News Views


It is really good news for child care that Paul Ennals, the Chief Executive of the National Children’s Bureau, has been knighted. In the past there have been plenty of Chief Constables and a few Chief Education Officers who have been honoured in this way, but not too many from the child care field. Sir Paul joins Sir Roger Singleton, most of whose career was in child care or its management or monitoring, and Sir Al Aynsley-Green, Children’s Commissioner. Sir Paul has made an outstanding contribution at the NCB, having a massive influence on government policy as well as presiding over an era of continued expansion at the Bureau. The knighthood is well deserved personally, but it is also good for the NCB and for children’s services generally. People often listen more to someone with a handle. As Sir Paul said, although he was joining the establishment, that was not going to stop him speaking out.

The NCB scored a second major hit with Philippa Russell topping up her CBE by being made a Dame. Well deserved, and good news for disabled children and everyone with whom she associates. It was good also to see Paul Martin, the Chief Social Services Officer in Northern Ireland until recently, get the CBE, after many years of excellent leadership in his field.

Nice too, to see a bevy of foster carers – Malcolm and Patricia Davies, John and Stephanie Forbes, and Sheila Franks – and a childminder, Christine Dale, have their work recognised with the MBE. When working at home with children, childminders and foster carers can be isolated; their work rarely hits the headlines unless something goes wrong, and so it is really nice that they can enjoy some of the well-deserved limelight for a change.

Ending Child Poverty

The top children’s charities are right to have come together to campaign on child poverty. If this matter is addressed, a lot of other problems will melt away. If it is not dealt with, other services will often only offer sticking plasters.

Hilary Fisher, the Director of End Child Poverty, welcomed the Child Poverty Bill as an important step forward in making tackling child poverty a priority for all Governments, noting that “Ending child poverty is not a luxury, but a necessity”, and that it would be “particularly important to be clear how Government will be held to account in the legislation”.

As Sir Paul Ennals noted at the National Children’s Bureau annual reception, ensuring that children remain a high priority during the recession is a key problem which has to be addressed head-on, or services will be lost. According to the saying, “The weakest go to the wall”, which is why those responsible for protecting children will have to battle all the harder. But if we are talking tough economics, it is vital that we invest in the coming generations so that they will have the skills and knowledge and the right attitudes and values to keep the country profitable.

A Golden Opportunity

In his article on training for residential child care staff this month Charles Sharpe says that now is a good time to try to get the training system right. We could not agree more. But as Charles notes, there have been missed opportunities in the past. Back in 1997 the Residential Forum produced a report called A Golden Opportunity which tried to address the question why training has never been established at a proper level and in sufficient volume in this country.

Fundamentally, the powers that be do not seem to have appreciated the complexity of residential child care and the impact that good quality care can have on children, and it is possible that this is because as a nation we do not appreciate the importance of good parenting sufficiently. After all, if we think that children will just sort of grow up without adults needing to do too much, we won’t value the professionals who stand in for unsatisfactory parents either.

Yet if residential child care staff are enabled to do their jobs properly, they can transform the lives of the children and young people whom they work with, affecting the lives of their families, partners, friends, employers, colleagues, potential victims (if they otherwise turn to crime) and the government, as they will save them bucketloads of money which would have to be spent on places in prisons and mental hospitals for the children who lives remain a mess when they are adults.

Memories of Richard Balbernie

One of the Key Texts this month is David Wills’s account of Richard Balbernie’s transformation of the former Cotswold Approved School into the Cotswold Community. As Robert Shaw explains, Balbernie’s work was revolutionary and he never ducked the difficult issues he faced in leading the revolution.

We recall Richard addressing the Association of Heads and Matrons of Approved Schools at Swannick Conference Centre (about 1972). He was the first speaker on the first morning of the conference. Richard spoke extremely fast; what he said was hard to grasp, but it was patently obvious that it was upsetting his audience, which included a high percentage of traditionalists.

He also spoke at great length, using up his speech time, then the question time. The audience clearly wanted to raise questions and was becoming restive. When Richard started to impinge on pre-lunch drinking time, rebellion was in the air. Eventually the chair for the morning called a halt to proceedings so that the delegates could get to lunch. By this time, the Heads and Matrons were seething, and they talked of nothing else for the rest of the conference. As for Richard, he didn’t bother with lunch, and pushed off.


We have already mentioned the honours bestowed on Sir Paul Ennals and Dame Philippa Russell. When the NCB held its annual summer reception a couple of weeks ago, the place was also full of Government Ministers. Ed Balls spoke eloquently, saying all the right things, well and without notes.

He pointed out that he had now been Secretary of State longer than most, so that he was now an old hand rather than a newcomer. He said that Paul Ennals had given him six targets when he took up the post, and he ticked these off one by one, to indicate that he had both listened and acted. He had also been listening to Young NCB. After the last summer reception they had asked to meet him, he had done so, and he had followed through on the issues raised. In his input Sir Paul Ennals made a number of points about the dangers and risks lying ahead during the recession, and laid out an action plan to address them. The NCB remains the most influential independent organisation concerned with children, and it continues to set the pace.

Not from the Case Files

Every now and again the question arises where a client is ordinarily resident in order to determine which local authority is responsible for providing services. We thought that this quotation from a Judge (drawn from Clarke, Hall & Morrison) might help MPs and Peers sort out their little problem.

An individual resides where he eats, drinks and sleeps, or where his family or his servants eat, drink and sleep.

On second thoughts, we’ve seen MPs eating, drinking and sleeping in the House of Commons, at conferences etc. Perhaps it needs tightening up a bit.

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