) of the river was affected. Fish populations in the river are expected to take three to four years to recover.

DCWW admitted causing the pollution at a previous hearing in Swansea Magistrates Court.

Chris Palmer, senior water framework directive officer for NRW, said: “Our rivers are important for our wildlife, our economy and our health and wellbeing and we are committed to preventing pollution incidents whatever their source.

“Despite efforts by DCWW to contain the spill, a significant amount of pollution entered the river and had a devastating impact on fish and other wildlife. It will take years to recover.

“We will continue to work with the company to reduce the risk of this happening again, and to improve its environmental performance to lower the number of pollution incidents in the future.”

The company was also ordered to pay costs of £8,980.99 and a victim surcharge of £170.

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Local foodservice provider gives back to children and families in need

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Over the last few weeks, Bidfood, one of the UK’s leading foodservice providers, has been rolling out its Action Against Holiday Hunger campaign, at nine of its sites across the UK. The campaign aims to support children and those who need it most, by engaging with local communities and supporting their holiday provision projects, fuelling them with supplies and volunteering support.

As part of their Action Against Holiday Hunger campaign, Bidfood Chepstow has been working in partnership with Swansea East MP Carolyn Harris, to support the Swansea Kid’s Lunch Club for the past few weeks. The depot has been donating a variety of food supplies to fuel the summer holiday project, as well as seeing employees from the Bidfood depot personally volunteer with Carolyn, to assist the running of the project and delivery of the supplies. The project aims to help support over 6000 children and their families this summer.

Discussing the initiative, Swansea East MP, Carolyn Harris, said: “Quite simply, a lot of families rely on free school meals during term time and are unable to afford the extra food needed for the six week break; this is why I set up the Swansea Kid’s Lunch Club, to help support these families in need. This year will be the third summer of running the lunch club, having fed over 6000 children in each of the two previous years.

“To help run this scheme, we have had to rely on kind donations of food and drink from a number of suppliers and Bidfood have been one of our biggest supporters. They were quick to answer my original plea and have been proactive in offering help each time I have needed it.

“In the current climate of austerity I envisage that the holiday lunch clubs will continue in Swansea East for the foreseeable future and I am confident that Bidfood will continue to be one of our key providers.”

Along with this, and as part of Bidfood’s Action Against Holiday Hunger campaign, Bidfood chefs have also attended several projects to cook delicious and nutritious meals to feed the children attending the sessions; as well as providing families helpful advice on how to cook on a budget and make a small amount of food go further.

Speaking about the initiative, Nick Sullivan, Head of Sales at Bidfood Chepstow, said: “Supporting the local community is very important to myself and all of our employees here in Chepstow. Children going hungry during the holidays is an increasing issue that affects many communities like ours across Wales, so it is important that as a business in the food industry, we use our resources to support these disadvantaged families in need.”

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Landore Depot in Swansea to be reopened by Chrysalis Rail

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A SWANSEA railway depot is set to reopen this month after closing in December.

Landore depot, which previously operated as Great Western Railway’s maintenance depot, was closed eight months ago.

It has now been announced that it will reopen as a rolling stock maintenance and overhaul depot.

The company will be using the site for vehicle refurbishment, re-paints and modifications.

Chris Steele, managing director of Chrysalis Rail, said: “We are delighted to reopen the Landore depot as a Chrysalis base in south Wales.

“We currently operate across the UK at both our own sites and our customers depots, and we are delighted to take on a new site which will offer greater capacity and opportunity to continue to provide high-quality rolling stock solutions to the rail industry.

“There is a great existing local railway talent pool with the relevant knowledge and expertise here in south Wales.

“We would love to hear from local people interested in a career in the rail industry with the relevant skills, experience and attitude to come and work with us.”
A date for the reopening has not yet been confirmed but Chrysalis Rail confirmed that it will be at the beginning of August.

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