News Views

Locking up Children is Wrong

Three cheers for Julian Huppert, the LibDem MP who asked Nick Clegg a parliamentary question about Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre, and three cheers for Nick Clegg for his answer. At Prime Minister’s Questions, Nick Clegg described the detention of children as a “moral outrage”. A thousand children were locked up in Yarl’s Wood last year. “This coalition government… will once again restore a sense of decency and liberty to the way in which we conduct ourselves. I can confirm that the government will come forward shortly with an announcement about how we will deliver on our pledge to end child detention and to close the Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre for good.”

As Martin Narey, Chief Executive of Barnardo’s, commented, locking up children is “unnecessary, expensive and more to the point, just plain wrong”. We agree.

A New Approach to Justice

The Government’s vision for radical reform to criminal justice has been published. The Ministry of Justice Green Paper, Breaking the cycle: effective punishment, rehabilitation and sentencing of offenders sets out how the Government proposes to take forward ambitious plans for improving public safety. Although the proposals mainly affect adults, we welcome them.

After decades of reactionary punitive Home Secretaries, Ken Clarke is a breath of fresh air as Minister of Justice. Thousands of people who were legally children have been locked up in penal institutions without the resources to offer education and proper rehabilitation. Simply punishing offenders does not provide justice or protection for them, their victims or the community as a whole. A system of restorative justice and reparation will enable offenders to learn about the impact of their offences, let the victims speak up and reduce offending.

Leaving Care

On Human Rights Day (10 December 2010), SOS Children’s Villages published a report on the situation of young people ageing out of care in Europe and Central Asia. The report consists of 13 country reviews, from Albania, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Poland, the Russian Federation, and Uzbekistan. It also includes first hand accounts from young people, and a conclusion written by Mike Stein, renowned research professor in the field of leaving care.

We hadn’t come across the term “ageing out of care” before. Where has it come from? English is now the international child care language, so it may be an import.


The Nose Has It

In his article on choosing a nursery in this month’s issue Arti Poddar recommends that parents should use all their senses, and he then goes on to mention things which can be observed, using sight.

We agree with his advice but we also recommend that parents should pay attention to smell. It is an underrated sense, and it is not as well developed in humans as in most animals, perhaps because we need it less to survive. Nonetheless, odours are important (even if subliminal) in creating atmospheres and they influence our judgements, perhaps unconsciously.

We recall the institutional smell of Cheltenham Floor Polish which used to pervade public schools and approved schools alike. The term is ungooglable, so maybe the firm has gone out of business. We know that homes for older people do not need to smell of incontinence, and a pervasive stench of urine is an indicator to avoid placing granny there. We are not sure, however, what a nursery should smell like. Perhaps it is more that bad smells put us off. After all, we cannot expect a nursery to smell as attractive as roasting coffee.

The X Factor

No, not the TV programme, but the quality – or qualities – which make us decide that a placement is right or that standards in a child care facility are acceptable. If we are selecting a restaurant or buying a house, some of the factors are easily identifiable (the prices on the menu, the number of bedrooms) but others are hard to pin down. They may be beyond words or hard to define – an ambience, a feeling, a je ne sais quoi.

The problem with inspecting children’s services or choosing placements for children is that the most important factors may be the hardest to identify. The danger is that commissioners and inspectors focus on the factors which they can describe and justify, and that they ignore the subtler qualities, which may be just the ones that make the place work (or be unsuitable) for children. Our plea is that people making decisions should pay attention to their hunches and subjective feelings, analyse them and then see whether they can be justified with evidence.


The latest findings we have received are about toddlers’ tantrums. The research, conducted by, of 1,683 parents across the UK with children aged between one and three, aimed to discover the amount of time toddlers spend having tantrums each year.

The parents surveyed were asked how many tantrums their child had per week and how long they lasted for. On average, it was found that toddlers had 12 tantrums per week and parents also admitted that their child’s tantrums lasted for 30 minutes, equating to six hours per week. This would equate to 13 whole days spent having a tantrum in a 12 month period.

When asked the multi-answer question, “What do you do to stop your child having a tantrum?” over a third, 37%, of those admitted that they used bribery to stop their children from crying. Another 19% admitted to giving in and letting their child have what they wanted in order to stop the tantrum. 11% said that they thought ignoring their child when they had a tantrum about something insignificant was the best way to teach them that it was not the way to get something they wanted. Over half, 57%, of the parents surveyed admitted lying to other parents about the amount of tantrums their child has, in order to make them seem like a better parent.

What has happened? The quality of parenting must have deteriorated dramatically without our noticing.

CORE: Sweet Success

The 2011 Conference is being held at Milton Hershey School in Pennsylvania from 16 – 18 March 2011. CORE represents boarding schools in the United States, and the title of their Conference this year is Sweet Success.

Heidi Goldsmith, Executive Director, writes, “All parents want their children to be successful in life; all children want to be a ‘success’. But what does a ‘success’ look like? When other people’s children are in our care, how do we assist — and how do we measure – their success? Sweet Success, the 2011 CORE National Conference, will focus on a myriad of aspects of providing economically and socially disadvantaged children and youth with living and learning environments so they can realize their full potential. We welcome you – and urge you – to join us at this year’s main event in the field of residential education, adding your knowledge, expertise, questions, and experiences”.

For the latest information and to register:
Event Code: 55NWYVPMGY3

With a bit of luck the snow will have melted by March, and you’ll get a warm welcome.

The Mouse Club

We have been asked to plug the Mouse Club, a free educational website which offers games and activities for children as well as ideas for parents and teachers to help support their child and pupils. The Mouse Club website has just been re-designed and re-launched to provide children aged 3 – 7 and their parents with activities to keep the kids entertained whilst learning.

The site, which was created by d2 Digital, educational resource specialists, has been redesigned to encourage young people aged 3-10 to have fun while they learn.

All aspects of the site are based around the bright and colourful lives of three inquisitive mice. d2 Digital say that the site includes lots of inspiring activities to develop a variety of skills in young children such as; stories to read, games to teach children keyboard skills and arts and crafts to do at home, all of which are designed to educate young people.

That’s what they say. Let us know what you think.

The Pushmepullyou

Do you remember Doctor Doolittle’s animal which was going in two directions at the same time? It’s hard being in government at a time of severe cuts. Here is the coalition arguing for better use of parks under Healthy Lives Healthy People, while at the same time pulling the funding from Play England, Labour’s big scheme to encourage children into active play. Funding through the National Lottery is welcome, but it is not the same thing as long-term core finance. Cuts may be needed, but our little non-voters seem to be getting more than their fair share

Youth and Policy

Youth and Policy Issue 105 is now available on line at
Articles include:

  • Youth Work in a Cold Climate – Tom Wylie;
  • The ‘Teen Brain’ Research: Critical Perspectives – Howard Sercombe;
  • What has Cornelius Castoriadis to say about Youth Work? – Tony Taylor.
  • Straws in the Wind: The State of Youth Work in a Changing Policy Environment – Bernard Davies;
  • The Antisocialisation of Children and Young People: Undermining Professionals and Colonising Everyday Life- Stuart Waiton;
  • ‘Preferred Futures’: Active Citizenship, Government and Young People’s Voices – Jason Wood;

Nothing to do with Child Care

We wonder sometimes what sort of magazine PR agencies think we are running. This month we were advised to spice up our love lives by using Mini Hottie Heart Hand Warmers, Libido Patches and Massage Oils, and were told, “There’s guaranteed to be something for everyone”. So presumably they expect child care workers who read News Views to be dashing off to get patches for all their kids…..

On the Other Hand

We were told about Firefly Character Toothbrushes, which are described as “the perfect way to get little ones to brush their teeth! Firefly toothbrushes have a light up technology which lights up for one minute for the top set of teeth and another minute for the bottom set. They are really great for getting kids to brush teeth and having fun with it as well as getting into a routine”. It may be just the latest gimmick, but if it works…..

From the Case Files

Mother could be illusive at times.

When she went missing.

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