News Views – Sept 07

A mixture of news items, events, comments and whimsies, including the World Scout Jamboree, the costs of offending and disability, Postman Pat and letter-writing, children and the arts, gyms for kids, malaria, depression, knife-proof clothing for children and common sense


We should not let this issue pass without noting the 21st World Scout Jamboree held from 27 July to 8 August. There were 40,000 participants from virtually every country in the world, housed in sixteen subcamps. This was a step up from the first Jamboree in 1920, when there were 8,000 from 34 countries.

Scouting started in 1907, triggered by Baden-Powell’s use of boys as runners in the Siege of Mafeking. A camp was held at Brownsea Island and its success eventually led to the creation of the world-wide movement. Scouting has not always been in fashion, but it has so many positive qualities that it has met with success throughout the world. Learning self-reliance, becoming a group member, observing, developing practical skills, being smart, enjoying games, undertaking community service – the list seems endless.

All in all a good news story. And did you know that Jamboree is based on the Swahili for Hello?

Reset and the Economic Case

Reset has undertaken a study of the costs and benefits of introducing a system of aftercare for young adult offenders. Taking account of all the factors, such as the costs of offences, accommodation, mentors etc., they come up with savings of over £12,000 per young offender if a support system is provided, saving over £80 million a year.

Will the economic argument free up the resources needed? If it needs an economic argument to get the necessary budgets and staff, so be it. The only problem will be if there is no demonstrable change; will the money then be withdrawn? Good aftercare should be provided anyway on humanitarian grounds, as the young offenders need the service if they are to be helped with training, getting jobs and accommodation.

What the costs presumably do not take into account are the non-economic elements, such as the reduction in suffering on the part of the people who would otherwise have been victims of crime, and the benefits of a more constructive less antisocial life-style for the offenders.

From the economic viewpoint there is also the question of long-term patterns of criminal behaviour. Over time, the costs can be considerable, and if patterns can be broken early that will be a good thing all round.

The Cost of Disability

While focusing on economic matters, it is worth noting that the real cost of caring for a disabled child is three times that of other children. One in five families with disabled children cannot afford basics such as food or clothes and may get into debt, yet only half claim Disability Living allowance. For a briefing paper on the subject, see

Postman Pat and Literacy

We’ve received a press release announcing a partnership between Postman Pat and the National Literacy Trust, launching a Postman Pact Letters Pack, due to be available from Toys R Us. (Apologies; we don’t know how to turn the R round to make the shop title look illiterate.)
Developed for pre-schoolers the Postman Pat Letters Pack helps develop key reading and writing skills whilst encouraging family fun alongside learning, as children work with their parents to complete various activities. The pack includes a series of fun activities and tools such as envelopes and special Postman Pat letter paper, colouring-in sheets, a felt-tip pen, four wipe-clean activity sheets and stickers of Greendale’s most popular characters.

The pack is the first in a line of projects created by the partnership and contributes towards the National Literacy Trust’s push to get parents involved in reading and writing with their children. In January of this year the National Literacy Trust launched the Family Reading Campaign which has been set up to highlight the importance of encouraging reading in the home, with children and parents learning together.

Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust, said, “Good reading, writing, speaking and listening skills are key to getting the most out of life and the best way a child can develop these is to grow up in a house where reading is regularly encouraged and enjoyed. We’re delighted to be working with Postman Pat – I’m certain he will help inspire families to have fun with reading and writing together.”
We hope that their campaign works, and that the Letters Pack actually encourages children to send letters. What with text messages and emails, the art of letter-writing may well be totally lost. If so, it will be a pity, because letters have been an invaluable form of communication, and their loss will be disastrous for biographers.

Kids and Arts

Hundreds of events are being staged in cultural venues around the country for children and their families this autumn half term. Classic FM and the Prince of Wales Arts & Kids Foundation have told us that they have teamed up for Classic FM Arts & Kids Week 2007.

Running from 20 to 28 October, Classic FM Arts and Kids Week offers an opportunity to involve children in the full spectrum of the arts right on their doorstep. By visiting and inserting the relevant postcode, you can find out about the variety of art events taking place in any local area, from plays to painting, storytelling and music workshops to film making. It is so simple, an adult can use it.

The Prince of Wales Arts and Kids Foundation targets children who would not otherwise have the opportunity to experience the arts. By working in partnership with cultural venues and providing funding and support for organisations across the UK to develop and deliver enrichment programmes, Arts & Kids provides access for young people to the very best of the arts. Engaging with the arts enriches young people’s lives, nurtures creativity and improves self esteem.

As the Prince of Wales said, “Every child, whatever his or her circumstances, should have the chance to experience the artistic excellence of our cultural heritage, the very best of dance, theatre, opera and music, our museums and galleries, art and literature.”

Messy Monsters

If you don’t fancy what Prince Charles has on offer, what about Messy Monsters?
When mother of two, Leah Robins, struggled to find a local art club to take her daughter to, she set up her own. Leah was looking for an opportunity that combined spending time with her daughter Alice, whilst she enjoyed getting messy, and an arts and crafts club seemed like the perfect solution.

Starting with a class in her local area in 2004, Leah set about encouraging other parents and carers to bring their children along and the idea just snowballed.
Inundated with requests from parents wanting a similar class on their doorstep, Leah has sold franchises in 21 locations across the UK, with a total of over 160 classes running each week.

The franchises are all entirely owned by mothers, which provides an ideal opportunity to combine working with spending time at home. For more information, visit

The Little Gym

Too late for the summer now, but we have been told of the opening of a Little Gym in Chiswick in early September. Established in 1976, the Little Gym has over 270 centres worldwide. UK gyms are located at Hampton Hill, Wandsworth, Stoke on Trent and Sutton Coldfield and, from September, Chiswick, Bishops Stortford and St. Albans. Three further UK gyms are due to open at the start of 2008. They have programmes of activities for tinies and their parents, for little children and for those of junior school age. They do summer camps and birthday parties. As always, we do not endorse advertising of this sort, but it sounds interesting. For health-conscious parents who want more information, visit

Papyrus and Depression

Papyrus, an organisation set up to deal with depression in young people, has emailed about the risk of young people feeling suicidal after bad exam results.

They say that it is difficult to generalise about the characteristics of someone who is vulnerable and at risk, but they include having very sensitive nature, being a perfectionist, inability to cope with criticism and, especially at this time, disappointment. They advise :

  • Don’t pressure anyone that you may be concerned about, but encourage them to take time out.
  • Make sure they know you really care about them and always be available to listen without being judgemental.
  • Help them to get things into perspective.
  • Don’t be fooled by their outward appearance.
  • Behaviour observed on the outside doesn’t necessarily reflect what is going on inside.
  • Above all, don’t ignore or dismiss comments that imply an intention to ‘not be here’.

Anyone anxious about a young person they know should not hesitate to call the charity’s helpline HOPELineUK 01978 367 333 or 0870 170 4000
where trained mental health professionals will discuss in total confidence and anonymity how to cope with someone who may be feeling suicidal. As well as its helpline, PAPYRUS has resources for young people, parents and schools, many of which can be downloaded at or for more information call 01282 432 555.

Did You see? …..

….. the item in the Guardian (17 August) which showed that the mass free distribution of mosquito nets in Kenya had dramatically reduced cases of malaria and halved the number of child deaths from the disease? The project has led the World Health Organisation to recommend that nets should be given away rather than sold.

….. the story in the Mail (15 August) that parents have been buying their children knife-resistant school uniforms? The number of deaths of young people through knifing and shooting recently has been horrific, but these appear to have been limited to certain parts of the country where gangs are prevalent, so it is a sad comment on society when protection of this sort becomes standard.

A separate news item discussed the idea of building in tracking devices to children’s clothing in case they were kidnapped. Surely kidnappers would latch onto this and change the child’s clothes. An implant under the skin, as for dogs, would be much more effective. Big brother, here we come.

Common sense

People often appeal to common sense as grounds for criticising decisions or actions which they consider stupid. But is there such a thing as common sense? Presumably views have to be shared to be ‘common’, so the fact that a person has different views means that they are not shared by everyone. Furthermore, the fact that views are widely shared does not mean that they are sensible, as Galileo found out.

During the last month, a boy has been prosecuted for throwing a sausage and the Mayor of Trafford has been awarded damages, having been banned from breast-feeding in the mayoral limousine. Both the decision to prosecute the boy and the ban should have flown in the face of common sense, but no doubt someone had some sort of reasons for pressing the actions. Email us if you know the answer.

Nothing to do with children

In his column this month, Keith White encourages us to go and see the exhibition of paintings of children at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. In our experience, it is a super gallery, but the problem is getting there. The last time we went, we took a retired cousin, so we went by taxi. We rang in advance to ask the opening times, but obviously we failed to ask the right question, because (though the times we had been told were correct for the other days), the Gallery was closed that day. We found this out as our taxi sped off into the distance. By good fortune, as we were standing there wondering what to do next, a cab driver who lived just up the hill was driving into London to work. So we ended up at the National Gallery instead.

From the Case Files

She was sexually assaulted by her mother’s Cohabite.

And what about the Perizzites, Jebusites and Amalekites?

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