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World headlines news relating to children, youth and families

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UK: Only one in six social workers want to be managers, survey finds

Social work faces a looming management crisis as professionals are reluctant to climb the career ladder, Guardian research has revealed. The latest Guardian Social Lives survey of social workers found that only 15% of the 1,400 respondents planned to move into management roles in the next five years. A number of reasons for this were pinpointed by an expert panel at an event to launch the survey findings, including the impact of austerity, a “blame culture” and fewer opportunities to work directly with service users. Spending cuts imposed on local authorities by government austerity measures mean management is “looking particularly unattractive” to frontline professionals, the event at the Guardian’s London headquarters heard. Ruth Allen, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers, said: “People are seeing managers having to manage swingeing cuts in many areas. Although local authorities have been incredible in how they have managed to maintain services and innovate in very difficult circumstances, that management of dwindling resources to meet demand is going to look unattractive.” Panellists said succession problems were felt at every level of management across the sector.

New Zealand: Cash-strapped schools may suspend violent children

Northland primary principals are backing a call to start suspending violent children until they get more funding to properly support them. Tai Tokerau Principals' Association president Pat Newman said schools were seeing twice as many children as a decade ago who were damaged by trauma at home, or by methamphetamine or alcohol before birth. He said these children caused havoc in the classroom, and without a minder or teacher aid some posed a health and safety risk to teachers and other children. Special education services did their best but were overloaded and under-resourced, he said. "We have got to the stage, and I have been in discussion with my colleagues, that I'm seriously looking at calling from principals up here to start suspending these children until we get the help we need."

UK: Agencies join forces to tackle young people's harmful sexual behaviour

Concerns over sexting and access to online pornography have focused public attention on harmful sexual behaviour among children. Figures published by the NSPCC last year showed under-18s accounted for one in six of all those in the UK reported to police between 2013 and 2015 for indecent image offences, prompting calls from the charity for parents to warn children about risks linked to modern media. Generally used to describe actions considered inappropriate for a child’s age or development, harmful sexual behaviour encompasses a wide range of activity – including some illegal acts – from the use of sexually-explicit language to penetrative sex. Many children grow out of this behaviour, but among the small number of youngsters who commit sexual offences, there is evidence that early opportunities to address it can be missed, despite referrals to children’s services, as these actions are either not recognised or dismissed. The full scale of unmet need remains unclear, but new guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) recommend working across social care, health and other agencies to tailor care for youngsters, address underlying problems and reduce reoffending.

Without a good night’s sleep, it’s hard to function. For children, it can affect their learning

Humans, on average, spend roughly a third of their lives asleep. This might sound like quite a long time, but sleep has been shown to be vital for “normal” human functioning. Without enough sleep, things go downhill for most people pretty quickly. As well as being vital for getting through the day, sleep is well known to play an important part in the process of memory making – sleep helps us take newly formed “fragile memories” and make them “robust”. Through sleep, our brains hit the “save” button, allowing us to transfer memories to a long-term storage system. Research from the Sleep Language and Memory (SLAM) lab at the University of York has focused on the relationship between sleep and language learning. This research has shown that sleep plays a role in strengthening our memories for newly learned words – for both adults and children.



UK: Children missing out on education at risk of abuse and exploitation

The government is being urged to identify and support thousands of “hidden” children and young people who drop out of school and disappear off the radar, leaving them at increased risk of abuse and exploitation. The National Children’s Bureau (NCB), a leading children’s charity, says problems such as bullying, special educational needs, neglect and domestic violence at home, can cause a child to disappear from school for months, even years. They miss out on their education, which compromises their future prospects, and become more vulnerable as they are beyond the protective reach of school and support services. Anna Feuchtwang, the NCB chief executive, said: “These children are often living on the margins, disengaged with school and invisible to other services. They are often very vulnerable. “Away from the safety and security of school, they’re more at risk of abuse and exploitation, taking part in criminal activity and missing out on support for special educational needs and mental health problems. “Education is the key to a child’s future. National government must lead the way so that all children get the right support to learn.”

Ireland: Youth services lead with Traveller support pack following state recognition

Youth Work Ireland, and a number of partners, are today launching a support pack for those working with young travellers. The pack provides a toolkit for youth workers to facilitate greater engagement with young travellers and research to assist youth workers and volunteers understand the needs of one of the most marginalised groups of young people in Ireland. The toolkit involves youth organisations, reviewing their current practice and agreeing simple strategic actions which will ensure better outcomes for Travellers in their personal lives and in society at large. The toolkit provides a step by step guide to facilitating and creating organisational best practice in the engagement, participation and retention of Traveller youth in mainstream youth services. "It is fitting that this toolkit is now being published immediately following the Irish State’s formal recognition of Irish Travellers as an indigenous ethnic minority. We in the Irish Youth Work Sector have been calling for such recognition of many years and we therefore warmly welcome the recent announcement by the Government. Our colleagues in Northern Ireland have supported us in this call" said Patrick Burke, CEO of Youth Work Ireland.

New Zealand: Family violence pilot helps over 24,000 people

The Integrated Safety Response (ISR) pilot has helped over 24,000 people through the development of more than 8,000 family safety plans, say Justice Minister Amy Adams and Social Development Minister Anne Tolley. The ISR pilot involves core agencies and NGOs teaming up to ensure that families experiencing violence get the right support to stay safe. It has been running in Christchurch since July 2016 and in Waikato since October 2016. “More than 8,000 family safety plans were developed between July and the start of February through the ISR pilot, targeted to people and households that the pilot has identified as at risk of family violence,” says Ms Adams. Through the pilot there have been 776 cases reported per month in Christchurch and 951 per month in Waikato. Of these, between seven and 11 per cent are high risk cases which require intensive intervention involving Independent Victim Specialists and Perpetrator Outreach Services. “Seeing the high volumes of family violence reported through the ISR pilot reinforces our Government’s commitment to building a better system for dealing with family violence,” says Mrs Tolley.

Australia: National Youth Week coming soon

National Youth Week is an annual celebration throughout Australia of young people aged 12–25. There’s everything from African dance and drumming classes, photography and drama workshops, music and performing arts festivals, art classes and talent shows, to obstacle courses and sporting events. Most events and activities are free! National Youth Week is a joint initiative of the Australian, state and local governments, which have provided grants to fund activities that help young people discover new skills and interests, get involved in their communities and help all Victorians celebrate our young people. Last year about 23,000 Victorians turned out for National Youth Week events. The week kicks off with an inaugural Youth Summit on 31 March, when about 400 young people from across the state will meet in Melbourne to discuss matters of importance for youth and ideas for action.



College first to receive child care accreditation

Lethbridge College has become the first college in Canada to earn accreditation from the Child and Youth Care Educational Accreditation Board of Canada (CYCEAB). “What was determined is that we are one of the best Child and Youth Care programs in Canada,” said Marty Thomsen, dean of Justice and Human Services in a release. “We were recognized as a premier program, which I think is a testament to the excellent program-level leadership, faculty and support staff in that area.” The CYCEAB’s mission is to ensure quality education for child- and youth-care practitioners by reviewing the post-secondary educational programs and encouraging high standards of professional practice. An examiner reviewed the program’s structure, which included the curriculum, facilities, policies and more following the college’s self-study report and quality enhancement plan that coincided with their five-year internal program review. In October, a CYCEAB examiner visited the college and spoke with students faculty and administrators. Thomas suspects that once students graduate and search for jobs in the industry, employers will see the value of hiring a graduate from an accredited program. “They will know that we offer high-quality, current and relevant instruction that meets the needs of the child and youth care industry that benefits our students, which is always our top priority.”

England: 'Problem-solving' courts for young offenders to be trialled

Efforts to improve the way young offenders are dealt with are to be tested, with problem-solving courts set to be established across England. Problem-solving courts, which are currently only used in adult settings, aim to address offending behaviour through the co-ordination of services, including and beyond those provided by youth offending teams (YOTs), to reduce crime and improve wider outcomes for children, victims, and families. The Centre for Justice Innovation has been given funding to trial the approach for two years and is looking for court sites who are interested in setting up or improving their youth courts to take part. The centre's team will offer support during the pilot, which will include extensive evaluation with the aim of helping youth courts across England and Wales adopt the model, which has a strong focus on rehabilitation and addressing the root causes of criminal activity.

Western Australia charity ride peddles important mental health message

Many of the cyclists on a multimillion dollar charity ride through Western Australia are motivated by the memory of a loved one who took their own life. The Hawaiian Ride for Youth raises awareness of suicide, depression and self-harm in young West Australians. Participants also raise funds for not-for-profit organisation Youth Focus, to provide free counselling services to young people and their families. The ride has raised more than $15 million over the past 15 years. It has grown from 24 cyclists who raised $15,000 in 2003 to a record 173 cyclists with a $1.75 million target this year. This year the ride has four pelotons for the first time, clocking up more than 700 kilometres over five days. Three pelotons travel separate coastal, inland and Wheatbelt routes from Albany to Perth, while a fourth from Geraldton to Perth is a new addition. Along the way, riders stop at high schools and share their personal stories about depression and suicide.Fourth-time rider John Gardner said suicide was the leading cause of death in young West Australians. "The number one killer in our community of people aged between 12 and 24 is suicide," he said. "I think everyone in Western Australia needs to recognise that this is a big issue. If we can help build resilience in our youth and in our young people, that's a good thing and it hopefully paints a bright future for Western Australia." In 2009, 2012 and 2015, the event won national fundraising and charity awards.

UK: Child sex offences hit all-time high

Statistics published today by the NSPCC show that the number of recorded child sex offences rose to a record 55,507 in 2015/16 – an average of 152 a day. The figure represents a 19 per cent increase on the 2014/15 figure. The NSPCC has called for the government to commit funds to early intervention work in order to try to help children recover. The figures show that a total of 13,565 crimes were recorded against children aged 10 and under, while 2,799 of these crimes were perpetrated against children four and under, some of whom would be too young to even attend primary school. The NSPCC believes the dramatic increase could be down to a combination of police forces improving recording methods, survivors feeling more confident in disclosing abuse following high-profile cases, and online grooming becoming a growing problem with perpetrators able to reach multiple children. In addition to investment in early intervention services, the charity is calling for specialist training for police investigating online child abuse, and effective rehabilitation for child sex offenders. 



London mayor pledges mental health support for young offenders

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has pledged to do more to divert young people with mental health issues away from crime. The promise features in his five-year police and crime plan, which lists keeping children and young people safe as one of three priority areas. The plan details how mental health can be a driver for both offending and victimisation and is an issue the police regularly comes into contact with. Among action highlighted will be to improve continuity of care for young people with mental health problems, across justice, health and other services. "In situations where children or those with vulnerabilities such as mental health conditions come into police custody, we will work to improve measures to divert these people into appropriate social and health services better equipped to safeguard them, helping to reduce reoffending and repeat victimisation," the plan says.

Nova Scotia to increase mental health services for youth, children

The Nova Scotia government says it will take steps to improve mental health care for children and youth in response to recommendations from a minister’s advisory panel. Health Minister Leo Glavine said today his department is adopting four of the panel’s recommendations, including one to improve mental health care through health centres in schools. He says the province will invest $4.4 million by 2019-20 to add 51 new mental health clinicians and community outreach workers. The province will also create a single centre that uses a toll-free line, the Internet and smart phones to provide mental health and addictions information for youth. Glavine says the province will develop consistent mental health and addictions curriculum for schools from primary to Grade 6, as well as for high school students. In addition, the Health Department is planning to ensure “all mental health service providers must receive evidence-based suicide risk assessment and suicide risk management training.”

Ontario increasing opportunities for Black children, youth and families

Ontario is increasing opportunities for Black children, youth and families through new services and supports in communities across the province. Today, Michael Coteau, Minister of Children and Youth Services and Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism, held a roundtable discussion with Black youth, community leaders and youth sector service providers to talk about the implementation of the Ontario Black Youth Action Plan. The plan – released this month as part of A Better Way Forward: Ontario's 3-Year Anti-Racism Strategic Plan – will help eliminate systemic, race-based disparities for Black children and youth. The four-year, $47 million plan will support 10,800 Black children, youth and their families in schooling, postsecondary education and employment, as well as those in conflict with the law.

New Zealand: Police Youth Aid numbers must be guaranteed

The Police Association’s demand for increased number of Youth Aid Officers must be guaranteed by National if they are to cope with an increase in the Youth Court age, says New Zealand First. “There aren’t enough Youth Aid Officers out there now and to add more young people to the system without addressing this is a recipe for disaster,” says New Zealand First Spokesperson for Social Development, Darroch Ball. “If National proceeds with this legislation, it will without a doubt have an impact on the workload of these officers who are already stretched thanks to our dysfunctional Youth Justice system. More officers are needed to cope with the fallout of the proposed age increase, it’s as simple as that. The Police Association made it clear to Parliament’s Social Services Select Committee on Wednesday when it said that reoffending rates would increase if they proceeded with the changes before additional resources were in place. New Zealand First expects to see a commitment from National to have a minimum of 100 extra Police Youth Aid Officers in place before any changes in the Youth Justice system take place,” says Mr Ball.

 Foods labeled 'healthy' may hide unhealthy secrets

Food products that claim to be no-fat, no-sugar, low-fat or reduced-salt aren't necessarily healthier, researchers say. The study authors looked at more than 80 million food and beverage purchases from 2008 to 2012. The purchases were made by more than 40,0000 U.S. households. The researchers found that 13 percent of food and 35 percent of beverage products were marketed as having no, reduced or low levels of sugar, fat or salt. Low-fat was the most common claim the researchers saw. Next were low-calorie, low-sugar and low-sodium. But many of the products with low-content claims were less nutritious than regular food and beverage items, the researchers found. "In many cases, foods containing low-sugar, low-fat or low-salt claims had a worse nutritional profile than those without claims," said lead investigator Lindsey Smith Taillie. She is a research assistant professor in the department of nutrition at theUniversity of North Carolina's School of Global Public Health.



World Water Day: one in four children will live with water scarcity by 2040

Unicef report says climate change and conflict are intensifying risks to children of living without enough water, and that the poorest will suffer most. Within two decades, 600 million children will be in regions enduring extreme water stress, with a great deal of competition for the available supply. The poorest and most disadvantaged will suffer most, according to research published by the children’s agency, Unicef, to mark World Water Day on Wednesday.

Don't forget us, says Chibok schoolgirl as third year of captivity approaches

A Chibok schoolgirl who escaped from Boko Haram militants in Nigeria has called on the international community not to forget those still in captivity. Next month will mark the third anniversary of the abduction of more than 270 girls. The militants are still holding about 195 of the young women. The pupil, speaking under a pseudonym, told an education conference in Dubai: "These girls are human beings, not something that we can forget about." The abduction of the schoolgirls in north-eastern Nigeria in April 2014 by the Islamist militant group caused a global outcry – and prompted campaigns about girls' right to education. But almost three years later most of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls are still being held by kidnappers.

Australia: Children left with broken bones from 'clumsy' use of restraints in Victoria's troubled juvenile jails

The "clumsy" use of restraints by staff in Victoria's troubled juvenile jails has left children with broken bones, while handcuffs have made self-harm wounds bleed, a parliamentary inquiry has heard. Commissioner for Children and Young People Liana Buchanan told the committee teenagers were kept in lockdown for 23 hours a day after months of strife at the Parkville and Malmsbury youth justice centres. Ms Buchanan launched two inquiries in the past year, including into allegations nine children were assaulted by the adult prison anti-riot squad at Barwon prison's Grevillea unit last month. She said a child's self-harm wounds were aggravated by handcuffs, children's limbs were broken through "clumsy" restraints, and lockdowns were so frequent one boy was never sure he would be allowed out of his room. The Children's Commissioner received 45 serious "category one" incident reports during the current financial year. She will table a report in the Parliament next week examining the use of isolation and lockdowns in the youth justice system. Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass told the inquiry the system was under serious strain, with complaints about lockdowns affected by a toxic combination of staff shortages and increasing overcrowding.

Trump budget threatens nutrition services for poor women and children

The preliminary budget proposal released by the Trump White House on Thursday calls for cuts to a program aimed at improving nutrition among low-income women and children, potentially placing some of its key programs in jeopardy. The cuts proposed are similar to those sought in recent years by House Republicans as they targeted social welfare programs for federal savings. Trump’s budget proposes to cut the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, known as WIC, from $6.4bn to $6.2bn. The program, which is aimed at reducing infant and maternal mortality and morbidity, provides food vouchers for low-income pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children under five years old, as well as breastfeeding support and nutrition education.

UK: TV dramas should not portray suicide methods, say MPs

Greater restrictions should be placed on the portrayal of suicide in TV dramas to prevent encouraging copycats, say MPs. In a report on the government’s suicide prevention strategy, the House of Commons health select committee, chaired by the Conservative MP Dr Sarah Wollaston, raises fears that irresponsible media coverage has a damaging effect on vulnerable people. The MPs say: “We recognise the need for programme makers to portray dramatic situations but we contend that this can be done without unnecessary and exact detail about a suicide method which could influence imitative behaviour. This is of particular concern where the method depicted is relatively uncommon and where scenes show suicide as being quick, easy and painless.” Ofcom’s broadcasting code currently dictates that methods should not be included except where they are justified editorially and by the context. But in the report, published on Thursday, the committee says the wording is too weak. The MPs recommend that the code “should be strengthened to ensure that detailed description or portrayal of suicide methods, including particular locations where suicide could be easily imitated, are not permissible”. They also say more must be done to ensure the news media report suicide responsibly. The committee calls for the government to nominate an individual responsible for ensuring good practice in the media.



UK: School funding changes 'put children at risk of harm'

Child protection arrangements and support for vulnerable pupils are at risk due to an overhaul of school funding, councils have warned. The Local Government Association said a £600m reduction in the education services grant (ESG) from central government, which covers the cost of such work, will mean many councils will no longer have the money to fund them. Meanwhile, a change to regulations will mean councils can only undertake the duties if the school agrees to cover the cost from its own budget. The LGA said the changes could affect a range of support services for schools, including criminal record checks on staff, safeguarding and mental health support. It is claiming this will place more than five million pupils at risk "as schools are forced to decide what services they are able to maintain". Other services affected by the change to the ESG include student welfare, fire safety, air quality as well as building and playing field maintenance. Richard Watts, chair of the LGA's children and young people board said: "Services that were previously provided to schools by councils will become an extra burden for schools, putting additional pressure on already overstretched budgets."

New report reveals "devastating" rise in Scottish poverty figures

Child poverty across the UK has continued to rise across the last three years and is now at its highest since 2010, according to official figures. Published Thursday 16 March, the data reveals that 100,000 children fell into relative poverty in the year 2015-16. In Scotland, more than a quarter of children – or one in four – are living in relative poverty. John Dickie of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland described the rise of 4% from the previous year as "devastating". Jackie Brock, Chief Executive of Children in Scotland, said: These figures show that poverty continues to rise across the UK, affecting around one in four children and millions of families here in Scotland. Our ambition of making Scotland a fairer, more equal place and of making real inroads when it comes to tackling poverty, simply isn't being met. "This is a sign that so much more has to be done to reverse the worrying trend of more and more families falling below the poverty line. Yesterday's figures are a clear indication that increasing poverty levels is a problem that must be addressed head-on. We urge the government to take bold action to support their ambitious rhetoric and help children and families across Scotland." 

UK: Social work accreditation plans 'risk destabilising workforce'

Plans to introduce a new accreditation system for children's social workers in phases risk destabilising the workforce and do not provide value for money, children's services leaders have warned.The Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) has said that while it welcomes government efforts to improve the quality and confidence of the children and family social work workforce it has concerns about the way the accreditation system will be introduced.Under current plans, the system will not be fully introduced until 2019, with the arrangements initially being introduced voluntarily at 31 councils first.An ADCS response to a consultation on the plans states that voluntary implementation of the system "poses a number of risks which will further destabilise an already fragile workforce". A chief concern raised by the ADCS around the National Assessment and Accreditation System (NAAS) is that it will not be fully funded, leaving councils to cover the bulk of training costs for social workers taking part. This would hit struggling councils in areas with high levels of deprivation particularly hard as they "are unlikely to have the resources or capacity to participate in a voluntary scheme". The ADCS fears that this could result in a "tiered social work profession", based on those who are accredited and those who are not. Social work accreditation plans 'risk destabilising workforce.' This could lead to social workers' professional judgment being unfairly questioned on the basis of whether they are accredited or not, the response adds.

Nigeria: 50,000 malnourished children need urgent care in borno - Unicef

The United Nations Children Fund, UNICEF, said on Wednesday at least 50,000 malnourished children are in dire need of food and medical care in Borno State. The international aid agency said it would be scaling up its intervention for malnourished children in the state. UNICEF said it is presently caring for 12,000 children per month, but with the number of severely malnourished children increasing by the day, it is targeting about 48,000 to be provided with food and medical care every month. "This region, particularly the Northeast Nigeria has been affected by protracted conflict and a massive displacement that resulted in people not being able to do their farming for several years and hence facing food security", he said. "Last year, the government issued food security emergency that affected nearly five million people in this region and asked humanitarian organisations globally to respond and come to support Nigerian government. As UNICEF, we have been seriously concerned with the situation of children as a result of the conflict here."

New Zealand: More than 1000 kids generate red zone ideas

Treehouses, skate parks, animal shelters and a theme park are among more than 1000 children’s ideas for the future of the red zone. Children from five schools, as well as a scout troop and Children’s Day participants have filled out “Wish this was here…” postcards, writing or drawing what they would like to see in the Otakaro Avon River Corridor. “Children are the future users, leaders and residents of our city and we’re creating a legacy for them,” says Chief Executive Ivan Iafeta. “Listening to children’s and young people’s voices and understanding their ideas is essential to our planning and decision making. Later this year, when we workshop design options for the area, 50 per cent of participants will be under 25. In April, we will call for leading designers and engineers to help mentor these young design teams.” “We are in the early stages of planning and are open to all ideas as the largest regeneration opportunity in New Zealand’s history unfolds.” The postcards are the brainchild of the Avon-Otakaro Network, and are being supported by Regenerate Christchurch staff. 



Children who survived fire in Guatemala are still not safe, report says

The most severely disabled children were moved to an institution where 43 of them were housed together in one room. Many of the 130 children brought to a special education school had psychiatric and other problems, and the school’s staff quickly found itself overwhelmed. And all the youngsters had just lived through a terrifying experience — a fire that killed 40 girls at the Virgen de la Asunción children’s home near Guatemala City.
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USA: Advocates pool initiatives, information, legislation to help homeless youth

The National Summit on Youth Homelessness, held in Washington Monday and Tuesday, gave caregivers, policymakers, educators and advocates a chance to see what presenters called a holistic approach to helping end youth homelessness. The breakout session topics – covering everything from foster youth to helping homeless teens thrive in college to updates on federal and state legislative agendas – mirrored the experts’ calls for a diverse attack on the problem. The National Conference of State Legislatures estimates that 1.3 million youth are living on the street on any given night. “None of this work is done in a vacuum. We’re looking for a whole healing process,” said Tara Linh Leaman of the Westchester County, New York Department of Social Services. “When you look at this chart, you can’t just focus on housing or employment or education or connections. These are all important parts to helping people gain independence.” The gathering, sponsored by the National Network for Youth (NN4Y), was heavily weighted toward real-world examples of programs, data-intense studies and youth interactions that have proven to make a difference in the lives of homeless and vulnerable young people.
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USA: House approves Inslee’s Children, Youth and Families bill

The state House of Representatives today approved Inslee’s bill to create a new state Department of Children, Youth and Families with a bi-partisan 77-19 vote. The proposal is built off the unanimous recommendations of experts and leaders convened by the governor last year in a bi-partisan Blue Ribbon Commission. In December, the governor outlined his plans to create the new department. “We need to shift from a reactive approach to serving our children to an approach that is proactive and preventive. Restructuring how we serve at-risk youth and families into one department will help us do that. I’m pleased the House took a big step forward for the health and safety of the children of Washington, and I’m looking forward to the Senate passing this bill soon as well.”
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New Zealand Government signals change of heart on child placements, but will not go back to 'whanau first'

The Government has signalled that it will adjust child protection reforms over concerns about how they affected the rehoming of vulnerable children, but it will not go as far as reinstating a ''whanau first'' policy. The change of heart was hailed by the Maori Party and organisations which had warned that the reforms would create a "stolen generation" of Maori children. Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said claims the Government were backing down were incorrect. She said the wording of the Child Youth and Family (CYF) reforms would be changed, but children's safety would remain the top priority and the "whanau first" clause would not be reinserted. Under the existing law, priority must be given to placing a child with a member of the immediate family or wider hapu if they are relocated, or with someone of the same tribal, racial or cultural background if that is not possible. The overhaul of the child protection laws says that should happen where practicable and reasonable, but removes the priority and puts emphasis on placing the child in a safe, loving home.
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UK: Former Youth Justice Board chief blames funding levels for youth custody problems

The former chief executive of the Youth Justice Board has said that a lack of funding from central government is behind increasing levels of violence and safety concerns in youth custody. Writing in the latest edition of CYP Now, John Drew, who was at the helm of the YJB between 2009 and 2014, said a range of changes to the way youth custody is run announced by Justice Secretary Elizabeth Truss last month are, in the big scheme of things, "probably less important than the securing of additional funding for custody". "A major part of the current concerns about safeguarding and the treatment of children in custody is about an estate that has clearly been underfunded for the past several years," said Drew, who is now a senior associate at charity the Prison Reform Trust. "That is why children are being kept in their cells for too long, in potential breach of their civil rights; that is why there has been a rise of violence in the estate. That is why there is a recruitment crisis in filling vacant posts with custody officers who choose to work with children. That is why specialist units have been closed, and that is why there hasn't been enough focus on developing a comprehensive picture of need in the secure estate for children."
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UK: Foster carers face ‘incredibly complex task’, MPs told

The status of fostering must be raised to give foster carers the recognition they deserve, MPs have heard. The increasingly complex needs of children in care mean fosterers face a tough task, carers and groups told the Commons education select committee. Foster care families often felt unsupported and under-rated in the service they offered to some of society’s most vulnerable children. The committee was taking evidence at its first hearing on fostering. Harriet Ward, professor of child and family research at Loughborough University, told MPs: “It’s become much more evident that a very high proportion of children in the care system have experienced abuse and neglect and they have very complex needs, very often, as a result of that.” Foster carers had an “incredibly complex task” in supporting these children, she said. “It’s more difficult, I suspect, it’s more complex than it was 10 years ago because of the population of children coming into the care system now. “I think the status issue really needs to be acknowledged and addressed.”
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Child welfare officials arrested over Guatemala shelter fire that killed 40 girls

Guatemalan authorities have arrested three former child welfare officials who were responsible for overseeing a government-run youth shelter where 40 girls died in a fire. Prosecutor's spokeswoman Julia Barrera confirmed the detentions of social welfare secretary Carlos Rodas, deputy secretary Anahi Keller and shelter director Santos Torres on suspicion of homicide, mistreatment of minors and failure to fulfil duty. President Jimmy Morales earlier said he had fired the chain of command at the country's child welfare agency, but did not specify how many employees were dismissed. Mr Morales also said his government had asked the FBI to help in the investigation of the fire at the shelter for abuse victims, young offenders and children with disabilities. Mr Rodas resigned on Saturday, Mr Torres was dismissed the day of the fire and Ms Keller was let go on Monday.
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New Zealand: Pressure building for inquiry into state abuse

A Waitangi Tribunal claim filed today calling for an inquiry into the treatment of Maori children in state care is a further sign that pressure is building on the Government to reconsider its stance on the issue, the Green Party said today. “It seems everyone but the Government realises that an inquiry is essential to help the victims find some sense of closure, and to ensure that tamariki Maori in state care now and in the future are protected from abuse,” said Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei. “The Minister for Social Development needs to immediately set up an independent body to resolve historic and current complaints of abuse and neglect of children while in state care. When the Human Rights Commission, the Disability Commissioner, the Maori Women’s' Welfare League, UNICEF and the race relations commissioner are all adamant that an inquiry needs to be held, it’s clear that the Government is on the wrong side of this. The Government is refusing to acknowledge the systemic nature of abuse that kids suffered, but people have a right to have their voice heard and justice served. The Government is in the midst of making wholesale changes to Child, Youth, and Family, but before they do that, they should recognise the tragic mistakes of the past and try to learn from them. We can’t afford to make these same mistakes again, and the Government’s ramming through of changes to CYFS needs to be reconsidered,” said Mrs Turei.
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Unvaccinated children could be banned from attending preschool across Australia

The Australian government wants to ban unvaccinated children from nursery schools across the country. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has written to state and territory leaders to push for nationally consistent laws to protect young children from disease. Under his new proposal, the immunisation rates of all preschools and daycare centres would be made publicly available to parents, and the right to make a formal objection to vaccination would end. Mr Turnball said in the letter that he will take the policy to the next Council of Australian Governments (Coag) meeting. He writes: “At our next Coag meeting I propose we agree that all jurisdictions implement legislation that excludes children who are not vaccinated from attending childcare or preschool, unless they have a medical exemption. Vaccination objection is not a valid exemption. We must give parents the confidence that their children will be safe when they attend childcare and preschool. Parents must understand that if their child is not vaccinated they will be refused attendance or enrolment.” Mr Turnbull told News Corp: “If you don’t vaccinate your child you are not just putting their own life at risk but you are putting everyone else’s children at risk.”
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Syrian children 'pushed to the brink' after worst atrocities since war began

The number of children maimed, killed or recruited to fight in the Syria conflict has increased dramatically over the past year, with children as young as seven forced to act as frontline fighters, prison guards, suicide bombers and executioners. Grave violations against Syrian children are at the highest level since the war began in 2011, according to a Unicef report, with at least 652 children killed in 2016 – a 20% increase on the year before – and 850 children recruited to fight in the conflict, nearly three times the 331 enlisted in 2015.
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UK: Police 'failing to deal appropriately' with children missing from care

A charity has called for police forces to improve their handling of missing children cases after it emerged some are inappropriately categorising those who are missing from care as "absent". The report, which looks at 2015/16 missing persons data, found that while some forces label all cases involving children with the higher priority category of "missing" this is not the case nationwide. Andy McCullogh, Railway Children's policy and public affairs director, said: "It is worrying that the NCA report has identified some police forces to be still inappropriately classing all missing children from care only as absent, meaning the child is at ‘no apparent risk', when the reality is they could be at serious risk of harm. "A quick and accurate assessment of risk is essential to ensuring vulnerable children get the help they need at the right time."
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USA: Latino kids lag in math skills, but here are ways to narrow the gap

Latino children trail behind their white peers by about 3 months when it comes to math skills, and researchers associate this with increased poverty. But there are ways that parents, caregivers and teachers – as well as policy makers and legislators – can work to narrow the gap. Recommendations in a recently released report include encouraging and teaching parents on how to incorporate math into everyday learning, giving teachers the most up-to-date and effective tools to make math learning easy and engaging throughout the day, and urging more enrollment in center-based day care and early education programs. The report also cites data showing the advantages of full-day kindergarten. Boosting Hispanic children's math skills is critical to the nation's future, since one out of four kindergarten students are Latino, explains Lina Guzmán, the author of a new Child Trends Hispanic Institute report, "Make Math Count More for Young Latino Children".
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New Zealand: Awards for excellence in foster care

Minister for Children Anne Tolley says that extraordinary foster care families have been celebrated at an awards ceremony at Government House, as Foster Care Awareness week comes to an end. Ten foster care families received awards for their dedication and devotion to supporting vulnerable children and young people at the Excellence in Foster Care ceremony, which was hosted by the Governor General, the Rt Hon Patsy Reddy. “I was delighted to meet and talk to these wonderful families, and to thank them for their patience, resilience and strength,” says Mrs Tolley. “They provide loving and stable homes, often under very challenging circumstances, to ensure that young people can be safe and secure and have a sense of belonging, free from abuse and neglect. “Fostering Kids New Zealand, which has partnered with CYF to organise the awards, will in future have close ties to the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki, through the radical overhaul of care and protection. “We are currently working on how we can better support foster carers as part of the overhaul, and how we can recruit and retain more of these fantastic people, so we can help vulnerable children and young people recover from the trauma they have suffered and go on to thrive and lead successful and happy lives."
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UK: Courts set to consider ethnicity when sentencing juveniles

Guidelines published by the Sentencing Council today, which come into effect on 1 June, state that although the factors contributing to ethnic disproportionality within the youth justice system are complex, one factor is that a significant proportion of looked-after children and young people are from a black and minority ethnic background. It adds that a further factor may be the experience of such children and young people in terms of discrimination and negative experiences of authority. "When having regard to the welfare of the child or young person to be sentenced, the particular factors which arise in the case of black and minority ethnic children and young people need to be taken into account," the guidance states. A Ministry of Justice report published in November on black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) disproportionality in the criminal justice system in England and Wales found that during 2014 BAME boys aged 10 to 17 were 35 per cent more likely to be arrested than young people of white ethnicity.
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Australia: NSW child abuse helpline say its clogged with less serious cases

The Department of Family and Community Services secretary, Michael Coutts-Trotter, told SBS, 49 per cent of cases received to their helpline in the past two years were "not of sufficient concern" to warrant a child protection response. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse concluded its public hearings on Wednesday. The final day of hearings highlighted the issue of mandatory reporting and how child abuse helplines are being inundated with "less serious" cases. Mr Coutts-Trotter said cases of physical abuse, consisent and severe neglect and domestic violence are the types of cases that fall under NSW's threshold that a child is facing significant harm. He said FACS NSW often receives calls that are not categorised as being at-risk, such as cases of truancy and public disturbances. "People are reporting every case to us because they fear not reporting a serious case," Mr Coutts-Trotter told SBS. "While this is a valid concern, we need to educate reporters on the other options as these helplines can only deal with cases that require statutory child protcection repsonse."
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China NGOs push for stronger measures to protect children from abuse

As China's top leaders gather at the National People's Congress in Beijing, large numbers of children across the country are suffering abuse or vulnerable to it. Many are experiencing harm at the hands of their own parents, according to NGOs working in the field. There are high hopes the annual Communist party meeting will result in wider-reaching initiatives to protect children, especially those in rural areas. It comes after a video showing a young boy covered in bruises, too scared to return home, went viral in China. In it, he tells a woman that his father hit him for forgetting to close a window. It's a story that's all too common in China, one that Beijing-based public interest lawyer Tong Lihua has spent almost two decades fighting. “Child abuse is a big problem. Especially abuse by parents in China,” he said. He says current laws aren’t effectively implemented, with many cases failing to be reported and children remaining in the care of abusive parents. He is one of the many hoping new measures will be announced at the National People's Congress, currently underway in Beijing.
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Before fatal fire, trouble abounded at Guatemala children’s home

Long before Wednesday’s devastating fire claimed the lives of at least 21 young people, the Virgen de la Asunción home for children was hardly a sanctuary. It was instead known for further damaging the broken lives within its walls. The 750 residents crammed into the aging structures were nearly all victims of abandonment and abuse and had been removed from families and guardians by the authorities for their own safety. But they found little respite at the state home, and in some cases more of what they fled. Members of the staff sexually abused residents, prompting criminal cases and a series of complaints with the country’s human rights commission, which had requested a judicial order to close the facility down a month ago. On Wednesday evening, volunteer ambulance crews took the bodies of dead children from the scene of the fire, which also injured at least 40.
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Facebook failed to remove sexualised images of children

Facebook has been criticised for its handling of reports about sexualised images of children on its platform. The chairman of the Commons media committee, Damian Collins, said he had "grave doubts" about the effectiveness of its content moderation systems. Mr Collins' comments come after the BBC reported dozens of photos to Facebook, but more than 80% were not removed. They included images from groups where users were discussing swapping what appeared to be child abuse material. When provided with examples of the images, Facebook reported the BBC journalists involved to the police and cancelled plans for an interview. It subsequently issued a statement: "It is against the law for anyone to distribute images of child exploitation."
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Brief offers policies to support health of California’s youngest children

A new brief from Children Now outlines a portfolio of policy solutions aimed at supporting children in California during the critical developmental years of early childhood. In California, a significant chunk of the state’s babies and toddlers are at risk of abuse and poor health outcomes during their youngest years. Nearly a third of children entering California’s foster care system are under the age of 3. Only nine percent of the state’s eligible infants have access to subsidized child care, which has meant that many parents are strained to afford licensed, quality child care providers that can promote healthy development. Young children from 0 to 3 in California often deal with health or developmental delays that are related to familial economic struggles, a lack of stable housing and immigration status. The report notes that 62 percent of the state’s babies are born into low-income households, and nearly 50 percent of the state’s children live in families where one of the parents was born outside the U.S. As a result of these circumstances, Children Now is looking to policymakers to address the trauma and health gaps faced by the state’s most vulnerable children – particularly those from communities of color. Some of the proposed policies include increasing enrollment in health coverage programs like Medi-Cal, regular developmental screenings of young children in health care settings, greater participation in in the California Earned Income Tax Credit program, widespread use of home visitation program and access to stable, high-quality child care for all children, among others.
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Australia: Arnhem Land school develops Indigenous wellbeing curriculum to improve mental health

A remote homelands school in the Northern Territory is using Indigenous ideas about wellbeing in its curriculum to improve student mental health. The Yirrkala Homeland School in north-east Arnhem Land has been trying to address high youth suicide rates, self-harm and poor school attendance, according to its teachers. Teleta Munyarryun – a teacher at Dhalinjuy, one of the six homelands serviced by the school – has been incorporating emotion-based activities in her classroom. "We just get the kids to point out how they felt that day or how they felt in the afternoon," Ms Munyarryun said. "They put their names next to their emotion." The teachers have adapted Victoria's social and emotional learning curriculum to the Yolngu context. Ms Munyarryun said focusing on Yolngu wellbeing concepts has prompted attitude and behaviour change among her students. "It changes them in the classroom and it changes the community as well."
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Celebrating the 600th member of Children in Scotland

Today we are delighted to announce our 600th member – LGBT Youth Scotland. The milestone follows a rise in our membership of almost 20% during the past year, meaning we are able to work with an increasingly wide range of children’s sector organisations across Scotland. While we are confident LGBT Youth Scotland will benefit from membership, we are also excited about some related pieces of partnership work planned for later in 2017. These include the delivery of a LGBT+ conference, and we will also be undertaking the LGBT Charter of Rights accreditation to support us in mainstreaming LGBT equality into our services. Cara Spence, Senior Programmes and Influencing Manager at LGBT Youth Scotland, said: “We are delighted to be joining Children in Scotland as a member to strengthen and formalise our existing relationship. “Being part of such a vast and connected network working with children and young people across Scotland will help to us reach new audiences and professionals who are passionate about supporting and including LGBTI young people in their services.
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The cost of a polluted environment: 1.7 million child deaths a year, says WHO

More than 1 in 4 deaths of children under 5 years of are attributable to unhealthy environments. Every year, environmental risks – such as indoor and outdoor air pollution, second-hand smoke, unsafe water, lack of sanitation, and inadequate hygiene – take the lives of 1.7 million children under 5 years, say two new WHO reports. "A polluted environment is a deadly one – particularly for young children," says Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. "Their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water." Under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) countries are working on a set of targets to guide interventions for children’s environmental health, as well as to end preventable deaths of newborns and children under five by 2030. In addition to SDG 3, which aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all, other SDGs work to improve water, sanitation and hygiene, transition to clean energy to reduce air pollution, and reverse climate change – all of which will have an impact on children’s health.
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UK: Ministers back down over child protection shake-up

The government has backed down over plans that would have allowed social services departments to set aside the rights of vulnerable children. A key part of the Children and Social Work Bill is being axed after Lord Laming, who chaired the Victoria Climbie inquiry, joined a campaign against it. He met Education Secretary Justine Greening to oppose the changes. Labour had described the plan as a "dangerous proposal". The legal duties in question were laid down in several acts of Parliament and related to nearly all the social care services children receive from local authorities They cover statutory rights on child protection, family support, rights in children's homes and fostering, support to care leavers and services for disabled children, among other areas. The idea was that councils could have applied to set aside specific rights in order to try out new ways of working. And this sparked concerns that child protection services could become open to privatisation. A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "We have listened to concerns raised about introducing the power to innovate, which would have meant councils could test new approaches in order to support the country's most vulnerable children. "In recognition of this we are not taking forward that particular aspect of the bill."
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New Zealand: Parents of young offenders being let off the hook

"There needs to be greater responsibility by parents for young offenders. Parenting orders were meant to play a vital role in helping parents of youth offenders address their children’s issues, provide the support needed and potentially reduce re-offending but are just not being utilised, says New Zealand First Spokesperson for Social Development, Darroch Ball. “Of the over 5000 Family Group Conference proceedings against youth offenders in 2015 the number of parents on parenting programmes numbered just 131 – and of these only 7 were under a parenting order by the court. In 2016 this number was just 3. It’s astounding that the numbers of parents being ordered to attend a parenting programme is so low given the majority of teenage offenders are already known to Child Youth and Family. Child Youth and Family have stated that parenting orders are rarely sought and never enforced and that a lack of parenting support is one of the underlying causes of offending. National needs to step up and deliver on these parenting orders, and give troubled youth a chance. Nothing will be solved if we continue to allow troubled youth to be placed straight back into the exact same home environment that originally caused their issues,” says Mr Ball
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Social mobility: Poorer children 'making less progress'

Poorer pupils are increasingly making less progress at secondary school in England compared with their more affluent peers, a study says. The Social Mobility Commission said poorer pupils were often overtaken by their better-off peers even if they had outperformed them at primary school. The gap, which was most apparent in poor white children, has widened every year since 2012. The Department for Education accepted it had "more to do" on the issue. Commission chairman Alan Milburn said the findings were a "shocking feature" of the education system, with progress being made in primary school "all but wiped out" during secondary school. "This is not just an issue for the government. If social mobility is to improve, schools need to do more to bridge the education attainment divide between poorer children and their better-off classmates."
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USA: Foster youth plan to fight for Medicaid, other policies

Current and former foster youth involved in youth-led advocacy organizations are taking action to push back on policy proposals made by President Donald Trump and Congress that they consider harmful, particularly the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Many of these advocacy organizations are state and city-based groups affiliated with Foster Youth in Action (FYA), a national organization dedicated to advocacy led by youth who spent time in the foster care system. On Wednesday, FYA held a webinar called “Trump is President: Now What?” which featured several youth leaders discussing their aims, while adult experts shared advice on how to advocate effectively. Two of the youth leaders on the webinar discussed the importance of health care for former foster youth and how they both benefited from a provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, that guaranteed Medicaid to all former foster youth until the age of 26. Georgia Empowerment, a group featured on the webinar, advocated for Medicaid access for former foster youth until age 21 in Georgia, before the ACA provided more comprehensive access. Now they and other groups find themselves fighting to keep the benefits, by arranging meetings with legislators and campaigning via social media.
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World Book Day gives many children first chance to buy one

Survey shows that 25% of eight to 11-year-olds used the tokens given away for the annual celebration of reading to buy their first book. World Book Day provides a quarter of eight to 11-year-olds in the UK with their first chance to buy a book of their own, according to a survey published by the National Literacy Trust. The poll of 9,000 pupils between eight and 11 found that last year 25% of children had used the £1 book token given away as part of the annual celebration of reading to buy a book for the first time.
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UK: Young people 'fear stigma' if they ask for mental-health help

Over three-quarters of young people say there is a stigma to mental illness and a quarter would not ask for help if they were suffering, a survey suggests. Almost half of 2,215 16- to 25-year-olds polled by YouGov for the Prince's Trust said they had themselves experienced a mental health problem. And a third of these felt admitting to problems could harm their job chances. Fear of stigma was a "major obstacle" to finding help, said Prof Louise Arsenault, of Kings College London. A third of the young people sampled also said they would worry about appearing weak if they sought help, and most said they would not want to confide in anyone at all.
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New Zealand: Celebrating Children’s Day and Foster Carers

Minister for Children Anne Tolley says that events are being held all around New Zealand this Sunday to celebrate Children’s Day, as Foster Care Awareness week gets under way.
“Sunday will mark the 17th annual Children’s Day, as we celebrate our youngest New Zealanders,” says Mrs Tolley. “This is all about spending time with our children, having fun, praising and encouraging them, and focusing on giving them the opportunity to thrive.” Sunday also sees the start of Foster Care Awareness week, as we acknowledge the crucial work that these fantastic people do in our communities. “We have over 3,600 foster carers in this country who have opened their hearts and their homes to almost 4,500 children and young people, who through no fault of their own are in care. “These current foster carers, and those who will join us in the years ahead, will play an integral part in the overhaul of care and protection each and every day under the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki, and as we raise the age of care and support.”
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As pot legalization advances, pediatricians warn of dangers

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is urging doctors to protect children from the harms of marijuana as the nation becomes increasingly tolerant of the drug's use. "Marijuana is not a benign drug, especially for teens. Their brains are still developing, and marijuana can cause abnormal and unhealthy changes," said Dr. Seth Ammerman in an AAP news release. He's one of the authors of a new report by the academy. The authors said the report tries to rebut any perceptions that marijuana is safe, even as 29 states and Washington, D.C. allow its use for medical purposes, recreational use or both. Regular use of pot by kids may contribute to addiction, depression, psychosis, lung problems, memory and attention problems, and impaired driving, the AAP said. The report authors noted that research suggests modern marijuana is stronger than it was 20 years ago. They contend this makes overdoses and addiction more likely.
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New Zealand: Employability Skills Framework will help young people get and keep jobs

A new education resource will help young people into successful working futures, says the Industry Training Federation. The Employability Skills Framework, launched by the government today, describes the skills and competencies young people need to thrive in the world of work. It has been developed through a partnership of educators, industry training, community, and business representatives. The framework will help students, employers and educators to be on "the same page" when it comes to employability. “Developing a better understanding of employability skills will be really helpful for many young people,” says Industry Training Federation (ITF) Chief Executive, Josh Williams. “Identifying the core things that the world of work is looking for from young people is something they both deserve and need to know."
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UK: Major U-turn planned on housing benefit for young people

Controversial plans to strip young people aged 18 to 21 of housing benefit are being reconsidered by ministers amid fears in Whitehall that they would add to the homelessness bill and run contrary to Theresa May’s pledge to govern for the most needy in society. The Observer understands that the policy, announced by David Cameron and George Osborne and due to be introduced in April, is being looked at again, as housing and homeless organisations warn it will cause grave hardship and force cash-strapped councils to meet higher costs for emergency accommodation. Sources who have been involved in discussions with senior civil servants and ministers say the plans, which would affect an estimated 10,000 young people, are regarded as an unfortunate legacy of the austerity of the Cameron and Osborne years and will send out the wrong messages and fail to achieve their objective of saving £95m by the end of this parliament. One source said: “The current crop of ministers and their civil servants hate the policy. It is fair to say that consideration is being given to the powerful arguments against it.” Government officials said that the plans were still “on track” to be introduced in some form in April, although no date has been given to lay the necessary regulations before parliament.
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UK: Sex education likely to be made compulsory for all secondary schools

Ministers are to announce that sex education will become compulsory for secondary school children, while children as young as four will be taught about modern relationships. Currently sex education is compulsory only in local authority-run schools and limited to biology, but the government has long been lobbied to change the curriculum to include sex and relationship education fit for the modern world. MPs have called on the government to educate children about new technology and online relationships, sexting and how to spot abusive behaviour. An amendment to the children and social care bill has been tabled by Tory MPs David Burrowes and Maria Miller, a former women and equalities secretary, and backed by dozens of other Conservative MPs. “For the purposes of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children, the secretary of state must, by regulations, make relationships education a statutory component of the national curriculum within the meaning of part 6 of the Education Act 2002,” the amendment said.
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