Youth work and social care news from around the world

Links from around the world of youth work and social care:

  • Care Leaver Covenant: Children’s and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi has announced a scheme to raise the career aspirations and improve the life skills of care leavers. The Care Leaver Covenant has been signed by more than 50 businesses, charities and government departments in England who have committed to provide work based opportunities to young people leaving the care system. The scheme aims to create 10,000 work opportunities for care leavers over the next 10 years.  For further information check out the Care Leaver Covenant website and see the pledges from government departments.
  • Online Safety: Childnet International has produced guidance for parents and carers on looking after the digital wellbeing of children and young people. This includes having an awareness of how being online can make children and young people feel, and how they can look after themselves and others when online. The guidance includes: age specific information about how children and young people are interacting with the internet; top tips to support young people at this age; and ideas to help start a conversation about digital wellbeing.
  • Loneliness Strategy: The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has published a strategy setting out the government’s approach to tackling loneliness in England – A connected society: a strategy for tackling loneliness – laying the foundations for change. The strategy refers to loneliness experienced by children and young people and states that the new subjects of relationships education for primary schools and relationships and sex education (RSE) for secondary schools, due to become compulsory in all schools in England in September 2020, will emphasise the value of social relationships. The guidance content for teachers will highlight the impact of loneliness, particularly on mental health.
  • Child trafficking: Europol has published a report on child trafficking in the European Union. Findings from a study of almost 600 intelligence contributions reported to Europol by member states between 2015 and 2017 include: traffickers active in the EU target underage victims mainly for sexual exploitation; the majority of non- EU networks reported to Europol involved Nigerian organised crime groups which traffic female children and women to be sexually exploited; trafficking and exploitation of male children, especially for sexual exploitation, remains an under-reported phenomenon at EU level.
  • Modern slavery: The Home Office has published an annual report on modern slavery in the UK giving an overview of modern slavery and how the UK has responded to it over the last 12 months. The report finds that 2,121 potential child victims of modern slavery were referred to the national referral mechanism (NRM) in 2017. The NRM is a victim identification and support process that is designed to make it easier for agencies involved in a trafficking case to cooperate, share information about potential victims and facilitate their access to advice, accommodation and support.
  • Knife Crime: The Guardian reports that figures obtained from nine of the NHS’s 11 regional major trauma centres in England that treat adults and children show that they dealt with 2,278 victims of serious knife crime in 2017-18, with cases involving under-18s increasing by 24.4% since 2015-16.
  • Kinship Care: Grandparents Plus has published a report looking at the challenges faced by kinship carers – grandparents and other family members – who have taken on the care of children who aren’t able to live with their parents. Findings from responses to a survey from 1,139 kinship carers across the UK show that the most common reasons for children living with respondents include: parental drug or alcohol misuse (51%), abuse and/or neglect (54%), a parent being unable to cope (39%), and domestic violence (31%). Carers also report that 54% of the children in their care have special needs, of which 85% have emotional or behavioural problems.

Character Education

Character Education - Church of England

Fascinating piece produced by the Church of England into the need for character education in schools which opens with the statement:

“There is no such thing as neutral education. As soon as we begin to teach something to someone else, we are inevitably making value judgements about what we are teaching, how we are teaching it and why we are teaching it.”

A great contribution to the need for values-rich education, especially with regard to the areas of PSHE and SRE to properly support and equip young people to make good choices.

PSHE Association warns against Ch4 ‘My Self-Harm Nightmare’ documentary

Channel 4

PSHE Association warns against using Ch4 ‘My Self-Harm Nightmare’ documentary in class 

The PSHE Association is deeply concerned about the content of the ‘My Self-Harm Nightmare’ Channel 4 documentary aired on Wednesday night which contains graphic depictions and description of self-harming, and therefore could be a ‘trigger’ to young people vulnerable to self-harm. We urge against any school using the documentary in the classroom for this reason.

Our Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing Advisor, Dr. Pooky Knightsmith, is a leading expert in this field and comments that:

“You should never go into too much detail about the technical details of self-harm or eating disorders as this could trigger unhealthy responses in any vulnerable individuals in your group. Talking about specific methods of self-harm can be instructive to vulnerable students.

These suggestions may also be taken on board by any students who are currently harming.

Graphic or extreme images of self-harm and eating disorders should also never be shown for the following reasons:

  • they act as a barrier to seeking help: if someone who self-harms sees images of more severe cases they are likely to feel that their own self-harming is not severe enough to be taken seriously/they’re not yet ‘doing it well enough’
  • they provide a target to be achieved, or a bench mark to strive to reach for those who are vulnerable to, or who are already self-harming or suffering from disordered eating.

Teachers cannot know who will be harming in their class but should assume that someone in the class is currently self harming, has self harmed in the past or is at risk of doing so in the future and should therefore exercise extreme caution.”

 

The Association is due to launch guidance this week on teaching about mental health and emotional wellbeing which will provide advice to schools on how to address these issues appropriately. The guidance will be free to download from: www.pshe-association.org.uk/emotionalhealth.

Exams are ruining teenagers’ lives

Exam pupils 1

Emma Jacobs is studying for her A-levels. She is an aspiring journalist and occasional slam poet. She blogs here and tweets @ESophieJ.  Yesterday she wrote a fantastic article on how exams are ruining teenagers’ lives:

Spring is the start of a period of intense pressure for 16-year-olds taking GCSEs. Schools push their more academic pupils in order to score well in league tables. At my comprehensive school, many peers took more than 10 GCSE subjects in one summer. Some had been encouraged to take exams a year early and were then enrolled on AS-levels alongside the GCSEs.

The school day, with travel, can easily stretch from 7.30am until 5pm, and then extra work starts as soon as you get home. A 14-hour day is not unusual in the run-up to exams. There is little or no time for exercise or fresh air. Levels of stress, clinical depression and anxiety are high, and up to one fifth of my contemporaries are said to be self-harming. Eating disorders remain a distressing problem and increasingly sufferers include young men. Some schools recognise the high levels of anxiety by having strategies like “time out” for those who cannot get through an exam without a panic attack, but I see little evidence of strategies being put in place to mitigate the stress before it becomes clinically debilitating.

Not only do exams put a strain on young people’s mental health, their physical health also suffers. For A-level students all-nighters are standard and many then survive a full day of school on caffeine alone. Within my friendship group, on any given night one person is awake texting about how they’re up during the early hours finishing an essay or cramming for a test. Arguably the texting and distractions we have on our phones are part of the problem, but they are part of our world and it’s not as easy as adults think to just turn them off (I notice that adults who advise turning off extraneous screens are often rather wedded to their own devices).

After over ten years of full-time youth work I have never seen young people (and their teachers) under more pressure than they currently are.  Not only does it have a profound impact on physical and mental health it also places a challenge at the door of the church as it seeks to disciple young people.

Is more coursework the solution to this problem or does this not merely keep the high levels of pressure going for a longer period of time causing even more of a problem?

Any ideas?