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Police child protection failings scrutinised

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heddlupoliceA REPORT released this week has highlighted failings in child protection across the UK’s police forces, including Dyfed Powys, which was examined as part of the In Harm’s Way report.
According to the findings for Dyfed Powys, which were released in February, children were detained in Police custody ‘unnecessarily’ overnight, and in some cases delays in high tech support meant that the phones and computers of sex-offence suspects were not analysed for several months.
In cases involving teens, Child Sexual Exploitation was ‘not routinely considered,’ and in a number of cases the report said: ‘The behaviour and demeanour of the child was not recorded.’ It was noted that there was no system in place for ‘flagging’ records of children subject to the child protection plan, which could lead to control room staff and frontline officers not being aware of a child’s circumstances.
However, the report, by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary praised Dyfed-Powys police for their efforts in improving the protection of children, and singled out the rapid initial response when child safety was at risk, and added that ‘safeguarding remained central to efforts while officers pursued criminal investigative opportunities.’
It also acknowledged the high workloads of a small specialist team, and accepted that the ‘large geographical area policed by the force posed an extra challenge.’
Of 33 cases reviewed by the Inspectorate, 12 were shown to demonstrate good practice. However the work on nine cases was considered inadequate. At the time, Det. Superintendant Andy John ‘welcomed’ the findings, saying that: ‘Protecting children and vulnerable people is a priority for the organization.’
Across the country, the failings of Dyfed-Powys police force were mirrored, with poor practice found in more than a third of cases investigated. Although all forces have strategies and policies in place that are designed to ensure children are effectively protected and safeguarded (i.e. protected from further harm), and senior leaders are clear in the priority they place on this area of policing, HMIC’s inspections found that the plans articulated by senior officers have failed as yet to result in consistently good services for children.
On too many occasions HMIC found that investigations into child abuse or neglect were poor and plagued by delay, and the response to reports of offences against children – ranging from online grooming to domestic abuse – was inadequate.
HMIC concluded that pockets of excellent practice observed across all inspectionsweretheresultofdedicated and professional individuals and teams, rather than a united, understood and applied focus on protecting children at force level. Additionally, there is currently not enough done in forces to find out the effects on children of police intervention, nor to understand their experiences when they come into contact with the police. This means that forces do not know what works in protecting children or how successful or positive their impact is on children.
The increasing numbers of cases involving child protection means that the police will have to adapt to a substantial new challenge, with new ways of working. The old methods of policing, which relied on a target driven approach where what mattered was what was counted – an approach which still permeates policing today – must be driven from the policing culture once and for all. Children must be placed at the heart of what policing does next.
The dedicated and extremely motivated individuals and teams HMIC encountered in the course of the inspection work also need and deserve better support – particularly as they deal sometimes on a daily basis with details and circumstances which can be distressing and horrifying. Senior officers must ensure they are working in an environment in which they are valued and supported when carrying out protection and safeguarding activity, which might be invisible to the public, but which they are doing on behalf of children, and of us all.
HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Sir Thomas Winsor said: “We are under no illusion about the operational difficulty of investigating child sexual exploitation, but of all cases involving vulnerable victims, those involving children deserve the most assiduous and urgent attention. Not least, this is because the true scale of this type of offending is still to be measured. What we have so far seen is only the tip of an iceberg. The sufferings of children, and the risks that other children will endure them in the future, are of the highest and gravest concerns of the whole community. It is the duty of every member of that community, particularly the police and the other agencies of the state, to intensify their efforts to ensure that everything is done to rescue children from the perils of abuse, sexual exploitation and neglect which are so prevalent in society, risks which are intensified by the dark applications of modern technology. Their cries are the indictments of us all.”
HMI Dru Sharpling, who led the inspections, said: “Children must come first – there can be no compromise when it comes to child protection. Getting it right most of the time can never be the explanation for failures that have devastating consequences for the child, carers and families. Dealing with child protection cases can be enormously challenging and complex. There is no question of this, nor that there are officers out there who are dedicated and passionate in protecting children and bringing perpetrators of abuse to justice. HMIC found that where cases of child abuse and neglect are straightforward, they are almost always dealt with promptly and efficiently. But often these cases are complicated and unique, so the processes for dealing with them have to adapt. This requires training officers and equipping them with a different set of skills than is required for other types of police investigation. In other areas of child protection, officers must have the confidence and the support they need to apply tried-and-tested investigative techniques, regardless of the fact that the offending is now taking place in the online space. The abuse and neglect of children is not new, but the scale of current and non-recent sexual abuse revealed by recent investigations has shocked the nation. Although the police don’t deal with these issues in isolation, they need to lead the way in tackling this societal scourge and prioritise work, not according to workload, but with the welfare of the child as the priority. Future generations will judge us according to the action we take now.”

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Llanelli becomes a Covid-19 ‘health protection zone’

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RESIDENTS in a large part of Llanelli are being put under new local restrictions in a ‘health protection zone’ following a rapid increase in Covid-19 cases in the area.

The town is seeing a concentrated spread of cases compared with other parts of Carmarthenshire – in the last seven days, 85 positive cases have been identified in Llanelli (151.6 per 100,000 of the population) compared to 24 cases in the rest of Carmarthenshire (18.1 per 100,000 of the population).*

Public Health Wales officials are expecting numbers to continue rising over the coming week.

Carmarthenshire County Council and Hywel Dda University Health Board have worked with the Welsh Government and Public Health Wales to agree the temporary restrictions at sub-county level to try and halt the spread of the virus.

As of 6pm on Saturday September 26, 2020, residents living in defined parts of Llanelli will not be able to visit anyone else’s home, or accept visitors into their home, unless they have a ‘reasonable excuse’ such as providing care for a vulnerable person.

They should not arrange to meet indoors with anyone who they don’t live with, and travel in and out of the ‘health protection zone’ will also be limited – people should not leave the area or travel into the area unless it is essential. Travelling in and out of the zone for a holiday is not considered a reasonable excuse.

People are being asked to wear face coverings anywhere where they cannot maintain a two-metre distance from other people, including collecting children from school, in addition to the rules which already require them to wear a face covering in indoor spaces like shops and on public transport.

All indoor and outdoor visits to residential care homes have also been suspended.

Students may still travel into and out of the ‘health protection zone’ to go to school or college.

People living in the defined area of Llanelli must work from home, and employers must take all reasonable steps to support staff to do so.

Indoor public spaces such as leisure centres should only be used by people living in the defined area.

Shops will remain open, but people living outside the defined area of Llanelli should avoid travelling to visit them and shop in their own locality wherever possible.

The specific wards covered in the defined area of Llanelli are:

  • Bigyn
  • Bynea
  • Dafen
  • Elli
  • Felinfoel
  • Glanymor
  • Hendy
  • Hengoed
  • Llangennech
  • Lliedi
  • Llwynhendy
  • Tyisha
  • Swiss Valley

Although the pattern of increased positive cases is overwhelmingly concentrated in the Llanelli area where the restrictions have been strengthened, the whole of Carmarthenshire has now been put on alert, with a warning that the tighter restrictions may be extended if cases continue to spread.

Everyone – including those in the defined areas of Llanelli – is being urged to follow the national guidance around social distancing, good hygiene, self-isolation, testing and face coverings.

Leader of Carmarthenshire County Council, Cllr Emlyn Dole, said: “It is worrying to see how sharply the number of positive cases has risen in the Llanelli area, and action has had to be taken to help stop the spread and break the chain of infections concentrated in this area to prevent a whole county lockdown.

“We must all do the right thing, follow the advice and protect each other. In parts of Llanelli, we’re asking people and businesses to make even greater sacrifices – we fully appreciate the impact this will have, but there is no other way. We must stop the spread.”

A mobile testing unit has been set up in Llanelli to manage the increased demand by local residents who have any of the Covid-19 symptoms – either a high temperature, a change or loss to taste or smell or a new continuous cough.

Reporting of positive cases in the town is fully expected to rise during the next two weeks with the increase in more targeted testing. But this is a positive indicator that cases are being identified and control measures put in place.

Chair of Hywel Dda University Health Board Maria Battle said: “Our local community has given us such tremendous support during the past few months. To protect the health of our people, including the most vulnerable, and to ensure our NHS resources are available to provide people with the care they need; we need the help of our Llanelli population and wider community now more than ever before. Whilst hospital admissions have not yet increased again for COVID cases, we have seen a sharp rise in positive cases in the community, and in time this is likely to have an impact on hospital admissions. The very best way we can support each other and those we love, is to follow local restrictions, minimise our contacts, practice good hygiene and self-isolate and book a test if we have any COVID-19 symptoms.”

Increased testing capacity for residents in Llanelli is available by appointment at the following locations:

  • Parc y Scarlets Car Park B, accessed via Trostre Retail Park, in Llanelli
  • The Ty’r Nant site (next to KFC), Trostre, Llanelli
  • The Carmarthen showground (signposted in both directions off the A40)

There should be no reason for Llanelli residents to travel excessive distances for a test, as there will be tests available in Llanelli and Carmarthen. Tests should be booked via the UK Portal. Any Llanelli residents experiencing difficulty booking a test locally via the UK portal can instead email covidenquiries.hdd@wales.nhs.uk or by calling 0300 333 2222.

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Tir Coed build outdoor classroom for Cross Hands Primary

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The local charity Tir Coed teamed up with Cross Hands Primary School to design and install a locally grown woodland shelter to enable primary school pupils to benefit from outdoor lessons-even when
the rain pours!

Last year Cross Hands Primary School received funding from Carmarthenshire is Kind for their intergenerational project. The project brought the schoolchildren together with older people in the community. Through intergenerational activities, everyone involved increases social connectedness, reduces social isolation, learns from one another and has a great time!

Before the lockdown, Tir Coed was contracted to lead a group mainly made up of parents from the school on a shelter-building course. The attendees would gain knowledge and skills and the children and the older people would be able to use the shelter, a third generation now included in this
fantastic project. The plans, however, had to change due to restrictions and in an effort to have it ready for the children when they returned to school, three intrepid Activity Leaders braved the wet August weather to build the beautiful shelter .

Studies have shown that being in the outdoors significantly reduces the risk of spreading the Corona Virus. With this addition to their already impressive outdoor area, it is hoped that more learning can
take place outside the classroom. Deputy Head, Emma Walters said, “It looks amazing! I am very impressed with the shelter and I cannot thank Tir Coed enough for organising this. Additional covered space in the outdoors will mean that we can take more learning into our lovely nature
area.”

If you would like to find out more about the work of Tir Coed or have a project you would like our help with you can contact Nancy, the Carmarthenshire Coordinator: carms@tircoed.org.uk

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Local sailor taking on virtual London marathon

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A local sailor based in the Falkland Islands will be taking on the Virtual London Marathon this October to raise money for SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity.

Curtis Bowen, 24, from Llanelli, South Wales, was due to take on the London Marathon for SSAFA this April, but following the Covid-19 outbreak and lockdown, the race was cancelled. 

Fortunately, the London Marathon team created the Virtual London Marathon in its place, allowing runners to take on the challenge virtually alongside thousands of other runners on the 4th October.

Curtis said: “It was a shame that the London Marathon couldn’t go ahead as planned in April, but I think it is amazing that I am still able to partake whilst being in the Falkland Islands. I’m the first person to ever run the London Marathon in the Falkland Islands.”  

Curtis is currently serving in the Royal Navy, as a Leading Supply Chain Logistician, and has served for four years. His Father also served in the Royal Navy for twenty-three years.

The live virtual event on Sunday 4th October will invite runners to run the London Marathon in their own way, joining up to 45,000 runners up and down the country – and across the world – in the virtual 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon, The 40th Race.

Curtis decided to raise money for SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity after being an avid supporter of the charity and being inspired by his Father, Andrew, who raised over £6,000 for SSAFA. 

I chose to run the London Marathon for SSAFA to challenge myself and raise awareness for a great cause. My younger brother sadly took his own life a couple of years ago and I know that SSAFA are there to support those struggling with their Mental Health. I want to raise as much money as I can to support those struggling within the Armed Forces community.”

“My Father was also supposed to be running the London Marathon this year, but will now be completing the challenge virtually, alongside my brother, Luke, 12,000km away in South Wales.”

If you would like to support Curtis, please visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Andrew-Bowen-London-marathon2020

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