News Views


We received a beautiful brochure asking us to sponsor a child with Plan. The eight-page glossy had well written and nicely illustrated stories about children’s services in Tanzania, Togo, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, Nepal and Sierra Leone, and it asked us to help make poverty history by being part of Plan. We hadn’t heard of Plan before, and the glossy actually said nothing about the organisation that we could find.

While its stated aims are thoroughly laudable, how do we know whether it is sound, how efficient it is, who runs it, and can they be trusted with our money? Does anyone know of a website which evaluates charities, and tells us whether they are delivering what they aim to do? Plan’s glossy was produced by the Guardian, and for all we know, their head office might be in San Serif.

Fancy a Trip to Canada?

Here’s a plug for the Eighth International Child and Youth Care Conference in Montreal from 17 – 20 October 2006. The theme is Beyond Borders : Caring for the Future of Children, Youth and Families. The reason for the plug? They always organise good conferences in Canada, with interesting speakers and excellent opportunities for networking about the latest ideas in childcare. For more details look at .

Changing Names

The Voice of the Child in Care – VCC – has changed its name to Voice, on the grounds that its work has expanded to deal with people in young offenders’ institutions and asylum-seekers.

We have mixed feelings about this sort of change. Obviously, some of the young people and young adults with whom they work do not see themselves as being children or as being “in care”, which is a dated term anyway. Voice also has the merit of meaning virtually anything, so that they could set up elocution lessons, teach yodelling or provide advocacy for old people without having to change their name again.

On the other hand, we have doubts about name changes. After building up a reputation under their original name, they have now lost the brand image. Those who knew what the VCC was will need to learn about Voice. Every time someone comes across Voice, its remit will need explaining; the name says nothing.

There are shades of the ill-fated change to Scope, which some people wish to change yet again. NCH have quietly lost their Action for Children appendage, which was quite a mouthful and did not work. And what was gained by losing the Dr from Barnardo’s? Some organisations, such as AIEJI, keep the old initials while changing their strapline. Couldn’t VCC have thought of some new words to fit the old initials?

Implementing Children’s Rights

We were walking through the empty streets of Copenhagen the other Sunday morning; the sky was cold and grey, and snow was in the air. A cheery man approached and offered us a leaflet. In view of the day of the week, we assumed that it was a religious tract, but were interested to find that it was actually a 30-page booklet from an organisation called Youth for Human Rights International, and it was advocating the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights passed in 1949, spelling out the rights simply for children.

The organisation has an interesting website on, which speaks of their campaign to teach children round the world about human rights. It makes no mention of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child, perhaps because the United States is one of the two countries which are not signatories. We applaud them for encouraging human rights round the world, but would be happier if some of their energies went on getting their own Government to catch up with the rest of the world.

Costs 1

We were rooting through some old newspapers the other day and found the Guardian graphic on Childcare in the UK (12 December 2005). An interesting point in relation to Valerie Jackson’s piece this month is that in the UK, parents pay 75% of the costs of childcare, while in Denmark, Finland and Sweden the amount is respectively 33%, 15%, and 11%. If schooling is free, why not pre-school childcare? There’s a thought for the new caring Conservative leader or Charles Kennedy’s successor to latch on to. It could solve Valerie’s problem. And, for information, the day nursery market was worth £3.2 billion in 2004. Wow.

Costs 2

Just to put the above figures into perspective, the Guardian reported (13 January 2006, p. 26) that some Russian orphanages were actually spending less than a penny a day on each child. Even if the cost of survival rations in Russia is less than in Britain, that level of funding is desperate. The report said that “These were practically closed institutions, which are completely unaccountable”.

Is it any wonder that the children who grow up in these institutions prefer to live on the street in St Petersburg and Moscow, or to make their way to Denmark via Poland? (See our article this month on Tackling Trafficking in Denmark.) And is it any wonder that children brought up in such poverty – financial, cultural and emotional – are ready prey for those who wish to exploit them?


Do you need advice and information about learning disabilities –

  • ADHD,
  • autism,
  • Asperger Syndrome,
  • Down’s syndrome,
  • dyslexia,
  • dyspraxia ,
  • attachment disorder,
  • Tourette’s syndrome,
  • epilepsy, fragile X,
  • obsessive compulsive disorder,
  • pathological demand avoidance,
  • Prader-Willi syndrome,
  • Rett syndrome,
  • Williams syndrome or
  • semantic pragmatic disorder

which mean that your son or daughter needs special help? Try contacting OAASIS – the Office for Advice, Assistance, Support and Information on Special Needs by looking at their website on , emailing [email protected] or phoning the helpline UK (0)1590 – 622880. They have dozens of information sheets and guides, and have been offering guidance to parents and professionals since 1996.


It was Professor Jim Anglin’s research that showed how important congruence is. In the most successful children’s homes, a key factor was the way that everything cohered – the aims of the home, the stated working method and policies, the actual practice, what the manager said and what the staff did. If it all fitted together, it was self-reinforcing. Staff knew what to do, and knew they would be backed up by colleagues and managers if they did it. Children had the security of knowing where they stood and that staff meant what they said.

Interestingly, in the recent spat in the Anti-Bullying Alliance (largely stirred up by the press, it is said), there have been accusations of bullying. Clearly, if one believes in ways of dealing with bullies which do not entail further bullying, it is something which needs to be practised by the opponents of bullying too. We need congruence. A house divided against itself falls.

Lessons from History

We’ve been reading the Goldsmiths’ Free Grammar School by P. S.  Barclay, which tells the story of education in Cromer from the founding of the school in 1505 to the point at which it closed in 1897. The picture painted was matched with variations in most towns in the country.

Worthy people who valued education endowed schools and appointed masters to run them. If we think we have problems of staff recruitment and misbehaviour on the part of the schoolchildren today, reading the histories of such schools provides a new perspective. Some of the teachers were illiterate or simply absented themselves. Attendance was very lax, especially when older children had to help look after younger siblings or help with harvesting.

The book quotes the Regulations laid down in 1857, which included :

2          Every Boy admitted must be tidy in his Clothes, have clean hands and face and feet (if without shoes) and his hair must be cut short and then.
4          If any Boy absent himself one week without leave of the Master, he will be dismissed.
7          Every Boy in each Class must stand upright and not touch another.

Dismissal must certainly have been an easy way of solving truancy problems, and Regulation 7 presumably explains why it was Rugby and not Cromer that invented the great game. The mind boggles as to why the Regulation was needed.

From the Case Files

He showed no difficulty in being the mildly discipling parent when necessary.

Father gathering his flock gently?

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