Tuesday 31 December 2013

Some good news

Here are a couple of good news stories to celebrate the new year:

(1) Christopher Booker in the Telegraph discusses the judgment of Sir James Munby, the recently appointed President of the Family Division. A father had posted the names of his children and the social workers involved in their case, all over Facebook.
Before ruling on an application from the council for a complete ban on all this, Munby devoted most of his 26-page judgment to the more general question of whether the secrecy imposed on such cases has gone too far. Since the abolition of the death penalty, he says, the kind of orders a judge has to make on whether children should be removed from their parents "are among the most drastic any judge in any jurisdiction is empowered to make". When a young mother is forced to lose her child, she and the child may have to live with the consequences of that decision for, respectively, 70 or 90 years.
Sir James goes on to consider other issues, such as those raised by the increased readiness of anguished parents to tell their stories on the internet, ruling that these should be subject to the same restrictions as are applied to reporting in the press. But when he finally comes to ruling on the council’s application for a complete ban, he strikes out all the items not referring directly to the identity of children or their parents, allowing the naming of Staffordshire, social workers, "expert witnesses" and pretty well everything else.
This is such a startling challenge to prevailing practice that we will have to watch carefully to see how widely Munby’s principles are now followed. Clearly, this unusually humane and intelligent judge is bent on rolling back that blanket of secrecy that has been used to conceal so many countless horror stories from public view.
(2) Parents in Perth and Kinross Council were not aware of the intrusive questions contained in a survey of school children and their consent was assumed unless they actively opted out. It was pointed out that this breached the European Data Protection Directive. The Scottish Government has recently issued some reassurances:
The Scottish Government was not involved in the surveys carried out by Perth and Kinross Council through Dartington Social Research Unit. Where the Scottish Government will be involved in this in the future in other local authorities it will be with oversight of its Analytical Services to ensure it is in line with the strong ethical and quality guidelines it employs for any research it carries out.
Scottish Reporter 

Also read  A Seasonal Quiz for the Cabinet Office

Monday 30 December 2013

Obese children removed by social workers

A Sunday Express survey of councils found that in the past year five children were taken from their families for that reason: two in Wake-field, West Yorkshire, one in Oxfordshire, one in Salford and one in Hounslow, London.
The previous 12 months saw five similar cases in Sheffield, Portsmouth, Lincolnshire, Slough and Harrow, London.
A social worker said: "Only in extreme cases would we take a child into care just because of their weight as we would seek to work with the family to improve their eating habits."
Ex-Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson warned in 2006 that health chiefs would look at removing children from their families if they became super-sized, risking their health.

Shouldn`t we be doing something about the hidden fat and sugar in supermarket food rather than taking children away?

And what about the advertising of junk food on children`s tv?

Sunday 29 December 2013

Couple with learning difficulties may lose daughter

A couple with learning difficulties are afraid that social workers are going to remove their six year old daughter and place her 150 miles away.
THE heartbroken parents are terrified they will lose their six-year-daughter after Renfrewshire Council social workers claimed the couple "lack insight" to care for her. SOCIAL workers want to remove a child from a couple with slight learning disabilities and put her in care 150 miles away.
The heartbroken parents are terrified they will lose their six-year-old daughter. Yesterday, the 33-year-old mum said: "We had to sit our wee princess down and tell her that she has to go and stay with someone else. "She’s our whole world. But social workers told us to get her dressed and ready because they were coming to take her away.
"She was crying so we let her open all the presents under the tree because we didn’t know if we would all be together on Christmas Day. "We didn’t know if we’d be able to see her again and wanted that special time with her."
Renfrewshire Council social workers claim the couple "lack insight" to care for their daughter.
Daily Record

The report on decision making on whether to take children into care has this to say:
Parents with learning disabilities
77. Groups who represent parents with learning disabilities also made strong criticisms about the decision-making processes, including the hearings system.
78. We explored some of the challenges facing such parents in an informal meeting with People First (Scotland) Parents’ Group and with the Scottish Consortium for Learning Disability (SCLD) in oral evidence. SCLD referred to international research showing that about two out of every five children born to parents with learning disabilities are permanently removed from their care. While noting that the research base is not robust, SCLD said it had no reason to believe that the levels are significantly different in Scotland. It also suggested that some decision makers still display prejudicial attitudes—
"Some professionals see someone with a learning disability and assume incompetence. Indeed, written evidence and reports have on occasion cited that as the reason for removal."
79. SCLD also claimed that "a lot of children and families social workers are totally unaware of the Scottish good practice guidelines on supporting parents with learning difficulties that were produced in 2009"
80. Another concern raised by parents’ groups is that the support offered to parents with learning disabilities does not, in their view, take a suitably long-term perspective—
"One of the main difficulties is the culture of short-term interventions in children and families social work departments … there is now more of a financial imperative simply to go in, fix the problem or make the situation good enough and then withdraw. However, for many parents with learning difficulties, such an approach is not effective and does not work."
81. This approach was contrasted with adult learning disability services where, SCLD argued, "there is an acceptance that long-term support is needed and many adults with learning disabilities in Scotland get lifelong support as the norm"
82. SCLD went on to advocate ‘a supported parenting model’, which, it considered, would "have positive outcomes for children and reduce the numbers of children having to be accommodated"
83. SCRA and Scottish Government explained some of the steps they had taken to improve the inclusion of parents with learning disabilities in the decision-making processes, but again acknowledged that more effort is required.

Saturday 28 December 2013

More babies being taken into care

From the Children`s Hearing website:
The Children’s Hearings System is Scotland’s unique care and justice system for children and young people. It aims to ensure the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable children and young people through a decision making lay tribunal called the Children’s Panel. 
Children and young people who face serious problems in their lives may be asked to go to a meeting called a children’s hearing. The Children’s Panel makes decisions at a hearing about the help and guidance necessary to support the child or young person. Decisions are made in the best interests of the child or young person to help and protect them.
A number of different agencies work together within the Children’s Hearings System to deliver care, protection and support services to the children and young people involved. These include social work, police, education, the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA) and Children’s Hearings Scotland (CHS).
One of the fundamental principles of the Children’s Hearings System is that children and young people who commit offences, and children and young people who need care and protection, are dealt with in the same system – as they are often the same children and young people.  
children`s hearing system
There has been a decrease in referrals to the Reporter in the last six years but it is difficult to make sense of the trend. Have budget cuts had something to do with this?  And why are more babies being taken into care? From the SCRA website:
In 2012/13 there was a decrease in the number of children and young people referred to the Reporter.
"Although there was a slight reduction this year, we continue to see considerable numbers of young children with Child Protection Orders – 743 in 2012/13, with more continuing to be granted for very young children, especially newborn babies, than any other age. Out of the 743 children and young people with CPOs, 160 were aged under 20 days and 344 were aged under two years.
Scottish children`s reporter
These statistics can be compared with children on supervision orders as reported in the Daily Record: These show more state interference in family life, not less.
In 1987, just over 10 out of every 1000 children required support in their own homes or with other family members, foster carers or in residential homes.
But that number has risen steadily to just under 16 per 1000 in Scottish Government statistics from 2011/12.
In 2000, there were 2050 kids on the child protection register. By 2012, that number had risen to 2706 under-16s.

Friday 27 December 2013

Social Workers in contempt

"Two Edinburgh social workers have been found in contempt of court for restricting a mother’s access to her children, against conditions set by the court in April 2012."

"The social workers, known as CM and GL, defied sheriff Katherine Mackie’s original ruling that the children should have contact with their mother a minimum of twice a week."

"They complied at first, but, according to the Edinburgh branch of Unison, became "increasingly concerned" about the emotional effect on the children."

"Due to concerns about placement breakdown, a contact was suspended pending a children’s hearing. Hearings were then continued without addressing the contact and contact did not take place for several weeks," said branch chair John Stevenson."

"Unison emphasised that all decisions were taken in accordance with Edinburgh council’s normal processes and procedures."

"However, Mackie held this to be an intentional breaching of her access order and made the social workers subject to contempt proceedings, which she presided over."


Thursday 26 December 2013

50 million funding for adoptions but it`s a reduction for councils

Councils may have reduced budgets and local people may have reduced services but the adoption industry has been given priority and received a boost.

InvestinUK has announced the 50 million Government funding now being made available to drive the adoption industry by way of its public/private partnerships.

Other innovations are now in place. From the website:
Prospective adopters can click onto new maps to see who could help them find a child to adopt - plus more cash for councils - in a package of support announced today [Christmas Eve 2013] by Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson.
For the first time fully interactive, clickable maps have been published to help would-be adopters find out more about agencies in their area and across the country, help them make an informed choice based on performance and help them access the most appropriate recruitment agency for them - wherever it may be.
Publication follows the successful launch of the first ever adoption maps at the start of this year, prompting a surge of enquires to the First4Adoption service. 
It is recognised that adoptions rose by15% in 2013 but Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson believes there is still more work to do next year and the new leadership board will play an important role to help local authorities and adoption agencies recruit more adopters.
An article in the Guardian last year reported on the Government plans to strip councils of responsibility for adoption if they were slow to find new families for children. There was some criticism from the Local Government Association (LGA):

David Simmonds, chair of the LGA's children and young people board, said: "Recent figures show councils have twice the success rate of independent adoption agencies. Removing councils from the process of recruiting and screening potential adopters could adversely impact on the very children and potential adoptive parents the government is trying to protect, and should only be considered as a very last resort."

From CommunityCare:
The government has abandoned plans to give the education secretary the power to remove local authorities from the adoption recruitment process without parliamentary approval.
The controversial proposal, which caused anger when it was announced earlier this year, would have seen responsibility for adopter recruitment and assessment transferred to the voluntary sector.
Local authority social workers would only have been involved in the later stages of adoption, such as matching children with families and providing post-adoption support.
The plans proved deeply unpopular with social workers and council bosses. The Association of Directors of Children’s Services said directors have always "strongly opposed" it, while the Local Government Association (LGA) warned the government risks creating a "confusing and disjointed" system and the British Association of Social Workers described it as "madness".

Still, the drive for more adoptions continues at the expense of other services. From the Telegraph:
... it has been pointed out that despite the lump sum investment this actually represents a drop in funding for local councils.
David Simmonds, chair of the Local Government Association's Children and Young People Board, said: "Increased focus on improving adoption services is a positive move, but this isn't new money. It represents a net reduction in funding for local authorities and could impact on services for vulnerable children. This could include early intervention services which can help councils identify children that could benefit from adoption at an early stage."

Monday 23 December 2013


According to MindFull, the site offers a brilliant new service for 11-17 year olds, providing support, information and advice about mental health and emotional wellbeing. They have the tools and tips to help children and young people to get better. They have lots of people that youngsters can talk to, and the best bit is that MindFull is safe. That safety is assured because they train young people in two days and then unleash them into their communities.
Like a lot of charities MindFull`s claims cannot be seen as realistic.
MindFull trains young people aged between 11-17 to become MindFull Mentors. Over one or two days, we give them skills and knowledge to improve their own mental health, and train them to mentor and support other young people around wellbeing issues. We call this social action - young people choosing to do something good and make a difference to the world - social action is at the heart of everything we do.
As if that strategy was not inadequate enough, they encourage vulnerable children to go online with their problems?  When they are in doubt, they offer this advice to young people:
If there's something you don't understand on MindFull, the best thing to do is to ask an adult you trust. Or you can talk to any of the MindFull Mentors or someone who works for MindFull when they're online. They're all here to help you Offline (if you are being mentored in your school) the adult might be a teacher looking after MindFull in your school, or perhaps a teacher working in Pastoral Care.
Why does Mindfull not direct vulnerable young people to first try to engage with a member of their family? After all, not all families are child abusers and not all people who work with charities are trustworthy. 
Having introduced themselves to children, the MindFull site encourages children to go straight into the chat room and start chatting. Deeper into the website there are warnings:
We collect information about you when you use the MindFull website: for example, when you first register, when you have mentoring or counselling or when you enter a competition. Website usage information is also collected via cookies....
MindFull does lots of research into mental health and emotional wellbeing. We use the MindFull website to ask questions to help us better understand the types of issues young people are facing and how they are affected. This means we can improve our ways of helping and supporting you. Your information is kept confidential and not shared with other organisations, unless we believe that you are in danger.

So this is a new online confidential service (with certain conditions) that does a lot of research which does seem a bit of a contradiction. Moreover, they have their connections and these range from MPs to celebrities, they say, and Hedge Funds Care is a founding funder.


It is interesting to see who sits on the Board of Directors at Hedge Funds Care. There are partners in global investment banking firms, hedge funds, and at the head is the managing director of Goldman Sachs.
MindFull is also part of the BB Group:

The BB Group have received backing from the Venture Philanthropy Foundation whose thing is to "facilitate growth and maximise social impact." They have also received support from the UK Cabinet Office:
Over the last 3 years, the Cabinet Office has continued to invest in the transition of the charity from a single programme to a group structure. Grants, loans and investments have allowed us to scale our impact, diversify our provision, re-structure our services, expand the reach and success of our social enterprises and seed-fund and invest in our technology build. Critically, when others paused the Cabinet Office investment allowed us to continue to develop our digital social action and volunteering model.
The BB Group also tell us that:
Through the DAPHNE III Fund the EU is funding the expansion of BeatBullying into 8 countries across Europe. Working in close partnership with excellent organisations on the ground in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Poland, Czech Republic and Romania we are rolling out the BeatBullying model. Over the next two years we aim together to reach over a million European young people.
So behind the MindFull website there are some very big players: banking globalists, the Cabinet Office, The European Union and others. They have big ambitions about how to sweep their ideas across charities and towards millions of children, particularly in those countries which are now in serious trouble due to austerity after the global banking fiascos.

MindFull is not an independent charity and it is not innocent.

Sunday 22 December 2013

Suicide Facilitators

The Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill 2013 presented to the Scottish Parliament by Margo MacDonald MSP would allow 16 year olds to become suicide facilitators. (See Section 20)
The Bill enables people with terminal or life-shortening illnesses or progressive conditions which are terminal or life-shortening and who wish to end their own lives to obtain assistance in doing so. It does this by removing criminal and civil liability from those who provide such assistance provided that the procedure set out in the Bill is followed.
This procedure for accessing a lawful assisted suicide is designed to ensure that the individual seeking it meets the Bill’s eligibility criteria, has made his or her own informed decision to end his or her life and has had the opportunity to reflect before moving forward at key stages.  
I am reminded of Aileen Campbells`s pronouncement, which in light of the above Bill and the implications for sixteen year olds, looks a bit twisted: "This Government’s vision for children and young people is clear: We want Scotland to be the best place in the world for them to grow up. A place where rights are respected and where children can access all the opportunities and support they need, when they need it.”  

And now the proposal that a 16 year old will have the right to assist a suicide? But not a right to determine their own wellbeing.

Saturday 21 December 2013

Peter Wright convicted of offences at school

According to the Daily Mail, Roland Peter Wright, now 83, was at the centre of a paedophile ring at Nick Clegg`s prep school for more than two decades. Wright was convicted at Amersham Crown Court of a string of historic sex offences. He will be sentenced in February.
Wright is the third former teacher recently convicted of child abuse at the school in the Sixties and Seventies. A fourth died before he could be charged and a fifth was acquitted earlier this year after a retrial.
Boys were sexually assaulted on an almost daily basis in their beds, baths, teachers’ bedrooms and on school trips.
In all, more than 30 pupils — that we know of — aged between eight and 13 were molested.
One victim, who was joint head boy with Mr Clegg, told how he was frequently touched improperly by the headmaster at mealtimes.

Read more:

Update HERE

Friday 20 December 2013

Sacked Council Staff

"Nearly 200 teachers, social workers and other council staff were sacked last year after being branded a risk to children."

"More than 3,600 local authority workers were investigated in a year over allegations they had harmed or abused youngsters or were unsuitable to work with them."

"The new figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal 695 of those were then probed by police and 181 staff subsequently sacked, according to council replies."

"Experts said it was the first time the total number of dismissals for such offences had been compiled.  Westminster and Brighton and Hove council lead the sackings in 2012/13, dismissing 11 staff each following complaints about them."

"Lewisham Council in south London sacked 10 workers, the Sky News investigation found. But Samantha Robson, a child protection specialist at law firm Slee Blackwell, said cases were still slipping through the net."

Read More

Wednesday 18 December 2013

The fostering industry

The fostering industry is looking to expand. See the following article from the The Guardian, Thursday 18 July 2013 20.26 BST
  Serco may be among firms bidding for contracts as Labour show concern over removal of checks that safeguard standards.
The government is planning to allow outsourcing firms to bid for contracts to manage social services for vulnerable children in England – while dropping laws allowing the removal of companies that fail to do the job properly.
Concerns have emerged after two of the biggest outsourcing companies in Britain, Serco and G4S, were found to have overbilled the taxpayer by charging to tag offenders who were dead or in prison.
Lisa Nandy, the shadow children's minister, said the latest plans would leave some of Britain's most vulnerable children at the mercy of an unregulated private sector. She has written to the regulatory reform committee, which is considering a draft legislative reform order, urging it to reject the government's plans.
Critics say the changes could also remove accountability through independent inspection and allow potential conflict of interest between private companies' primary duties to their shareholders and their responsibility to children.
Labour claims that the government's proposals leave a potential conflict of interest because the same company would be able to award placements, monitor them and run them.
The blog, `Family Justice Exposed` gives a breakdown of the profits of Core Assets Group Limited which is the largest fostering company in the UK. HERE

The `OPT OUT` Option

According to the the survey held in Perth and Kinross schools did not have the consent of parents because they were kept ignorant of the questions:
A survey in which children were asked about sex, knives and drugs has been slammed by parents.
Perth pupils were asked to fill in the "wellbeing" survey as part of a research project, which could be rolled out across Scotland.
Sections in which children are asked about their weight, sexual habits, drugs and whether they carry knives have left parents furious.
Scales were even provided in some schools for children to weigh themselves and some classes were apparently told to keep the questions secret from their parents.
There are two versions of the survey — one for 9-13-year-olds and one for older children, the second of which contains graphic sexual references.
One shocked mother said: "The questions were totally inappropriate. If I had known the content, there’s no way I would have let my daughter take part."
At the same time the Scottish Government has not been open about its involvement in Evidence2Success. This is very worrying since the Social Research Unit requires councils to commit to a journey of change on the basis of the surveys. What change?  And who asked us?  See Scotland`s prying state Part 2

Sunday 15 December 2013

Scottish Reporter and Evidence2Success

Kenneth Roy has written an article in the Scottish Reporter about the Perth and Kinross Council collaboration with the Evidence2Success survey of local school children.

It was revealed that Fiona McKay, project manager at the Council, had expressed some misgivings about the survey seven weeks before it was given to the children and requested certain changes.  She was told by a member of the Social Research Unit that changing options would invalidate the survey for the purpose of comparison with other populations. However, a couple of questions, those concerning guns and living in a car or out on the street, were removed. Questions asking children about sexual activity were retained.

No answer was forthcoming from the Council about who had access to the completed questionnaires before they were anonymised?

Read More


Under the heading of Governance Arrangements Evidence2Success discusses its core principle:.
  ..that public systems share accountability for child outcomes, and resources to achieve those outcomes, with local people. This is achieved using two governance structures, which ideally replace the existing local partnership arrangements.

It could not be plainer. Evidence2Success is about political restructuring.

Perth and Kinross Council have recently conducted surveys on school children as part of the Evidence2Sucess project. This is a collaborative project between Perth and Kinross Community Planning Partnership (CPP) and the Dartingrton Social Research Unit (SRU) that aims to enhance the safe and healthy development of children and young people in the area.

The aim is to gather and analyse comprehensive data on children so that decisions can be made about policy and service provision with a particular emphasis on early intervention and prevention.

So who or what is the Social Research Unit?

According to their website the Social Research Unit at Dartington is an independent charity which blends academic rigour with a focus on practically influencing policy at the national level, and how children`s services are designed and delivered at the local level. So this is another independent charity with a political agenda.

One of the trustees of the Social Research Unit is Naomi Eisenstadt who was the first Director of the Sure Start Unit which was responsible for implementing the UK Government`s childcare strategy. She believes the key players in the system should engage in a collaborative approach and this is a promising methodology for ensuring a shared vision. She had this to say earlier in the year to Aileen Campbell, the Scottish Children`s Minister:
Scotland seems to be making a serious and thoughtful investment in early years. The attempts at an overall strategy that includes in a meaningful way all key players, works from the ground up, and is respectful of all contributions should pay dividends in the medium to long term. Engage for Education

Well she would say that wouldn`t she given that Scotland is working collaboratively with the independent charity (?) for which she is a trustee.

We need to ask WHY Perth and Kinross Council are working collaboratively with this particular change agent?

Thursday 12 December 2013

GIRFEC - Survey for Parents

A survey on Engage for Education which was supposed to question parents about their thoughts regarding GIRFEC was criticized by a parent because the survey only asked questions like; `Did the school provide information about it?` But this is not quite the same thing as asking for opinions about GIRFEC.

Another respondent had this to say:
As to analysing responses to consultations/surveys (and how many of them are we faced with every year?), it is some people's views that you may analyse them and then choose to ignore them because you are not bound to take account of the results.
The reassurances ive read are anything but reassuring. 'Professionals working together can decide who or what they want to investigate on no evidence at all, on hearsay or prejudice in fact. Assessments can be purely subjective and based on the assessor's opinions and prejudices.
Consent is a red herring and people who haven't realised that they cant opt out may find themselves, or more importantly their children, on databases which, let's be honest about this, are misused and liable to be lost, hacked or otherwise maltreated. I see no reason why, if someone like a doctor is concerned about a child, he or she cannot pick up a phone, write an email or a text to inform someone else.
You do not appear to understand the level of public hostility to unnecessary listing of children on insecure inventories.
Comments were very hostile and no assurances from the team could allay concerns about GIRFEC and mass surveillance of children and their families.·One response was very alarming: 
So what does asking young kids if they ever had anal sex have anything to do with wellbeing ? These questions among others are highly creepy and very intrusive questions being asked as part of an Evidence2Success survey in perth schools. This is all without parental knowledge or concent. The ICO has admitted in writing that this was in preparation for the children and young people bill.
Children as young as nine were asked how many times they had carried a knife, sold illegal drugs, turned up for school high, been arrested, or stolen something; how many times they had used prescription drugs that not been prescribed by a doctor; how many times they had drunk alcohol. They were asked whether they felt 'very close' to their mother (one little girl whose mother had just died was very upset by this question). They were also invited to say whether 'people in my family often insult or shout at each other'.  
The questionnaire for older children, from 14 upwards, included a section on sexual activity. The pupils were asked in Q31 if they had ever had sexual intercourse – 'vaginal or anal sex', as the questionnaire helpfully added. They were then asked to reveal how many people they had had vaginal or anal sex with in the last year.
Had they ever been told by a doctor or nurse that they had a sexually transmitted disease or infection?. How many times had they been pregnant or got someone pregnant? 'Not sure' was one of the options. How many children had they given birth to or fathered? Were they currently pregnant? Was their partner currently pregnant? And so on.  
How can it possibly be safe to question children in this way and then put their responses on a database?  Apart from that, the questioning itself is abusive. 

Common Core and mass surveillance

According to the Department of Education, The Common Core of Skills and Knowledge for the Children`s Workforce (England) sets out the basic skills and knowledge needed by people whose work (paid or voluntary) brings them into regular contact with children, young people and families.  Also see Children`s Workforce Development Council. children`s work council

`The Common Core` promotes multi-agency working and it is expected that when it becomes more widely practised everyone supporting children, young people and families will put children, young people and their families at the centre of decision making in order to meet their needs and improve their lives. It explains:
Integrated working will more effectively meet those needs and include early intervention, information sharing, common assessment processes and supporting information and communication technology. (ICT) tools.
Part of the working method will involve knowing how to make referrals to appropriate services and recognising the triggers which should raise concerns that a child or young person is at risk of harm or not achieving their potential. Workers are expected to be open and honest with the child, young person and their family or carer about why, what, how and which information will, or could be shared, unless to do so would increase the risk of them or any other person suffering harm.
The language is familiar: multi-agency working, early interventions, sharing information, being on the alert and ready to raise concerns at an early stage. The only difference between this and GIRFEC in Scotland is that there is no named person to co-ordinate the data gathering.

Scotland too has its `Common Core`which can be found on the Scottish Government website.
Common Core of Skills, Knowledge & Understanding and Values for the "Children's Workforce" in Scotland
Monday, June 18, 2012 
The Common Core describes the skills, knowledge and understanding, and values that everyone should have if they work with children, young people and their families, whether they are paid or unpaid. The skills, knowledge and understanding are described as “essential characteristics” and are set out in two contexts; relationships with children, young people and families and relationships between workers. They are also explicitly cross-referenced to the guiding principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and can be found on page 7. The values are taken from the Getting It Right For Every Child approach and can be found on page 8. 
Whilst acknowledging the key role for recognisable professionals such as teachers, nurses and social workers, our definition of those who can make a difference goes well beyond this group. Scotland’s social policy frameworks recognise the breadth and depth of workers who make a difference to the lives of children, young people and their families. For example: auxiliary workers such as cooks or drivers, volunteers, assistants or support workers, practitioners and professionals. Our definition includes all of those working with children, young people and families in health, education, social services, justice, community services, cultural and creative industries, the voluntary sector and private sector. We also include those who work with the whole family in “adult” services such as housing or drugs and alcohol services.
So just about everybody is being encouraged to spy on everybody else and their children - all in the name of children, and all coming from the United Nations.

If that isn`t concerning, I don`t know what is !

GIRFEC - Engage for Education

Marion Samson, headteacher at Westquarter Primary and Nursery in Falkirk, explained her role as named person as early as 2nd May 2013.
I’ve been an educator for over 30 years and it is great to be working in education – as a headteacher and named person – at a time when the momentum of Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) has reached a point where we have the procedures, processes, political will and mechanisms to be able to make a difference to children at an early stage.
GIRFEC is our job. It cannot be seen as something ‘additional’ to educating the child. If we do not get it right for the child they will not have chances or choices, and they won’t be able to access education throughout their life.
In school the named person is usually someone in a senior position simply because class teachers do not always have the time to liaise with other services. As named person I am there both to support and to challenge.
Engage for Education 
None of the comments were in agreement with GIRFEC or the headteacher and one parent particularly objected to the idea of being `challenged`.  How the Scottish Government believe they have a mandate for these sweeping changes is anybody`s guess. Here are some samples of the negative responses:
I too am an educator and work in the sector. Yet I think GIRFEC is quite a scary notion being pushed by the government and being passed off as child protection. Child protection already exists ... They already have a named health visitor, a midwife at birth, a GP (usually) and often childminders/nursery staff and of course the general public. Perhaps the Scottish government would be far better at tightening up the processes surrounding child protection for those who actually need help rather than not trusting the majority of families to do a good job...
All this 'help' you are speaking of is something that is already available through the health visiting service and other sources, it isn't hard to go to a P/midwife/schoolteacher etc for signposting to somewhere else. This 'help is not only unecessary in almost all cases but it comes at the expense of our families privacy and freedoms, at the expense of our trust in ourselves and trust from the government and community as parents... This is not help it is universal monitering of todays mothers and fathers!
GIRFEC is a bureaucratic nonsense dreamed up by people who have little concept of the precious and fragile nature of liberty.  
The giga-reams of data that it will generate will not come from nowhere, every last box will have to be ticked by someone who would be more gainfully employed concentrating their efforts on those who really need their help. The data will throw up false positives which will drown out the signals of those who are really in need. The false positives will be acted on and innocent parents who have lifestyles that don't fit the State's model of what is good will be marked out and harassed. This Orwellian nightmare is coming to a Scottish home near you now.
GIRFEC has encouraged practitioners to act illegally by mining and sharing children and families' data without their informed consent. While 'services' have been forced on those who don't need or want them, support has still been sadly lacking for those who do, leaving the most vulnerable children at greater risk.
Ms Samson states: "GIRFEC is our job. It cannot be seen as something ‘additional’ to educating the child." Sorry, but that is just nonsense. ... databases have frequently been shown to be unsafe when it comes to safeguarding the data. I have heard one described as 'a paedophile's address book' which is possibly over the top but they can not be regarded as secure. ... As for education, let teachers get on with their job, which is TEACHING!  

Wednesday 11 December 2013

How child friendly are charities?

Comic Relief has misled the public about where their donations are going according to a Panorama programme reported in the Daily Mail. Substantial amounts of money have been invested in tobacco, alcohol and arms in order to raise the £17 million running costs of the charity.
Hours after the revelations, thousands of Comic Relief viewers expressed their fury on Twitter, with many saying they wished they had never donated.
Despite initially defending the policy on the grounds that ethical investments would generate a smaller return, chief executive Kevin Cahill appeared to backtrack yesterday, pledging to ‘do the right thing’.
Read more:

Another article in the Independent has this to say about Save the Children:
Save the Children, one of the UK’s oldest NGOs, which raised almost £300m last year, is alleged to have repeatedly quashed press releases criticising British Gas price rises to avoid damaging its corporate partnership with the company, which was worth £1.5m over 10 years. The charity is also accused of dropping a potential campaign on the effects of fuel poverty on children while it was under consideration for funding from EDF.
Internal emails obtained by The Independent show senior staff were worried about publicity that could “risk the EDF partnership”. The accusations are part of a wider investigation into the operations of major NGOs to be broadcast tonight by the BBC’s Panorama, which criticises the investment practices ...

A couple`s fight to look after their granddaughter

The above article appeared on the Channel 4 website Tuesday 10 December 2013:

Katrina and Lee Parker, two grandparents from Colchester, Essex, discovered that when their daughter was not able to look after their granddaughter there was no automatic right for them to be able to step in and take care of the little girl.
In fact for the Parkers it turned into a year long battle with Social Services who were determined that the little girl should be adopted.

The Parkers believe that the wider public do not understand how the system works against families and although they have been gagged to a great extent from speaking out about their case they feel it is important that people know about how it works against grandparents and in secret.

"There is a lot of misunderstanding in society that grandparents somehow have rights," Katrina Parker said.

They were particularly angry at Social Services who did not inform them that they had obtained a care order or keep them informed about meetings or provide them with information in order for them to be able to put up a fight to have their granddaughter returned to their care. The reporter goes on:
What is disturbing about this case is that the Parkers were initially – and wrongly it turns out – excluded from even applying to the family court to take part in the care proceedings and to prevent the adoption.
They were saved by a judge who gave them the right to appeal. We are not allowed to know why the judge granted that appeal.
One commentator on the article has this to say:
This is the same across the whole of the UK. Parents, Grandparents are slowly but systematically broken down so as to paint a picture of an unreliable family who couldn’t possibly provide for the child. The outcome is to be able to convince a judge that adoption is the only outcome, and it works. Every way you turn, you are headed off by social workers it is a well orchestrated method. This is not isolated to one area, so one must ask the question, is this a national strategy and delivered as training.

Tuesday 10 December 2013

Boys advertised for adoption

 The Consortium of voluntary adoption agencies (CVAA UK) has this to say about the agencies. 
Voluntary Adoption Agencies are partly funded by donations and fund raising alongside fees which we receive from Local Authorities when we provide adoptive families for children who are looked after by them.
A list of the many voluntary adoption agencies springing up around the UK can be found on their site:

No doubt there is pressure to obtain those fees from local authorities. Recently one of the voluntary adoption agencies, Adoptionplus, has made the headlines because of their decision to advertise two boys in a local newspaper: The Telegraph has this to say:

An adoption agency desperately trying to find parents has resorted to the unusual tactic of advertising children in local newspapers. Independent agency Adoptionplus has placed full page adverts with pictures of real children who are looking for a new home.
The advert asks for "loving parents" for adorable Liam, aged four, and three-year-old Kevin. It reads: "You don't have to have had children; you don't need to be in a relationship; you don't need to be heterosexual; you don't need to be young and you don't need to be perfect. "You just need to really want to make a difference in a child's life."


The decision by Actionplus to advertise the children has been heavily criticised by campaigners including John Hemmings MP who said that the advert sent out the wrong message and would not serve the purpose of finding a safe home for vulnerable children. We are reminded that if parents, fighting to have their children returned to them, did something like that they would be sent to prison.
It was also pointed out that in these days of the Internet and social networking it was not safe to advertise children because the anonymity of the children could not be guaranteed.

Monday 9 December 2013

Declining Living Standards

According to an article in the Independent more than five million people are classified as low paid and an increasing number of public sector workers are struggling to make ends meet:

There is also a smaller but growing number of people living on incomes below the value of out-of-work benefits in very deep poverty.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said that 400,000 families have suffered from a combination of benefit cuts from the bedroom tax, and council tax benefit.

The Huffington Post has a similar story:
British workers are suffering the biggest fall in living standards since the Victorian era, as their austerity measures have continued to squeeze their incomes and leave many working in low-paid jobs, according to new research.
The New Economics Foundation (NEF) found that more than 5 million people are currently working in low-paid jobs, earning less than £7.47 an hour, and one million of them are working in the public sector.
In a report titled "Raising the Benchmark", the nef concluded: “Workers on low and middle incomes are experiencing the biggest decline in their living standards since reliable records began in the mid-19th century.”

Will the Children`s Commissioner have something to contribute to the debate I wonder, and if not, why not?  Will the growing and enormous range of children`s charities who accept public funds be able to offer the Government advice, as they normally do?  No ?

Isn`t it interesting how austerity is accepted as if there was nothing that anybody could do about it?

Attachment issues and adoption

The following article in the Guardian reveals how complicated adoptions can be with children being let down, ending up in the care system again, and adoptive parents feeling they were out of their depth and abandoned by social services. It is not always recognised that attachment issues arise when children are removed from their families and bounced from one placement to another, or that attachment issues can actually go both ways.

The table shows some of the issues which cause reactive attachment disorders:

  • Separation of a child and attachment figure due to adoption
  • Death of a parent
  • Hospitalization of a child or caregiver
  • Frequent moves/multiple changes in caregiver
  • Emotionally unavailable caregiver due to immaturity or mental or physical illness
  • Abuse and/or neglect of the child
  • Inconsolable chronic pain
  • Parental drug use/alcohol abuse
  • Birth/adoption of subsequent siblings
Peachtree Attachment Resources

Younger children removed from their parent(s) are at greater risk as they and their siblings are frequently placed in a multitude of foster homes before they are considered for adoption thus creating a downhill spiral.  Attachment Parenting International

Are forced adoptions for such lightweight problems as `potential emotional harm` really the best we can do for young children which means separating them forever from their families? The strength of family ties cannot be underestimated.

The testimonials on Birthlink reveal how important it is to regain these ties even after sixty years for some people.

Also see this Express article 3 brothers united

Sunday 8 December 2013

Adopted Russian boy dumped in America

Adoptions do not always work out and Social Services do not monitor the situation as an article in the Record reveals:

AN adopted Russian boy living in Scotland was dumped in America with a family linked to a paedophile because he was too much trouble. Scottish authorities did not question the sudden disappearance of Dmitri Stewart after his adoptive parents Billy and Victoria left him in the US because they could not care for him any more.
They used a website to arrange for a couple they had never met, 3000 miles away in Chicago, to take him in as part of an unofficial adoption agreement. Scottish social workers did not raise concerns despite previously being involved with Dmitri and his brother because of their truancy. The youngster, who lived in Dalgety Bay, Fife, was shipped out of Scotland and forced to stay in a hovel with Nicole Eason and her husband.
Dmitri, now 20, says the experience has ruined his life. And he hit out at Fife Council officials who he says should have asked serious questions about his sudden disappearance. He said: “I was in the school system in Scotland and the authorities were involved in my life because I met with the truancy officers a lot. It made me wonder how I could just disappear and nobody did anything.”


GIRFEC and the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill has been criticised for interfering with the relationship between parents and children.
At its heart, the Children and Young People Bill orders the government to intrude into the privacy of every home with a child. By inserting the government into a mandated role of corporate parent, the natural relationship of trust and dependency that exists between parents and their children will be at best damaged and possibly obliterated.
The bill naturally follows from UN treaties like the CRC and CRPD.  Link to  HSLDA

The data gathering and privacy aspects of the Bill have also been criticised by home schoolers in Scotland as reported in the Express:

Under the "scary" legislation, known as Getting It Right For Every Child or GIRFEC, every child aged under 18 will have a 'Named Person' with the legal right to ensure they are raised in a government-approved manner. It will also mean that sensitve personal details about every child - even down to the names of their pets - can be recorded, stored and shared on a central database.
Incredibly, GIRFEC has already been adopted by almost every local authority in Scotland and yet most people - including some MSPs - have no idea of the full extent of its Big Brother-style interference. Alison Preuss, Secretary of the Schoolhouse Home Education Association, based in Fife, said: She added: "Hopefully MSPs will see sense and insist on a completely consent based system for the Named Person and any data processing without express informed consent (except in child protection cases).
"However, I wouldn't rule out a legal challenge to these specific aspects. "GIRFEC implementation by box-ticking bullies is already causing detriment to some families and frightening children, which is frankly scandalous." The Schoolhouse petition, which calls on MSPs to reject the Named Person and database sections of the Bill, has gathered more than 700 signatures in less than a fortnight.

There is another aspect of the Bill which has received less attention and that is the effect on decision making and child protection issues when the drive is towards early interventions on the basis of the wellbeing indicators rather than on the basis of significant harm to the child. There is evidence that early interventions lead to more children being removed from their families and placed into care.
It is emphasized in the Education and Culture Committee 10th report 2013 how important it is to listen to children. However, the committee admitted that they spoke only to a relatively small number of young people. Perhaps that is why there are some inconsistencies in the inquiry report. For instance there is this paragraph:
We have been told repeatedly about the importance of placing children at the centre of decision making and taking their views into account. A recurring message from many of the young people in care we spoke to, which goes to the heart of this section, is that they felt they had been left too long at home when they should have been taken into care earlier.

 This does agree with the push towards earlier interventions but on the other hand we have this:
When we met children and young people with experience of care, several felt very strongly that social workers and other authorities had failed to explain why they were being taken away from their family... Distressingly, the young people had blamed themselves for being separated from their family and had felt as though they were being punished.

So there are children who feel they should have been taken into care earlier and other children who feel they were punished when they were separated from their families. It is never wise to draw conclusions based on a small sample of the population as this report does but if we accept the findings at face value it does suggest that either way children are not being listened to, and social workers are getting things seriously wrong.

There is, in fact, a lot of evidence to support this in the report. It was explained by some witnesses that social workers cannot always distinguish those situations where parents can meet their children`s needs with additional help, and those where children require alternative care. They can be overly optimistic about a family`s ability to change on the one hand and lack confidence on the other. There were problems in communication especially with young people, and an inability to provide assessments backed by compelling evidence particularly for cases involving emotional neglect. Time was a factor because social workers did not always have time to properly assess families. There was difficulty in retaining experienced staff and questions about the Social Work degree. All of these inadequacies are particularly worrying given the following:
Universal services, alongside social workers, are increasingly helping to identify issues of concern that may require early intervention in families. This is particularly true in relation to neglect, where staff may be able to detect that relatively small issues are developing into more serious concerns. The further implementation of Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) and the introduction of a statutory named person service‘ through the Bill is likely to increase this role further.

In other words GIRFEC is likely to mean that more young children are going to be taken into care which happens to be one of the aims of the Children`s Minister. But are social workers really going to be able to supply the compelling evidence that small issues are developing into more serious concerns when so far that has not been the case?  

Will joint training help?  It is easy to see what the answer to that is. Just get the various agencies to work collaboratively and do some joint training, share data and agree to a shared vision (collude) and there is the compelling evidence to present in front of the sheriff with confidence. The Minister`s target to double adoptions should be no problem at all. This is a system being stitched up to enable more children to be removed from their birth parents - but often they will be the wrong children. With the focus shifted in this way, what is to happen to the children all ready suffering significant harm?