Single Family Court – Excellent Resources

The Single Family Court should officially open its ‘doors’ on or around 22nd April this year, so it’s good to know exactly what that entails. There are some excellent resources available for anyone who would like to know more, so we’ve listed them below.

We will of course keep you up to date with anything else that we think is relevant to the reforms, but these are the places and spaces we recommend:

News

Cinderella Law – Researching Reform Awaits Response From Action For Children

Action for Children’s Cinderella Law aims to update existing criminal legislation around child abuse by including a definition of risk of significant harm (like the one the family courts currently use), and making it a criminal offence to physically and emotionally abuse a child (carrying a maximum sentence of up to 10 years).

The proposals have incited a wide variety of reactions, not all of which have been favourable. The proposed law has also caused a great deal of confusion, partly due to the way Cinderella Law has been communicated in the media and also as a result of Action for Children’s own promotional material, which is unclear.

We wanted to clarify the length and breadth of this draft legislation and find out exactly what it entailed, so last week we wrote to the policy team at Action for Children’s headquarters to find out more. This is our email to the Team:

Hi guys,

Thank you so much for the opportunity to ask you a little more about your proposal to bring criminal law in line with family/civil law in relation to child abuse.

I work in the sector as a legal researcher and copywriter, and my work focuses heavily on child welfare, so I’d love to be able to ask you the following about the Cinderella Law, if that’s ok?

  1. The media have said that Cinderella Law will encompass conduct which includes not showing children love and affection and humiliating them. Does that comment stem from Action for Children itself or is it an assumption being made? 
  2. If such conduct is to be included, how will standards be set to ensure that professionals do not misconstrue the legislation and will cultural differences be considered? 
  3. Some family groups have asked me whether parental alienation would fall under Cinderella Law – might this be the case? 
  4. Under Cinderella Law, who will be deemed to have responsibility for a child and will it include teachers, foster carers, social workers and the local authority at large? 
  5. The current draft of Cinderella Law looks very similar to the Child Maltreatment Bill which was presented in the House of Commons last year. That Bill sets out criminal sanctions for parents who are found guilty of emotional and physical child abuse. However, the current Action for Children draft legislation does not seem to mention the sanctions – why is this?
  6. Risk of Significant Harm in family law is continually being refined by the judiciary in case law and through research carried out by child experts. It is, in effect, a work in progress. How will the criminal courts ensure that they are up to date and fully aware of the important nuances which stem from this threshold, before the law is introduced?

Thank you again. I’m getting a great deal of feedback and interest on Cinderella Law and I know your answers will be very well received.

Have a lovely weekend,Natasha 

We have not heard back from Action for Children yet, but we do hope they’ll get in touch. We know these are difficult questions, but they need answering.

BBC Radio1 DJ Emperor Rosko Backs Children Screaming To Be Heard

Maggie Tuttle, founder of CSTBH has just told us that Michael Pasternak, former Radio 1 DJ and son of Hollywood film producer Joe Pasternak has, in a show of solidarity, added the CSTBH website to his own web page.

Rosko, as he is known, will also be playing the charity’s song, Calling You Calling Me, written and recorded for the children by Michael Unsworth on air. You can buy the song here if you would like to. All money raised from the proceeds will go to towards the running of safe houses in the UK. 

Children Screaming to Be Heard is dedicated to providing warm, welcoming safe houses to children who have run away from home or state care.

Question It!

Welcome to another week, which promises to be a little grey, but that should match the grey cell conundrum we have for you, nicely.

The Department of Education announced last week that new adoption agencies have opened their doors as part of a wider scheme to get children adopted, faster. The press release tells us that these agencies have committed to finding over 100 adopters in their first three years, particularly for those children who are harder to place (i.e. those who perhaps have learning or other disabilities, are older or have siblings).

None of the current measures to improve adoption include ensuring that potential adopters are able to cope with the children entrusted in their care, or just as importantly, able to love them unconditionally.

Our question this week, is very simple: do you think these new agencies will be good for children in care?

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Stay At Home Dads on The Increase: DadsHouse Speaks to the BBC

We wanted to share this interesting BBC Radio interview with Billy McGranaghan, Founder of leading Father’s Charity DadsHouse. John Humphrys spoke with Billy and Zoe Williams, a Guardian journalist.

Billy does a fantastic job of highlighting the difficulties stay at home fathers face both culturally and socially. He also touches on the need to help fathers get involved with parenting networks so they can have the support they’re looking for.

Our only gripe with the interview was the jaded perspective offered by Ms Williams. She seemed to be under the impression that mothers did not have time for networks and that they were too busy either tearing their hair out or being horribly bored by the whole baby experience. To say we found her views on parenting nauseating is an understatement. She certainly doesn’t come across as a bona fide mother, or even a vaguely engaged one.

As a mother myself, I’m privy to the vast networks mothers have, both within school structures and outside of them (for those who still have children not yet of school age). With the advent of the working mother, these networks have become more important than ever before. Mothers rely on each other to help with childcare, as they dash around from job to home, and some to school and back to make it all work. The mothers at my school certainly couldn’t do it all without the help of their networks. And fathers could benefit tremendously too, from networks like those DadsHouse offer.

I have also never found the day to day routine of looking after my son boring, at any age. I had plenty to do, and found showing him the world one of the most exciting experiences of my life. As he gets older, the depths of the world open up to him and the excitement only deepens. I often think women like Ms Williams should question why they have children in the first place. There is no room for vanity or Lemming Culture when it comes to bringing a life into this world. If you ain’t got the passion, don’t make the babies.

Founder of DadsHouse, Billy McGranaghan. We are not sure if he likes Jaffa cakes.

Founder of DadsHouse, Billy McGranaghan.

Cinderella Law – Passing The Glass Slipper

There are differing reports in the media this week, but some journalists say that new child abuse measures dubbed Cinderella Law, could take effect in the near future and change the face of criminal law forever.

The campaign for this new law began in 2010 when Action for Children commissioned selected experts to review the criminal law in this area and modernise it so that it included emotional abuse. Their reasons for doing so can be viewed here, but essentially the charity wanted to update what they felt were inherently Victorian notions of child abuse encompassed by the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 and ensure that children could be protected from all current forms of abuse.

Whether or not this law is enacted remains to be seen for now, but it’s well worth taking a look at the proposals.

As the media were not organised enough to get the actual draft legislation, which seeks to criminalise emotional as well as physical abuse, we rang up Action for Children and they very kindly supplied us with the material. Although some media outlets are suggesting that the new law would be a stand-alone piece of legislation, Action for Children have stated that they would like to repeal Section1 of the Children and Young Persons Act and simply amend the law to include the following:

s.1    Child maltreatment
(1)    It is an offence for a person with responsibility for a child intentionally or recklessly to subject that child or allow that child to be subjected to maltreatment, whether by act or omission, such that the child suffers, or is likely to suffer, significant harm.

(2)    For the purposes of this section:
(a)    ‘recklessly’ shall mean that a person with responsibility for a child foresaw a risk that an act or omission regarding that child would be  likely to result in significant harm, but nonetheless unreasonably decided to run that risk;
(b)    ‘responsibility’ shall be as defined in section 17;
(c)    ‘maltreatment’ includes
(i)    neglect (including abandonment),
(ii)    physical abuse,
(iii)    sexual abuse,
(iv)    exploitation, and
(v)    emotional abuse (including exposing the child to violence against others in the same household );
(d)    ‘harm’ means the impairment of:
(i)    physical or mental health, or
(ii)    physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development.
Where the question of whether harm suffered by a child is significant turns on the child’s health or development, that child’s health or development shall be compared with that which could reasonably be expected of a similar child.”

You may remember a certain Child Maltreatment Bill, which attempted to define emotional abuse and harm. This is really the same piece of legislation. We were very concerned about its vagueness and its intent to criminalise parents further, and despite the fact that we can see this is a well meaning measure, we remain concerned about its impact.

The intent as described by Action for children, is to mimic the current family law legislation on risk of significant harm and child abuse definitions, but with a sting in the tail – under Cinderella Law, parents and carers could be sent to prison for humiliating their children and failing to love them. Quite how the benchmarks for these things will be defined is yet to be seen, but it’s going to cause terrible problems. What can be reasonably expected in terms of humiliation? What standards of love are we to apply?

Whilst the statements issued by Action for Children seem to have omitted the penal sanctions involved, they have not denied their existence inside the proposed legislation. They have simply chosen not to mention it, on any of their material.

The criminal courts will have to play a terrible game of catch up, too. Whilst family law already has a wealth of case law, policy and procedural guidelines on the threshold for significant harm and how to implement it, criminal law is playing by a completely different set of rules. Even their standards of proof differ, so what now?

It’s a precarious situation. Had the researchers and charities involved in this endeavour dug a little deeper, they would have noticed that, 25 years on, the family courts are still trying to refine and define significant harm. It’s a work in progress, but by no means a satisfactory one. Action for Children had the opportunity to reinvent Cinderella’s carriage wheel, but instead, they’ve chosen to throw the glass slipper around and hope it fits.

If this measure is implemented, the question everyone will want answered is whether it will apply to social workers and local authorities? Will they be exempt because of the realities of the care system? Namely that everyone in it is overworked and starved of time, so starving children of affection is collateral damage we must accept? If that is going to be the case, our criminal sector needs to reflect on the following: if a parent has a child but is unable to meet the standards set because they too were starved of affection, who are we really penalising?

This legislation, as well meaning as it is, is not going to make things better – but it has all the hallmarks of a Cinderella Gate waiting to happen. We should be educating and supporting parents who need it, not punishing them for a lack of awareness and the mistakes their forefathers made before them.

Batten VEDA – Fill Your Boots…

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This year we’re taking our VEDA over to our sister site Chameleon, so if you’d like to follow our video logs for the month of April this year you’re very welcome to scoot on over to the site and view them there. To try to make things as smooth and easy as possible, we’ve added a Batten VEDA 2014 page on this site so you can click on the page above and just hop on over to the VEDA store.

Happy giggling!

It’s VEDA, Darth VEDA……

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We’ve just started our video logging efforts and by all accounts they’re more than a little amateurish, but VEDA season is here and we are joining in.

Videologging Every Day in April is an effort to get people around the world to post a video every day for a month and we’re doing ours with the Battenhall community. Each day, we’ll be given a topic to video log about. Today’s was what inspired us. So, naturally, we looked to the mums and dads we work with and talk to every day, who inspire us to make our small contribution to the reformation of the family justice system. If you watch the, frankly, awful video we made, you will notice that we don’t mention anyone by name. We thought this might be better, as some of you we know don’t want to be named, and we were also very worried about missing anyone out in a fit of nerves (it’s the first time we’ve ever uploaded a video of ourselves and the experience has left us a little traumatised).

Still, we’re doing it again tomorrow and we’ll be here all month, so if you can put up with our face and our voice until May 1st, then you’re even braver than we thought.

You can check out our first VEDA entry here.

Fancy having a go? VEDA is for everyone, so get stuck in (and show us up for the amateurs we are)…..

Children Screaming To Be Heard – Message To The Prime Minister

Maggie Tuttle at Children Screaming to be Heard has asked us to post a message they’ve prepared for David Cameron, which reflects on the current state of social work in Britain today. It is balanced, filled with news items to jog our memories on the constant difficulties social work has faced and continues to face and questions social policy in the twenty-first century. It runs to around 26 minutes, but worth a listen if you have the time.

You can access the video below.

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