Pupil Exclusions

Department for Education written question – answered on 19th May 2020.

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Photo of Tulip Siddiq Tulip Siddiq Shadow Minister (Education)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to prevent children who were excluded from school just before school closures in March 2020 being exploited by criminals.

Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

As both my right hon. Friends, the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer have made clear, the government will do whatever it takes to support people affected by COVID-19.

Our latest guidance is set out below:

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-schools-and-other-educational-settings.

This includes specific guidance for education settings (including alternative provision settings) and local authorities about children supported through social care, with education, health and care plans or identified as vulnerable by their school or local authority and who are therefore in need of continued education provision.

In addition, the Home Office is working closely with other government departments to allocate a proportion of the £750 million funding for charities announced by my right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer last month. This includes a total of £34.15 million in emergency support for charities helping vulnerable children who have been impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak (this includes funds distributed by the Home Office and the Department for Education).

The Home Office has invested £70 million into Violence Reduction Units (VRUs) to help tackle serious violence in the 18 worst affected areas. VRUs are non-statutory partnerships which offer leadership and strategic coordination of the local response to serious violence by bringing together police, local government, health and education professionals, community leaders and other key partners to identify the drivers of serious violence and agree a multi-agency response to them. Across VRUs there are a total of 26 educational interventions planned for the 2020/21 financial year, however, due to COVID-19 VRUs instead have mobilised new virtual interventions to ensure activity is still underway despite school closures and social distancing.

In response to COVID-19, on 6 May the Youth Endowment Fund (YEF) launched a £6.5 million fund to support vulnerable young people at risk of youth violence, particularly through finding the best ways to reach and support them under the current social distancing guidelines. The objective of the YEF is to prevent children and young people at the highest risk of involvement in serious violence, from becoming involved in crime and violence, including reoffending.

The £13 million Trusted Relationships Fund (2018 – 2022) funds 11 different local authorities across England delivering innovative approaches to supporting children and young people aged 10 to 17 at risk of child sexual exploitation or abuse, criminal exploitation and peer on peer abuse. Restrictions associated with the response to COVID-19 have meant that local authorities have had to adapt their projects, introducing phone or video-based mentoring sessions, online support and group based social activities.

The Department for Education is also funding a £2 million Tackling Child Exploitation support programme to help safeguarding partners in local areas develop an effective response to extra-familial harms such as child sexual and child criminal exploitation. The programme has facilitated some interactive online discussions recently to explore the implications of COVID-19 on young people facing exploitation and external threats.

This government is also investing £20 million this year to crack down on the county lines gangs who are exploiting our children and having a devastating impact on our communities. This includes investment to significantly uplift the law enforcement response to county lines, develop several wider national capabilities and increase specialist support for young people and their families who are affected by county lines exploitation.

These are rapidly developing circumstances; we continue to keep the situation under review and will keep Parliament updated accordingly.

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