Young Carers are often a forgotten group to the wider public. Currently Cornwall has 550 known young carers, up from roughly 250 18 months ago. Estimates suggest (Census 2011) that there were a total of 1,217 young people aged 0-15 providing unpaid care in Cornwall and a further 2,682 aged 16 to 24. Young carers often do not come forward as they see nothing unusual about their role and its part of their family life.

Historically the funding for the young carer’s service came from the old Carer’s Grant from Central Government which ended in the last comprehensive Spending Review in 2012/13. However, the Council sees the importance in continuing to support Young Carers and commissions a support service for young carers run by Action for Children. This service has just celebrated its second year of operation. 

Further support to Young Carers has now been given by the Chairman of Cornwall Council John Wood who has made Young Carers his chairman’s charity for the next year. I really welcome this and huge credit should be given to John for his support. Having spoke to John he wants to raise awareness of this group and help raise money via events. It is great to have John’s support.

Young Carers need all the support they can get as The Children’s Society report “Hidden from View” (2013) revealed that:

  • 1 in 12 young carers is caring for more than 15 hours per week. Around 1 in 20 misses school because of caring responsibilities
  • Young carers are 1.5 times more likely than their peers to be from black, Asian or minority ethnic communities, and are twice as likely to not speak English as their first language
  • Young carers are 1.5 times more likely than their peers to have a special educational need or a disability
  • The average annual income for families with a young carer is £5000 less than families who do not have a young carer.
  • There is no strong evidence that young carers are more likely than their peers to come into contact with support agencies, despite government recognition that this needs to happen.
  • Young carers have significantly lower educational attainment at GCSE level, the equivalent to nine grades lower overall than their peers e.g. the difference between nine B’s and nine C’s.
  • Young carers are more likely than the national average to be not in education, employment or training (NEET) between the ages of 16 and 19.

Furthermore, statistics show that the number of young carers is increasing. Figures from the 2011 census revealed that there are 16,118 people between the age of 5-17 years providing unpaid care in the South West, compared with 11,883 in 2001 – an increase of more than a third (36 per cent) over the decade. This is the second highest increase in the UK, second only to the South East which saw a 41% rise.

To contact Kernow Young Carers, call 01209 204565.

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is an abhorrent crime. There is no excuse for child sexual exploitation and we as a society should do everything we can to eradicate Child sexual exploitation. The findings in the Rotherham Inquiry are a national disgrace. For anyone who has read the full report will find it sickening the scale of the abuse and the complete failure of the system. There are no excuses for this failure.

I have been asked as Lead Member for Children Service in Cornwall assurances that our children in Cornwall are safe, and no such problems are occurring here, and that there are safeguards regularly checked and monitored to make sure that they remain safe. My answer to this question is:

I can give assurances that we are doing everything we can within our powers, in partnership with Devon and Cornwall Constabulary to detect possible child sexual exploitation and to take robust action where there is evidence of it.

Whilst I cannot give total assurances that child sexual exploitation does not exist in Cornwall, I can give total assurances that if sich abuse came to light, we would take immediate and robust action in conjunction with out police partners. We would not seek to deny or minimise it, as appears was the case in Rotherham. We would not stand by and do nothing as appears to have been the case in Rotherham.

For those who might not fully understand what child sexual exploitation is, I will explain. Child sexual exploitation is a horrendous crime which destroys lives. It may involve young people receiving ‘something’ (for example, food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts, money) as a result of performing, and/or others performing on them, sexual activities. Those exploiting the child/young person have power over them by virtue of their age, gender, intellect, physical strength and/or economic or other resources.

CSE is a complex crime and the media focus on particular cases can help to perpetuate some of the stereotypes that exist. The danger of a narrow focus on one particular form of CSE is that attention can be diverted from crimes which do not appear to match that model, with the risk of victims not receiving the help they need. Contrary to popular misconception, CSE is not limited to any particular geography, ethnicity, gender or social background. The evidence increasingly shows that it is a widespread problem and no one should assume that it does not happen in their area.

There are many “models” of CSE; the grooming and sexual exploitation of young people can take many different forms. It can be carried out by individuals (“lone perpetrators”), by street gangs or by groups. It can be motivated by money (“commercial exploitation”) or by factors not related to financial gain, such as sexual gratification. No child can legally consent to their own abuse, even if they are 16 or 17. Sometimes young people do not realise or accept they are a victim, or at risk, of CSE.

The majority of young people who experience CSE are not living in care. However, looked after children account for a disproportionate number of victims and can be particularly vulnerable. There is also a significant link between missing children and child sexual exploitation.

The a further question should be what are we doing. Here are just of the few things we in Cornwall with our partners are doing to eradicate this crime.

A South West Peninsula Protocol & Strategy has been developed to support a consistent approach to child sexual exploitation across Devon and Cornwall. Identifying child sexual exploitation requires a proactive approach to information and intelligence gathering and sharing, so that patterns of abuse and the form that it takes, can be identified locally and on a larger scale.

It is vital that information is shared between agencies and to ensure this happens multi-agency Missing Children & CSE Forums are convened every month across the three areas, East, Mid and West, of the County. These are well established and share information about CSE and Missing Children. The Forums are overseen by the Missing Children & CSE Strategic Group which is now a sub-group of the Safeguarding Children Board.

There is a significant correlation between children who are sexually exploited and those who go missing or run away.   To ensure their safety, a Return Home Interview is undertaken with the child, on their return home or to care placement. The interview can identify if they are at risk of sexual exploitation.

To identify themes and trends, prevent, disrupt and reduce the vulnerability of children to being sexually exploited, data is collated on gender, age, ethnicity, locality, etc. If a child has been identified as being at risk of, or is being sexually exploited, a risk assessment is undertaken and a multi-agency meeting convened, where a safety plan is agreed. This enables agencies to work together with the child and their family.

Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Raising and Update Sessions have been delivered to professionals working in universal, targeted and specialist services.   CSE Advanced Training multi-agency sessions are being delivered at four venues across Cornwall in October 2014. CSE Awareness Sessions have also been delivered to Local Authority foster carers, and further sessions are planned. Awareness training will be extended to others who come into contact with young people at risk of CSE, such as the tourist industry, taxi drivers, housing workers, maintenance workers, etc.

More recently, a third sector organisation has secured funding from the Ministry of Justice to scope a project to support children who are being, or at risk of being sexually exploited.   It is envisaged that further collaborative work will be developed with the voluntary and community sector so that they can play a key role in identifying, addressing and seeking help with suspected child sexual exploitation.

The message is clear, doing nothing to stop CSE is not acceptable on any level.

Two years ago and the question on should Scotland be an independent country hardly registered on most people’s thoughts. In fact, I believe the country as a whole nearly sleep-walked into a large void and great uncertainty. Thankfully, this did not happen, as the country as a whole suddenly woke up to the reality of  307 years of union could be over if something did not change. no thanks

 This referendum showed when the voter is engaged people will turnout and vote. This was shown by an amazing turnout of 85%. The last time a voter turnout was that high in a national vote was in the 1950 General Election when Clement Attlee became PM. The turnout then was 83.9%.  With all votes now in,  the margin of win for the No or Better Together campaign was larger than all the polls and pundits predicted; with the final vote split as follows:

  • No – 2,001,926
  • Yes – 1,617,989

In percentage terms this is 55% for No and 45% for the Yes. Even though the win is by a clear 10% and that might not seem much, but only four of the 32 local authority areas voted Yes. These were Glasgow – 53.49%; Dundee City – 57.35%; West Dumbartonshire – 53.96%; and North Lanarkshire – 51.07%.  The 28 authority areas who voted No included Orkney who rejected independence by 67.2% followed by Scottish Borders with 66.56%. However the clear winning margin of 10% is enough for one side to claim outright victory, there is a still a clear indication 45% of those who voted want change.

The decision by the voters of Scotland showed the  union’s status quo cannot continue. How this will change is anyone guess, and will be played out in the coming months with parties across the political spectrum  trying to out do each other on devolution pledges leading up to the General Election in 2015. The West Lothian question has to be answered. It is not right 59 MP’s can have a vote on purely English matters, when this privilege is not reciprocated in Scotland. How Wales and Northern Ireland fits in to the new union will have to be carefully considered too.

How this vote impacts on Cornwall is yet to be seen. Cornwall Council has long campaigned for more powers for the people of Cornwall. It has had some successes, but just how far will the Government go is the $64,000 question. The Government will also have to try to placate the non-Scottish MP’s who now will be rightly saying what about us after all the pledges to Scotland. As for the pledges to Scotland, they must be honoured, but all parties cannot and must not forget the other home nations

My view is devolved powers cannot have another level of bureaucracy or another level of Government in place. Powers should be given to the existing authorities. No doubt post the Scotland vote there will be calls for another tier of Government, but it is not one I currently subscribe to. I cannot see how another level of bureaucracy could be supported in these financially challenging times. People want services delivered and in a cost- effective manner.

I am a firm believer in less centralisation, but I also know there has to be a limit or a point where devolution is not cost-effective. It is okay asking for more powers, but if those powers cost more to deliver, then surely there has to be a stopped point on what is sensible devolution and what is nothing more than fanciful thinking.

Lastly and this has often been lost in the YES / NO election campaign is the voice of young people. I think this referendum has also shown 16/17-year-olds should be given the vote for all elections from now on. I hope this can be implemented quickly, though I doubt it will be for the General Election in 2015. Well done to Scotland for showing us the way on how to get young people involved in deciding their future.

The United Kingdom is still as one. And for this, I thank you Scotland and its people.

On the 1st October 2014, and after 87 years of having to display one, there will no longer be a legal requirement for any vehicle to display a tax disc. For those vehicles with Nil and Disabled tax discs who are currently entitled to free parking in Cornwall Council car parks a new process has been put in place so those who qualify can still continue to receive free parking..

The new process from the 1st October will require owners of vehicles of a Nill and Disabled tax disc  to contact the Council up to two weeks before expiry of their tax disk  giving details of the vehicle’s make and model and its registration number. The Parking Service will verify the details and add the information into its system as a vehicle exempt from enforcement in Cornwall Council car parks due to its Nil and Disabled status.  Provided a valid blue badge is displayed.  This will allow the continuation of free car parking in Cornwall Council owned car parks.

If a vehicle is not displaying a Nil and Disabled tax disc or has not been applied for exemptions as above, then the Enforcement Officers will not be aware of its status and will issue Penalty Charge Notices.  The vehicle must also display a valid blue badge to receive the exemption.

mail: parkingservices@cornwall.gov.uk  or write to the Council at: Parking Services, PO Box 664, TR1 9DH

 

On Saturday, I attended  the second Family Fun Day organised by Action for Children, Kernow Young Carers service at The Wadebridge Showground. The day was enjoyed by almost 150 children, young people, aged 3-18 and their families. I have to say the day was seen to be a huge success with plenty for everyone to do from cuddling a snake or holding a giant owl to face painting, a dance workshop, climbing wall and BBQ. As well as being staffed by members of the team from Action for Children, local volunteers from the service were also there to lend a hand.

During the event it was good to see two of Cornwall’s MP’s attend. Thanks to Dan Rogerson and Sarah Newton for taking the time to visit and see the good work by Action for Children and Kernow Young Carers.

The event would not have been the success without the support of  various organisations and performers.  Music was provided by Tom James, entertainment by Swamp Circus and Flava as well as stalls from Cornwall Food Foundation and the Wave Project as well as a range of arts and crafts activities, a climbing wall, skate ramp and bouncy castle.  Thanks should also go to Mark’s Arc and is animals. I saw many children and their families getting to hold some of Mark’s animal. The most popular was the python. snake

Particular thanks go to Wadebridge Rotary Club who provided the BBQ, food (free of charge) and the volunteers who worked hard all day to make sure everyone had drinks and food. The Flava Dance group provided both entertainment and a dance workshop which were hugely popular and to top it off, The Moorlanders Motor Cycle Club drove in on their motor bikes and presented a cheque to Action for Children for £1000.

Kernow Young Carers service is commissioned by Cornwall Council and NHS Kernow and is a service which is growing day by day as more children and young people are supported by the service. As well as the fun day, there are holiday activities, support in schools, local support groups and some one to one support for those who need it most.

If you would like to know more than please visit our website: www.kernowyoungcarers.org.uk

I had the great pleasure to recently visit Caradon Observatory; a little gem tucked away in the countryside near Upton Cross.  To be honest, I never knew it existed, but I am glad I do now, as the geek inside me really enjoyed the visit.

During the visit I was shown a picture taken by the observatory which showed a star cluster. I was blown away with the quality of the picture. However, I was completely stunned when I was told the imagine contained in the picture was actually 12 million years old and it took that long to reach earth for the picture to be taken. WOW.

The Caradon Observatory

The Caradon Observatory

During the visit, I got to view the sun through one of smaller telescopes. It may seem odd, as we see and feel the sun every day, but when you look at a telescope and see the sun in all its glory with sun spots and solar flares you really get a feeling how powerful the sun is.

During the visit I also learned more of the plan for Bodmin Moor to have the status as an International Dark Sky Park. This sounds like a worthy aim. The main benefit is the protection of the exceptional night sky. In addition if promoted right it could have a significant tourist and educational bonus. Other key areas in the UK are Exmoor; Dartmoor; Brecon Beacons; parts of Northumberland and parts of Scotland.

The plan for a Dark Sky Park

The plan for a Dark Sky Park

The Council is looking to submit an application next spring. More details on the project can be found via the Cornwall Council website HERE. Further details on the dark sky project are HERE. I found the visit very interesting and can see the benefits of the Dark Sky project in this area. In fact, I think we should be doing more to reduce unnecessary lighting in our towns and villages.

It is great news that a devolution project between Cornwall Council and Porthleven Town Council can now be announcement after the town council approved the deal last night. The deal between the two authorities, is for the playing field known officially as Horseshoe Playing Field, but also known locally as ‘top park’, along with the adjoining field and Shrubberies Hill car park will be transferred to Porthleven Town Council on a 99 year lease for one peppercorn (if demanded) per year.

As part of the devolution project I have been working on for sometime, I have negotiated with Cornwall Council a one-off grant of £25,000 to help replace the equipment. As anyone who has visited the park will see the current children’s play equipment it is in need of replacement.  This is really good news, as the town council gets to administer and safeguard the future of the area, but has a large grant to help replace the play equipment.

However, the £25,000 from Cornwall Council is not enough to build a new play park. So on top of this, and as part of the planning consent for the development of Shrubberies Hill, £10,000 of section 106 money will be added to the £25,000 from Cornwall Council. However, this is still a little short of the total amount needed for a new play park.  So as part of the recommendations I put to the town council (at the September meeting) to accept the transfer of assets, the town council has committed a further £5,000 to make this new park deliverable.

The proposed new play equipment at Horseshoe

The proposed new play equipment at Horseshoe

This play park will be build in a new area and has two elements, one for the younger children which will be fenced off, and another for older children. The ‘sand’ area is an idea, but it was deemed better to infill this, and place the benches and tables nearer the park. Included in the deal is new fencing.

The play equipment for older children

The play equipment for older children

 

I believe this is a great deal between Porthleven Town Council and Cornwall Council in how a devolution project can and should work. This is the second devolution project between Porthleven Town Council and Cornwall Council. The first one being the land between the Cricket Club and the Amenity Area. It sometimes takes time, and there is a lot of hard work for both parties, but it just proves something positive can be done if everyone is working for a common cause.

Well done Porthleven Town Council for being a proactive council. Well done Cornwall Council for helping a local community have more control over the assets in their area.