Let’s make one thing clear, Child Sexual Exploitation is an abhorrent crime and we must do all we can to eradicate it. Those who prey on the vulnerable for their own sexual pleasure should be brought to justice. CSE is a crime. There is no place for CSE in our society. It is important to say CSE is not just the responsibility of social workers, but it is everyone’s business, and the only way to deal with this issue is for all agencies to work together to eradicate CSE.

It makes your heart sink when you read the detail behind Rotherham and other similar incidents. You really wonder how such a complete system failed happened. The system did fail, and we must all learn from those failures. I know as the Lead Member for Children and Young People in Cornwall my head, along with the Director of Children’s Service (DCS) head is on the chopping block if it all goes wrong in the department. This responsibility drives you to make sure you are protecting children.

Today, the Prime Minister wants to criminalise teachers, social workers and Councillors who turn a blind eye to child abuse. Those are strong words indeed. However, is threatening frontline social workers with jail is not the way to keep children safe?

Following the announcement by Prime Minister, Prof Brigid Featherstone, Chair of The College’s Children and Families Faculty, said:

“While we recognise that a strong response is needed to the deplorable practice of child sexual exploitation, threatening to jail frontline social workers is not the answer. We have been similarly clear about this in relation to mandatory reporting, for which there is no sound evidence.   Not only will such a move reinforce an already persecutory climate for those struggling to deliver services in difficult times, but the proposals also fail to address the incredibly important safeguarding issues that recent Serious Case Reviews have raised.

We need support and training of staff at all levels on how to recognise, report on, and help stop child abuse. We must also ensure a full and effective range of responses to different forms of abuse. We must address the severe lack of investment in child protection services, which has put organisations and systems under incredible strain and systems under incredible strain and reduced their capacity for in-depth work with children and their families.”

As a Lead Member I wholeheartedly welcome the comments by Prof Brigid Featherstone. Threatening frontline workers with jail and using fear was not the best way of protecting children from sexual exploitation and abuse.  Cornwall Children’s Services has remained focused on training social workers, and creating the conditions for effective relationship based practice in the current climate of reduced spending required by all authorities.

It is vital that we support our social workers who are doing a very demanding and difficult job in keeping children safe. This was highlighted at a recent Local Safeguarding Children Board conference I attended where Professor Ray Jones stressed that child abuse is not just the responsibility of social work, but for all those who work in public services.

The title of this blog says it all: Slavery is as real in 2015 as it was in 200 years ago. It is a disgrace that in 2015 we have to use the words slavery; as many would believe this term has long been banished. However, Modern Slavery is as real today as it was leading up to the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act of 1807.

If we go back over 200 years to when Lord Grenville made a passionate speech arguing that the slave trade was ‘contrary to the principles of justice, humanity and sound policy’ rings true today as it did when he said it in 1806. However, the sad truth of it is in 2013 ten-thousand to thirteen-thousand people in the UK are trapped in slavery.

Slavery exists today for the very same reasons as before. The driver is high profits, low risk. Forced labour is not only organised crime, but used by regular businesses too. Forced labour is the area of construction, care and hospitality. However, the most common areas for adults is the sex trade, whereas for children is forced labour. It is shocking that between 2010/12 half the countries across the world had less than 10 convictions for Modern Slavery.

There is often confusion of the terminology around trafficking and smuggling. The easiest way of explaining is: human trafficking is a crime against a person by acquisition of people by improper means. Whereas  human smuggling is the procurement of an illegal entry of a person into a State. Though the two can merge.

Modern Slavery

We need to make sure Modern Slavery has no place in society.  I hope the Modern Slavery Act which is currently winding its way through the House of Lords and Parliament will tackle this issue. When enacted, this piece of legislation will replace, and simplify the current law covering all offences previously described as human trafficking, slavery, forced labour and domestic servitude.

Just like in 1807 when Britain became the first county in the world to outlaw slavery, The Modern Slavery Bill is the first of its kind in Europe in addressing slavery and trafficking in the 21st century. It will give law enforcement the powers they do desperately need to target the slave drivers, that will ensure perpetrators are severely punished. The new legislation will also improve the support and protection of the victims of those vile trade.

The Modern Slavery Bill will strengthen the response of law enforcement and the courts by:

  • Consolidating and simplifying existing modern slavery offences into one Act. Currently modern slavery and trafficking offences are spread across a number of different Acts. The Bill fixes this, providing much-needed clarity and focus and making the law easier to apply.
  • Increasing the maximum sentence available for the most serious offenders from 14 years to life imprisonment, with those who have a previous conviction for a serious sexual or violent offence facing an automatic life sentence.
  • Introducing Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Orders and Slavery and Trafficking Risk Orders to restrict the activity of individuals where they pose a risk of causing harm.
  • Creating a new Anti-Slavery Commissioner, a vital post that will drive an improved and more coordinated law enforcement response at all levels, working in the interests of victims.
  • Ensuring that perpetrators convicted of slavery or trafficking face the toughest asset confiscation regime.
  • Strengthening law enforcement powers at sea to close loopholes which prevent the police and Border Force being able to act where it is suspected that human trafficking or forced labour is taking place on board vessels at sea.

During the Modern Slavery Conference – held at the Eden Project – the audience heard from various Keynote speakers who talked about what is being done by different organisation to tackle Modern Slavery. However, it is only by partnership working with strong data sharing protocols will we really tackle Modern Slavery.

One of the Keynote speakers was the Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland. In his address he outlined his key priorities which included: improved victim care and support; effective victim identification and training; partnership working; engagement of the business sector and evaluating organisation. It will be interesting to see how much an impact this office will have if it is not funded right.

The Modern Slavery Conference was excellent, with great keynote speakers. It also showed Cornwall and the South West is not immune to the vile trade of slavery.

In the role of Lead Member for Children’s Services, you get to do some really cool stuff. This afternoon was one of those times when I along with the Chairman of Cornwall Council, John Wood welcomed a group of teachers and students from the region of Castilla y León of Spain to New County Hall. This follows on from a previous visit back in 2013.

The visitors will be sharing good teaching practice and, in the case of the Spanish students, teaching Spanish to primary children. The visit is funded by the European Union education programme, Comenius Regio. The group will visit 18 secondary and primary schools across Cornwall.

The schools taking part are Bude Junior School, Budehaven Community School, Torpoint Community College, Portreath Community Primary School, Newquay Tretherras School, Treleigh Community Primary School, Redruth School, Parc Eglos School, Helston Community College, Bosvigo Primary School, Richard Lander School, Treloweth Community Primary School, Pool Academy, St Stephens, Launceston, Community Academy, Penrice Academy, Carclaze Community Primary School, Wadebridge Primary Academy and Wadebridge Community School.

Staff and students from Spain visiting County Hall

Staff and students from Spain visiting County Hall

Over the next week, the teachers will observe classes and help with teaching where appropriate. In Spain, learning a foreign language is given a high-profile with many subjects taught through English, even at primary school. The students aged between 15 and 18 will bring some authentic Spanish songs, games and stories to primary classrooms in Cornwall, acting as junior language assistants and staying with their Cornish partners who did the same in places like Segovia and Burgos in October.

I have always felt we in the UK are way behind our European neighbours when it comes to languages. This should change with languages now being a compulsory subject in primary schools. A change I very much welcome. It is also very important that as a Council we encourage initiatives such as this which give our young people experience and confidence as well as vital foreign language skills. Furthermore, it gives Cornwall’s and the Spanish young people having a greater understanding of other cultures.

The EU Regio programme funds regional education projects which can act as a springboard for future collaboration between schools. Helston College is already receiving students from Salamanca on an exchange basis and other schools such as Redruth (with Palencia) and Budehaven (with Avila) are actively planning similar projects. Treloweth Community Primary School in Redruth is using this project as a stimulus to apply for further EU funding to train teachers with its partner school in Soria.Spanish Visit 2

 

 

Today the ONS released the annual conception data for 2013, this data includes under 18 and under 16 conception data. It is good news for Cornwall. I know this may seem ‘old’ data but this is the latest data available.

For Cornwall, the conception rate for under 18’s was 21.3 per 1000 women, down from 26.1 per 1000 women in 2012. The great news is this was a decrease of 17.8% in the number of conceptions from 242 to 199 in a twelve month period and a 41.6% decrease since the baseline was set in 1998. Furthermore, the conception rate for under 16’s was 3.9 per 1000 women, a decrease of 15% in the last 12 months from 4.6 in 2012. This means the  data for 2013 has seen the largest percentage decrease in one year for Cornwall since 1998. It is important to continue this momentum or we could see ourselves having increase of teenage conception rates.

Teenage Conception Rates 1998 till 2012

Teenage Conception Rates 1998 till 2012

The reason Cornwall has been successful in reducing the number of teenage pregnancies is down to contraception and condoms though the improved access and support to getting condoms though the C-Card Scheme. Education which provides accurate, high-quality and timely information that helps people to make informed decisions about relationships, sex and sexual health. Early intervention supporting is another key factor as is supporting young people to reducing teenage conceptions. There are many exciting pieces of work being delivered and planned in reducing teenage pregnancy and supporting young parents, and as our environment changes.

Cornwall’s rate is edging closer to the average rate for the Southwest region 21.2/1000 for 2013 and 24.8/1000 for 2012 and has increased the gap in a positive way between Cornwall and the National Average. The National Average currently stands a 24.5/1000 for 2013 and 27.9/1000 for 2012. Cornwall has also exceeded both in terms of achieved percentage change since the 1998 baseline.

It is important to note that data can fluctuate but we can feel positive about this downward trend, so we must still do all we can to reduce the rates. The full data can be accessed here ONS Conception Statistics, England and Wales – 2013. http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/vsob1/conception-statistics–england-and-wales/index.html

 

A film produced by Health Promotion Service at Cornwall Council and starring Cornish comedian, Kernow King has been shortlisted for a national award at the UK Sexual Health Awards. The award in which the film has been shortlisted for is the Pamela Sheridan Award, which recognises pioneering approaches to relationships, sex and wellbeing education. The film was short listed because the awards panel liked the innovative approach to exploring issues with young people and use of humour to make the resource more accessible.

I am really proud of the work by the team behind the film, Matt and Emma, the star, Kernow King and all those who gave up their time to produce this outstanding educational film. It is excellent that the Kernow King’s sex tape and resource has been shortlisted against tough competition. I believe the resource is so strong because of the involvement of Cornwall’s young people, strong partnership, commitment and drive from Health Promotion Service, Cornwall College and Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust Sexual Health Hub, of course, the involvement of the Kernow King himself. Relationships and Sex Education is incredibly important and this resource is another step in ensuring young people are getting the information they need to stay safe and healthy, in a fun, innovative and engaging way.

The reason behind the film is young people are disproportionately affected by poor sexual health. In Cornwall 16-24 year olds account for 67% of chlamydia diagnosis. This film helps to show getting tested is not the horror story that often does the rounds, but shows why if in doubt, you should get tested and take more precautions. Furthermore, young people aged 16-24 are more likely to sexually active than their younger teenage peers, therefore increasing their risk of sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies. A gap emerged within Relationship, Sex Education (RSE) for this age group with the majority of provision delivered within schools and few available resources to be used in a Further Education environment and was another reason for the commissioning of the Kernow King film.

The Launch of Kernow King’s Sex Education Video

The Launch of Kernow King’s Sex Education Video

So how did this film come into being? it all started with four young people’s focus groups were held and involved; Young Mums Will Achieve, Brook Young Fathers Project and two groups of NEET young people. As a result of young people’s feedback more traditional teaching methods, such as lectures were discounted. It was clear that a peer led, fun, interactive resource needed to be developed. With this in mind story boards were created starring the ‘Kernow King’, local celebrity and comedian, and Cornwall College students. It was decided that the story would be retrospective of ‘Kernow Kings’ College years and would be filmed at the local Cornwall College campus. It would involve college students acting with him and his ‘love interest’ that was of similar age to him.

The film centres around Kernow King asking the audience (young people) what they would do in certain scenarios. In the film Kernow King also makes sweeping statements to prompt group discussion. It is not all about the film, as there is also resource material to support the video was also developed to help and guide lecturers and other professionals working with young people.

The video and resource of Kernow King’s Sex Education Video was launched in Cornwall on July 2014, at Cornwall College Camborne. The launch involved all the students that were part of the focus groups and students that acted in the video, were involved in its development and production. I was very proud to be part of the celebration and helping to raise the case for better RSE for our young people!

For more information on the Health Promotion Service:www.healthpromcornwall.org and SHAC www.cornwallshac.org.uk

 

The river that runs alongside Methleigh Bottoms has been prone in the past to flooding. As happened last year when we were subjected to exceptional weather when this area did flood and for a period of time the road was closed. From the river busting its banks a couple of dwellings got flooded. It was mere luck more were not flooded. From this, Porthleven was awarded a pot of money to address this issue, and to repair other damage like the sea wall as a result of the storms.

The main area that was at risk to the river bank flooding has now been extensively repaired with a robust wall being built that should stop the river from breaking its bank.

The new wall to stop flooding

The new wall to stop flooding

This is good news for this area, especially those homes which were at risk or flooding or feared flooding when it rained heavily. As part of the investigation on the causes of flooding, it was found a small culvert was not adequate enough in some cases. However, there was not enough money to do this work too due to the expense of the work required. I am however, working with the agencies to see how funding can be found to address the culvert issue.

Today, Councillors at Cornwall Council set the Council Tax rate for 2015/16. The Council Tax rate is made up of three parts; Cornwall Council, town/parish council and the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner’s budget. These three elements make up what you and I pay each year. For the record, the vote on Council Tax was 63 for, 19 against and 19 abstentions

Cornwall Council needs £498.136m for the 2015/16 period. This is made up of £82.319m collected from Business Rates, £174,250m in Government Grants, £8.862m from Collection Fund Surplus which leaves £232,705 to be collected by means of the Council Tax. The total precepts for the town and parish council’s comes to £15,499,788.29. This is an average raise of 11.46% on the town and council precept. The total amount for the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner comes to £95,762,365.44. This is a 1.99% increase on the previous years.

In 2014/15 the Council Tax was set at:

  • Cornwall Council – £1,268.92
  • Crime Commissioner – £166.16
  • Average  Town and Parish Council precept – £77.30
  • Total = £1,512.38 on a Band D property.

For 2015/15 Council Tax will be set at:

  • Cornwall Council – £1,293.92 (a rise of 1.97%)
  • Crime Commissioner – £169.47 (a rise of 1.99%)
  • Average Town and Parish Council precept – £86.18 (a rise of 11.49%)
  • Total = £1,549.57 on a Band D property. This equates to a 2.49% rise.

As I represent Porthleven and Helston West, I will give the figure of the actual town council precepts for both Porthleven Town Council and Helston Town Council.

Porthleven Town Council total precept for 2015/16 is £63,397.62. This means a Band D property would be required to pay £58.60 per year. This equates to £4.80 per month or £1.12 per week. This is a rise of 12.11% from the previous year’s precept of £52.27.

Helston Town Council total precept for 2015/16 is £303,690.00. On a Band D property this would equate to £91.87 per year. Again this can be broken down to £7.60 per month or £1.70 per week. This is a rise of £10.51% on previous years which the precept was set at £83.13.

Let’s be fair to those town and parish councils who have raised their precepts as this is because many have taken on additional responsibilities like toilets, grass cutting and in some cases car parking. These services still have to be paid for and credit should go to them for taking on these services. It is a difficult time for local government, as with the stinging cuts imposed on local authorities by the Government, plus increased demand on services, Cornwall Council cannot afford to do all it used to. I wish was different, but when you lose ten’s of millions in cash terms by ways of Government grants, services will have to change.

For those wishing to know the precept for their own town and parish council should click HERE.