Question It!

Welcome to another week.

Home Secretary Theresa May has announced an intention to create specialised schools for what she calls troubled children, which would be set up and run by the police and crime commissioners with a view to increasing commissioners’ powers into youth justice, probation and court services.

The idea behind the new schools is to help prevent children from entering a life of crime and would have a crime-specific curriculum.

But not everyone thinks this is a good idea. Sara Ogilvie, policy officer for human rights group Liberty, said the new plan was ‘a sure-fire way to estrange troubled children and fast-track them into the criminal justice system.’

And Researching Reform also happens to think it’s a bloody stupid one.

So, what do you think? Would this type of school be able to offer vulnerable children a positive way to stay out of trouble and a beneficial and nurturing environment or would it alienate these children further, and allow for a culture in these schools to develop, not dissimilar to the current culture we see inside the criminal justice system? 

Many thanks to Dana for alerting us to this news item.

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Researching Reform For Jordans: Did Our Predictions Come True?

This month for our column over at Jordans we revisit the child welfare predictions we made in 2015 to see how they developed. From pioneering pilot schemes to legal aid, we made a series of forecasts about how they would evolve over those 12 months.

You can read our article to find out if we were right.

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Neo Masculine Movement With 40,000 Members Flirts With Legalization Of Rape

A prolific blogger calling for the return of what he calls ‘neomasculinity’ has  begun to attract scrutiny for his often violent and anti-female views.

Daryush Valizadeh has been accused of wanting to legalise rape in private settings, (though in a self written interview post he says he has never raped a woman, and any suggestion of legalising rape on his blog was purely satirical in nature) and considers his movement, called The Return Of Kings, an effort in restoring old fashioned masculinity.

The website has a substantial page ranking of 5, suggesting that the Return of Kings has a large following online at least, with around 40,000 people subscribing to the site’s newsletter. We have just subscribed to receive his free book “The True Nature Of Women”, which we will read with interest.

It is a popular enterprise. There are currently 13 meeting points across America, though current meetings scheduled have all been cancelled, as it was feared there might be an unpleasant backlash this time round, given the growing concern over Valizadeh’s agenda.

The banning of women and gay men at these meetings, and Valizadeh’s own self professed talents for luring women into bed have made him rather unpopular. A White House Petition to have the movement’s membership classified as a terrorist threat (Valizadeh is a Muslim, which may have fed into the fear), has garnered nearly 9,000 signatures so far.

But Valizadeh begs to differ. He claims that his views on sex and rape have been taken out of context, that he has chosen to exclude women from meetings (currently though we don’t know about past meetings) to avoid what he considers to be a confused Feminist backlash and insists that he simply wishes to give men back a sense of ‘traditional masculinity’.

And Researching Reform finds the conundrum very interesting. There is no doubt that men in the twenty first century increasingly feel confused about how they should behave and what women want, however it remains to be seen whether Valizadeh is the old fashioned gentleman he professes himself to be.

What do you think about The Return Of Kings? Is it more chauvenistic than chivalrous or is this movement just a cry for help in a world where men feel consistently more marginalised and women continue to suffer appalling inequality?

We leave you with this somewhat paradoxical image we found on the site…

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The Buzz

News items making the rounds this morning:

Websites Documenting Child Abuse Within The Roman Catholic Church

Having just read a very informative article on a new film about the uncovering of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, we wanted to share the incredibly thought-provoking websites the author of the article offers in her piece. These websites are primarily focused on what is being called the Catholic Abuse Crisis.

The first website is one called Bishop Accountability – an enormous database, chronicling the extent of child sexual abuse in America, at the hands of Catholic clergy and demands full accountability, particularly in cases where bishops have knowingly transferred abusers to other parishes, where they have gone on to commit sexual crimes.

This same website also offers over one hundred more sites all on the topic of child abuse within the Catholic Church. From news items about abuse, to Vatican documents and sources of information, it is a large compendium which would be of interest to victims, survivors and of course our own Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse.

Sites which caught our immediate attention included the Abuse Tracker, another with in-depth research on sexuality and the clergy called Celibacy, Sex and The Catholic Church, and The Survivors Network Of Those Abused By Priests (SNAP). A blog by Paddy Doyle called The God Squad is also hugely interesting and offers survivors a place to gather, get information and support one another.

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29 February Film Screening Of Documentary Challenging Shaken Baby Syndrome

Barrister Jacqui Gilliatt is hosting a screening of the US Documentary “The Syndrome”, and everyone is welcome.

There is no charge to attend but Jacqui would be grateful if you could spare £10 to cover the cost of the screening. Any profit made will go to The Who Cares? Trust.

Seats are going fast, but we add details of the evening which Jacqui has kindly shared with us, below:

  • Screening starts 7pm on Monday 29th February 2016 at Whirled Cinema, 259 Hardess Street, London SE24 0HN (near to Loughborough Junction, Brixton & Herne Hill stations)
  • If you would like to attend please email Jacqui at jacqui.gilliatt@4bc.co.uk or you can tweet her at @gjacqui
  • There is room for up to 70 people, a paying bar (normal pub prices) and a very decent pizza delivery place 10 metres away

Further Notes From Jacqui:

“The film makers describe The Syndrome as “an explosive documentary following the crusade of a group of doctors, scientists, and legal scholars who have uncovered that “Shaken Baby Syndrome,” a child abuse theory responsible for hundreds of prosecutions each year in the US, is not scientifically valid. In fact, they say, it does not even exist. Filmmaker Meryl Goldsmith teams with national award­winning investigative reporter Susan Goldsmith to document the unimaginable nightmare for those accused and shine a light on the men and women dedicating their lives to defending the prosecuted and freeing the convicted. The Syndrome uncovers the origins of the myth of “Shaken Baby Syndrome.” I am not personally promoting any of the film’s conclusions but it is an interesting topic which provokes much divided opinion and I am all for the scrutiny of today’s ‘medical certainties.’”

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Humane Social Work Conference Not So Humane After All

Back in January of this year, we posted details about a social work conference taking place this month that we were genuinely excited about, which was created to examine current social work practice and look to make it more humane for the many vulnerable families involved.

Hosted by King’s College London and set up by The British Association of Social Workers (BASW), Making Research Count (MRC) and the three Faculties (Children and Families, Mental Health and Adults) of the former College of Social Work, the event promised to hear from practitioners, and, service users.

Shortly after we published details of this event, a service user contacted us to tell us that they had tried to book a place but had been told it would cost them over £200 for the privilege, and they would therefore not be able to go. We offered to investigate, and more importantly to see if we could negotiate some seats for service users who wished to attend without having to pay the exorbitant fee. Furthermore, only one panel member for the conference appeared to be a service user, with the vast majority being social work and other professionals, and there was no indication on the conference’s site details as to how service users might be able to attend.

So, we wrote to the event organiser, Janet Noble, the Knowledge Manager at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit at King’s College, and asked her whether the hosts might consider offering service users seats at a much reduced rate:

Dear Janet,

My name’s Natasha, I’m a non practicing barrister running a child welfare project inside the family justice system. I’m writing to you about your upcoming conference, entitled, “Promoting Humane Social Work With Families: Listening to and Learning From Each Other”. It sounds like a wonderful event, and a positive contribution to increasing awareness of the system’s impact on children and families.

Of concern however, is the ticket charge of £245 for non social work professionals, for your event. Whilst I appreciate there are costs to cover, the charge will most certainly deter anyone with valuable feedback from coming to the conference, as most families who experience the system simply don’t have the ability to pay hundreds of pounds to attend.

I’m sure you are not trying to stop families from coming to your event, but from the outside it does look like a defensive gesture, which as you know is a stigma already associated with the social work profession, and as your event is intended to allow professionals to listen and learn from one another as well as service users, I find it hard to understand how you hope to achieve best practice without more than a couple of invited parents coming along.

If you are able to provide an appropriate number of seats for members of the public to attend at a concession, perhaps £10, not only would this show transparency on your part, but it would also increase good will amongst service users, which at this time is much needed. It would also offer your event a fantastic opportunity to hear from more people who use the system, and precious insight, too. I have organised many child welfare events inside the House of Commons over the last ten years, all open to the public, and people have always behaved civilly and, as you might imagine, contributed immeasurably.

I very much look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,
Natasha

And then, we received this reply:

Dear Natasha

Thank you for your email. Please be assured that the event is free to MRC and BASW members and they have been allocated unlimited free places to offer to their service users who wish to attend the conference.

Regards

Janet

We thought this was an interesting response, and so we sent a further email clarifying the process which was used to notify service users of the seats available, and whether past service users who did not currently have a social worker could also attend:

Dear Janet,

Thank you for your reply. It’s wonderful that service users are able to attend free of charge. Would it be be possible to ask how those tickets have been made available to service users and whether service users who are not currently working with MRC or BSW professionals might be able to access these free tickets?

Kind regards,
Natasha

We did not receive a reply to this email, and this then left us wondering whether Janet had been completely honest about the provision of free tickets to services users, especially in light of the fact that no mention of how service users can access tickets is made on the site. The service user who contacted us did not receive the same response we did, either – they were simply told that a fee of £245 would be due should they wish to reserve a seat and no information was provided on how service users might be able to access tickets for the event free of charge.

This event was designed to hear what service users themselves had to say, so we were concerned that the conference may have been discriminating against past service users whose experience would be invaluable, not least of all because they were far more likely to attend in a context where they were no longer worried about whether their views on their experiences might affect the outcome of their cases – who would attend such an event if their social worker was present? Only those who had had good experiences, surely, which defeats the entire purpose of the exercise. How can the sector hope to learn from its mistakes if it actively discourages constructive feedback about its practices?

We very much hope we have made a mistake in relation to attendance. Janet, wherever you are, please do tell us we’re wrong: we’d be only too happy to be.

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“Paedophilia Is Natural And Normal Among Males”

Welcome to another week.

A body of research produced in part by respected academics made the rounds last week on the internet, and stems from a news item which was published in 2o14, which claims that paedophilia is ‘natural and normal for males’.

The article explains that several of the authors for this research are ex members of the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), and that at least two are considered to be well respected university professors in their fields. The article highlights views bolstering the view that paedophilia is part of male sexual desire, and mentions counter views, also.

Our question to you then, is this: do you think this research is right? 

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UK Insurance Companies Covering Up Child Abuse Since 1996?

When news broke last year that local authorities had been caught trying to suppress evidence of child abuse to avoid losing insurance cover should they have found themselves having to compensate victims, the public and the media started to look at how insurance companies in these situations were behaving, too.

A BBC investigation observed that insurance companies were placing pressure on councils to make it increasingly difficult for victims of sexual abuse to seek justice, not just in the present, but stretching back several years.

That this behaviour has a long history to it, is even greater cause for concern. We know this kind of behaviour stems back at least as far as 1996, when MP Rhodri Morgan exposed insurance companies Zurich Mutual and Municipal’s threats to withdraw insurance if independent reports outlining abuse in care in Wales, were published.

As of yet, there has only been one inquiry into how insurance companies have managed to influence councils or place undue pressure on local authorities to avoid claims (thanks to Morgan’s campaign), but there has not yet been a single, dedicated inquiry into insurance companies across the UK and their conduct in this context.

The Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse has now promised to look at how insurance companies have been dealing with child sexual abuse allegations, however it remains to be seen whether the Inquiry will have the time and resources to give this element the attention it deserves during the first phase of their work, which incorporates 12 different investigations and will be their main focus for this year.

For those of us assisting parents in this area, we are only too familiar with the resistance local authorities often show and the lack of willing when it comes to investigating allegations of child sexual abuse, which we are aware are underpinned by concerns over insurance payouts. The questions now must be, how many insurance companies are engaging in this behaviour and how many victims have been affected?

Many thanks to Maggie Tuttle for sharing the Early Day Motion, with us.

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