News Views

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Helping Young People Leaving Care Move on With Their Lives

Social Care and Social Work Improvement Scotland (SCSWIS) have issued a film to help young people gain a crucial insight into the process of moving out of care. They worked with more than 20 young people across the country to make the documentary which identifies the challenges, changes and expectations of living independently.

The DVD – entitled Moving On – is targeted at teenagers aged 15 and above who are starting the process of moving into independent living, who have already started, or those who are just about to complete the move.

Karen Anderson, Director of Operations for SCSWIS, said, “The purpose of the DVD is to help young people across Scotland understand the process when moving out of care and into their own accommodation and what their rights are. It can be a daunting and worrying prospect for many young people and we thought that the best way for them to understand the DVD was to use real life examples that show what support and standards young people can expect. Everyone we interviewed in the DVD is aged between16-25 so that they can share their experiences with other young people when moving on from care.”

The DVD is available to view on a website set up for Young People in Care – www.meetsid.com. Copies have also been sent to all care homes for young people, foster services, local authorities and relevant organisations. For a copy of the DVD email enquiries@scswis.com or call 0845 600 9527.

Mapping Social Problems

Barnardo’s are concerned about the line being taken by the government concerning children at risk. Many children involved in anti-social behaviour are from highly disadvantaged backgrounds characterised by abuse, bereavement, educational difficulties or residence in high crime neighbourhoods.

Barnardo’s Chief Executive Anne Marie Carrie said, “If police send children back to abusive or unsafe households or move them on without consideration for the reasons behind their anti-social behaviour they could be placed in greater danger.”

Barnardo’s argues that it should be made compulsory for courts to ask for information about the home lives of children who are being sanctioned for anti-social behaviour to ascertain the likelihood of a young person being supported to change their ways. If the Government really wants ‘effective responses’ to anti-social behaviour by children then it needs to know why the problems are happening in the first place. The causes of crime need to be treated, rather than put sticking plasters on the symptoms.

“That is not to say that young people shouldn’t face the consequences of their actions,” Anne Marie Carrie said, “but if we want to protect children we should be able to map welfare needs in communities, not just crime, while preventing offences rather than just reacting to them.” Barnardo’s is therefore calling for social needs to be mapped to enable local authorities and communities to react to the causes of anti-social behaviour as well as the offences that are committed found through the proposed crime mapping.

Welfare mapping could act as a ‘community trigger’ for wider needs, such as:

  • the number of children missing from education,
  • the number of children missing from home or care,
  • the number of children with drug and alcohol misuse,
  • the rate of domestic violence,
  • the number of children permanently excluded from school.

Experience of surveys of this sort in the past shows that for most social indicators, they cluster in the poorer and rougher areas, as one would expect. Most social workers, police, clergy or other professionals could draw the maps of their areas without needing surveys.

The question is what you do about it. People respond to their circumstances. If they are enabled and encouraged to take control over their environments, neighbourhoods can be improved, and there will be less antisocial behaviour, but it needs both resources and leadership.

Dads’ Time Tales

The Pre-school Learning Alliance have told us of a book launch on 21 May. Dads’ Time Tales contains stories written by eight of the fathers who attend Dads’ Time, a group of dads who have been meeting in Croydon for almost six years. The book is illustrated by their children and comes with a CD of the fathers reading their stories.

Dads’ Time started when the Croydon branch of the Pre-school Learning Alliance noticed the need for a weekend fathers’ group in the Broad Green area of the borough. Around 45 dads regularly attend Dads’ Time, the Saturday morning group that has become so popular that a second group, Dads’ Time 2, has started meeting at The Aerodrome Children’s Centre on Sunday lunchtimes.

It strikes us as a good example of the Big Society at work, and a possible model for some of the rough estates mentioned in the previous item. Das reading to their children give all the right messages.

Increasing Violence to Children

Children Are Unbeatable report that last year research by Cardiff University’s Violence and Society Research Group showed that the numbers of under-11 year-olds treated for serious violence in Accident and Emergency Departments in England and Wales had risen by 8% between 2008 and 2009.

The latest research shows that the number of children under 11 who are treated for assaults in 59 A&E departments has risen by another 20% in the past year. As with the previous year, this contrasts with other age groups, where the number of incidents has fallen (particularly in the teenage age-group). The Group’s director Professor Jonathan Shepherd said the latest figures show a “disturbing upward trend in violence against children”.

Does anyone know why?

Music at the Mulberry Bush

Mulberry Bush School and Youth Music have announced that they are beginning a year-long partnership called Crossing Musical Boundaries, a new music project to help vulnerable young people increase their music skills, social confidence, self esteem and to develop relationships with mainstream peers, which will see musicians working with some of the country’s most vulnerable children. The Mulberry Bush School in Oxford, which boasts David Cameron amongst its Patrons, is a therapeutic residential school supporting children, many of whom have suffered physical, sexual and emotional abuse in their early childhood.
This ground breaking music project will bring together children from the Mulberry Bush children with children from Standlake Primary School, a mainstream school, to develop and perform in a high quality music production together. As such it presents an extremely valuable opportunity for these vulnerable youngsters to integrate, develop relationships and learn with pupils from a mainstream school. For the Standlake School children it challenges them with getting to know children with extreme difficulties, many of whom are unable to live with their birth families.

The project will be led by Magdala, who have the proven expertise to understand, manage and motivate children with extreme special needs in high class music making. The Music leaders will run a series of 18 workshops, each lasting 3 hours. This will include a period of intense rehearsal to allow the children to focus on the singing, music and performance work. Workshop music leaders will support the children to compose songs based on a story that the children will have already devised. The children will also be responsible for designing masks, costumes and scenery for the final production.

Making Blinds Child Safe

Apparently millions of blinds present a threat to little children’s lives, and most of us are unaware of the danger. Unsecured looped window blind cords claimed the lives of at least five children in 2010 through strangulation – with all deaths involving children under the age of four. Now in its second year, Apollo Blinds is running a Make Blinds Child Safe campaign and giving away free blind cord safety devices.

Youth & Policy

The new issue (number 106) is now available.

* Introduction – Running Out of Options: Re-Modelling Youth Work. Tony Jeffs

* Freedom, Fairness and Responsibility: Youth Work offers the way forward. Viv Mckee

* Youth work stories: in search of qualitative evidence on process and impact. Bernard Davies

* Struggles and silences: Policy, Youth Work and the National Citizen Service. Tania de St Croix

* Liberation or Containment: Paradoxes in youth work as a catalyst for powerful learning. Annette Coburn

* An Opportunity Lost? Exploring the benefits of the Child Trust Fund on youth transitions to adulthood. Lee Gregory

Non-stop Activities

While thinking of this month’s theme, I was reminded of the daily programme in Aycliffe Classifying School in the 1960s. The Principal, John Gittins, instructed the staff to produce detailed programmes which filled the whole day. My practice as a Senior Housemaster was to divide the day into three periods – morning, afternoon and evening, and in each period we had something sporting, something cerebral such as classwork and some leisure occupation. Looking back, I think it produced a good balance and it certainly kept the boys busy. To have a range of activities was intended to be stimulating, but it had the added benefit of being fairly tiring, encouraging sleep rather than thoughts of absconding at the end of the day.

In case readers think that this approach was overprescriptive, I should add that one of the leisuretime activities was ‘free time’, which was usually filled with table tennis, pop music on the record-player, making plastic models of planes and writing letters home. At weekends there were other activities such as going to see stock-car racing, and walks on the North Yorkshire Moors or around the vicinity to see the new A1(M) being built.

If any reader was a boy at Aycliffe in those days I would be interested to hear what they thought of it at the time – or what they think now, looking back.

National Baby Massage Week

Did you know it was the NBMW from 16 – 21 May 2011? (Who designates these things? Is there a Kafkaesque quango which lets weeks out? If not, isn’t there a potential source of money for the government, like the selling of number plates? Or have they done away with the quango in the recent cull so that we can now grab weeks free, like the Oklahoma land rush? Couldn’t we use the internet to set up instant weeks, such as National Don’t Buy Danish Until They Allow the Importation of Marmite Week? The mind boggles at the possibilities.)

We know nothing about baby massage, but we are told that to help provide parents with tips, Colief – makers of infant colic drops - has created a short video with Baby Massage Expert Gayle Berry, introducing three new mums to baby massage, yoga, and some comforting holds to help settle their babies and act as a guide for anyone interested in the subject. Baby massage is also a useful technique to help manage the symptoms of colic.

There is a video on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxCLmMeW5Q8 . If you want to know more about colic drops, go to www.colief.com.

Just Add Water

School children’s interest in learning could be almost doubled by increasing their intake of water during the school day, according to a new survey commissioned by the Natural Hydration Council (NHC), a body which represents the bottled water industry. The project was led by Dr Emma Derbyshire from Manchester Metropolitan University and involved 166 children aged 11-12 years St James’s C of E School & Sports College, Bolton.

The children were provided with three 500ml bottles of water and after just three weeks with the extra daily water, the researchers found that school children’s interest in learning was doubled, cognition was significantly increased and children felt calmer and more alert in the classroom.

Measurements taken before the survey started showed that only 8.4% of the sample drank the European Food Safety Authority recommended daily intake of water (six to eight drinks a day), and 53.6% drank just 1-2 glasses of water daily. A large proportion of children also reported feeling tired (53.6%), bored (45.8%), fidgety (33.7%) and thirsty (50.6%) before the water was introduced.

However, after 14 days of drinking more water, most of these parameters improved. In particular, children felt increasingly calm (69.5% versus 48.2% at baseline) and twice as many children reported that they felt more ‘interested’ (57.9% versus 28.9% at baseline) after drinking recommended amounts of water. Cognition scores significantly increased for both boys and girls.

The outcome makes sense, but what allowance needs to be made for the interest engendered by the research project?

From the Case Files

J. went to stay with her grin.

And the Cheshire Cat?

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