New report outlines systematic failures to protect children in England

By agency reporter
March 13, 2019

A new report reveals how national and local government is failing to protect children in England whilst policymakers focus on Brexit, leaving children traumatised, powerless and vulnerable to abuse in many areas of their lives. The State of Children’s Rights in 2018 report includes new data gathered using Freedom of Information requests showing that:

  • Local authorities are making use of a legal loophole to house families in B&B accommodation for longer than the legal limit. 1,641 families with children were housed in council-owned B&Bs and hotel-style accommodation in 2017, almost two thirds (1,056) for longer than six weeks, which is the maximum time councils are allowed to house families in private B&Bs.
  • Increasing numbers of children and young people are being housed in independent accommodation which can include B&Bs, hostels, and even tents and caravan parks, many of them for long periods. At least 1,173 children were housed in independent accommodation for longer than six months in 2017, including 19 children aged 15 and one aged 14.
  • Police use of Tasers against children is increasing, with 871 uses in 2017 and 839 in the first nine months of 2018. Tasers were used on children as young as 12 and on four occasions children under 10. Tasers were used disproportionately against children from BAME backgrounds, with BAME children accounting for 51 per cent of Taser use (68 per cent by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS)).
  • The use of spit-hoods is increasing year-on-year as more police forces roll out their use. Spit-hoods were found to be used on children as young as 10, with at least 47 uses on children in 2017 and 114 incidents in the first nine months of 2018, although the true figure is likely to be much higher. Across the whole period requested for 2017 and 2018, BAME children accounted for 34 per cent of spit-hood use nationally and 72 per cent of MPS use.

The report finds little evidence of progress on children’s rights issues over the past year, suggesting that a focus on Brexit is reducing government’s ability to address issues such as rising exclusions from school, mental health problems and child poverty. This means children’s basic needs and development such as their right to feel safe and be protected from abuse, have a roof over their head and play are being side-lined.

The report has been compiled by the Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE), the policy arm of children’s charity Just for Kids Law.

Louise King, Director of CRAE and Director of Policy and Campaigns at Just for Kids Law, said: “It is a damning indictment of our national priorities that such little progress has been made on addressing children’s rights issues and the UN’s recommendations over the past year. We have sadly taken steps backwards in many areas, for example, local authorities are ignoring both the law and the UN’s warning to ensure that families are not held in B&Bs for longer than six weeks and the use of school exclusions continues to increase. It is essential that government and parliamentarians focus attention and resources on addressing the issues outlined in this report and put the safety and wellbeing of children at the centre of policy decisions.”

Enver Solomon, CEO of Just for Kids Law, said: “We know from our work with children and young people that when agencies fail to uphold their legal rights and entitlements it can have devastating consequences leaving them homeless, suicidal and in crisis.  The wellbeing of the nation’s children should be one of the government’s top priorities yet there is clear evidence that children’s best interests are being overlooked and their rights violated because of political decisions that are damaging children’s lives. The government has consistently stated its ambition to build a country that works for everyone and must now make a new national commitment to make this a reality for all children and young people.”

* The report takes the form of eight easy-to-read thematic stand-alone briefings available here

* Read the Executive Summary here

* Children's Rights Alliance for England http://www.crae.org.uk/

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