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My World Book Day: meet ITV's newest and youngest reporters

There will have been hectic scenes in homes across the South West as parents try to get their children off to school in fancy dress to Celebrate World Book Day.

We sent Jacquie Bird along to one school in Tavistock where the children really got into the spirit of the occasion - so much so that they took over the filming!

Have a look at this:

Devon and Cornwall police must improve how it tackles child sexual exploitation

A report says Devon and Cornwall Police has a 'lack of understanding' of the extent of child exploitation across the force area. Credit: PA: Fabian Stratenschulte

A report says Devon and Cornwall Police has a 'lack of understanding' of the extent of child exploitation across the force area.

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) found the way officers deal with children who regularly go missing was highlighted as a serious concern which needs to be improved.

Devon and Cornwall Police demonstrated a strong commitment to improving services for the protection of vulnerable people. However, while we found a number of examples of good work to protect children, this commitment has not yet resulted in consistently improved outcomes for children.

We were concerned to find that in a significant number of cases we looked at, poor supervision and record keeping had undermined decision making and safeguarding measures. Some serious cases were investigated by non-specialist officers, resulting in delays, and potential risks posed by alleged offenders not being considered.

The force must also improve how it tackles child sexual exploitation. While the force is taking some steps to address this, it still has much more to do to demonstrate that it is able to effectively identify and safeguard children at risk. We found a concerning case involving a 15 year old girl who, in August 2014, was identified at being at risk of exploitation by an older man. We found no evidence that a longer-term safeguarding plan had been put in place to protect the girl from further exploitation and, at the time of the inspection, the girl still had not been spoken to by police. This is not acceptable.

– Wendy Williams, HM Inspector of Constabulary

Devon and Cornwall Police says it welcomes the report and its acknowledgement of the hard work and commitment to improving services safeguarding children.

We are working hard to deliver improved outcomes for children and work that has been undertaken by the Force has shown that we have to improve recording standards, as often a great deal of work has taken place but has not been captured within the Force’s IT systems.

In respect of Child Sexual Exploitation, the Force has a dedicated team which deal with these types of offences and we are working with all of our partners to deliver the standards contained within the Peninsula Protocol and Strategy.

The Force also recognises the importance of not detaining children and young people in custody and at the time of the inspection we were working with children’s services across the peninsula to ensure appropriate arrangements are put into place to avoid this from occurring.

– Detective Superintendent Paul Northcott, Head of Devon and Cornwall’s public protection unit


'Desperate need' for families to adopt older children in Devon

Families often choose to adopt babies and toddlers - but 'Families for Children' says taking in an older child can be very rewarding. Credit: ITV News

A South West adoption charity says it is in desperate need of people willing to adopt older children across Devon.

Families for Children says that there are fewer babies and toddlers up for adoption, but taking in an older child can be very rewarding.

They add that people should not be worried about adoption, as the charity will offer lifelong support and training.

Wiltshire early years providers among the worst in the region

Too many early years settings inspected as part of a focused inspection in Wiltshire are not yet good Credit: PA: Dominic Lipinsk

Too many early years settings inspected as part of a focused inspection in Wiltshire are not yet good according the education watchdog.

Ofsted has published its findings after it found only half of eight early years settings it inspected in March were judged good or better.

As well as the visits to eight providers, inspectors conducted telephone surveys with a further 11 providers and held a focus group discussion with the local authority and its partners.

The inspection was prompted by the wide gap in learning and development outcomes for the poorest young children compared to their more affluent peers.

Only 36% of children eligible for free school meals achieved a good level of development in 2014, making Wiltshire the third worst local authority in the South West region. However, inspectors did find signs of improvement.

The local authority has provided some helpful training along with additional funding to enable early years settings to further develop their provision for funded two-years-olds. However, much still needs to improve.

It cannot be right that the poorest young children in Wiltshire are not able to master basic skills such as being able to hold a pencil, count to 20, listen to a story or express themselves.

Good learning and development is vital if children are to grasp the basics skills before they start primary school.

As a result we have provided a number of recommendations the local authority should consider, particularly to those childcare providers, on meeting the needs of the poorest children.

– Bradley Simmons, Ofsted Director for the South West

Ofsted recommends:

  • targeting high quality information, advice and training to weaker providers to ensure that young children in the most disadvantaged areas access the best provision
  • continuing to provide information, training and advice as required to help practitioners further their early years knowledge, skills and experience
  • using Ofsted’s inspection evidence, to encourage providers to strengthen their monitoring of teaching and progress made by groups of children so that settings have clear evidence of what they do well and what they need to improve

Ensuring all children in Wiltshire achieve their full potential regardless of their background is an absolute key priority for us.

We have been working closely with early years settings across the county to narrow the performance gap between children from poorer households and other children at the end of their first year in school.

Ofsted visited eight early years settings during the focused inspection event however Wiltshire has over 1,000 childminders, early years settings and out of school clubs registered to take young children.

Overall 84% of this provision, which includes providers operating in our more deprived areas, is judged by Ofsted to be good or better and we will continue to work with providers who are not yet judged to be good to increase this percentage.

Despite the relatively small sample for this inspection the recommendations are helpful as we continue to drive improvements in our early years provision. We will continue to work in partnership with providers to implement our plans in order to achieve our high aspirations for all children in Wiltshire.

– Wiltshire Council

Fears vulnerable children could could be held in cells

The opposition leader of Devon County Council fears vulnerable children could be held in police cells if three children's homes in the county are forced to close.

The County Council instead wants to offer more foster places for children in the future.

Councillor Alan Connet, the leader of the Liberal Democrats is holding a debate this afternoon to try to save one of the homes from closure.

South West parents face biggest rise in child-raising costs

The cost of raising a child to the age of 21 has reached £222,000 as parents pay 58% more than a decade ago, with parents in the South West seeing the biggest hike in costs, according to an annual study. Families here now pay £100,077 more per child than ten years ago.

Education and childcare remain the biggest costs, with 76% of parents reporting that they have been forced to make cuts to meet the financial demands of raising their offspring, the survey for insurer LV found.

The overall figure is more than £4,000 up on last year and £82,000 more than ten years ago, when the first annual Cost of a Child Report was published.

"The cost of raising a child continues to soar and is now at a ten-year high. Everyone wants the best for their children but the rising cost of living is pushing parents' finances to the limit.

There seems to be no sign of this trend reversing. If the costs associated with bringing up children continue to rise at the same pace, parents could face a bill of over £350,000 in ten years' time."

– Mark Jones, LV Insurance
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