News Views

Poverty

As the detail of the cuts becomes clear there will no doubt be a lot of wrangling about their impact on different sections of the community. Our view is very simple and, some might argue, simplistic too. People fall broadly into one of three groups.

The top group have the choice to buy £40 bottles of wine instead of £30 bottles, to holiday where they fancy and to buy expensive houses. The cuts they experience may suggest to them the purchase of cheaper wine or one fewer holiday.

The life-style of the middle group is more modest, but unless they are made redundant they still have scope to tighten their belts, with more careful budgeting and focusing their spending on necessities.

The third group spend almost all their money on necessities, and any cuts they experience may bite into monies they really do need. This is where poverty kicks in.

A marginal price rise will be absorbed and dismissed by the first group, managed by the second and suffered by the third. It is the third group who need protecting.

We do not have the detailed knowledge which the experts have, and so we are attaching an excellent briefing prepared by the End Child Poverty Coalition. Click here to get the facts.

Baby Peter: Two Messages

The full report of the Serious Case Review into Baby Peter’s death has now been published, and it is reported that almost everyone comes in for criticism. Two key messages emerge.

First, whoever you are in the system, it may be your insistence on action that saves a child. Even people who are more skilled or qualified than you, or who are more senior or better paid, may be pre-occupied or tired, and may miss important evidence. Any professional with concerns needs to speak up, to ensure that they are properly evaluated and appropriate action is taken.

Secondly, in many cases where there is a tragic outcome there have been multiple stages when corrective action could have been taken by people from different professions and agencies. That Baby Peter died shows that all the services and professionals may get it wrong. We suspect, though, that this is the tip of an iceberg of cases where some practice has been faulty, but where the intervention of one or more professionals has got the case back on track, or where the level of damage suffered by the child has been diminished.

Such cases are not subject to Serious Case Reviews, and so this is an untested hypothesis. Research into a cross-section of cases could help to identify both the weaknesses in the system where things went wrong, and the strong points where corrective action was taken. Good policy and practice advice should be based on successes rather than failures.

You Can Foster

Twenty-three local authorities from across the North West have joined forces to create the largest ever regional fostering campaign under the banner You Can Foster aimed at dispelling many of the widely-held myths about foster caring. The campaign will also showcase the sheer diversity of potential foster carers throughout the region and how they can make a real difference to a child’s life.

You Can Foster will be launched with a region-wide multi-media campaign featuring TV, radio, print and social media. Experienced foster carers are the ‘stars’ of the campaign in order to help reach out to potential new carers. Potential carers will then be directed towards the new www.youcanfoster.org website.

In the North West alone there is a shortfall of between 1700 and 2000 foster carers which has led to a greater need than ever for new carers. The shortfall across England meanwhile is in excess of 8200. Over the last 30 years there have been significant changes in foster caring and the challenge for local authorities is to reflect these changes and attract a wider variety of carer than ever before.

The 23 local authorities collaborating on the campaign hope to approve a minimum of 150 new carers by campaign close and drive home the message that there is no ‘typical’ foster carer – that a suitable applicant can be from their 20s upwards, single, renters or homeowners, married or living together, in same sex or mixed sex relationships.

We wish the campaign success. Maybe some of the people being laid off by local authorities or being made redundant by companies with thin order books will think of applying. It could be a completely new – and very rewarding – career.

Family Eating

A number of firms are trying to encourage families to eat together. Colman’s have produced a new approach to easy weekday cooking for “busy mums” to feed their families with their Season and Shake baking bags. Apparently you get all the meat and veg chopped up, stick it in the bag with Colman’s herbs, shake it about a bit and then cook it, presumably in the bag. It sounds good, being simple, sealing in the flavours and reducing washing up (to help “busy dads”?). Maybe with all this juice and seasoning the bag becomes edible as well. If not, can we commend this to Colman’s to help with recycling?

Fun, Fitness and Football

We have received two very different releases designed to encourage children to take exercise.

The Haven Fun and Fitness programme offers free play equipment to nurseries to encourage children to be more active. The scheme has been running for three years already, and many nurseries have benefited or registered. If you are interested, see  www.havenfunfitness.com.

The second, run by Manchester City Football Club, encourages children and young people to practice skills at home, using their website as a teaching medium. See www.cityecademy.com. There is a self-scoring points system, and when someone has accumulated 500 points and reached the ‘Pro’ level, they are asked to get a friend to film them on their mobile and to let MCFC know, as there might be a chance…..  Football has focused so much in recent years on the super-professionals that it is good to see an attempt to widen the base by involving thousands of youngsters. Let’s see if it works.

Fun maybe, but no Football

We received the following advertisement, which should be read in conjunction with Emma Moore’s article about pink power and the News Views item above about child poverty.

Pampered Princesses

A superb birthday party for 12 to 18 years olds, including lunch or high tea, a manicure and pedicure and swim in the infinity pool. Bookings available between 12 and 5pm. 2 adults required per 5 children.  Cost £45 per person.

Girls Night In

The ultimate “sleepover”, for 4 to 6 girls, staying in a 2 or 3 bedroom Woodland Home for a night, including a late afternoon Spa Treatment (30 minute treatment), a bottle of champagne in each home, delivery of a home-made pizza, free movie, overnight stay and breakfast the next morning.  Cost £85 per person.

To book, call 01726 874051or email events@thecornwall.com

Accessible Theses

Another good news story. Course Leader Dr. Linnet McMahon of Reading University has completed the deposit of Therapeutic Child Care Course dissertations at the Planned Environment Therapy Trust Archive and Study Centre’s Research Library.

Apart from a small number which are entirely missing, all 76, ranging from 1993 to 2007 are now in the Planned Environment Therapy Trust Archive and Study Centre Research Library. A full list is available online at http://www.pettarchiv.org.uk/library/. Some have been made available online.

Hunting for Others

We applaud Reading University for their action, but does anyone know what happened to theses prepared for the Newcastle University Advanced Child Care Course under Haydn Davies Jones? And were there similar theses produced by students on the Bristol University course under Chris Beedell, or the London University course with Dr Andre? If you know where these archives are kept, or if you have a copy of your thesis, let us know or contact PETT, with a view to lodging it there for posterity.

‘Research’ 1

We are still bombarded by research findings. Apparently two-thirds of parents imitate TV’s Supernanny’s disciplinary techniques as shown on Channel 4.  57% use the ‘naughty spot’ while a further 39% issue warnings. In contrast, 21% use the same discipline on their children that their own parents used on them.

The poll by www.MyVoucherCodes.co.uk asked 1,281 parents across the UK how they learnt of the discipline techniques that they use with their children. The results show that 67% were taught their methods of discipline by Channel 4’s Supernanny, Jo Frost. In contrast, 14% of the respondents admitted to regularly threatening their children but not following through with the punishment, a method that Supernanny strongly advises against.

One in three of those asked also admitted to using the reward systems that are shown on the programme, 72% of whom cited that they have ‘drastically’ improved their children’s behaviour by using this method. A further 21% admitted to using the same forms of punishment as their own parents used on them, 2% of whom said they ‘lightly strike’ their children and 7% threaten to strike their children when they misbehave.

For us, this throws up two serious questions. First, if parents have been so affected by this programme, how should they be taught parenting? Once Health Visitors cease to give support, parents are on their own. This may be the point at which Sure Start Centres should be able to help, but the Government is intent on shutting many of them. Parents do need help; they have not always experienced good parenting themselves. They need a generally acceptable way to access help which does not imply that their children are at risk of being removed because they admit to problems.

Secondly, isn’t there a PhD waiting for someone who collates all these ‘research’ findings, to see whether they offer significant messages about parenting, children’s behaviour, and so on? There are dozens of them, each costing their sponsors a slab of money. Now if they could be co-ordinated……

‘Research’ 2

Other findings which you may find helpful in the next pub quiz. Did you know that :

  • 66% of newly-weds want a boy as their first child, and for 53% this was so that he could look out for his younger siblings?
  • according to www.bounty.com, 15% of parents argue every day during the pregnancy about the name of their child, and the children of these parents on average remain unnamed for eleven days after their births?
  • last year 533 children went to accident and emergency units on Bonfire Night, with burns being the most common injury (as we were informed by Nelsons Burns Cream)?
  • according to moneysupermarket.com, the cost of kitting kids out for the start of the new school year was £900 million?
  • during half-term week, according to npower, children spend an additional four hours watching TV, the same time again playing games consoles, and a staggering 2.5 hours blow drying and straightening their hair?  (We find that one hard to believe.)
  • Carlos Aguilar Julio has written a book on how to catch beetles?
  • there are two million pet rabbits in the UK and the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund is concerned that the recession will lead people to abandon their bunnies in the countryside? They give a dozen reasons why pet rabbits may not cope in the wild; to learn more, see http://www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk. The list of risks does not include the fact that rabbits are among the few edible pets, and at a time of recession…..

Lighter Later?

The clocks have been changed yet again and the Guild of Experienced Motorists are arguing that an hour of daylight should be moved from the morning to the evening.

David Williams, MBE, Chief Executive Officer of GEM Motoring Assist comments, “Poor weather, decreased visibility and bad road conditions are all rife during the winter months and have a serious effect on the rise in accidents and hazardous breakdown situations.  Changing the clocks only adds further to the dangers for road users particularly for those on foot including vulnerable school children.  What’s more, with the recent news that councils are planning to dim or turn off street lights in certain areas of the country, making conditions even worse, there is no better time to champion the need for lighter evenings. I would strongly encourage people to sign up to the campaign by visiting www.lighterlater.org and show support for a campaign that has so many benefits”.

We’re not persuaded. We can’t see the point of the twice-yearly disruption to our lives anyway. If farmers want to get up earlier in summer to make best use of the longer hours, who is stopping them? If children are at risk going to school or back home in the dark, why can’t the schools shorten the working day in mid-winter? It might have made a difference in wartime, but that was over sixty years ago. We back the Private Member’s Bill to abandon clock-changing, and to leave it to people to get up and go to bed when it suits them.

Recommendations

We don’t usually recommend goods or services to our readers, but this month here are two we are happy to support.

The Norfolk Children’s Book Centre is reached by a single track road in the tiny hamlet of Alby. It may sound as if it is at the back of beyond, but it is actually only a few hundred yards off the A140, and can be spotted easily because for many years before ecology became popular it has had its own wind turbine, which can be seen across the fields.

Inside, it is an Aladdin’s Cave of books about children and young people, and for children and young people. It was set up largely as a resource for teachers, and it has become a Mecca for the profession, with a steady flow of pilgrims. Marilyn Brocklehurst, who runs the NCBC, has contributed an article for this issue, for which we are grateful, as she is in steady demand as a speaker or adviser on children’s reading.

Norfolk is worth visiting anyway – the Broads, the coast, Pensthorpe, the stately homes – but if you are wondering where to go for a few days, a trip to Alby could tip the balance. See www.ncbc.co.uk.

Secondly, have you ever thought of joining the National Children’s Bureau (or NCB)? Its fees are modest for individual members, and it supplies information of all sorts for your money. There are the website and percentages off conferences too.

The NCB is at the middle of just about everything going on in child care. It does not do everything itself, but believes in working in partnership, and it has working links with dozens of organisations. It is therefore ideally sited as a networking umbrella organisation with masses of information to share.

The profession and the services need the NCB. If you identify with them, there are altruistic reasons for joining NCB too, to act as the voice of people who work with children and young people. It does a good job in its links with Government, but it is important – if the NCB is to speak with due weight – that it should be supported by large numbers of those who are concerned for children’s welfare. Try www.ncb.org.uk.

From the Case Files

Mother said that the clothes melt because of the damp.

Shouldn’t make them out of rice paper.

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