Home Affairs CommitteeSupplementary written evidence from the NSPCC [LCG 05a]

Thank you for inviting the NSPCC and ChildLine to give oral evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee Inquiry into Localised Child Grooming. We are very grateful for the opportunity to give evidence and we hope that you found the session useful and informative.

During the session, the Committee asked if we have provided information about the practices that we have found particularly helpful when working with child victims and witnesses. We have already provided some information within our initial written submission but please find attached some further information in relation to this area. Given the Committee’s question about the need for schools to alert pupils to the dangers of sexual exploitation, we have also taken the opportunity to attach information about the new ChildLine schools service which will eventually reach every primary school in the UK and will help children understand how to recognise and protect themselves from abuse, and where to go for help when they need it.

As you are aware, we drew upon ChildLine’s new report Caught in a trap: The impact of grooming in 2012 as part of our oral evidence. We attach the final published copy of this report. One of the most concerning findings of the report is that young people have the perception that adults will not understand how grooming has occurred and they will not be believed. Given the events of recent weeks, it is crucially important now more than ever that young people know that if they find the courage to report abuse their emotional needs will be met; they will not be blamed; and the cycle of abuse will end. We will be looking to see how we can further address these issues in the coming months.

We are extremely encouraged by the Committee’s focus on this issue to ensure more victims can be supported and perpetrators brought to justice. If there is any further information we can provide to assist with your inquiry we would be more than happy to do so.

Jon Brown
Head of Strategy & Development, Sexual Abuse, NSPCC

Sue Minto
Head of ChildLine

5 November 2012

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: NSPCC ORAL EVIDENCE

1. ChildLine Schools Service

Most ChildLine callers are children over the age of eleven years old. Younger children may not have an understanding or awareness of abuse or the support available to them to know how and when to seek help. We need a way to reach out to younger children and those who do not have access to technology to ensure they have an understanding of abuse, of how to protect themselves and how to access help through ChildLine and other sources. This is the underlying principle of the new schools service. We believe that reaching such children will be easiest in a primary school setting.

The service focuses on primary school children from five to 11 years old, with a particular emphasis on 7–11 year olds. It has already been delivered in 1,273 schools and reached 90,362 children across the UK. At the end of August the service had 263 volunteers active in schools. The ChildLine Schools Service will eventually help every child in the UK to understand how to recognise and protect themselves from abuse, and where to go for help when they need it. The aim is to visit every primary school in the UK at least once every two years.

Evaluation information indicates that 67% of children indicated that they were more likely to talk to someone if they felt unsafe, after the visit from the ChildLine Schools Service. 70% of head teachers stated that there been a change to what their pupils knew about child abuse and bullying after a visit from the service.

The ChildLine Schools Service delivery model involves two stages of presentation to children. The first stage is an assembly to a large group of pupils at a school. The assembly is delivered to pupils in Key Stage 2. In the assembly we cover:

Definitions of all forms of abuse.

Case Study and role play on abuse.

Introduction to ChildLine and what happens when you call.

The second stage happens approximately one–two weeks after the initial assembly, with 50 minute classroom-based workshops to every class in years 5 and 6. These workshops reinforce the messages given at the assembly. You can watch a video about the Schools Service here which explains how the service is delivered: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08MZdc6MT_g&feature=relmfu

ChildLine Schools Service is a volunteer delivered service. Volunteers are rigorously recruited from a diverse range of backgrounds including parents of young children, students and ex head teachers. They complete on line and face to face training, and then attend schools to observe and learn alongside other staff and experienced volunteers. Regional and national recruitment will be scaled up as the service develops and grows.

Teachers and school staff play an important role in helping to deliver safeguarding messages to children. Head teachers and teachers are briefed on the content of the workshops and assemblies. Class teachers are present at all sessions (both assembly and workshops) so that they understand the messages we give and can respond to children after the sessions if they ask questions. ChildLine posters are placed in all classrooms after the assemblies.

We would be happy to arrange ChildLine Schools Service visits within the constituencies of Committee members once the service is up and running, should that be of interest.

2. Supporting Young Victims and Witnesses

In our August 2012 written evidence, we stated that in all circumstances where children who have been sexually abused and are called on to be witnesses they should have comprehensive support and preparation for court made available to them and that work remains to be done to achieve a comprehensive UK-wide child and young witness provision. We also highlighted the ground-breaking initiative we have embarked on with Victims Support to design and develop service models to prepare and support children and young people giving evidence in criminal proceedings.

The NSPCC has worked with young people who have been victims of sexual exploitation and have given evidence in criminal proceedings. Our experience tells us that these young people have considerable support needs and require a trusted person to be alongside them throughout the process. Confidence is built by the knowledge that their supporter will be with them whilst giving evidence and if they can use a remote link facility rather than attending the court building. Young people who have been threatened and intimidated will take these fears with them and this will make them reluctant to disclose/give evidence.

Victims and witnesses are automatically entitled to be considered for “special measures” when giving evidence in court which are intended to reduce the anxiety and unpleasantness of giving evidence. Measures include giving evidence from behind a screen or from a remote location, a supporter being available for the witness and the giving of evidence in chief by video recording. Judges can also control the way in which young witnesses are crossexamined. Intermediaries are a special measure and available to all under 18s. The role is intended to help witnesses understand the nature of questioning and help the witness to give their evidence to the court. The scheme is a valuable contribution to the criminal justice process and needs to be extended so that is available to all young victims and witnesses.

The NSPCC & Nuffield Foundation have funded considerable research in recent years (In their Own Words in 20041 and Measuring Up in 20092) to seek the views of young witnesses. The issues raised were again repeated in research published this year by CPS & HMIC.3 All recent research highlights issues around delay, poor questioning, poor assessment and insufficient consideration of appropriate special measures. Some of these issues are being addressed with the development of toolkits to assist advocates in questioning young witnesses (the Advocates Gateway is in consultation4). However, it remains that there is no consistent national approach to supporting the most vulnerable young victims throughout the process from point of disclosure through to Court. A proposal, being considered by Victim Support, is to develop Advocacy Centres where young people can be interviewed, receive help and support in safe surroundings and also give their evidence. This would undoubtedly assist the most vulnerable young witnesses by speeding up the process and providing greater security.

3. NSPCC Assistance With Police Investigation into Jimmy Savile

The NSPCC has been asked by the Metropolitan Police to assist their investigation into allegations made against Jimmy Savile by taking calls on this issue and compiling any new information for them. As of 1st November 2012, the NSPCC’s helpline has received 190 calls directly relating to allegations against Jimmy Savile which we have passed to the police. The NSPCC helpline has never dealt with so many allegations against one individual.

In addition, in the four weeks since the allegations against Savile first surfaced, the NSPCC has also received 217 calls by people who are not making allegations against Savile, but were prompted by this media story to discuss with the NSPCC their own experience of being sexually abused as children. 91 of these calls have also been referred to the police. The NSPCC’s 24 hour helpline provides advice and support to adults who are concerned about the safety or welfare of a child.

NSPCC

November 2012

1 In their own words: The experiences of 50 young witnesses in criminal proceedings, Joyce Plotnikoff and Richard Woolfson, (NSPCC) 2004:
http://www.nspcc.org.uk/Inform/publications/downloads/intheirownwords_wdf48193.pdf

2 Measuring up? Evaluating implementation of Government commitments to young witnesses in criminal proceedings Joyce Plotnikoff and Richard Woolfson, (NSPCC) 2009
http://www.nspcc.org.uk/inform/research/findings/measuring_up_report_wdf66579.pdf

3 Joint Inspection Report on the Experiences of Young Victims and Witnesses in the Criminal Justice System, (HMIC; HMCPSI) 2012 http://www.hmcpsi.gov.uk/documents/reports/CJJI_THM/VWEX/CJJI_YVW_Jan12_rpt.pdf

4 http://blogs.city.ac.uk/advocategateway/

Prepared 29th January 2014