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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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Director of pharmacy chain jailed for £76,000 NHS fraud

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THE DIRECTOR of a family chain of high street pharmacies in South Wales has been sentenced to 16 months’ imprisonment for deliberately overcharging the NHS for medicines at one of his branches: Talbot Pharmacy at Heol Y Gyfraith Talbot Green, Rhondda Cynon Taf (Cardiff Crown Court, 22 October 2019).

Pharmacist Michael Lloyd (52) of Penllyn, Cowbridge, Vale of Glamorgan, repeatedly submitted claims for payment to the NHS that falsely stated he had dispensed a more expensive item than he had actually provided to the patients.

Michael Lloyd is the co-director of Llanharan Pharmacy Ltd, which owns five pharmacy premises across South East Wales.

Lloyd received and processed prescriptions issued to NHS patients in the Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board (CTMUHB) area.

NHS Counter Fraud Service (CFS) Wales was called in to investigate following concerns raised by the health board. Investigations subsequently revealed that on numerous occasions, Lloyd falsely claimed he had dispensed medicines in liquid form to NHS patients when they had in fact received tablets. Drugs in liquid form cost significantly more.

Some tablets for dementia such as Memantine and Donepezil cost as little as £3 but Lloyd claimed for the more expensive liquid formulation, which sometimes cost the NHS as much £300 each time.

Lloyd sometimes altered the prescription forms – which had often already been honestly endorsed by staff to show that tablets had been dispensed – by crossing out their entries to claim for the much more expensive items such as liquids and dissolvable or dispersible tablets.

The prescriptions abused usually originated from genuine handwritten prescriptions issued by hospital doctors at the nearby Royal Glamorgan Hospital. Investigators also identified that Michael Lloyd had falsely claimed for liquids on prescriptions issued to patients by community dental practitioners for painkillers and anti-biotics. However, patients always received the correct medication that they were prescribed.

The NHS Counter Fraud Authority (NHSCFA) supported the investigation. Its Forensic Computing Unit (FCU) assisted in obtaining a forensic image (a complete exact copy) of Talbot Pharmacy’s computer systems.

NHS CFS Wales worked closely with the Pharmacy Team at CTMUHB. Investigators analysed the prescriptions claimed for by Talbot Pharmacy against the computer systems and were able to prove that over 1,500 prescriptions had been falsely claimed for by Lloyd, costing the NHS a total £76,475. They also obtained the tablet packaging provided to a number of patients as further evidence to support this.

Lloyd repaid this amount in full to CTMUHB in May 2019. Earlier, in an interview under caution, he admitted to the offences in a pre-prepared statement.

The other four branches in the business did not appear to have processed their prescriptions in the same way.

Graham Dainty, Operational Fraud Manager of CFS Wales, said today:

“CFS Wales has recently secured several successful prosecutions of NHS professionals who have defrauded NHS Wales. Pharmaceutical practitioners work in a key position of trust. Michael Lloyd abused his position as a pharmacist to deliberately defraud NHS Wales over an extended period of time. A dishonest minority are harming the reputation of the honest majority of pharmaceutical practitioners. This case shows that fraud will not be tolerated in NHS Wales and that suitable criminal, civil and disciplinary sanctions will always be pursued when appropriate”.

Sue Frith, CEO of the NHSCFA, said today: “This case is a shocking example of pharmaceutical contractor fraud, which is a priority action area for the NHSCFA this year. We were pleased to support NHS CFS Wales in this investigation, and our counter fraud teams routinely collaborate closely to ensure there is nowhere for fraudsters to hide. The specialist support of our Forensic Computing Unit helped CFS Wales to confront Mr Lloyd with a mass of hard evidence.

Any suspicion of fraud against the NHS should be reported to the NHS Fraud and Corruption Report Line via NHSCFA’s main website or by telephone on 0800 028 4060. Wherever appropriate, it will be investigated and prosecuted.”

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Jobs to go at Port Talbot car parts firm

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A SOUTH WALES car parts firm has announced it will close in two years, with the loss of about 125 jobs.

Hi-Lex Cable System Company makes door and window parts and cables for cars at its plant on Baglan energy park.

Management at the firm, which supplies Honda, Audi and BMW among others, said it did not anticipate any redundancies in the next 12 months.

Any remaining business at the plant in 2021 will be transferred to a Hi-Lex plant in Hungary.

A statement issued by the company said the decision had been taken following a meeting at the parent company, Hi-Lex Corporation in Japan, which discussed a restructure of its European operations.

It continued: “Hi-Lex Corporation regrets the need for the decision to re-structure its operations, but it is based solely upon a significant reduction in the sales forecast at HCS, from 2021 onwards.

“Hi-Lex will now contact all of our supply chain partners to discuss and agree plans to meet the needs of our customers up to the closure of the HCS facility.”

Commenting on the news that Hi-Lex Cable Systems will be leaving Wales, Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Economy and Transport, Russell George AM, said: “It is disappointing that Hi-Lex Cable Systems has decided to move their production from Baglan to Hungary. The highly skilled and dedicated workforce in Baglan and the surrounding area are and would have continued to be a strong asset to Hi-Lex in the face of predicted declining sales from 2021. I urge the Welsh and UK Government’s to act swiftly to help the employees and their families affected by today’s news.”

Welsh Conservative Regional Assembly Member for South Wales West, Suzy Davies AM, added: “This is another blow to the South Wales West area and its hardworking people. It is good to hear that Hi-Lex will not be making any redundancies before 2021 enabling people to plan for the future and I will do everything to attract more businesses to South Wales West to replace those that will be lost over the next two years.”

Adam Glaznieks, managing director at the Port Talbot site, said: “The reason for making the announcement now is that we need to commence preparations to transfer any remaining business after 2021 to the Hi-Lex plant in Hungary.”

The leader of Neath Port Talbot council, Rob Jones, said the closure would be “keenly felt” in the area and the authority would try to support workers “wherever we can into new employment”.

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Swansea Building Society expands in East Wales

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Swansea Building Society has appointed two new front-line mortgage managers to further expand its East Wales operations.

Lloyd Williams from North Cornelly has recently been appointed as Branch Manager at the Society’s Cowbridge branch. Williams is currently the Assistant Manager at the Cowbridge branch and has seven years’ experience in financial services. His new role will see him responsible for the branch and mortgage sales/operations in and around the Bridgend/Vale of Glamorgan areas. A fluent Welsh speaker, Williams has been with the Society for over four years.

Laura Cox from Croesyceiliog has recently been appointed as the Society’s new Business Development Manager covering the counties of Monmouthshire and Brecon and Radnorshire. Cox has over 15 years’ experience in financial services, having worked as a mortgage adviser in the Newport/Gwent area and as a Senior Underwriter at another Welsh building society.

Both Williams and Cox will report to Swansea Building Society’s Area Manager, Richard Miles, who along with the Society’s existing Business Development Manager, Martin Lewis, will continue to manage the areas of Cardiff, Gwent and the Welsh Border region.

Richard Miles, Area Manager and Head of Savings at Swansea Building Society, said:

“I am delighted to have Lloyd and Laura join our expanding team in East Wales. The response to the Society’s personal, tailored and common-sense approach to lending since we opened in Cowbridge during December 2017 has been excellent. By increasing our mortgage manager presence, we can focus on developing new business in areas where previously we have been unable to fully focus on.”

Alun Williams, Chief Executive of Swansea Building Society, added:

“I have been delighted with how the team based at the Cowbridge branch have performed since its opening. It is obvious from the feedback received that more and more people in East Wales need the services of a lender that avoids a ‘computer says no’ model and that doesn’t believe in a one size fits all approach to mortgage lending.

“With a focus on opening and not closing branches, our ambitions to expand further and effectively serve communities will be complemented with the additions to Richard’s team in East Wales. We look forward to seeing their growing contribution to the Society in 2020 and beyond.”

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