News Views

Including time out, Sir Paul Ennals, social pedagogy and kinship care

Time Out

Lesley Wright is asking for your views on time out in a short article towards the end of this edition.

We recall visiting a children’s home in Israel some years ago. In fact it was more like a village, with fourteen units each taking forty children – five hundred and sixty in all. Not only that, there was a comprehensive school serving the area with another thousand or more attending daily. Surely there must have been times when there was a need to suspend or expel a young person – drug-taking or violence perhaps? “No”, said Zvi Levi, the Principal. “We are surrounded by woods, and in the woods there are cottages used as holiday lets. If a child breaches our code of behaviour, I say, ‘Our contract is at an end. If you want to resume our contract, let me know.’ And then they go and live in one of the chalets, and their friends go out and take food to them. And a few days later they come in and say, ‘Can we start the contract again?’ So they come back. We have never expelled anyone.”

Zvi Levi was one of the most charismatic child care workers we have ever met, and his approach worked. There are bound to be regulations in the UK which would prevent this sort of wise decision, and it is doubtful whether the bureaucratic approach taken in this country would be more child-friendly, safe or effective.

Thankyou, Paul Ennals

Farewell parties have been held at the National Children’s Bureau and the Department for Education for Sir Paul Ennals, who has completed his thirteen years as Chief Executive of the NCB. It has been a golden era for the NCB, and much has been achieved under his leadership, not only in terms of specific projects but also the political influence of the Bureau.

There has been a greater emphasis on the needs of children with disabilities. The voices of children and young people have been listened to consistently and they have been involved in the governance of the NCB. Play has received proper attention. Every Child Matters was created under the Bureau’s influence. The SureStart programme was originally dreamt up in Wakley Street. The Children’s Workforce Development Council was pushed by the NCB. And so on.

Some of these programmes have been curtailed by the current government, but some have become part of the accepted thinking about services for children and young people. Throughout Paul’s time with the NCB there has been both growth and pruning, but they have been the signs of a healthy and fit organisation. He had been intending to leave eighteen months ago, but was persuaded to remain during the election, and he then stayed on to manage the difficult period of cuts. He has never ducked difficult decisions.

In his youth Sir Paul suffered severe illness and did not expect a long adulthood, so he decided to pack as much as possible into his life. He got a first at Oxford and worked in residential child care as the start of his career. He was the right person for the right organisation in his move to the NCB, and his knighthood was well merited. He is going to remain as Chair of the CWDC, though its future after March 2012 is very uncertain, but he now intends to have space to think. We can’t imagine him sitting quietly for too long. He may emerge in a different field, but wherever he goes Paul will no doubt have an impact.

Thankyou, Paul.

See Social Pedagogy in Action

Jacaranda are organising a three-day field study trip to Hamburg, starting on 28 September 2011. The programme consists of a variety of visits and discussions, and should be good value @ £400 +VAT. There are only fifteen places, so book now if you are interested. Contact Abbey Ladbrooke on [email protected]

Should Children Choose their Placements?

Elsewhere in this issue Meredith Kiraly reports on her research into kinship care in Australia. In the UK quite a lot of children are placed with grandparents or aunts and uncles if their parents cannot care for them. As Meredith reports, there can be problems; ageing grandparents may die, for example, leaving the need to find another placement. There is one angle, though, which intrigues us and which, we believe merits study.

Children taken into care often turn to a relative – perhaps their parents – on leaving care. It may be the person they like or trust most; it is quite often a parent who abused them when they were younger. If that is their choice, the question is whether they should have been placed there, rather than going into care. Did the child explicitly say that s/he wanted to live with that person when being admitted to care? Did the social worker know best? Were there reasons why the placement would not have worked at that time? On leaving care, are there risks to the young person being placed, for example if returning to an abuser? With hindsight would the social worker have made the same placement?

A retrospective study might throw up some interesting lessons for those taking children into care and deciding on placements.

From the Case Files

She was in a terrible moo today.

Feeling lows

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