News Views – July 2007

A mixture of news items, events, comments and whimsies, including bicycles, Every Child Matters, dummies, confidentiality, the history of child care, bathkidslitfest, summer time in Bath, money, the Mulberry Bush, bullying and a new(ish) journal.

Every Child Matters – so do the Rest of Us

The five main concerns of Every Child Matters have been the themes about which Valerie Jackson has written over the last five issues. ECM, as it is now known, is well established – so well established that its headings are being applied to adults as well. The framework hawked around by the Department for Education and Skills was selected in preference to the Department of Health model, and it is a sign not only of how well established the model is but also of how well thought out it was in the first place. This framework is sound enough for it to outlive the Government that introduced it.

The fact that the model has been considered transferable to adults is interesting. Over the history of welfare services there is a pendular swing between going more specialist and becoming more generic.

The Seebohm Report was seen as the classic case of advocating and generic approach. There was the “one door” for all social services clients, to be served in departments which met all needs. The fact that Seebohm did not argue for all social workers to have mixed case loads did not prevent a Gadarene dash to ditch specialisms in the early 1970s, with the resulting loss of expertise and networks.

The Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work at the same time introduced generic training for social workers obtaining the Certificate of Qualification in Social Work, though the opportunity for specialism was maintained through the modular Certificate in Social Services.

Now we are generally heading back to specialisms, with separate children’s services set up in local authorities, a growing interest in social pedagogy, a Children’s Workforce Development Council, and so on.

Interestingly, Britain has headed in the opposite direction from Europe as the pendulum has gone back and forth. While Britain headed for genericism in the 1970s, Europe was emphasising the specialist childcare model of social education / pedagogy. Now, as Britain gets interested in a specialist children’s approach, Europe is broadening out, applying its childcare thinking to other client groups.

Which is what makes the use of ECM thinking for adults so interesting. Is it the very first glimmer of the movement back to genericism? Perhaps it will grow in force during the 2010s and the 2020s, resulting in Seebohm II in 2031, to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the introduction of Social Services Departments following the Local Government Act 1970. Read this column in 23 years’ time to find out.

Underlying all the swings and trends and changing legislation and training systems, there are the twin facts (a) that whatever our ages, we share a lot in common, and (b) people do have special needs at different stages in their lives.


The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID), in its latest advice to parents with regard to dummies or soothers, said, “Settling your baby to sleep with a dummy – even for naps – can reduce the risk of cot death. If breastfeeding, do not begin to give a dummy until your baby is one month old to ensure breastfeeding is well-established. Don’t worry if the dummy falls out while your baby is asleep, and don’t force your baby to take a dummy if he or she doesn’t want it. Never coat the dummy in anything sweet.”

FSID’s scientific advisor, Professor George Haycock, says, “A number of epidemiological research studies have appeared in the last few years suggesting that babies who are regularly given a dummy when put down to sleep are less likely to die suddenly and unexpectedly than those who are not. To attempt to clarify the issue, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) set up a research group to investigate the published literature on this subject, and they performed a meta-analysis1 of all adequately designed studies. They found that the overall risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome was halved by dummy use, and as a result of this finding the AAP now recommends that a dummy should be offered every time an infant is put down to sleep, once breast feeding has been established, which they estimated would be the case after one month of age. A more recent study from California found an even greater protective effect of dummy use but was published too late to be included in the meta-analysis.”
The FSID has joined forces with MAM, “the UK’s soother specialists”, in a two-year partnership to promote this important health message.
We have always felt uneasy about the use of dummies, as they appear to use an occasional experience which is rewarding to the baby (i.e. breast-feeding) as a continuous expectation. How does this compare with chain-smoking or non-stop sweet-eating or staying high on drugs? We welcome the reduction of SIDS deaths, and if dummies work, they should be used. But what is the mechanism that makes them effective? And how does it link or compare with other similar behaviours?

Does Confidentiality Matter?

There have been strong arguments put forward against the data base for children run by ContactPoint. It will contain every child in the country and a third of a million professionals will be able to access it to find out which other professionals are working with the family. Objectors are bothered about the security of data and confidentiality.

We can see the point for having the system, in that it may prove useful to professionals, but we also appreciate the sceptics’ viewpoint, as it’s a massive investment in cash and time, and it may not prove to be value for money. We’ve also got two comments of our own to add.

The first is that before long society may have reached the point where it is less concerned about confidentiality. In hospital they draw the curtains round your bed, then talk in loud voices so that all the other patients can hear. We have CCTV cameras everywhere. Contestants don’t seem to mind being filmed in intimate situations for Big Brother and its ilk. People talk freely about their lives on chat shows. They pose starkers in their thousands for mass nude photos. Maybe we just have to assume that everything we do is known by everyone, that life in future will be transparent. As long as Government is equally transparent, so that the data are not misused, do we need to be so prissy about confidentiality?

Our second point is that if the equipment is anything like as good as that used for the other mammoth systems set up by the Government, it won’t work anyway.


The human mind looks for patterns in things, trying to make sense of the incoming data. There was presumably a time when this skill helped our hunting ancestors spot prey, but it is still part of our functioning in doing things as useless as seeing faces in clouds. Anyway, there seems to have been a pattern in the emails we have received, as quite a number have been concerned with bicycles. Is this co-incidence, or a part of a campaign?
To mark this summer’s Tour de France, which for the first time breaks with tradition and starts in London, the Science Museum is hosting a three day event showcasing the very latest in cycling technology. Visitors will be able to see a display of cutting-edge and world famous bikes which are allowing cyclists to ride faster than ever before including bikes officially banned from the Tour. Experts will also be on hand to explain the latest technology and gadgets. The event will take place in the Antenna science news gallery from Wednesday 25 to Friday 27 July 2007.

Then there was the report of  the opening of a cycle track at Burnwood Community School, Chell Heath, as part of National Bike Week. The Track is phase one of a project funded partly by Advantage West Midlands with the aim of regenerating areas for community use. It will become a hub for all cycling related training and activities in North Staffordshire, with mountain biking, BMX racing, Track cycling and road safety being available.

While on about bicycles, we should report the views of a lady in her 80s, who complains about the selfishness of cyclists who choose at times to be traffic and at times to be pedestrians. One of her acquaintances has had a terrible time, following a hip replacement and complications because, having carefully crossed the road at the lights, a speedy cyclist knocked her down when she had gained the supposed safety of the pavement.

Perhaps, in these days of regulation, it’s time for people who cycle on roads where speeds of over 20 mph are permitted to have to pass a test, at the same time introducing much wider use of 20 mph limits to give pedestrians and kids on bikes priority in residential areas.

History is bunk

So said Henry Ford, unless it is one of those myths, attributed to him but never actually uttered by the great man.

We have been fortunate to get Keith White’s recent paper to the SIRCC Conference for this issue. It is a tribute to the great childcare innovators of the past, and clearly Keith does not agree with Henry Ford, likening child care to standing on the shoulders of giants such as Korczak.

We disagree with Henry too. We have written more than once about our indebtedness to those who fought for children’s rights, education and care in the past, and about the blinkered way in which we develop new approaches without learning from earlier mistakes.

There are societies of people dedicated to the history of medicine. But there is no organisation for child care historians. Archives seem to be scattered widely and we have not yet come across any university which claims to specialise in this field.

Of course, there is no money in it. But the subject is important, if only because of the money wasted and the harm done to children if we do not learn from the past. Indeed, it could be argued that the teaching of child care would improve if it spent half the curriculum looking at its history, whether focusing on the giants and their working methods or the contributions of more humble workers who don’t lay claim to the charisma of the greats. Every new idea has been tried before, and if we examine what happened before we will learn why it did – or didn’t – work.

So here’s another new idea. Let’s set up a Network of Child Care Historians. Maybe it’s not a new idea. Perhaps there is one already. If so, can you let us know so that we can advertise it?

Bath : I

What has happened to Bath? A cultured Georgian city with a refined image has, all of a sudden, been deluging us with emails.

First, the Daily Telegraph has set up the Bath Festival of Children’s Literature from 21 – 30 September 2007 They claim it will be one of the biggest literary festivals to be staged in the UK, but as it is “the first ever Bath Festival of Children’s Literature”, this may just mean that they are talking it up. They say that “this mammoth celebration of children’s books and reading” will “blast off this autumn” with “plenty to inspire and entertain audiences across the age ranges. Authors lined up to appear include some of the biggest, brightest and best names in children’s literature: Jacqueline Wilson, Lauren Child, Anthony Horowitz, Francesca Simon, Joanne Harris…There will be plenty there for the younger reader too with a Peter Rabbit puppet show, the Mr Men and Where’s Spot as well as activity sessions and Baby Bookworms for the very earliest readers”.

We include all the detail for two reasons. First, it might well be very good, despite the overblown press release, and young readers might like to go. Secondly, when we tried to get their website to work, the only references that came up first time were about Newcastle’s kidslitfest. Probably our machine. Try

Bath : II

Thinking of a summer holiday? in a series of press releases, Bath is putting itself forward as an alternative to the beach.

There is a press release with tips on staying in Bath, such as booking tables for meals and visiting midweek, both of which hint at a rather crowded city. But one can get visitor cards, which have the advantage of offering discounts to holiday-makers.

Then there are three leaflets with ideas of things to do and places to see in and around Bath. Curiously, one is aimed at dads doing things with their sons by going to see Castle Combe race track, steam trains and Farleigh Hungerford Castle while another is aimed at mothers bonding with daughters by shopping, going to the chocolate workshop or visiting the Fashion Museum. Bath’s approach has a strangely 1950s-ish feel or maybe they’re ahead of the game.

One thing they are right about, Bath is a fabulous city and there is nowhere quite like it – the unique Roman baths, the Abbey with its glorious perpendicular fan-vaulting, the Georgian crescents, the American Museum etc. etc. – and things for the children to do. See .

Rewriting the chapter

Keith White this month looks at how people can re-interpret their lives when they see them from a new angle or following an insight offered by someone else. We recall that when we collected our older son at half-term from the boarding school which we had attended, what he recounted of his experiences matched ours of 25 years earlier, but we were now able to view them as an adult and analyse what we had been through more objectively.

Perhaps there should never be a definitive version of an autobiography, but just a perpetual palimpsest, as we scrape away our last version of events and write another, hopefully with greater depth and insight.

Money, money, money

Valerie Jackson’s column this month is her fifth of five on Every Child Matters, and is about children learning how to handle cash. The heading is economic well-being, but they really mean money.

Money can be a problem for old people too. We remember one confused old lady who thought that coins were the only proper money, and used to flush the notes down the loo, until her relatives got wise to it. Perhaps she was reverting to childhood, and never saw a £5 note when she was little. After all, in those days, £5 was a huge amount and they used the big white notes, each dated for the day of issue and shaved at the corner to prevent counterfeiting. How soon now till we have £5 coins and ditch the copper?

Did You See?…..

….. the excellent article in the Guardian on 20 June 2007 about the Mulberry Bush School? It spoke in detail about the way the place worked and its effectiveness with damaged children, but the point was that there is currently a low take-up of places, perhaps because of Government guidance that children have to be placed near home : another example of insensitive overprescriptiveness by central Government when it does not appreciate that there may need to be exceptions to general principles?

….. the Mencap survey which had found that 80% of children with learning disability had been bullied? One’s first reaction may be shock that bullying is so prevalent, but then comes the question : why does it happen? The easy answers are feral children and lousy parents; we think that deeper issues need to be addressed. It is probably in our genes that anyone abnormal gets picked on, whether because of looks, disability, colour or beliefs. The classic case in the animal kingdom is the baby owls who actually eat their little siblings if times are hard and there are not enough dead voles. Humans don’t need to do this sort of thing because of the sophisticated society we have developed, but we do need education, law and the teaching of social behaviour to counteract our gut reactions.

The Journal of Children’s Services

We have heard from Pavilion that, launched in 2006, the Journal is designed to encourage the development of outcome-focused services to better safeguard and promote the well-being of vulnerable children and their families. It aims to improve the understanding of the way in which child development and applied social research can contribute to the evidence base and increase the integration of children’s services.
The Journal ispublished quarterly and includes themed issues and topics, peer reviewed articles, practice-based pieces and commentaries and interviews on policy developments. Volume 2, Issue 1, due out this month, includes the following articles:

  • Mediators and moderators of change in dysfunctional parenting in a school-based universal application of the Triple P-Positive Parenting Programme
  • Child poverty and child well-being in Europe
  • Using an assessment framework: outcomes from a pilot study
  • The impact of a single focus intervention on family functioning

Subscription rates start from £295 for organisations and £55 for individuals. Call Pavilion on 0870 890 1080.

From the Case Files

The extreme stress in the family was caused by overcrowding, as there were ten children . This was something the parents had no control over.

A little talk about birds and bees required? – for the Social Worker too?

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.