A mixture of news items, events, comments and whimsies, including research into leaving care, reading records, creating villages out of gangs, goodenoughcaring, residential care in Australia, Interconnection, electrical danger zones in your house, teenagers and good news about fees.
Care Leavers accessing Further Education
Research is being conducted by Patricia McQueen on The Experiences of Care Leavers in Scottish Further Education Colleges. The study is targeting what can only be described as a gap in previous research, as there has been a report compiled on Going to University from Care by Sonia Jackson et al, and much on looked after children (LAC) in school, but nothing to date on Further Education (FE). In Sonia Jackson’s report the percentage of care leavers accessing university was 1%, of which 40% had accessed FE.
When we were contacted, the researcher, from the Department of Educational & Professional Studies in the University of Strathclyde was still short of at least four participants. Accessing participants has been difficult at times. If readers know of any care leavers (young and old – some 40+ year olds would be extremely useful) who are attending Scottish FE colleges, and would consider being interviewed, could you please ask them to contact Trish McQueen. The only requirement of the study is that participants were in care sometime between birth and 16 years of age, and are now attending a Scottish FE college.
Tricia hopes that her research has a positive impact on services and provision for care leavers, and allows college to be a more feasible option post-compulsory education than it is at the moment. She is also looking at the lack of services beyond the care system for care leavers, and the lack of financial and emotional support provided / on offer, as she feels that care leavers are often abandoned by the system and left to fend for themselves. If parents do not abandon their children in this way, neither should the corporate parent.
If you can help, contact Trish McQueen:
T: 0141 950 3685
Reading records : a New Approach Needed?
Varda Mann-Feder’s piece on the problems faced by young people leaving care for so-called independent living triggered a thought. In the UK, under the Data Protection Act, people can ask to have access to records held relating to themselves. When the law was first implemented, local authorities were very defensive when clients asked to see their social work files. After all, the reports and ongoing case records had been written by professionals for professionals, on the assumption that the clients would never read them. It was uncomfortable for professionals to have their views and actions brought into the open, subject to scrutiny.
Social services staff are now well aware that the records they maintain may be read, but if requests are made, it is often because of a complaint being made as a result of unhappiness about the service received, so that there is still a danger of authorities responding defensively in case of criticism, rather than helpfully to enable the client to understand how their case was handled in the face of their changing needs and circumstances.
Maybe, though, the opening of files should be seen positively and we need to take an entirely different approach. In the same way that young children have lifestory books as a way of helping them understand their circumstances and develop their identities as people who matter, maybe going through the case files should be something that is done on a standard basis by social workers with young people in care before their cases are closed or passed on to their colleagues providing services for adults – as a sort of rite of passage into adulthood.
This could help them understand what had happened in their lives, remove the air of secrecy, encourage them to take over accountability for their lives as adults, and maybe reduce the number of complaints and legal actions for damages.
Keith White has used his column this month to emphasise the importance of the small communities (whether rural villages or some sort of urban community) for people to be a part of – where they have a place and a significance, where they interrelate with other people, where they can tell their story and their story is remembered.
Varda Mann-Feder speaks of all the young people leaving care who are expected to find their way in life without the support of their families, often at an age when most people would still be with their families. Unless given the right support, they are expected to go out into the wider community and develop a social network on their own – a tough expectation for anyone, but harder on people who have suffered enough to require care away from their families. And often, they end up living in communities which are already overloaded with other people with problems.
As the Beatles described it, “all the lonely people” live isolated lives while existing within a few yards of dozens of others. Loneliness is created by lack of relationships, not the proximity of people. Cities in particular seem to attract people who suffer fractured relationships, whose pain is assuaged by keeping other people at arms’ length or by maintaining a flow of ever-changing relationships.
Yet in urban communities there are villages. Mill Grove, where Keith works, is virtually a village in its own right, though it also plays a significant role in its neighbourhood. Most people probably live in a number of different communities – at work, in their home neighbourhood, in their families, socially through shared leisure pursuits. Sometimes these groups overlap, but not always. The pattern described in Family and Kinship in East London in Bethnal Green to which Kathleen Lane refers has disappeared for the most part.
Is it any wonder that a percentage of young people end up in gangs, which offer them significant roles, friendship and support? It is the antisocial nature of gang activities which makes them threatening to the wider society. To try to do away with gangs misses the point. People need to belong and have significance, but preferably in constructive, positive communities.
The answer has to be to subvert the gangs and turn them into villages. Instead of knife fights, how about football leagues? Or competitive bands or choirs? (Remember Blackbird Leys.) Instead of jailing ‘ringleaders’ and witnessing more knife deaths, give the gangs some responsibility (and cash) for their neighbourhoods, to see which can create the best communities. It will be more effective and a lot cheaper than keeping them in prison.
Charles Sharpe has emailed to say that the third edition of the magazine he edits is now online at www.goodenoughcaring.com. Its principal theme is a consideration of the idea ‘Love is enough’ when it comes to bringing up children wherever they may be living. The magazine, which is six-monthly, is free on the web and has more than a dozen contributions.
Charles says, “Lively and telling positional pieces from Jeremy Millar, Mark Smith and Martin Wigg set the scene while other articles by Jo Nash, (who describes her recent work in India) Jane Kenny and Douglas Cameron explore the idea from direct evidence of their practice. David Murphy and Bob Billingham give courageous and revealing personal accounts of their experiences of residential child care in the 1960s. Jan Noble has provided us with three more of his poems”.
Goodenoughcaring are putting on a conference in London on Saturday October 4th and launching a book on the same day, both with the title, Love Is Enough : sincerity and professionalism in the care of children and young people.
For the magazine or for more information about the conference, see www.goodenoughcaring.com .
We would like to commend Children Australia to you. It is a quarterly professional journal aimed at academics and professionals working in the field of services for children, publishing practice and research material mainly – but not entirely – from Australia, with a view to improving policy, practice and programme development. Each issue has about half a dozen articles, and the journal has been going for thirty years. The current Editor is Jennifer Lehmann of La Trobe University, Bendigo, Victoria, supported by staff at Oz Child.
The latest issue focuses on residential child care. It has more articles than usual, including one by Frank Ainsworth, arguing that group homes are not enough for children with a high level of needs.
As with all hard copy professional journals, the price is steep for the private pocket, but it is modest by comparison with some, and universities and professional bodies should get a copy: $A88 per annum or $A175 for two years. Contact Children Australia, PO Box 1312, South Melbourne, Vic 3205, Australia, or email [email protected].
While talking about journals, the second issue of Interconnections, put together by Peter Limbrick, has come out. As it is three months since the last, it is presumably intended to be a quarterly. Interconnections is available on the web, but access to articles is by subscription, though he also publishes a free information bulletin.
The main focus for Interconnections is on babies and young children with multiple needs. As it so happens, one of the main articles in this issue of Interconnections is about the use of early intervention teams in Australia, and there is also a piece by a parent, giving the consumer’s views. Other articles focus on support systems during pre-school years, including conductive education, postural care and parents as keyworkers.
To see more or to subscribe, go to www.icwhatsnew.com.
Children’s Bedrooms are Electrical Danger Zones.
Until we got the press release, this thought had not struck us, so we presume that there are likely to be readers in the same boat
Research commissioned by the Electrical Safety Council has found that roughly two in three 4-11 year olds in the UK (63%) now have their own TV in their bedroom. And, nearly half of young children (48%) have games consoles or other electrical toys in their room. 38% had mobile phones charging in their room, and around a third of children (34%) had their own computer set up in their bedroom, many of which are accompanied by printers, scanners and other electrical kit.
Risks are increased because bedrooms rarely have sufficient power points for the number of appliances, and overloading plug sockets presents a very real fire hazard. Lamps, music systems, hair styling appliances, such as hair straighteners, and clock radios were amongst other electrical items commonly left plugged into the mains supply in children’s bedrooms.
Since around 30 people are killed and thousands are injured through electric shocks or electrical fires every year in the UK, the Electrical Safety Council has issued advice – to avoid overloading sockets and trailing wires, to switch off, to check equipment for damage, to avoid getting equipment wet and to teach children to use equipment responsibly.
To help children understand more about electricity and keeping safe, the Electrical Safety Council has a website www.switchedonkids.org.uk which includes “a fun interactive house they can explore to alert them to the dangers of electricity that could be lurking in their home. There are also games and quizzes, as well as a section for parents, which includes vital first aid information”.
What we have always wondered is why we need three-pin plugs in this country when everyone else makes do with two. Do they have higher death rates in other countries?
Fanta have undertaken a survey of what parents think of teenagers, and they sent us a long email with their findings. We’re not going to quote the lot here, but suffice to say that the findings were pretty encouraging, and about 70% of parents blame the media for giving teenagers an undeserved bad name.
If you would like to be cheered up by reading the whole thing (as an antidote to the Daily Mail), download the Fanta Guide to Teenagers, including the Do’s and Don’ts to parenting a teenager, on www.fanta.co.uk/guidetoteenagers.
More good news – and a nice note to end on. Earlier this year the Department for Children, Schools and Families (at one time the Ministry for Education) launched a consultation into a proposed new fees structure for childcare registration in England, increasing both application and annual fees for the Ofsted Childcare Register to £103 in September 2008 and fees for the Early Years Register to £100 in 2010.
In the course of consultations, 3,000 childminders contacted them (orchestrated by the National Child Minding Association) and the Department listened to their concerns and announced that the fees for the Early Years Register will increase in small increments over the next three years, while the Department explores “a more proportionate and fair” fees system beyond 2010.
It’s good news for childminders. It’s good news for the NCMA. And it’s good to see an instance where the Government listened and responded, not least because the original proposal was a bad idea which would have damaged services for children.
From the Case Files
John fell into a large cooking pot and his leg was badly braised.
We made the first bit up.