News Views

Happy New Year

We wish all our readers – and everyone else – a Happy New Year! And to make us happy, here are seven messages about things we would like people to do in 2010.

* To the Ministry of Justice

Place no more children in Immigration Removal Centres.

It is inhumane, contrary to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and something we feel ashamed about.

* To Media Editors

Think twice about the impact of child care stories.

The public does need to know when things go wrong, but how the stories are told has an impact on the recruitment of social workers, vigilantism and a lot of other unintended consequences.

* To the Ministry of Justice

Reduce the number of “children” – i.e. those under 18 – in British prisons by 10%.

We should have much better alternatives, and this is a modest target.

* To the Department of Children, Schools and Families

Put smacking children on the same level as smacking adults.

Why should children be discriminated against?

* To the next British Government

Preserve the budgets which affect children.

We need to invest in children for the country’s future.

* To child care writers

Send us your articles.

Even if you’ve never written an article, give it a try, if you have an idea or some information you want to share. Especially for contributors whose first language is not English, remember that we can always help by tidying up the language to help you get your ideas across.

* To readers

Please recommend Children Webmag to all your friends.

The more (free!) subscribers we have, the more people will read the Webmag, the more authors will want to write for it, the more ideas we can share through it, and the more advertisers will want to advertise in it, so that we shall be able to offer an even better service.

A Bit Rich? But Only a Bit

Let’s compare two recent reports. One, released by the New Policy Institute and Joseph Rowntree Foundation, shows that the number of children in low income households where at least one adult works is now 2.1 million – the highest number there has ever been. This is despite the high priority given by the Government to reducing child poverty.

Commenting on this, John Dickie, Acting Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said, “The idea that work is the best way out of poverty lies at the centre of current policies to eradicate poverty. Yet NPI’s research shows that too often getting a job is not the solution it should be for parents and their children. If the Government is to even come close to its target of halving child poverty then Alistair Darling must boost benefits and tax credits for families in and out of work.

“But to meet the promise to eradicate child poverty by 2020 he must also include wider measures to tackle in-work poverty. Flexible, accessible and affordable childcare and universal free school meals will reduce the costs of employment, while enabling people to work part-time without losing valuable support from benefits would reduce poverty traps in the benefits system. Ensuring that employers pay reasonable wages should also be a priority. If the government fails to make work pay we have no chance of ending child poverty.”

The New Economics Foundation’s A Bit Rich report looked at the comparative value to society of six jobs and found that for every £1 which child care workers are paid, they generate between £7 and £9.50 worth of benefits to society. As well as providing a valuable service for families, childcare workers release earnings potential by allowing parents to continue working. They also unlock social benefits in the shape of the learning opportunities that children gain outside the home.

Tricia Pritchard, Senior Professional Officer at Voice said, “For too long, childcare professionals have been overlooked, under-paid and taken for granted. We are delighted that this report recognises the value of childcare to society and takes a fresh look at how we recognise and reward different professions”.

Our view is that for the economy to be on a sound footing it is the increases in income for people at or near the bottom of the economy which make the real difference. The extra is sometimes needed for necessities, but it can also make life a lot more bearable for people with limited means, whereas extra millions for people at the top scarcely change their life-styles.

Greetings from AIEJI

Dear colleagues,

As 2009 is coming to an end and some of us will soon be wrapped up in the spirit of Christmas, buying presents and seeing friends and family, I want to take this opportunity to send you all my best seasonal greetings and wishes of a Happy New Year.

2009 has been a very interesting year. Obviously, the most spectacular event was the AIEJI World Congress in May in Copenhagen. Not only was it a fantastic event for AIEJI as an organisation, it was also a deeply warming and moving personal experience for me. To see so many people from so many different countries gathered in the spirit of professional interest and friendship in one was wonderful, inspiring and very meaningful on many levels. Whenever I think of it, it still puts a smile on my face.

The congress also resulted in many new memberships for AIEJI, both from individuals and organisations, and I am very happy to have met dedicated people from Russia, the Middle East and Far East Asia who are working hard to put social educators and social pedagogy on the map in their regions.

Since the congress, the board has been very dedicated to carry out the program Visions and aims approved in Copenhagen. One activity is to gather knowledge and research on the subject of “Working with adults with disabilities – the role of the social educator”, which will result in a publication of papers in 2010.

In 2010 we will also launch the “Global Network for Social Educators”, a feature on our website where people can find other social educators and workplaces who work within the same field as themselves and are interested in establishing contact. Either to set up a study visit, exchange ideas and experiences or just to find out how some of the same issues are managed other places.

You can read much more about the progressing work and projects in AIEJI on

Also, 2010 will be a year where social educators all over the world will make a difference in many people’s lives. Therefore it is so important that we continuously promote our profession and insist on recognition of social educators and our work. We have the finest job in the world – that was what former Danish prime minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen told us at the world congress in Copenhagen in May. And yes, we have and we are proud of it.

With past inspirations and future challenges in mind, I wish you all a Happy New Year and am looking forward to getting to know even more of you in 2010. I hope you will support AIEJI also in 2010 and remember you can sign up as member on

To our member organisations, please feel free to publish my greetings on your website and in other internal media as they are addressed to everyone who directly or indirectly is a member of AIEJI.

Happy New Year!

Benny Andersen, President, AIEJI

To Vet or Not to Vet

A group of head-teachers’ organisations spoke out against the new vetting and barring system, stating that “The unintended consequences of the system are excessive bureaucracy, potential damage to voluntary sports and reduction in work placement opportunities”. On the advice of Sir Roger Singleton, the Secretary of State modified the guidelines, so that only 9 million people will be checked, not 11 million under the previous rules.

Clearly we all want to protect children, but we do not want excessive bureaucracy. We wonder if there is a mid-way approach, which could satisfy those who wish to see checks established and those, like the heads, who find the system irksome, unnecessary and counter-productive in certain situations.

If it were possible for schools – and other organisations – to register activities where checks were not undertaken, they could acknowledge that they would carry the risk of any failure to vet, including court costs and damages if an unchecked volunteer were to harm a child. If the organisation were a group of parents, they could share the responsibility. Insurers would soon give a view if schools were taking undue risks.

This principle could be applied more widely. We would be happy to buy WI jam carrying a label that made it clear that it had been made in someone’s kitchen and might not adhere to food hygiene requirements. Ditto choosing to eat things past their sell-by date. Why should we not make our own judgements and decide to take the risks we deem reasonable? Caveant emptores.

Obesity: The Sad Case of Forsyte Smith

As this issue is coming out straight after Christmas and at the point when we make New Year Resolutions in the wake of over-indulgence, it is probably a good time to focus on obesity. It is reported that on reaching school age, one in three boys and one in four girls are already obese. This problem is on the increase, and has to be addressed. Indeed, we have an article on the subject in this issue.

A press release from the LibDems spoke of the problem being a ticking time-bomb, which reminded us of an incident in the mid-1950s. Some parents we knew were concerned that their seven-year-old was getting too rotund, and so we told the boy the sad story of Forsyte Smith, a boy at our school who had eaten so much that he had exploded in the dining hall, with dire consequences for everyone present. The story must have been graphic as the seven-year-old switched immediately to healthy eating, and the last we heard he was a head of department in a comprehensive school. So, maybe the LibDem warning about obese children as ticking time-bombs will have the same effect.

The subject is, of course, serious. Habits formed in early childhood are hard to change, and the consequences in terms of later illnesses and lower life expectancy may be severe. Perhaps it is the parents of young children who should be making New Year resolutions about their children’s eating habits.

Looking Back, Moving Forward

Have you ever tried to untangle a web to access records? Are you concerned about historic abuse and the long term issues? Come and listen to first hand accounts from care leavers who have both the experience and expertise in this field.

Wednesday 3rd February 2010 at the Glasgow Airport Holiday Inn

Cost: only £110! – Special hotel rates also available

The event is being jointly organised by the Scottish Institute for Residential Child Care and the Care Leavers’ Association (CLA). We think that this is an important subject, and one which has not yet received sufficient recognition.


We get all sorts of news items. Did you know that Lego has been selling so fast this Christmas that many shops have run out of popular lines? Or that chocolate reindeers have outsold Santas two to one in Thornton’s? Or that a nursery is to be opened in the House of Commons at a cost of £400,000, to replace a bar? (For the displaced drinkers to have regression therapy?) Or that Wii players have suffered broken bones, tendonitis and lacerated heads? (Hit by flying Wii controls.) Or that one playing field a week is being sold off? (How long can that carry on?) Or that the most popular toys of all time are dolls? (A case of research confirming the obvious?) Or that last year Christmas Day was the third busiest in the year at Halford’s for on-line orders? Or that most children would like Prince William to do the Christmas speech if grandmother could not do it? Or that Simon Cowell should do the speech, if celebrities were invited? (We believe in respecting the views of young people, but…)

Remember all the above; they might come in useful in the next pub quiz.

From a Child’s Contribution to a Report

I like making Victorian things.

An NVQ in distressing furniture should set him up well for all sorts of jobs.

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