Welcome to another week.
As we begin National Stalking Awareness Week here in the UK, new figures have been published which suggest that stalkers are unlikely to be jailed, even if they are repeat offenders.
Ministry of Justice data reveal that almost two-thirds of those who breached their orders received a non-custodial sentence. The report also confirmed that even when the offender had committed multiple breaches, a custodial term was unlikely.
Furthermore, almost 60% of offenders who breached a second time avoided a custodial sentence and nearly half of those who breached a third time (49%) avoided jail, as did 38% of those who breached on four occasions.
So, for this week, we aren’t going to ask you a question. Instead, we’re inviting you to share your thoughts on, or experiences of stalking in order to raise awareness.
The government has just announced that it will carry out a series of inspections on public bodies working with neglected children.
The inspections which will start in May this year, aim to assess how effectively organisations like local authorities, police and probation services work together to help and protect children aged between 7 and 15, the age group considered to be most at risk of neglect, abuse and exploitation.
There will be 6 inspections, which from May until December will focus on children’s experiences at the hands of these organisations. Findings highlighting what works and what needs to be improved will be published when all six inspections are complete.
A further overview report will then be published to offer guidance on good practice in this area.
An initial series of inspections were carried out in January 2016 which looked at children at risk of sexual exploitation, and those who went missing from school or care.
We hope the latest round of inspections reveal the deep dysfunction amongst these organisations who continue to work against, rather than with, each other. There is still an enormous amount of mistrust between agencies like the police and the local authority, which often has serious consequences for the children in their care.
We’ll keep you up to date with any developments.
Thank you to Nick for alerting us to this item.
This month for The Huffington Post we chose to write about a new education initiative in Afghanistan co founded by two female students against a backdrop of violent extremism, war and massive gender inequality. These young women are risking their lives to bring about peace in their country, and they’re using education and the internet to do it.
The project was launched in March, but it’s already gone global. Experience what daily life is like for these students in a world where they often find themselves hostages in their own classrooms.
The news items that should be right on your radar:
- Mentoring scheme for social workers and adopters
- Police investigating child abuse in football receive 400 new referrals
- Foster carers not put through repeat vetting, health watchdog finds (Ireland)
At 11.15am this morning, Prime Minister Theresa May made a surprise announcement. She plans to hold a general election on 8th June this year.
The impact on this in relation to children’s rights could be concerning. Her welfare cuts are already set to plunge more than one million children into poverty, and with wider powers both nationally and in relation to Brexit negotiations should her party win, she could implement more policies set to hit the most vulnerable.
The general election is a strategic move. Whilst May insists she made the decision to hold a vote in June “recently and reluctantly” this is not the case. May and her cabinet would have discussed this option as soon as she entered office in order to strengthen the party’s credibility and ensure they could enjoy the benefits of a Conservative Prime Minister in full. With party politics at an all time low and Labour barely able to mount an opposition, Conservatives believe they are striking whilst the iron is hot.
But the move doesn’t come without its risks. Pro EU voters will see this as a call to arms, a chance to undo Brexit plans. There may well be a stronger turnout this June than for the Referendum in June of last year, and perhaps another surprise for May.
We will have to wait and see.
Welcome to another week.
A young woman in Wales has made headlines today after a local authority came under fire for putting her baby up for adoption without her consent. A police watchdog also found failings with the police force handling her case.
Despite being a victim of abuse, and evidence clearly showing the abuse, the police and the local authority failed to treat her as such. The girl’s father believes that the shoddy handling of his daughter’s case led to the forced adoption of her child. The local authority in question is now being investigated.
Her father said in a statement:
“It’s true that she became involved with drink and drugs, but her problems were greatly exacerbated by the failure to provide her with proper support.
“Her former partner has been convicted of assaulting her, but initially the police did not see her as a victim of domestic abuse.
“It is heartbreaking that her child has been taken away from her for adoption. It’s an enormous blow that has had a devastating impact on her. At present she is greatly traumatised by what has happened and finding it very difficult to cope.”
Here are some of the findings from the report published by The Independent Police Complaints Commission:
- Police did not arrest the offender at the time of the assault
- The incident of domestic violence was not properly reported or considered
Claims made against Vale of Glamorgan council which will be investigated by The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales include:
- Enrolling the mother on a programme that involved participating in joint counselling sessions with her abusive partner.
- Failure of the council to comply with its legal duty to “assess the care and needs of a child for care and support”
Crucially, the news item reports that the teenage mother did not feel safe during the sessions because her partner was assaulting her afterwards. As a result she was perceived by social workers to be withdrawn and uncooperative.
Our question this week then, is just this: do you think the training for child protection professionals when it comes to domestic abuse and the steps that follow when deciding to remove a child in such a situation are good enough?
The British Association Of Social Workers (BASW) has launched an Enquiry looking into the UK’s current adoption practices.
The Enquiry itself was launched in May 2016, and is still ongoing. The review includes a questionnaire (which can be accessed through the link in the first paragraph), one day events across the UK for stakeholders, focus groups and interviews with interested parties and written submissions.
PLEASE NOTE: THE ENQUIRY ARE NO LONGER ACCEPTING WRITTEN SUBMISSIONS. Thank you to Cobalt Atomic for notifying us of this.
The Enquiry will consider the non consensual nature of adoption, or forced adoption as it is sometimes called, social workers’ involvement in the practice of removing children from parents without their consent and the ethical and human rights issues underpinning this practice.
The Enquiry page outlines the BASW Code of Ethics for Social Work:
‘Ethical awareness is fundamental to the professional practice of social workers. Their ability and commitment to act ethically is an essential aspect of the quality of the service offered to those who engage with social workers. Respect for human rights and a commitment to promoting social justice are at the core of social work practice throughout the world.
Social workers have a responsibility to apply the professional values and principles … They should act with integrity and treat people with compassion, empathy and care.’
An independent enquiry team has also been set up to oversee the work, led by Brigid Featherstone, and Dr Anna Gupta.
A steering group has also been put together, which will report to the Policy Ethics and Human Rights Committee and the BASW Council. The steering group members are:
- Dr Ruth Allen,
- Dr Lauren Devine,
- Janice McGhee,
- Maggie Mellon and;
- Allan Norman
The Enquiry will be publishing a report once it has compiled all the information it receives. If you would like to know more, or wish to send in a submission you can email the BASW at: email@example.com
We have also invited members of this Enquiry to interview, so we will keep you posted.
Thank you to Tom Perkins for alerting us to the Enquiry.
Yesterday London Live invited Researching Reform to discuss the distressing decision to take Charlie Gard, the baby suffering from Mitochondrial Depletion Syndrome, off life support. The decision was made yesterday by Justice Francis in the family division, after reviewing expert medical opinions in the case. Charlie’s parents had been fighting to get pioneering treatment for their son, which may have prevented him from dying.
We spoke to London Live about the ruling, and why, despite the arguments put forward by medical experts, we strongly felt the decision was wrong.
Mitochondrial Depletion Syndrome is a rare disease which affects the brain, kidneys and muscles. There are currently only 16 known children carrying the symptoms of the disease, and of those none are as severe as Charlie’s. The pioneering treatment on offer is available in the US, and has helped to treat patients with this condition by reducing the symptoms. And whilst medical experts in the UK and the US all agreed that the treatment if given would not be able to reverse Charlie’s brain damage, no evidence currently exists to suggest that the treatment would not be successful in saving Charlie’s life, or would not improve his quality of life as it stands now.
The entire premise relied upon to remove Charlie from life support was based on subjective opinions by medical experts who admit that the effects of the pioneering treatment on offer are unknown.
Arguments for denying Charlie treatment are highly questionable. Doctors took the view that although no evidence of Charlie being in pain has been registered by diagnostic machines or professionals themselves, they concluded that further treatment elsewhere could cause him to suffer. Again, a purely subjective observation and one which contradicts the parents’ who felt that Charlie was not in any pain and with a greater level of brain function than suggested by professionals.
Bizarrely, a doctor involved also called the parents a “spanner in the works” for trying to seek out what could be potentially life saving treatment.
The email reads: “The spanner in the works has been a parent-driven exploration of all alternatives internationally leading to a new specialist in New York who has recommended a three-month trial of nucleosides.”
When asked about this choice of wording, the doctor told the court that it was just a “clumsy” turn of phrase, saying: “I was trying to suggest that our previous decision to take this to the court as urgently as we could was being held up by something being explored which needed to be explored.”
Not convinced? Neither are we. Professional arrogance is a huge problem in the medical sector, and no doubt having a US doctor muscle in on the diagnosis and decision making process would have put a few UK doctors’ noses out of joint. It’s something we’ve seen in other high profile cases, such as the now infamous story of Ashya King, whose parents took him abroad for pioneering treatment against UK doctors’ wishes. (Ashya is now cancer free and back at school). In this case too, UK doctors played down any success the treatment might have and tried to convince the court that the treatment would not work.
In Charlie Gard’s case, medical professionals told the court that even if treatment was allowed, the end result would be so minimal as to be outweighed by what would remain a very poor quality of life. A view not based in any tangible evidence, because treatment on someone like Charlie has never been attempted.
The anti treatment lobby ignore two fundamental points: no one actually knows what the end result of the treatment might be. There is also the possibility that in a few years’ time we may have pioneering treatment which can reduce the symptoms of the disease further, and even reverse the brain damage it causes. If Charlie is still alive, he can benefit immensely from that development.
Given that the parents have managed to raise all the funds necessary to have the treatment, and that medical professionals have conceded that Charlie could travel to America for the pioneering therapy, it seems unbelievably reckless to deny Charlie and his parents this chance.
A chance every parent would take for their child.