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Report finds young children with disabilities being secluded and restrained in schools

Children as young as five with disabilities are being secluded and restrained at school.

A new report from Inclusion Ireland highlights 14 cases, one involves a child being left unsupervised in seclusion for long periods despite a history of seizures.

The charity says that a lack of available research on the subject means the number of cases of restraint, isolation and seclusion could be even higher.

They are calling on the Government to act and spokesperson, Mark O'Connor, has said there are a number of key areas which need to be looked at.

Mr O'Connor said: "Regulation, inspection and monitoring of this issue. Currently, as we stand, there is no need for a school to report anything.

"Training for staff so that these incidents are reduced to the absolute minimum and then the appropriate services for children.

"Child and adolescent mental health services, speech and language therapy, psychology, all of those types of services should be immediately available to a child who is experiencing these situations."

He described some of the incidents brought to their attention.

He said: "What families are telling us is that some children as young as five have been locked into rooms in schools and have been physically held down.

"Not always for behaviour issues, there are different instances where one child was restrained in a wheelchair every time there was a school outing. This was a child who was fully able to walk."

One parent described how her child had their head held down between their knees for 20 minutes during a bus journey, another child was locked in an unattended room for up to five hours and another was left unsupervised in seclusion for long periods – despite a history of seizures.

Paddy Connolly, CEO of Inclusion Ireland, said: "The rights and welfare of children should be at the centre of all that happens in schools.

"On the issue of managing the use of seclusion and restraint, best practice includes support and training for staff, whole of school positive behaviour strategies, school leadership and external inputs such as child mental health or disability services.

"It is unfair on teachers and a neglect of children's developmental and welfare needs that the department continues to ignore this issue.

"It leaves teachers exposed, isolates parents and adversely impacts on the mental health and education of the children concerned."

"Ireland's record in relation to children with disabilities in general is shameful, whether it's the disarray of the assessment of need system, their exclusion from personalised budgets or failures in the education system, it's true to say that this Government is failing children with a disability."

Inclusion Ireland has made a number of recommendations - including that the Department of Education take steps to ensure that seclusion and restraint become a matter of last resort, measures are taken to include guidelines and monitoring to tightly prescribe the use of seclusion and restraint, and there is raining to monitor, support and supervise staff using restrictive practices.

26 September 2018

The Irish Examiner 




Include older foster youth in implementation of Family First

 U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.), along with Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich), and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), sent a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar asking him to ensure that the implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) will help older youth avoid foster care entry or re-entry, and successfully transition out of care.

“…approximately 23,000 youth ‘age out’ of foster care each year and continue to face a variety of challenges in their transition into adulthood. By the time former foster youth reach the age of 23, 52 percent are unemployed; 94 percent have not completed post-secondary studies, 81.2 percent of males and 57.2 percent of females have been arrested; 37 percent have experienced homelessness; and 77 percent of females have been pregnant,” the Senators wrote. “To maximize the opportunities and potential for this promising population of young people, we urge HHS to develop broad and inclusive state guidance to ensure that older youth at risk of entering, in, and transitioning out of foster care are able to access the full range of prevention service and program supports that FFPSA authorizes.”

The Family First Prevention Services Act was signed into law on February 9, 2018 as part of theBipartisan Budget Act. The law reforms the federal child welfare financing streams, Title IV-E and Title IV-B of the Social Security Act, to provide services to families who are at risk of entering the child welfare system.

The Family First Prevention Services Act also aims to prevent children from entering foster care by allowing federal reimbursement for mental health services, substance use treatment and in-home parenting skill training, and seeks to improve the well-being of children already in foster by incentivizing states to reduce placement of children in congregate care.

The full text of the letter can be viewed here

24 September 2018




West Lothian scheme to prevent youth homelessness is first of its kind in UK

A pioneering housing scheme in West Lothian could prevent youth homelessness if it was rolled out across Scotland, a charity has claimed. The Rock Trust has called on councils and housing providers to set up “housing first” schemes, which would give homeless young people a permanent home without the need to prove they are “housing ready” after being passed through different ?stages of temporary accommodation.

There are currently ten housing first projects around the UK, including one in Glasgow that supports adults with addictions, but this scheme, in Livingston, is the first time the project has targeted young people.

Under the Rock Trust’s youth project, five young people who were in care are now living in permanent, furnished homes with no conditions or time limits.

The young people get a roof over their heads as well as intensive one-to-one support on a “whatever it takes” basis, across health, education and employment.

Set up last year in partnership with Almond Housing Association, the two-year pilot is now expanding after a funding boost.

The charity says the scheme could put save lives and put an end to the use of temporary accommodation which it warns is “unsafe and unsuitable” for young people. It comes as a new report from Heriot Watt University has found too many young people are still living in B&B and hostel accommodation while homeless, which can be “intimidating and harmful”.

In 2016-17 a total of 1,755 temporary accommodation placements for young people were into hostels and 670 into B&Bs. Young people aged 16-24 are over-represented in the homeless population. At least 21 per cent of young people become homeless within five years of leaving care, according to the latest statistics from the Scottish Government. But the figure could be as high as 30–50 per cent, due to unreported homelessness.

The Rock Trust project was set up in West Lothian, as it saw the highest increase in temporary accommodation in Scotland. Councils have a legal duty to provide care leavers with extra help but research has underlined a lack of awareness of the rights and young people being let down or falling through the cracks when the move to adult services.

Rock Trust Head of Services Allison Calder said: “The use of temporary accommodation is spiralling. For a young person leaving care, entering yet another temporary accommodation arrangement can present traumatic circumstances.” After being awarded an additional £50,000 from Nationwide the project will support double the number of young people, helping another five youngsters into permanent homes.

Rock Trust CEO Kate Polson said: “Without prevention strategies or early interventions that help young people stay at home or gain housing as quickly as possible they risk becoming mired in a lifelong struggle with poverty, addiction and mental health challenges. The project is helping change the lives of more young people. With more funding to gather evidence, we can continue to encourage uptake of the Housing First for Youth as a stable and effective housing option for young people.”

Earlier this year a Holyrood Committee recommended the use of housing first across Scotland.

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said: “Providing a stable independent home with the support needed gives young people the best chance to make a positive start to the rest of their lives. This is the type of project we would encourage all local authorities to consider in the plans they are currently putting together following the recommendations of the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group.”

By Joline Campbell

17 September 2018 




Rise in young people seeking help over peer-on-peer abuse

Children and young people are increasingly seeking help over peer-on-peer sexual abuse, with a 29% jump in demand for counselling sessions in the last year, according to a leading UK helpline.

Childline, a counselling service for young people up to the age of 19, warns the scale of the problem could be much greater than current figures suggest, as many children and teenagers do not understand that what has happened to them is abuse.

In 2017/18 the helpline, which is provided by the NSPCC children’s charity, held 3,878 counselling sessions with young people concerned about peer-on-peer abuse. Many young callers displayed a lack of understanding about consent, with some unsure about whether something was abuse if it happened in the context of a relationship.

In more than a third (36%) of counselling sessions where the main concern was sexual abuse, the young person said that another child or young person was the perpetrator.

One 14-year-old girl told the helpline: “My boyfriend is sometimes violent towards me and recently he’s forced me into doing sexual things when I didn’t want to. It wasn’t always this way but it’s been going on for a few weeks now and I’m worried it’s going to get worse.

“I’m scared of how he would react if I tried to end the relationship. I don’t feel like I can speak to someone without my parents or friends at school finding out. I’m really scared.”

The NSPCC is calling for relationships and sex education in schools to include what abuse is and how to recognise the signs.

According to a recent investigation by the children’s charity Barnardo’s, allegations of children committing sexual offences against other children have risen 78% in England and Wales in four years. Police recorded 9,290 accusations of sexual offences in which both the alleged perpetrator and victim were under 18 in 2016, compared with 5,215 in 2013.

One mother, whose daughter was raped by a classmate, told the Guardian: “The increase in the [Childline] figures should not come as a surprise to anyone. The evidence of the rise in this problem has been there for a number of years now.

“The tragedy is that the Department for Education is still refusing to make peer-on-peer abuse a policy priority, despite the evidence. It is time they invested some thought and money into dealing with the problem.”

The End Violence Against Women campaign also expressed concern about high levels of sexual violence between children at school. “The majority of victims are girls and there simply isn’t enough being done by schools or school authorities to prevent incidents or respond when it does happen, which is why Childline is the only lifeline for so many young people.

“Relationships and sex education is vital; boys and girls need much better information about consent and what good and bad relationships look and feel like, but the government has delayed its introduction to all schools by another two years.”

Childline has re-launched its #ListenToYourSelfie campaign to educate about and prevent peer-on-peer sexual abuse. The charity’s founder and president, Esther Rantzen, said: “Young people tell us that they have been compelled to take part in behaviour against their will, which sometimes involves them suffering violence.

“If you ever feel pressured to do something you don’t want to, we urge you to get support, either from a friend, a trusted adult or Childline.”

The minister for Children and Families, Nadhim Zahawi, said: “From September all schools and colleges must follow new guidance which includes how to support victims of peer-on-peer abuse.

“We want to young people to grow up knowing about how to build healthy and respectful relationships – which is why we are making relationships education compulsory in all primary schools and relationships and sex education compulsory in all secondary schools, which will both teach children about topics such as consent in an age-appropriate way.”

By Sally Weale

18 September 2018 




Ontario helping at-risk children and families in Ottawa

Ontario's Government for the People is funding new programs in the Ottawa area to help children with behavioural challenges learn new skills at an early age and support parents with practical and effective tips and ideas. Today, Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services announced a collaboration to implement the Stop Now and Plan (SNAP) program for marginalized children and their families in Ottawa.

Stop Now and Plan (SNAP) is an internationally recognized program that helps children between the ages of six and twelve, with support from their parents, learn how to effectively manage emotions, think before acting, and make good choices in the moment.

The two organizations committed to implementing the SNAP program in Ottawa are the Britannia Woods Community House and the Somali Centre for Family Services. They will each collaborate with the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services to deliver the SNAP program to meet the needs of marginalized children and families in the Ottawa area.

"Ontario's diversity is one of our greatest strengths, but we know that marginalized children, youth and families in Ontario face barriers," said Minister MacLeod. "We want to work with our partners to provide programs that strengthen communities, create safe neighbourhoods and set all of Ontario's youth up for success in school and employment."

"For more than 40 years we have been supporting the unique needs of our community and families in Ottawa," said Mohamed Sofa, Executive Director, Britannia Woods Community House. "We are thrilled to collaborate with our partners in government to deliver the SNAP program, while also offering supports to their families and caregivers."

"We believe in taking care of our community with dignity, respect, and compassion," said Abdirizak Karod, Executive Director, Somali Centre for Family Services. "Teaching young children how to manage their emotions and make positive choices at an early age will help them grow up with a bright future."

"Ottawa's diversity is what makes our community culturally rich and vibrant," said Mayor Jim Watson, City of Ottawa. "We are grateful to organizations like the Somali Centre for Family Services and the Britannia Woods Community House for their great work with our marginalized and newcomer communities, thanks to the ongoing support from the Government of Ontario."

"Programs like Stop Now and Plan are vital for young people to calm down and reflect before reacting to situations," said Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau. "By teaching them to find positive solutions to their problems, they will greatly reduce their risk of coming into conflict with the law."

Quick facts

11 September 2018
Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services




YETE for youth

A teenage boy who has been in state care for 10 years, is being kept in prison because there is nowhere he can be bailed to! The teen who has been diagnosed as having foetal alcohol spectrum disorder and ADHD, has had 63 placements with Oranga Tamariki.

Sensible Sentencing Youth Advocate Jess McVicar says this would be the perfect opportunity to have in place the proposed Youth Employment and Education programme (YETE programme).

The YETE programme, proposed by New Zealand First but not as yet implemented, is designed to meet the vocational needs of New Zealanders aged from 15 to 17 years. YETE will be situated in the New Zealand Defence Force and linked with and monitored by the Ministry of Social Development, the Ministry of Education, and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority.

Jess says she cannot understand how the Youth Education Training and Education programme is not already a major part of the Youth Justice System.

‘This youth needs help and direction and by placing him in another youth hostel with other troubled young people, or in another placement is not going to help him. It’s not going to provide him with life skills or give him qualifications, and it’s not going to give him the right guidance to enable him to achieve. Being a part of a military programme will provide him with all those things, along with a feeling of what it’s like to be in a family environment. It will teach him life skills and teach him about accountability and consequences.”

Jess says the programme would be a win for all those involved “Having young people in this situation at a military style programme keeps them off the streets and out of trouble. It keeps the community safe, plus it gives hope to the young people as it will be a structured programme, and it would also be a close knit team.”

Oranga Tamariki had emailed the youth's Lawyer and Police saying they will not have him back either now or in the future, they want nothing further to do with him.

Since then, Oranga Tamariki have said staff will be visiting the youth and providing as much support as possible and urgently looking for a suitable community bail option that will meet his needs while also keeping the community safe.

Jess says this is asking for trouble “Why place this youth back into a system that has clearly failed him his entire life? It is obvious it hasn’t worked for him, so why do it again! He clearly needs the support and guidance that would be provided by the YETE programme. It would be the perfect opportunity to show him that there are better options and he does not need to be another statistic.”

Jess is becoming increasingly frustrated with the closed book on Youth Justice “It is a constant cover up. We hear they have supportive programmes, and they work, but this is a clear illustration that they don’t work!”

“YETE aims to increase the number of young people entering employment or training by improving their self-discipline, self-confidence, motivation, and initiative within a culture of respect, co-operation, teamwork, and tolerance. This would help so many troubled youths who currently are being forced through a system that does not have the resources to cope or the programmes to guide.”

“The current Youth Justice System is just a pipeline to prison. – we urgently need to try the YETE programme.”

7 September 2018

Press Release: Sensible Sentencing Trust




Experiencing homelessness for longer than six months can cause significant damage to a child's health

Experiencing homelessness at any time during the pre- or postnatal period can negatively affect a young child's health. Researchers at Children's HealthWatch, based out of Boston Medical Center (BMC), found that children who experienced both pre- and post-natal homelessness and those who experienced homelessness for longer than six months were at highest risk of negative health outcomes. These findings, published in Pediatrics, illustrate the urgent need to intervene and rapidly house children and families experiencing homelessness to minimize the negative health outcomes.

Researchers interviewed 20,000 low-income caregivers of children under four years old who visited outpatient pediatric clinics in five cities across the U.S. between 2009 and 2015. The researchers asked questions to determine if a child experienced homelessness, how long they experienced homelessness, and when in the child's life they experienced homelessness. They then conducted an assessment of the child determining their overall condition; if/how often the child was hospitalized; if a child was over or underweight; and if the child experienced any developmental delays.

More than three percent of caregivers reported experiencing prenatal homelessness, 3.7 percent reported postnatal homelessness, and 3.5 percent reported both.

The study found children who experienced homelessness for more than six months were at high risk of poor health outcomes. Also at high risk were children who experienced homelessness during both the pre- and post-natal period, showing that the earlier and longer in development a child experiences homelessness may have a larger cumulative toll of poor health and development outcomes.

"These findings back up what we already knew about how the stress of homelessness affects children's heath," said Megan Sandel, MD, MPH, pediatrician at BMC and lead investigator at Children's HealthWatch, "but this helps us determine which children are at greatest risk, and makes the argument that policymakers and providers need to intervene to change the trajectory of a child's development."

Researchers also note the toll poor health outcomes caused by child homelessness can exact on health systems. Greater health care utilization, increased hospitalizations, and need for developmental interventions creates substantial family and societal health care expenses.

"As pediatricians, we should be regularly screening families for housing insecurity, including past history and future risk of homelessness," said Deborah Frank, MD, director of the GROW Clinic at BMC and senior author on the study. "Interventions that prevent homelessness for families and pregnant women can be extremely effective, and with data on the housing status of our patients, we can better advocate for more resources to drive innovations in addressing housing instability."

Source: Boston Medical Centre

3 September 2018 




Government provides support for youth in Thunder Bay

Youth are Canada’s most valuable resource. However, there are many who are vulnerable, which is why the Government of Canada makes it a priority to support preventative programming for at-risk youth.

Today, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, together with Parliamentary Secretary Don Rusnak, on behalf of the Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, announced $5.6 million in federal funding for a crime prevention project as one response to the Seven Youth Inquest that examined the deaths of seven Indigenous youth in Thunder Bay.

To support vulnerable youth and avoid similar tragedies, the City of Thunder Bay will implement a Youth Inclusion Program (YIP) in the community. Funded through the National Crime Prevention Strategy (NCPS), the five-year program will target participants aged 12-24, with a special focus on Indigenous youth who go to Thunder Bay to continue their education. It is expected to reach 1,075 participants over its duration.

The YIP, which begins this year, will address youth crime prevention, youth well-being and youth safety through proactive community engagement and individualized support. It will focus on providing mentorship opportunities for Indigenous youth going to school in Thunder Bay, which was recommended by the Inquest.

The Seven Youth Inquest was called by the Government of Ontario to examine the deaths of seven Indigenous youth, who died between 2000 and 2011. All were from remote northern communities and went to Thunder Bay to attend high school.

“The deaths of the seven Indigenous youth in Thunder Bay are tragedies that we, collectively, must ensure are never forgotten or repeated. Through investment in the Youth Inclusion Program, the Government of Canada is taking important steps to help Indigenous youth succeed in their schooling, adapt to a new community and, most importantly, stay safe.”

- The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, on behalf of the Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

“Indigenous youth come to cities like Thunder Bay to continue their education. We need to welcome them and make every effort to help them succeed. I am proud to announce federal support for a program that will greatly assist newcomers to our city by building their confidence and providing peer support and mentorship.”

- Don Rusnak, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services and Member of Parliament for Thunder Bay-Rainy River

“We acknowledge and thank the Government of Canada for its support through the Crime Prevention Action Fund. Thank you for entrusting us with this funding to provide social, recreational and cultural opportunities to enhance the lives of youth in Thunder Bay.”

- Keith Hobbs, Mayor of Thunder Bay

Quick facts
From April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018, the Government of Canada supported 77 community-based crime prevention projects across Canada.

The National Crime Prevention Strategy provides national leadership on cost-effective ways to prevent and reduce crime among at-risk populations and vulnerable communities by intervening to mitigate the underlying factors that put individuals at risk of offending.

Up to $44.5 million has been committed in 2018-2019 to support NCPS in the implementation and evaluation of crime prevention programs.

28 August 2018

Public Safety Canada


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