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News Report Page 9 of 18
Publication Date:-
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9 in 10 children back new laws to force tech firms to help keep them safe online

TECH firms should protect children from:- sexual, self harm, suicide and violent content online, say 91% of young people in an NSPCC survey. The results also reveal that more than 9 out of 10 children agree these companies should have a legal responsibility to keep them safe on their platforms. These figures come as the NSPCC is joined by people whose lives have been deeply impacted by online harms, to hand in its Wild West Web campaign petition to 10 Downing Street.

The petition has almost 46,000 signatures; 5,457 in the North West; which shows the overwhelming support for the charity's campaign for the Government to bring in a statutory regulator to force tech firms to better protect children online. NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless will be joined by Ruth Moss, Ian Russell and Mared Parry, who have supported the charity in its campaign and spoken out about their experiences in a bid to see change. The charity's latest survey, which involved 2,004 children aged 11 to 16, revealed that 9 out of 10 said they had a social media account. More than ½ of those had accounts on:- Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, YouTube and Snapchat.

The charity is now calling on the next Prime Minister to act quickly in bringing together comprehensive legislation that will force tech firms to exercise a duty of care and protect children from abuse and harmful content on their platforms. The NSPCC believes it is essential that the regulator has robust information disclosure and investigatory powers and that named directors of tech firms face personal liability for significant breaches of a company's duty of care.

More than 90% agreed that social media platforms should protect them from:-

Inappropriate content and behaviour (92%)

► Violent content (91%)

► Sexual content (92%)

► Content about self harm and suicide (91%)

► Bullying (92%)

Peter Wanless, NSPCC Chief Executive, said:- "In recent months we have seen the breadth of consensus for social networks to take proper responsibility for protecting children from abuse and harmful content on their platforms. The thousands of signatures on our Wild West Web campaign alone demonstrates the strength of feeling out there. But this latest research could not be clearer; children themselves want to go online without the fear of seeing graphic and disturbing material and being vulnerable to abuse. It is imperative that the new Prime Minister treats this issue as an utmost priority and that the Government now works swiftly to build on its bold and ambitious proposals and brings in legislation that will make the UK the safest place for children to be online."

Ruth Moss, whose daughter Sophie took her own life at the age of 13 after looking at self-harm and suicide content on social media, said:- "Children are protected by legislation in so many aspects of life, including traditional media. We would be horrified if our children were exposed to abuse or damaging imagery in films, television or the press, so why should the internet and social media be any different? And with WiFi available in so many public areas and most children having social media accounts, it would be na´ve to think that parents can manage this issue alone. Even children themselves recognise this. Therefore, it's essential that this regulation is implemented as a priority. We owe this to future generations of our children."

The survey also revealed that more than 8 in 10 children believe it is important for social media platforms to:-

► Make it easy to take down a post (93%)

► Have tools to help children remove posts (91%)

► Prioritise requests from children to remove content (89%)

► Make it harder to share screenshotted content (80%)

1 July 2019, marked the close of the consultation for the Government's:- 'Online Harms White Paper,' which proposed many of the NSPCC's recommendations for new internet safety laws.

1 IN 3 Councils fear funding for legal duties will run out within 3 years

A 3rd of Councils fear they will run out of funding to provide their statutory services; such as adult social care, protecting children and preventing homelessness; by the end of this Parliament. As more than 1,400 Local Government leaders, Councillors and ministers gather at its Annual Conference, in Bournemouth, the Local Government Association is revealing the initial findings of its survey of Council finances ahead of the Spending Review.

It reveals that:-

1 in 3 Councils fear they will run out of funding to provide their legal duties by 2022/23.

That number rises to almost 2 thirds of Councils by 2024/2025 or later. The LGA estimates that Councils face an overall funding gap of ₤8 billion by 2025.

17% of Councils are not confident of realising all of the savings they have identified to make this year (2019/20). An unprecedented rise in demand means many Councils are having to spend more than they planned for in adult social care, children's services and homelessness support. These overspends have seen Councils forced to make in year budget cuts to try and balance their books.

Between 2010 and 2020, Councils will have lost 60p out of every ₤1 they had from central Government to run local services. The next Spending Review will be make or break for vital local services and securing the financial sustainability of Councils must be the top priority.

National political uncertainty and an unresolved Brexit means the chances of the Government carrying out a 3 year Spending Review this year look increasingly unlikely. Instead, Councils may face a 1 year roll over settlement.

Either way, Councils urgently need some certainty about how local services will be funded next year so they can try and plan financially for next year.

The LGA, which represents Councils in England and Wales, is therefore calling for the next Prime Minister to prioritise local public services in the Spending Review and give Councils urgent certainty about future funding, business rates retention and the fair funding review.

At the very least, the Government needs to confirm the continuation of key funding streams in 2020, such as the:- 'Better Care Fund,' and provide Councils with local freedom to make decisions about Council tax levels.

Councils also need a guarantee they will have enough money to meet the growing demand pressures they face next year, particularly in adult social care, children's services, special educational needs, homelessness support and public health activity. The LGA estimates that Councils in England face an overall funding gap of ₤3.1 billion in 2020/21.

This is the only way to ensure Councils can meet their legal duties to provide dignified care for our elderly and disabled, protect children, and prevent and reduce homelessness and protect the wide-range of other valued local services which also make such a positive difference to communities and people's lives.

Lord Porter, LGA Chairman, said:- "Councils in England face a funding gap of more than ₤3 billion in 2020, rising to ₤8 billion by 2025. As this survey shows, if the Government fails to adequately fund Local Government there is a real risk to the future financial viability of some services and Councils. Councils would normally have started their budget setting planning process but remain completely in the dark about how much funding they will have next year. Communities relying on the vital local services that make a difference to their lives deserve better. Securing the financial sustainability of Local Government must be the top priority for the next Prime Minister. Urgent guarantees are needed that Councils will have the funding they need to ensure our vital public services survive the uncertainty ahead. With the right funding and powers, Councils can continue to lead their local areas, improve residents' lives, reduce demand for services and save money for the taxpayer."

Multi billion pound tax cut promises from Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt should instead go on mending broken childhoods

CHILDREN'S Commissioner for England launches third annual Vulnerability Report with call for urgent ₤10bn a year investment to rebuild services for vulnerable children. New Children's Commissioner's Office research estimates 2.3m children; 1 in 5 children in England; are growing up with a vulnerable family background; including 830,000 children who are 'invisible' to services.

Children's Commissioner analysis of what Councils spend on children reveals fewer children are receiving help, with a quarter of all spending on kids now going on only 1% of children and 1 Council spending 20% of its budget on 10 children.

Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England, will launch her 3rd annual Vulnerability Report with a call on the next Prime Minister to put the billions they have promised for income and corporation tax cuts towards mending broken childhoods. The Commissioner will argue that Boris Johnson's income tax plans and Jeremy Hunt's corporation tax plans; estimated by the IFS to be ₤9bn and ₤13bn a year; should instead be used to invest up to ₤10bn a year as part of a ten-year plan to rebuild services for the most vulnerable children and end high cost, crisis led provision.

The Children's Commissioner's vulnerability reports estimate there are 2.3 million children in England growing up with a vulnerable family background, including those with parents with mental illnesses, addiction problems or domestic violence. Of these, 1.6m receive either patchy or no support at all, including 830,000 children who are 'invisible' to services. Around 128,000 children from a vulnerable family background are receiving the most intensive forms of statutory support, such as being in care or on a child protection plan.

All the vulnerabilities identified can pose a risk to children's wellbeing and long term life chances. Many of these children start School significantly below the expected level of development, and their progress tends to be lower on average, meaning that they have a higher risk of leaving School without qualifications. In addition, they are more likely to have Special Educational Needs and mental health issues, which can also make them more susceptible to gang violence or exploitation. The Children's Commissioner points out that there are many interventions which can help these children by breaking the cycle of family disadvantage, but a failure to provide them early enough means millions of children are let down.

The vulnerability reports are published alongside new data on spending on vulnerable children. This work; the 1st time anyone has looked in depth at what Councils spend on children; shows a system that is spending increasingly high amounts on a very small number of children with acute needs: 25% of the amount Councils spend on children now goes on the 1.1% of children who need acute and specialist services; such as children in care. A child in the most intensive residential placements costs on average ₤192,000 a year to look after. In 1 local authority looked at by the Children's Commissioner, 10 children are costing 20% of the entire children's services budget.

Anne Longfield will launch the research with a speech challenging Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt to turn around the life chances of millions of highly vulnerable children by dealing with issues like inadequate children's mental health support, rising School exclusions, children being groomed into criminal gangs, poor educational outcomes for children growing up in disadvantaged areas and insufficient funding for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.

With the Local Government Association and HCLG Select Committee both warning it will cost ₤3bn a year just for over-stretched children's services just to stand still, the Children's Commissioner will say that the next Spending Review should be an opportunity to restore and build new services that tackle problems early.

She will argue that children and their families need support from before birth and throughout childhood, and that without this help children can fall behind in School, become disengaged and even end up caught up in gang violence or dropping out of the School system. It can also have a huge impact on their health. Recent work by the IFS has shown the impact of children's centres, which cut visits to hospital and worked particularly well for the most disadvantaged children. To really tackle the wider harm caused to the most vulnerable children, the Children's Commissioner will call for a properly evidence based strategy that does not just wait for problems to hit before intervening, including:-

A reinvigoration of the Troubled Families programme:-

Investment in the early years, Sure Start, family hubs and parenting support.

Schools to open later and in the holidays and youth services to tackle gang violence.

Earlier help for children with mental health problems and special educational needs.

She will also argue that the estimated ₤8bn a year cost of scrapping tuition fees in Labour's 2017 manifesto could be used to radically improve children's early years.  In her speech launching the report, Anne Longfield will say:- "We know enough about the devastating impact on childhood and on lifetime prospects of a poor start. Tackling the scale of the problem will require strong leadership from central Government, capital investment in institutions to help our most vulnerable children, a 10 to 20 year investment in family and child support, commitments and targets to identify and support children's mental health needs and those of their parents. I want to challenge the contenders for the Conservative leadership and the keys to No 10 what they intend to do about this. I've heard them talk about runways, immigration, Islamophobia, even model buses; but not about children. They should. Anybody's child can need a SEND assessment; or some mental health support; or speech and language therapy. And anybody's child can meet, on the streets or in the park, a marginalised, angry, excluded teenager carrying a knife. I've heard contenders for the Conservative leadership pledge corporation tax cuts amounting to ₤13bn, higher NI thresholds costing ₤11bn, a raised threshold for the higher income tax rate which would cost ₤9bn. Labour's promise to abolish tuition fees will cost around ₤8bn; but where is the promise to the children who might hope that 1 day they too will go to university? Without the kind of help I'm proposing today, millions of them have very little chance of getting there. All of this is money that could be spent on getting millions of children back on their feet and boosting their life chances. Our initial calculation suggests it might cost in the region of ₤10bn per year to fix this broken system. It might be more, it might be less, but what I do believe is it'll save money in the long term. The cost of social chaos is immense. So I want to throw down the gauntlet today to whoever is next Prime Minister, and to the Opposition parties as they prepare general election manifestos and ask: what are you going to do about this?"

Some of the other main findings in today's vulnerability reports include:-

831,000 children living in households that report domestic abuse.

472,000 children living in families with addiction problems.

900,000 children growing up in a family where there are parental mental health problems.

723,000 children receiving statutory intervention from the state.

398,000 children in 'Troubled Families' currently being worked with.

2,000,000 children living in food poverty.

The report also shows how some vulnerabilities have become more severe in recent years:-

The number of children living in temporary accommodation has increased by 76% between 2012 and 2018.

The rate of permanent exclusions from School has increased by over 50% between 2012/13 and 2016/17, while the rate of children experiencing a fixed term exclusion has increased by 20% over the same period.

The proportion of children with an emotional health problem; such as anxiety or depression; rose by nearly 50% between 2004 and 2017

The proportion of children in custody who were sentenced for a violent offence has risen from 21% in 2012 to 40% in 2018.

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