Commenting on the publication of a new report on children's digital literacy from the House of Lords, 'Growing up with the internet', Children's Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield said:
“We need to see action from both Government and the digital industry to ensure a better balance of power between children and social media companies. Children should be educated to engage creatively, knowledgeably and fearlessly with the internet – to know when they are being manipulated, when and how their data is being collected and used, and how to disengage. This is why I want to see a comprehensive digital citizenship programme introduced in schools from age 4 upwards and the establishment of a children’s digital ombudsman.
“The digital industry also needs to take its responsibilities to children seriously, which means ensuring that terms and conditions around the ways children’s data and content are used are written in simple language, so that children can fully understand them and therefore make informed decisions. And I’ve called for my own powers to be extended to include the collection of aggregated data from social media companies so that I can see what problems children are having online, and whether their complaints are being taken seriously.
“I am delighted that today’s report has endorsed all of the recommendations made in my own Growing Up Digital report published earlier this year, and I look forward to further action from the Government and the industry.”
21 March 2017
Law Society recommends fundamental rewrite of child protection legislation
The New Zealand Law Society says proposed legislation introducing a child-centred care and protection system needs a complete rewrite if it is to achieve the objective of protecting vulnerable children and young people.
The Law Society presented its submission on the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Oranga Tamariki) Bill to Parliament’s Social Services select committee this morning.
The Bill makes a fundamental philosophical change from “minimum intervention” by the state in the lives of vulnerable children and young people to one of “early intervention”.
“This is laudable but is a fundamental philosophical shift and requires a complete redrafting of the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1989”, Law Society spokesperson, retired Family Court Judge John Adams, told the committee.
“As currently drafted, the Bill makes many complex amendments to the 1989 Act, and these will create real difficulties in practice,” he says.
The Law Society has pointed to a range of concerns and says that if the Bill is to proceed it should be significantly redrafted.
“The Bill contains many new terms which are not clearly defined and which are inconsistent and unclear. In particular, the central principle of the child’s ‘welfare and best interests’ is well-established in legislation and caselaw, and changing to a new term, ‘well-being’, is unnecessary and unjustified.
The purposes of the legislation, and the principles to be applied in exercising powers, are critically important but the drafting is complex and confusing.
“The purposes of legislation should be clear, concise and straight-forward. Instead, the Bill introduces 12 separate purposes that are a confused mixture of factors that are not clearly worded, lack coherence and are repetitive”, Mr Adams says.
The Law Society supports the objective of improved information-sharing to protect vulnerable children and young people but has serious reservations about the proposed framework in the Bill.
“The information-sharing provisions are complex, inconsistent and unlikely to be workable in practice, and should be substantially redrafted,” Mr Adams says.
The Law Society welcomes the extension of the youth justice jurisdiction to include 17-year-olds, Law Society spokesperson Vicki Thorpe told the committee.
“This recognises adolescent neurological development and is consistent with New Zealand’s commitments under the UN convention on the rights of the child. Managing 17-year-olds in the youth justice jurisdiction will have significant benefits both for young people and society”, Ms Thorpe says.
However, the Law Society opposes provisions in the Bill that treat some 17-year-olds differently, particularly the automatic transfer of proceedings where the young person is charged with serious offending.
“There is no justification for excluding those 17-year-olds from the youth justice jurisdiction and treating them as adults, nor is there any need to do so. Legislation is already in place and works well to identify serious recidivist youth offenders and ensure they are dealt with in the most appropriate jurisdiction,” Ms Thorpe says.
22 March 2017
Press Release: New Zealand Law Society
Canada's prosperity will increasingly depend on young Canadians getting the skills they need to prepare for the jobs of today and tomorrow. As part of the government's plan to help youth in the middle class, and those working hard to join it, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, announced today that over 1,300 Toronto youth will get access to critical training in a wide range of job readiness skills, as well as learn teamwork, organization and communication skills, thanks to a funding increase of over 50% from the Government of Canada. The majority of these youth are expected to be new Canadians and persons with disabilities, who can sometimes face greater employment barriers.
Minister Hajdu made the announcement at Toronto City Hall, accompanied by His Worship John Tory, Mayor of Toronto and Adam Vaughan, Member of Parliament for the Toronto riding of Spadina-Fort York.
Toronto Youth Job Corps will receive $11.6 million as part of a partnership between the Government of Canada, the City of Toronto, and the private sector. Toronto Youth Job Corps was created by the City of Toronto to provide critical job skills and training to Toronto youth facing challenges and barriers to employment.
The Government of Canada has increased funding by over 50% and extended the funding agreement from one year to three years because it recognizes that the job market is evolving and changing, particularly for young people, making our support more important than ever.
Over a three-year period, until March 2020, youth will get the opportunity to attend one of 21 sessions being offered. These sessions include job training and work experience. Participants will attend workshops and get one-on-one coaching for job search and interview skills. They will take part in a paid, 13-day team project in the community, plus a paid work placement geared to private sector employers lasting an average of 16 weeks.
"I'm proud that our government is increasing our investment in this
critical project for Toronto's youth. With support and positive work
experiences, young people can thrive, and move from a difficult
situation to one of hope for a positive future."
– The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour
"This funding will help more than 1,300 young people in our city get
the skills they need to be competitive in the job market. This
partnership project is a great example of how our governments can work
together to provide opportunities to our city's youth."
– His Worship John Tory, Mayor of Toronto
"This Skills Link program will have a direct impact on the community.
This project will enable youth to gain the necessary skills they need to
actively take part in our society and enter the labour market."
– Adam Vaughan, Member of Parliament for Spadina-Fort York
• Since its inception, the Skills Link program
has helped over 236,000 youth develop skills and gain experience to find
a job or return to school.
• In 2015–2016, ESDC's Skills Link program served 6,024 youth.
14 March 2017
Grave violations against children in Syria were the highest on record in 2016, said UNICEF in a grim assessment of the conflict’s impact on children, as the war reaches six years.
Verified instances of killing, maiming and recruitment of children increased sharply last year in a drastic escalation of violence across the country.
• At least 652 children were killed – a 20 per
cent increase from 2015 – making 2016 the worst year for Syria’s
children since the formal verification of child casualties began in
• 255 children were killed in or near a school.
• More than 850 children were recruited to fight in the conflict, more than double the number recruited in 2015. Children are being used and recruited to fight directly on the frontlines and are increasingly taking part in combat roles, including in extreme cases as executioners, suicide bombers or prison guards.
• There were at least 338 attacks against hospitals and medical personnel .
“The depth of suffering is unprecedented. Millions of children in Syria come under attack on a daily basis, their lives turned upside down,” said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa speaking from Homs, Syria. “Each and every child is scarred for life with horrific consequences on their health, well-being and future.”
Challenges in access in several parts of Syria stand in the way of assessing the full scale of children’s suffering and of urgently getting humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable girls and boys. Beyond the bombs, bullets and explosions, children are dying in silence often from diseases that can otherwise be easily prevented. Access to medical care, lifesaving supplies and other basic services remains difficult.
The most vulnerable among Syria’s children are the 2.8 million in hard-to-reach areas, including 280,000 children living under siege, almost completely cut off from humanitarian aid.
After six years of war, nearly 6 million children now depend on humanitarian assistance, a twelve-fold increase from 2012. Millions of children have been displaced, some up to seven times. Over 2.3 million children are now living as refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq.
Inside Syria and across its borders, coping mechanisms are eroding, and families are taking extreme measures just to survive, often pushing children into early marriage and child labour. In more than two thirds of households, children are working to support their families, some in extremely harsh conditions unfit even for adults.
Yet despite the horrors and suffering, there are many remarkable stories of children determined to pursue their hopes and aspirations. Darsy (12), now a refugee in Turkey said: “I want to be a surgeon to help the sick and injured people of Syria. I dream of a Syria without a war so we can go home. I dream of a world without any wars.”
“We continue to witness the courage of Syria’s children. Many have crossed frontlines just to sit for school exams. They insist on learning, including in underground schools. There is so much more we can and should do to turn the tide for Syria’s children,” said Cappelaere.
On behalf of the children of Syria, UNICEF is appealing to all parties to the conflict, those who have influence over them, the international community and anyone who cares about children for:
• An immediate political solution to end the
conflict in Syria;
• An end to all grave violations against children including killing, maiming and recruitment, and attacks on schools and hospitals;
• The lifting of all sieges and unconditional and sustained access to all children in need, wherever they are in Syria;
• Providing refugee host governments and communities with sustainable support for vulnerable children, regardless of their status, and
• Continued financial support for UNICEF’s lifesaving assistance to Syrian children.
13 March 2017
The number of applications for children to be taken into care has risen to its highest level, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) has revealed.
Figures published today by Cafcass show that the number of care applications in 2016/17 has surpassed last month's record tally with a month to spare.
The statistics show that in February there were 1,134 applications, taking the total for 2016/17 to 13,242, going past the figure recorded for 2015/16 of 12,791.
With figures for March still to be added to the total, it is likely the final figure for 2016/17 will be well in excess of 14,000.
The rising trend began in 2014, when the total for 2014/15 rose by five per cent to 11,159 care applications. Previously, in 2013/14, there were 10,620 applications, a four per cent fall on the previous year when there were 11,110.
In September 2016 Cafcass said it was working with the Ministry of Justice to try to halt the rising numbers.
Efforts included highlighting and promoting local areas of good practice in pre-proceedings work to ensure children did not need to be the subject of court proceedings, stronger child protection planning and a greater focus on working with extended family members to look after children.
At the time Cafcass chief executive Anthony Douglas, the organisation's chief executive, said increases in demand, in both care applications and other forms of court work, were a "major issue".
In the same month, England's most senior family court judge said the record rise in care applications signalled a looming "crisis".
Sir James Munby said the reasons for the increases in care applications are little understood, and although investigations are under way, much more research on the issue is necessary as a matter of urgency.
Cafcass has been contacted for comment.
By Gabriella Jozwiak
13 March 2017
New Zealand First’s Youth Employment, Training and Education Bill, drawn from the members’ bill ballot today, aims to help 90,000 school drop outs who are languishing on the unemployment benefit. “We will introduce a programme to get youth between 15-17 years of age into paid work after they become disengaged from school,” says New Zealand First Social Development Spokesperson Darroch Ball.
“They will be in the Army to work, train and learn trade skills so they are work ready by the time they turn 18. The New Zealand Army already has an existing youth development unit that will be expanded and fully resourced. Youth will be trained in all of the trade skills that the Army provides including hospitality, catering, construction and mechanics. They will obtain a driver’s licence, learn first aid, and achieve basic literacy and numeracy to level two.
"For too long our youth have had to endure a chronic unemployment rate with no real alternative pathway. This Bill allows them to move directly from school at 15 straight into paid employment – keeping them engaged during the most important and formative years of their lives."
“The Youth Employment, Training and Education Bill establishes a formal pathway outside of the school system that gives kids another pathway to success,” says Mr Ball.
9 March 2017
New Zealand First Party
Darroch Ball MP
Youth Work Ireland has warmly welcomed the announcement by the Government that Travellers are to be recognised as an ethnic minority. The youth organisation, which has several local Traveller projects around the country, has been calling for such recognition for many years. Youth Services around the country have played an important role in making links to young Travellers. Youth Work Ireland has been working in partnership with other groups on policy priorities identified by young Travellers to support youth service development towards improved practice.
“Youth Work Ireland has been responding to understanding barriers young Travellers face in accessing youth work services as evidenced by the “Nexus” research company as well as developing practical tools for youth work services to enhance and improve services for young Travellers. While youth services operate many Traveller projects they still see the need to improve their accessibility and ensure they have strong policies and procedures to ensure this” said Michael Mc Loughlin of Youth Work Ireland.
“Travellers are one of the most discriminated against groups in Irish society and this has huge impact on young Travellers. The social and economic exclusion young Travellers face leads to huge issues and problems for them. Youth projects need to develop specific strategies and outreach to ensure they can continue to work with this key group. A specific took box has been developed through our EU Funded project which can make a big difference to the future of this work” Mr. Mc Loughlin added.
2 March 2017
Youth Work Ireland
Hundreds of referrals relating to child sexual abuse in government-run institutions have been made to law enforcement authorities after closed-door sessions with victims.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on Tuesday heard around 1800 people had reported abuse in government-managed out-of-home care, juvenile justice, state schools and health services during private sessions as at December and January.
It made 95 referrals to police relating to abuse in juvenile justice and 140 relating to state schools, Counsel Assisting Gail Furness SC said on Tuesday.
Some 361 referrals were made over abuse in government and non-government out-of-home care, and 95 for public and private health services. There was no further breakdown of data for those two sectors.
The royal commission heard 35 per cent of people at private sessions were abused in government institutions.
Chair Peter McClellan appealed to senior Commonwealth, state and territory bureaucrats to work with great perseverance towards a timely national redress scheme for survivors.
"We have now spoken to thousands of people, many of whom have suffered terribly because of their abuse," Justice McClellan said on Tuesday. "You can't leave a discussion with them but with an understanding that a redress scheme of the type we've recommended is of fundamental importance."
The federal government last year announced a national redress scheme would be up and running by 2018. But no state or territory has yet opted in, with South Australia saying it will not contribute funds.
Justice McClellan was also critical of government inaction on some of the royal commission's recommendations.
He called the lack of a nationally consistent working with children checks approach 12 years after it was committed to a "monument to federation failure".
The hearing investigating governments' response so far to the royal commission's work is expected to continue on Wednesday.
By Rebekah Ison
7 March 2017
The number of times family courts have turned down application orders for adoptions has quadrupled in the past four years, government figures show.
New data published by the Department for Education shows that in 2012 courts did not make a placement order after a council decided a child should be placed for adoption on 60 separate occasions. In 2016 the figure was 250 – a fourfold increase.
In total, since 2012, the courts have refused to make a placement order on 880 occasions.
The sharp rise follows an appeal court ruling made in September 2013 by Sir James Munby in the case of Re B-S, in which he was highly critical of "sloppy practice" by social workers when making applications and said councils must provide evidence that alternatives to adoption had been considered.
A year later in the case of Re R, Munby sought to clarify the ruling by saying that he did not expect councils to explore "every conceivable option" and expected courts to grant applications "where adoption is in the child's best interest".
Despite the increase in applications being turned down the latest DfE figures show that overall the number of adoptions being reversed has dropped over the last three years, from 1,040 in 2013 to 920 in 2016.
The figures also show the number of children that councils want to place for adoption has fallen by 24.5 per cent from 16,640 in 2014 to 12,570 in 2016.
The government is trying to legislate for councils and courts to favour adoption over other forms of care for vulnerable children through the Children and Social Work Bill.
During a committee stage hearing of the bill in December last year, Labour's shadow children's minister Emma Lewell-Buck criticised the government for having an "obsession" with adoption "to the detriment of all other forms of care".
Adoption Leadership Board figures released last month revealed that the number of children being adopted is contining to fall.
For the first three months of 2016/17 (April to June), 1,060 children were adopted, a fall of 12.4 per cent on the same period in 2015/16, when the figures stood at 1,210.
A DfE spokesman said: "We aspire to have every child grow up in a loving, stable home, and it is good to see that children are being placed with their new families faster, and waiting less time for important decisions to be made.
"Our Children and Social Work Bill will make sure the long-term needs of children are prioritised when courts are considering placement options. This is backed by our £200m investment to improve the adoption system, including making sure adoption is always prioritised where it is in a child's best interest."
By Neil Puffett
28 February 2017
Our youth are our future and encouraging young people to be the best version of themselves, regardless of where they come from, their race, gender or economic situation – is vital to building a better South Africa. This is exactly what the President’s Award for Youth Empowerment aims to do. Their vision is to reach as many young people as possible, between the ages of 14 – 24, from diverse backgrounds and equip them as individuals to succeed in life.
Youth Participants are guided by volunteer adult Award Leaders through three Award levels: Bronze, Silver and Gold. In order to obtain these internationally recognised awards, they are required to complete various sections of activity: developing skills; participating in regular physical recreation; offering service in the community; and completing an adventurous journey – for Bronze and Silver levels. At the Gold level a residential project is also required. Enrolment is open to anyone between the ages of 14 and 24. Bronze and Silver levels take about six months to complete and Gold at least a year.
The Mpumalanga President’s Award ceremony is coming up soon on 4 March 2017 at Penryn College in Nelspruit from 11h00-12h00. There will be about 70 young people attending. The groups getting awarded will be from Penryn College, Uplands College, Lowveld High, Fundinjobo High, Sabane Secondary, Mthombo Secondary, Sitintile High and Mamkhulu.org. The MEC for Education in Mpumalanga has also been invited to attend. There will be motivational talks, music and moving testimonials from Award holders and the actual awards ceremony.
The Award Programme is promoted through three broad target areas in South Africa:
• Learning for Life: with the focus being on
schools, tertiary institutions as well as youth organisations, such as
the Scouts, Girl Guides and Sea Cadets
• Phakama: caters for the specialised needs of community youth groups and residential child care centres, including children’s homes, shelters and secure care centres
• Ready: targets young offenders within correctional centres
The President’s Award (TPA) is a non-profit organisation that is affiliated to The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award for Young People and is a full member of the International Award Foundation which oversees the Award Programme in over 140 countries globally, with 25 of these being in Africa, and a total of over one million active participants internationally.
This global framework for non-formal education is based on a number of guiding principles: each individual designs their own programme; this is a non-competitive personal challenge; the Award is voluntary; it fosters personal and social development; it provides a balanced framework to develop the individual’s mind, body and community spirit; it’s progressive; inspires people to exceed their expectations; it requires persistence; and it is enjoyable, fulfilling and rewarding. There are clearly defined outcomes that include building confidence, resilience and determination, leadership, fostering relationships, planning and creativity. There are defined impact measures to ensure the long-term value of the Award to the individuals and society.
“Our long term ambition is that every eligible young person will have the opportunity to participate in the Award. As important as it is to reflect on our past achievements, it is vital for young people to consider their futures – the future of our country and their own individual futures. It is also important for youth to consider how their individual future will play a part in our country’s future. The President’s Award is a journey – to experiment and find out what one’s purpose and passion are in this world. It is about finding out who you are as an individual, what makes you unique and special and how you can contribute to making South Africa a better place,” said Lara Kruiskamp, CEO of the President’s Award South Africa.
28 February 2017
Queensland children in residential care are being given medication to control their behaviour, without appropriate diagnosis and parental consent, the state's Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) says.
It has raised concerns a medication being used to chemically restrain children had serious side-effects and was being administered without consent of a parent or guardian. The Public Guardian, a state body responsible for protecting kids in out-of-home care, raised the concerns in its submission to a review of child protection legislation.
The submission outlines how medication that should be used to treat a condition or illness is being administered to punish children. Furthermore, the submission said it may have significant implications on their development.
Youth Affairs Network Queensland director Siyavash Doostkhah said the information was unsurprising. He said they had provided the information to the Public Guardian, as well as other people, over the past 10 to 15 years.
"It makes some headlines, the ministers and departments talk about having to respond it," he said. "Then they put it in the too hard basket. These medications the children are being given are not soft drugs, they are schedule eight drugs, so they are equivalent of speed and cocaine.
"These are things in my view that are not only child abuse, but should be classed as criminal."
Minister condemns the practice
The OPG cited anecdotal evidence that facilities had been "doctor shopping" to get prescriptions to "punish rather than treat" children in care.
In her submission, public guardian Natalie Siegel-Brown stated over the course of two years, 1,483 issues were recorded by community visitors regarding the medication Ritalin, as well as conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, bipolar, depression, ADHD or ADD.
Queensland Child Safety Minister Shannon Fentiman was concerned by the submission when she read it earlier this year, and has condemned the practice.
"[I] immediately asked my department to ensure residential care services were abiding by policy and practice for the use of medications, and ensure there are regular health checks for each child."
The OPG has submitted recommendations that include the requirement of specialist diagnoses as well as an amendment to the Child Protection Act to restrict particular medications on children and young people in care.
It also includes requirements of parental or guardian consent and a system that notifies the public guardian if a young person in care is subjected to a chemical restraint.
By Meghna Bali
24 February 2017