Tuesday 24 March 2009
My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
On 22 October, I asked Sir Roger Singleton to carry out a review of safeguarding arrangements in independent schools, non-maintained special schools and boarding schools in England. The terms of reference asked him to look at the current statutory and non-statutory safeguarding arrangements that impact on these schools, to examine how these arrangements work in practice, focusing on systems and not on individual cases, and to make any recommendations that are needed to strengthen current arrangements.
I warmly welcome Sir Roger’s report Keeping Our Schools Safe, which sets out the strengths and weaknesses of the existing systems and makes several recommendations. His thorough and careful review shows that the current framework generally works well but that there are elements that need to be reviewed and updated to bring about a series of small changes that together will bring significant benefits. The wide-ranging recommendations affect DCSF, Ofsted and the other independent school inspectorates, local authorities and local safeguarding children boards.
We accept all the recommendations and my response to Sir Roger sets out the immediate steps that we are taking to implement those things that can be done straightaway. We will consult with key stakeholders in preparing this plan, to ensure that they are committed to working together to put in place the strengthened arrangements set out in the report. I will be publishing my detailed response to Sir Roger’s recommendations alongside the detailed response to Lord Laming’s recent report on the protection of children in England at the end of April.
Copies of the review and our initial response have been placed in the House of Commons Library.
G6: Interior Ministers Meeting
My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Jacqui Smith) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The informal G6 group of Interior Ministers from France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland and the UK held their most recent meeting in Berlin, Germany during the afternoon of 15 March. Germany currently holds the presidency of the G6 group. I attended on behalf of the United Kingdom.
The meeting was divided into two working sessions, the first of which was attended by the core G6 Ministers. This group sat again for the second working session, with the additional attendance of the United States Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano.
The first working session was asked to consider three topics. First, Ministers discussed the future structure of the G6. Ministers agreed to dissolve the former G6 working group structures and return the format to high-level political discussions. No formal conclusions would be issued after meetings. Ministers were keen to extend invitations to G6 meetings to third countries on an issue-by-issue basis, where this could add value to discussions. I agreed with this streamlined approach.
Secondly, in advance of the meeting with the US, Ministers discussed ideas for a transatlantic agenda between the EU and US on interior issues. Data sharing was the main area discussed, with reference to its implications for collaborative work on organised crime, counter-narcotics and counterterrorism.
Thirdly, the G6 was invited to share experiences and current best practice on issues relating to youth crime. Following the German shooting in Baden-Württemberg earlier in the week, Ministers discussed ways to identify vulnerable young people before they turned to violence. I identified the crossover with radicalisation. I also outlined work that the Government were doing to tackle knife and gang crime and discussed regional initiatives designed to improve the relationship between young people and the police. The G6 presidency will now write a joint letter to the EU Commission and Council to inform them of the productive discussion and to propose that a similar debate be raised at EU level.
Secretary Napolitano opened the second working session by outlining the new Administration’s desire to work closely with EU partners. The G6 welcomed the new Minister to the group. It was acknowledged that current policy and legal positions could constrain transatlantic data exchange. Secretary Napolitano stated that the US was keen to make progress with EU partners in this area and described how a privacy officer had recently been appointed to her department. She will recommend that her new appointee meets with EU partners in the coming months in order to further discussion in this area.
The next meeting of the G6 will be held in the UK in the latter half of this year.
The Government are investing a further £3.7 million over the next two years into the Poppy Project to help vulnerable victims of human trafficking. The Poppy Project, managed by Eaves Housing for Women, has provided refuge to hundreds of victims of human trafficking since 2003, backed by £5.8 million of government support. This new investment will help to meet the commitments of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, which the UK ratified in December 2008, coming into force in April. It is part of a wider package for victims, with the introduction of a 45-day extendable recovery and reflection period, new temporary residence permits for those participating in a criminal investigation and a more co-ordinated and multi-agency way of identifying and referring victims into support.
The new resources will see:
an expansion of supported accommodation with refuge places for victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation and domestic servitude in London, Sheffield and Cardiff;
an increase in advocacy workers to provide one-to-one tailored support to victims, facilitating their access to services and helping them through the criminal justice process;
the continuation of the community outreach team;
link workers based within the UK Human Trafficking Centre to work in partnership with the police, the UK Border Agency and other partners to help with victim identification and onward referral into support; and
a new national co-ordinator to help to set consistent standards of care, capacity build and raise awareness with local agencies and funders.
Victims are often subjected to multiple crimes including rape, physical violence, kidnapping and threats. The Government are committed to making the United Kingdom a hostile environment for traffickers and protecting victims. We published a comprehensive UK action plan in March 2007, which was updated on 2 July 2008. We will continue to work internationally and in this country to combat these crimes.