Everyone's Invited - London Safeguarding Children Partnership and ALDCS Briefing Note
We are writing to update you regarding the response to the disclosures of sexual harassment, assault and rape on the ‘Everyone’s Invited’ website – as I’m sure you’re aware there has been a lot of coverage in the national news. There are both immediate issues for safeguarding partnerships to address in ensuring appropriate identification of harm and responses, as well as longer term issues in respect of the opportunity that this provides to address the social, cultural and educational aspects of inappropriate and abusive sexual behaviour
Highlighted below are the key points from a number of national and London meetings in the past couple of days – noting that this is a fast moving situation and so plans may change.
- The number of accounts on the website are increasing rapidly and becoming more detailed and the allegations more serious - the accounts are referred to as testimonies on the website, are anonymous but do often name the school, college or university that the young person is or was attending.
- The website currently has over 15,000 reports from girls and young women regarding their time at both private and state schools and universities.
- The media has focused on the initial preponderance of testimonies from high profile independent schools – of the initial 10 most cited, 7 are in London, but now clearly 100s of schools and a national issue.
- The DfE are the lead agency.
- the NSPCC helpline is open and the number is 0800 136 663. The helpline is free and anonymous and will be open Monday to Friday 8am – 10pm and Saturday to Sunday 9am – 6pm. The NSPCC would then signpost to support and make safeguarding referrals to us in the usual way.
- Ofsted, working with representatives from social care, police, victim support groups, school and college leaders and the Independent Schools Council, will undertake an immediate review of safeguarding policies in state and independent schools.
- The review, which will conclude by the end of the summer 2021, will look at the extent and the severity of the issue and ensure schools have appropriate processes in place to allow pupils to report concerns freely, knowing these will be taken seriously and dealt with swiftly and appropriately.
- It will make sure there is sufficient guidance on how schools should deal with sexual harassment and violence allegations, and whether the current inspection regimes in both state and private schools are strong enough to address concerns and promote the welfare of children.
- The full press notice is copied below for your information.
- The DfE, possibly in conjunction with the Home Office and the Dept of Health, may write out to all schools and Safeguarding Children’s Partnerships providing an update on the national response and advice regarding action to take.
- The police response is now being co-ordinated nationally by Simon Bailey, the National Police Chiefs' Council lead on child protection – this reflecting that what started out as primarily a London issue is now a national one.
- Operation Hydrant [the coordination hub which delivers the national policing response to non-recent child sexual abuse] - the police are aiming to review every testimony on the website (when it was 8k they reckoned it would take 2 weeks) and, where possible, identifying the school; whether the person reporting is a current or former pupil; whether it’s peer-on-peer and what type of offense may have been committed. They will pass this information to the respective Police force, and will produce a statistical analysis of reports over the next few weeks
- Senior police leaders are meeting with the Independent Schools’ Inspectorate.
The Met police response:
- A Gold Group has been convened, chaired by Cmdr. Alison Heydari, co-ordinating the Met’s response now named as Operation Topale – it met today [30th March] and will meet again next week. It brings together leads from the MPS for Safer Schools and Safer Neighbourhood Teams and officers from the Continuous Improvement Command and Operation Winterkey (main role is liaison with IICSA) which will receive any case referrals from the national response which is being led by Operation Hydrant. They’ve had one referral so far. The group is also attended by Alison Renouf from the London SCP and James Thomas representing ALDCS. Key points to highlight from the meeting include: •The Met Police are working through their central schools’ team to safer schools’ officers to support schools affected.
- Safeguarding superintendents are briefed and supporting the response in the areas affected.
- The aim is not to identify victims as it’s important to respect the anonymity provided by the website which has been a key factor in encouraging people to come forward. However, there will be messaging re: how to report if they should want to do so.
- There’s been no increase in crime reporting directly linked to the website as yet.
- The police are reviewing their offer to private schools re: engagement with the Safer Schools Partnership [schools which are part of the partnership arrangements are allocated a named officer to work with the school]. The police currently think private schools in London have been offered this input and have declined but are reviewing whether this is the case and whether further approaches to private schools to invite them to join Safer Schools Partnerships would be helpful.