Select a news topic from the list below, then select a news article to read.
Written by BBC News Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland
Two social workers who were found in contempt of court after stopping a mother’s contact with her children have had the finding against them quashed.
The pair, who both work for Edinburgh council but were not named in court, were found guilty of contempt in 2013.
A sheriff ruled they were in contempt for failing to obey a court order for a mother to have weekly contact with her sons, who had been taken into care.
But a judgement from the Court of Session has overturned that decision.
Three senior judges found there had been serious concerns for the wellbeing of the children and that the social workers, who were in a “difficult situation”, had the best interests of the youngsters at heart.
In his ruling, judge Lord Malcolm said that a decision made by the social worker to suspend contact “out of a genuinely held concern” of risk to the children, could not be categorised as contempt of court.
The social workers, named in court papers as AB and CD, are “senior and experienced” employees who were found in contempt over their failure to obey a court order from May 2013.
Earlier that year, a children’s hearing reduced contact between the mother and her boys, who were in care, from weekly to monthly.
But she appealed to the sheriff, who granted weekly contact with each child.
In July 2013, AB suspended contact, a decision approved by CD, her immediate superior.
AB referred to the boys being “distressed, distraught and at times traumatised” and wrote that it was her view” that the weekly contact could not be continued in good conscience, knowing the dire effect it has been having on both children”.
Following a complaint letter from the mother’s solicitor, the sheriff ultimately found that both social workers had failed to obey the court and found them guilty of a contempt of the authority of the court.
No penalty was imposed but they were found liable for the expenses of the proceedings.
The three Court of Session judges unanimously ruled in favour of the social workers on Friday.
Quashing the contempt ruling, Lord Malcolm said: “The court should be sensitive to the difficult situation in which these, and no doubt the other social workers involved, were placed.
“In the context of their long involvement in the case, and the burden of a duty to safeguard the welfare of the children, they adopted a precautionary approach.”
Written by PARIS GOURTSOYANNIS of Edinburgh News
Social workers and health staff visited the home of Mikaeel Kular seven times in the months before he was killed by his mother Rosdeep Adekoya – but found no evidence of the violence she would go on to inflict on her three-year-old son.
There was no way Mikaeel’s death could have been prevented, according to a review of how the boy’s case was handled. It cleared social workers in Edinburgh and Fife of any blame for the tragedy.
“The central finding of the report states that the circumstances that led to Mikaeel’s death could not have been predicted.”
Mikaeel’s disappearance in January last year sparked a massive two-day search before his mother was arrested and eventually jailed for his killing.
Repeated visits by both councils found nothing to cause staff concern “about the physical care of Mikaeel” by his mother. Her vicious, repeated assaults over several days last January were described as “unprecedented and out of character”.
However, despite finding that the toddler’s death “could not have been predicted”, the report made 13 recommendations, including a call for an overhaul of national guidelines for information sharing between local authorities.
Legislation will be reviewed following the revelation that Mikaeel’s nursery in Edinburgh was not told that he had spent a year in care until three months after he was returned to his mother – and just two months before his death.
His father Zahid Saeed rejected the findings, saying: “I feel that the social work department have failed in their duties to protect my children.”
Mikaeel was taken into foster care in Fife between July 2012 and August 2013 after Adekoya left her children on their own for an extended period. He was returned to his mother after social workers judged that she was making “good progress”, and in December 2013 the last of seven visits by social workers and NHS staff took place, after which a supervision order was ended.
Children’s charities said the lack of national protocols for transferring information between councils about youngsters who are no longer on the protection register was “a gap” that required attention.
Speaking on behalf of the joint review, which included Fife and Edinburgh councils as well as NHS Fife and Lothian and Police Scotland, chairman Steve Grimmond said: “The central finding of the report states that the circumstances that led to Mikaeel’s death could not have been predicted.
“Ms Adekoya’s ability to physically care for him was never in question. She felt a need for space and time that resulted in him being left unattended and is the reason he was placed in foster care.
“It’s important to stress that professionals who had regular contact with the family never had any concerns about the physical care of Mikaeel throughout this case. The decision to return Mikaeel to his mother’s care was taken by a range of professionals who agreed that he was well looked after and that he had been in foster care long enough.”
For three dreadful days in January 2014, the UK’s media descended on north Edinburgh after Mikaeel was reported missing, having seemingly vanished from his home in the middle of the night.
Adekoya, who has three other children, originally told police her son had disappeared after being put to bed on the night of January 15.
News that a three year-old was missing in near-freezing temperatures brought the community out on to the streets in a desperate search for the boy.
Hundreds joined search parties, with cordons combing the shore front at Cramond and Drylaw, checking bushes and undergrowth without result.
The searchers’ hearts were broken when police announced the news no-one wanted to hear – a body had been found, not in Edinburgh but across the Forth in Fife. It was eventually confirmed that the body, stuffed into a suitcase and hidden in woodland behind Adekoya’s sister’s house in Kirkcaldy, was Mikaeel.
After the report was published yesterday, council chief executive Sue Bruce paid tribute to the community spirit that saw so many join the search for Mikaeel.
She said: “Last January, we had to face the outcome that everyone dreaded, namely that Mikaeel Kular had not been found safe and well. It was a tragic situation and, although over a year has now passed, our thoughts are with his family and friends still struggling to come to terms with the circumstances surrounding his death.
“We shouldn’t forget the incredible show of community spirit in North Edinburgh following Mikaeel’s disappearance, with hundreds of volunteers giving up their time to join the search. It was extremely moving and inspiring to see the community pull together like that and I know that spirit remains strong today.”
Adekoya was arrested and originally charged with her son’s murder, but was jailed for 11 years after pleading guilty to culpable homicide in July.
Only after Adekoya’s guilty plea did the truth emerge – Mikaeel was beaten to death, savagely attacked by his furious mother after he was repeatedly sick following a family meal out.
Despite becoming increasingly ill due to internal injuries, Mikaeel’s mother did not seek medical attention for her son, who was already dead by the time Adekoya claimed he had gone missing.
The full report will not be published in order to protect the identities of Mikaeel’s siblings, but a summary version has been made public.
Mr Grimmond added: “The death of any child is a tragedy. The loss of Mikaeel in such terrible circumstances has been particularly devastating for his family, those who worked with them, and two local communities in Edinburgh and Fife.
“Social workers and health professionals involved in the case have been greatly affected by this tragedy. They care very deeply about what they do and the people they support.”
Responding to the call for information sharing procedures to be overhauled, a Scottish Government spokeswoman said that the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act – passed just last year – would be reviewed.
The spokeswoman said: “The sudden, unnatural death of any child is a tragedy and the untimely death of Mikaeel Kular continues to reverberate across Scotland and in particular, the communities in Fife and Edinburgh where he lived.
“The Scottish Government therefore welcomes the urgency with which this significant case review was undertaken and its speedy conclusion and focused actions, which we are sure will now be considered and acted upon by all the appropriate agencies timeously.
“We accept the recommendation directed at the Scottish Government and we will consider the implications of the report very carefully.
“We are currently consulting on guidance and secondary legislation accompanying the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act which will help meet the recommendation.”
The charity Children 1st backed the call for greater clarity when sharing information between local authorities.
Director of children and family services Mary Glasgow said: “There is a gap in the current system that the review does well to bring to our attention.”
Trisha Hall, director of the Scottish Association of Social Workers, said that without any evidence of neglect or abuse, it was impossible for social workers to know what Adekoya was capable of. “Social workers are being asked to assess risk. Social workers can’t predict risk. That’s simply impossible”, she said.
Countdown to tragedy
July 2012: Mikaeel Kular taken into care in Fife.
August 2013: Mikaeel returned to mother Rosdeep Adekoya, who has moved to Edinburgh.
November 2013: Mikaeel’s school informed of his care history.
December 2013: Supervision order for Mikaeel is terminated. Over previous four months, staff from Fife and Edinburgh make seven visits, but find no evidence of abuse or neglect.
January 12, 2014: Adekoya beats Mikaeel repeatedly. He dies of his injuries two days later.
January 16, 2014: Mikaeel is reported missing. His mother claims she last saw him the previous night, and that he left their Drylaw flat on his own. A massive search is launched, with hundreds of volunteers joining the effort.
January 18, 2014: A body is found in the early hours, later confirmed to be Mikaeel. Adekoya is arrested, and is later charged with his murder.
July 2014: Adekoya pleads guilty to culpable homicide, and is jailed for 11 years. Fife and Edinburgh councils announce a joint significant case review into Mikaeel’s death.
Written by the IWF
The Internet Watch Foundation has identified and assisted the removal of 137% more webpages depicting child sexual abuse last year, than the year before.
· The global speed at which child sexual abuse imagery is being removed also increased last year,
meaning victims’ images which had been identified globally, had a shorter life-span online.
· There were large percentage increases in child sexual abuse imagery identified in image hosting
services and cyberlockers*.
· IWF launches a drive to encourage more online companies to step up and do the right thing regarding
child sexual abuse images online.
The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) today (14 April) launches its trends and analysis on the global picture of child sexual abuse image distribution online. The IWF Annual Report 2014 reveals that its new ability to actively seek out the content, which was given in April 2014, has been effective in identifying of more criminal material than ever before. The IWF is the only Hotline in the world with the ability to do this.
The IWF is a charity, and self-regulatory body set up in 1996 by the online industry. It is the UK’s Hotline for reporting child sexual abuse imagery online and is funded by 117 companies and organisations (https://www.iwf.org.uk/members/current-members). Due to the increased funding these companies gave the IWF, it recruited more Internet Content Analysts last year, taking the total from four, to 12.
The IWF takes reports of suspected criminal content from the public, which includes members of the public, police officers and IT professionals.
Coupled with its new ability to actively search for the images and videos using intelligence-based tactics, it was able to assist with the removal 31,266 URLs of child sexual abuse last year, compared to 13,182 in 2013. A URL can contain one, or many thousand images and videos.
Global speed of removal
Less than 0.3% (95 URLs) of the imagery identified last year was hosted in the UK (in 1996, 18% was UK-hosted) and 95% was removed within a day, often within two hours. Last year, most was hosted in North America (56%) and Europe including Russia (41%). The speed at which countries are removing the content has increased.
After 10 days
• 91% of URLs are removed within Europe (86% in 2013);
• 72% of URLs are removed within North America (68% in 2013);
• 50% of URLs are removed from other locations around the world (44% in 2013)
When the IWF identifies a child sexual abuse URL hosted in another country, it notifies that country’s hotline, or law enforcement agency. It then repeatedly chases up with that country until the URL is removed.
Many legitimate online services are abused by those wishing to distribute child sexual abuse imagery.
• Image hosting services (where users can upload images and make them available via a unique
URL) were most abused last year (from 5,594 URLs in 2013 to 19,710 URLs in 2014).
• File host, or cyberlockers (which are online file hosting services, cloud storage services or online
file storage providers) saw a 299% increase in abuse last year, compared to 2013 (from 1,400 URLs
in 2013 to 5,582 URLs in 2014).
IWF CEO Susie Hargreaves, said: “Our ability to actively seek out child sexual abuse imagery created a significant step-change in the effectiveness of the IWF.
“We have a mission to protect victims of sexual abuse from having their images repeatedly viewed. The more content we can identify and work with others to get removed, the bigger the benefit to those victims.
“We are also here to help the internet industry from being abused and the online industry in the UK and increasingly, globally, is really stepping up to help us remove this imagery but we know there are many more companies who are either yet to recognise they have an issue, or are being too slow to respond.
“It is not good enough for those companies to allow the burden of responsibility to fall on a socially responsible few. This year we will ensure they are armed with the knowledge, information and support they need to protect themselves and benefit all internet users and victims of sexual abuse.”
Written by IWF:
UK online businesses should beef-up their security to prevent hackers using their websites to direct online users to child sexual abuse images and videos.
Research released by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) identifies how legitimate online businesses are being hacked to lead online users to commercial child sexual abuse imagery.
The research also demonstrates that, for the first time, Bitcoin is being accepted for the purchase of child sexual abuse images and videos.
The trend was identified in January (2014). Spam emails were used to distribute links (web addresses) to internet uses. These links led to a hacked website (a legitimate business) and would further re-direct the user to commercial child sexual abuse images on a second hacked website.
This commercial child sexual abuse material is unique in that it purports to accept payment only in bitcoins.
Sarah Smith, IWF Technical Researcher who authored the research paper, said: “These websites are legitimate businesses, sometimes UK business. We believe they are being targeted due to inadequate security on their websites.
“The website administrators of these businesses often won’t be aware they’ve been hacked. I would advise them to look closely at their website security to prevent their websites being targeted to host re-director links or criminal content.
“We identify the payment methods used by commercial child sexual abuse distributers in order to work with third parties who can disrupt the distribution of these criminal images.
“This is the first time we’ve seen bitcoins being accepted for child sexual abuse images and videos.”
Written by LGA:
The true quality of activity to tackle child abuse and neglect across the country could be being obscured because of Ofsted’s blinkered approach to inspecting children’s services, local government leaders are warning today.
The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils in England and Wales, is calling for an overhaul of the way children’s services are inspected, so the roles of everyone involved in protecting vulnerable children are monitored and included in a judgment.
Current Ofsted arrangements for the inspection of children’s services are too narrow, taking a limited view of council performance and failing to assess the contribution of crucial agencies such as health and the police, the LGA said.
The warning comes as senior local government leaders convene at a summit on child sexual exploitation, jointly organised by the LGA, Solace and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS). Politicians and senior council officers will discuss how to better protect children in the future.
Today (TUES) Ofsted will give evidence to the Communities and Local Government Committee on the Jay Review into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham.
The regulator’s proposals to revamp inspection of children’s services would continue to see Ofsted and other inspectorates work in narrow silos, conducting separate inspections at the same time rather than adopting a fully multi-agency approach that assesses the contribution of all agencies together. Council leaders say this fails to recognise the crucial importance of all agencies working together around the needs of children and young people.
Councils take their responsibility to protect children seriously and are working hard to tackle child sexual exploitation but cannot do this alone. Councils work with health services, the police and other organisations, such as youth clubs and outreach services, to protect children, and inspection of children’s services must mirror this approach.
Delegates at today’s summit will focus on sharing information and best practice to ensure the fight against child exploitation becomes everyone’s business. The LGA will also launch new a resources pack at the summit to help council leaders assess the robustness of local approaches.
Cllr David Simmonds, Chairman of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said:
“Keeping children safe is the most important thing that councils do, but we know we cannot do it alone. Protecting children does not fall only to councils, but to the police, health services, schools and local groups. Inspections must reflect this. It is not fair to the children we are working to protect that Ofsted inspections only focus on council children’s services, failing to properly assess the essential work done by other organisations.
“Today’s local government summit on child sexual exploitation brings together council leaders with police, the NHS and children’s charities. We all recognise that it is only by working together to improve the way we protect children in the future that this evil crime can be eradicated and victims given the confidence to come forward.
“We need scrutiny processes to adopt the same approach, so every organisation involved in child protection is examined during an inspection. Councils are committed to this joint work; we need inspection processes to adapt so nothing falls through the cracks.”
The LGA has previously raised concerns that Ofsted is too media-focused and can no longer be relied upon to deliver trustworthy judgments.
Written by the LGA
Predatory men suspected of grooming children for sex could be stopped immediately if a new type of banning order was introduced by the new government, local government leaders say.
Children who are being groomed for sexual exploitation are at risk of being harmed because too often officials are powerless to intervene in suspicious behaviour, council leaders warn.
The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils across England and Wales, is now calling for the introduction of ‘disruption orders’, which is supported by children’s charity Barnardo’s. These would be backed by the courts and give social workers and police a way of intervening in child sexual exploitation (CSE) when they suspect something is going on but cannot provide evidence to bring a criminal prosecution without a child having been already harmed.
Child protection experts have voiced concerns over recent instances where they were hindered from acting in the best interests of vulnerable children. There have been cases where parents have raised concerns about their children being groomed, but authorities were powerless to intervene because no criminal offence was being committed.
In Birmingham, the city council has used civil injunctions against men in cases where child sexual exploitation was believed to be taking place but there was not sufficient evidence for a criminal prosecution.
The LGA is calling on the next government to introduce a bill for the orders in its first Queen’s Speech.
Cllr David Simmonds, Chairman of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said:
“Few parents would be comfortable if their children were spending their time in the company of older men and coming home with expensive gifts and smelling of alcohol. But the reality is that there have been concerned mums and dads who have had to stand by, powerless, as their children have been groomed by vile sexual predators.
“At present sanctions to prevent the grooming of vulnerable children are too limited and we need to make it easier to intervene earlier before harm is done. By making it possible for councils to apply swiftly to the courts for an order to disrupt grooming we can help prevent the lives of children being ruined by sexual exploitation.
“We need a commitment from the next government that they will act swiftly to legislate for these orders, so no more communities will suffer the scars of child sexual exploitation. The introduction of Sexual Risk Orders is an important step in giving the police more powers but we need to extend this to the wider community if we are to tackle CSE effectively.
“We are not trying to pass a sentence before someone has been charged, nor do we intend to stop people from carrying out their normal daily activities. But we need to know children are safe from the menace of CSE and disrupting the activities of those we suspect of grooming young people can only help this.”
CSE disruption orders would be designed to target people suspected of grooming children, to put safe space between them and their victims. They differ from the current Sexual Risk Orders in that they can be granted by a court on the application of local authorities and other concerned parties such as the NHS and schools, where they can show that their concerns are sufficient that magistrates would be willing to grant them. The orders would be similar to Domestic Violence Protection Orders or Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (Asbos) but tailored to the risks associated with CSE.
The orders would see anyone suspected of grooming children for sexual exploitation banned from certain types of activity, such as hanging around outside schools, for a fixed period of time, in specific instances.
Victims would not be required to testify when an application for an order was heard.
A breach of a CSE disruption order would be a criminal offence.
Written by the LGA
What is FGM?
FGM is defined by the World Health Organisation as “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”. There is no cultural or religious justification for FGM and it has been illegal in this country since 1985. If it is performed on a British citizen in the UK or overseas it is a crime.
What are the consequences of FGM?
It can leave women and girls traumatised as well as in severe pain, cause difficulties in child birth, and in some rare cases it can lead to death. Current prevalence studies estimate that as many as 60,000 women and girls in the UK could be at risk of FGM, and over 125,000 may already be living with the consequences (Equality Now and City University July 2014). Councils have a statutory duty to safeguard children and protect and promote the welfare of all women and girls, and are committed to working with partners to support the long term abandonment of the practice.
Written by the LGA
The Home Secretary Theresa May and Justice Secretary Chris Grayling have announced an extra £7 million funding to help victims of sexual violence. The funding will run to the end of the 2015/16 financial year.
There has been a 40 per cent increase in child sexual offences recorded by police in the last two years. A £2 million fund will be available for organisations reporting an increase in referrals prompted by the Child Sexual Abuse Inquiry. All services which support victims of child sexual abuse will be eligible to apply for a share of the fund, with bids assessed against a range of criteria and allocated to ensure urgent needs are met.
In addition to this money, £2.85 million will be available for organisations across England and Wales which support victims of sexual abuse. This will be administered in parallel with the child sexual abuse fund.
Meanwhile, a further £2.15 million will be given to 84 existing Female Rape Support Centres on top of current Ministry of Justice funding.
Written by LGA
Joint statement from Katie Hall (Chair, LGA Community Wellbeing Board) and David Pearson (President, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services).
“The Local Government Association (LGA) and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) welcome the announcement by Norman Lamb MP (Minister of State for Care and Support) of a new grant for local authorities to support the implementation of the Care Bill.
We have argued hard for more resources to support these reforms. This grant – £23 million for 2014/15 – provides additional resource to local authorities to help them plan in detail to implement the profound reforms required by the Care Bill. Along with the £2.7 million for the Care Bill and Better Care Fund announced in February and distributed regionally through ADASS, this grant recognises the significance of the reforms, the scale of the challenges in timescale for local authorities, and the importance of getting implementation right first time.
The Care Bill reforms need to be seen as an integral part of a wider transformation of the health and social care system, which includes integration and the Better Care Fund (BCF). The Care Bill provides the legislative underpinning for the BCF and elements of integration including the duty of prevention and cooperation with local partners. Therefore, the practical matter of Care Bill implementation cannot be divorced from the wider programme of reforms, which itself builds on a radically reshaped health system that is still bedding down.
We remain concerned about the scale of the implementation challenge given the current timescales and context. We also remain concerned that inadequate funding for the reforms, and for the system itself, will jeopardise the Bill’s good intentions. The reforms being implemented through the Care Bill need to be fully costed and funded as new burdens. However, we are pleased to be working with the Department of Health on implementation and welcome the additional support this grant provides.”
Written by LGA
Thousands of people living with dementia are being helped to lead more independent lives, thanks to an initiative being supported by the Chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA).
Over 800,000 people in the UK are affected by dementia and one in three people live with the condition in old age. This is set to rise to around one million by 2021. It currently costs the UK around £23 billion each year to care for people with dementia, some of whom could end up unnecessarily in nursing homes or hospitals, and with an ageing population, this is set to rise by a further £4 billion in 2018.
Yet, despite figures showing that dementia is one of the main causes of disability later in life, official statistics recently showed that only 45 per cent of people have been properly diagnosed, making it vital that community leaders take action to tackle the issue and support people showing the signs of dementia as early as possible.
Today, Sir Merrick Cockell, Chairman of the LGA, is writing to around 400 council leaders across England and Wales to ask them to join his own personal commitment to become a Dementia Friend. Dementia Friends pledge support to those living with dementia by raising awareness or offering practical help.
Sir Merrick is leading the effort through his role at the LGA to encourage as many council leaders, staff and communities across the country to support the Government’s drive to recruit one million Dementia Friends across the country. In 2012, around 12,000 people had registered with the Alzheimer’s Society to become Dementia Friends.
Many councils are already working in partnership with their local communities to develop innovative ways to enable people with dementia to learn new skills and hobbies, take part in everyday activities and retain their independence for as long as they are able. Examples include art clubs, music and dance sessions for people with dementia, through to dementia-friendly streets, where as a result of simple adaptations and awareness raising among staff working in shops, people with dementia are able to do their own shopping.
Simple changes to existing services, and training for those who come into day-to-day contact with people with dementia such as staff working in libraries or in leisure centres, could help people with dementia feel more confident in using council services.
This is why Sir Merrick is now calling on council colleagues from England and Wales alongside their communities to join him by:
- Making their own personal commitment to this issue;
- Designating a person within the council to become a dementia friends champion, to then cascade learning to other staff in the council; and
- Identifying a space at council premises to hold training sessions for staff and the community to become dementia friends.
Sir Merrick Cockell said:
“With so many people in our families and in our communities affected by dementia, this is a cause that is extremely close to many of our hearts and has touched many of us personally.
“When we think of our own parents, grandparents, partners and even children, none of us know who this will affect and what support we may need in the future that could make the difference to someone we love.
“I would like as many people as possible to join me in becoming a Dementia Friend. The more people we can get involved, the greater chance we have of enabling those living with dementia to lead fulfilling lives close to families, friends and neighbours for as long as possible.
“Traditionally, the focus for dementia care has been NHS treatments and services delivered by local councils. We need to shift this to a focus on how we can enable people who have been diagnosed with dementia to live as full a life as possible and encourage communities to work together to help people to stay healthier for longer.
“I have seen first-hand the difference the work of councils, community groups and volunteers has made to the lives of people living with dementia. This campaign really drives home the importance of how, when working together we really can make the biggest difference.
“Councils have a core role to play in transforming the quality of life for people with dementia. Not only in providing leadership and support for local community groups to develop innovative services, but in supporting their staff in becoming dementia aware and to sign up to their local dementia alliances to become involved in their dementia friendly communities.”