Question It!

Welcome to another week.

A report recently published by the University of Winchester argues that children should have their own, independent right to privacy, separate from their parents’ own views about privacy.

The publication follows the Government’s announcement this month that it will create a new Data Protection Bill, giving people a right to force social media companies to delete their personal data, including social media posts from childhood.

A workshop was held to look at the ways in which a child’s right to privacy might be implemented in law. Organisations who attended the workshop included Channel Four, the BBC, the Children’s Commissioner’s Office and academics from the universities of Winchester, Oxford, East Anglia, Sussex and Cambridge.

A total of 8 recommendations were made:

  1. Young children should have a privacy right independent from their parents’ privacy expectations.
  2. Encourage debate on the objectification of children online, internet bullying and standards needed to ensure children are treated fairly as they surf the web.
  3. More research into the impact of broadcast media exposure of young children is needed to understand what effect it has on them, both positive and negative.
  4. The creation of a Children’s Digital Ombudsman to represent children’s interests in relation to all forms of digital publications.
  5. Controller hosts (social platforms like Twitter and Facebook) and independent intermediaries (like Google), should have a duty of care to consider young
    children’s privacy and best interests in their operations.
  6. The duty of care should make information privacy a default setting. The extent of that privacy should increase in line with the social media service’s interests in promoting, controlling and profiting from the publication of images of young children.
  7. There should be a limit to the amount of sharing, copying and reworking of images relating to children.
  8. There should be more education for both children and parents about the impact of ‘sharenting’ (defined as parents “overusing” social media to share content based on their children).

Our question this week then, is just this: what do you think of the recommendations?

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Just In: Findings On Evidence In Family Courts

A report just published highlights new findings about research and evidence use in family courts.

The Nuffield Foundation, along with several universities, research organisations and adoption and fostering academy CORAM BAAF, created “Towards a National Family Justice Observatory”, a scoping study which aims to identify what role the latest evidence and research can play in child welfare proceedings.

The study includes a consultation, which took place in September 2016 and which Researching Reform completed – you can see our answers here. It is this consultation which forms the basis of the recently publicised report.

Who Took Part

The consultation wanted to understand the research evidence needs of stakeholders and
opportunities and barriers to the application of research evidence in policy and practice.

The findings were interesting. At a healthy 64 pages, we haven’t had a chance to comb through the whole report yet (you’ll need at least 30 tea bags and two packets of Digestives), but we have managed to read a significant portion.

Key highlights:

  • All those consulted agreed that a ‘One Stop Shop’ with up to the minute research and evidence was a priority
  • A need to ensure that research looked at the long term effects of policies and decisions was vital
  • The majority consulted agreed that a basic knowledge of the latest child welfare research for those working on public and private law children cases was essential
  • Across all stakeholders there was concern about the impartiality of research and evidence in general
  • There was confusion as to how to introduce research and evidence at court level
  • Legal professionals demonstrated the lowest levels of research literacy
  • Some social workers preferred to produce reports based solely on their observations, rather than refer to or include relevant research materials
  • Time, resources and lack of access were all noted as bars to accessing up to date research
  • Research and evidence needed to be produced in clear, accessible formats with key messages featured in each body of work
  • There is a need for guidance materials which aid decision making in front line practice
  • Concerns were raised about litigants in person not having access to the relevant information within research materials
  • Frontline practitioners such as social workers felt the family courts were ambivalent about child welfare and social science research
  • Conflicting and contradictory research also posed problems, leaving the court with no time to debate the substance of the findings and creating confusion as to which body of research to apply in a case
  • Judges consulted felt that the reputation and expertise of researchers was fundamental to the credibility of the research before the court
  • A pilot phase of 2-3 years is needed to establish quality standards for research evidence, and mechanisms for sharing information across the family justice system.

The report also tells us that based on stakeholders’ priorities, a new observatory would need to:

  • Improve the evidence base for family justice policy and practice through better use of large scale datasets;
  • Commission authoritative knowledge reviews and make these highly accessible;
  • Host events and conferences to improve dissemination of research findings;
  • Support better use of regional data to enable variability/best practice to be identified.

The top 4 research topics listed by those consulted were:

  • Longer-term outcomes of family justice system involvement for children and families;
  • Impact of family justice reforms – policy and legislation;
  • Robust evaluation of interventions/innovation;
  • Research on the assessment of risk.

More importantly, the consultation process asked young people how they felt about the family justice system and what they wanted from it.

Every single child who took part, said they wanted the option to be able to speak to their judge directly.

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Those who took part in the Focus Group listed the following as important to them:

  • Help in understanding their case and family justice processes
  • Social workers, Cafcass guardians and judges need to explain to children and young people how the family justice system works and what the process will be
  • Child friendly information on the family justice system should be available for children and young people
  • Social workers, Cafcass guardians and judges should be given all the information they need to understand individual cases

They also felt it was vital that judges understood the long term impact of child welfare judgments and orders, as well as an emphasis on training for both judges and social work professionals to better understand how to communicate with children and provide them with emotional support. Young people also suggested child welfare professionals should have a working knowledge of cultural and topical issues.

Very much worth a read if you have the time.

 

 

 

 

Social Worker Struck Off For Belittling And Endangering Domestic Violence Victim

A social worker has been struck off after an audio recording emerged in which he made degrading comments about a victim of domestic violence, and shared her whereabouts with the man convicted of assaulting her. The incidents took place within a child protection investigation.

The man had been accused of standing on the pregnant woman’s face and threatening to pour oil on her. She later escaped by jumping out of a window.

The social worker, who has not been named, called the woman a “pathological liar” and said she was “bi-polar”. The HCPC conduct and competence committee reviewing the case said the social worker’s tone in the recording was “wholly disrespectful” and “bordering on degrading”.

Of greater concern was the social worker’s decision to tell the man accused of abusing the woman, the location and times of meetings she would be attending, putting her and her unborn child at risk. He also discussed confidential information the woman gave to a local support group.

The committee concluded that the social worker had abused a position of trust and potentially jeopardised an ongoing police investigation.

Whilst the social work professional admitted to all the allegations, he appeared to show no remorse.

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Question It!

Welcome to another week.

A recent article in the New Zealand Herald calls out a practice in the country’s Family Court called ‘uplifting’. (WARNING: article features highly distressing video footage).

The practice can involve physically removing a child from persons or premises in order to return them to a parent whose custodial rights have been breached.

There may be no warning that the uplift is going to take place, and police are often called in to remove children.

Uplifts occur after an aggrieved parent applies for a warrant to have their child returned. The use of ‘reasonable force’  is allowed where considered appropriate. The element of force and a sharp rise in the use of uplifts, are causing concern.

Video footage showing children in acute distress during the removal process has sparked outrage in New Zealand. New Zealand Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern called the recordings “horrific” and observed that being forcibly removed from the home was clearly traumatic for children.

Professor Mark Henaghan, who is Dean of the faculty of Law at the University of Otago, said the Family Court had lost sight of their duty to place children’s welfare first and that the uplifts were ‘terrorising the children involved.’ He goes on to say:

“It’s become a battle of enforcement between the parents, courts, saying we’ve made an order, therefore it has to be enforced otherwise the court’s not carrying out its job…But the primary job of the [Family] Court is the welfare of the child. And I think if they saw some of the consequences of some of these warrants they may look at it differently.”

Speaking about the role of the police in uplifts, Police Association president Chris Cahill said the measure was also hard on police as officers were effectively “pawns” in the “wider games by parents”. He goes on to say:

“Often the police doing [uplifts] are the younger ones and they are only five or six years older than the children they are removing and that is tough on them.”

Cahill suggests that social workers should be tasked with carrying out uplifts.

The Labour party in New Zealand has continuously called for a review of the country’s Family Court, and more informed decision making before judges grant warrants to remove children.

Our question this week then, is just this: do you think the use of reasonable force to remove a child is ever ok?

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Former Abuse Inquiry Panelist: Counsel Silenced Me So That May Could Become Prime Minister.

In a controversial interview released today, former Child Abuse Inquiry panel member Sharon Evans makes a startling number of revelations about the Inquiry.

A child abuse survivor and journalist who founded children’s charity Dot Com, Sharon accuses the Inquiry of trying to stifle concerns about the way the investigation was being run so that Theresa May could be pushed into office as Prime Minister.

Ms Evans also said that there was no independence whatsoever at the Inquiry, and that the confidentiality clause which all panel members had to sign, effectively prevented her and others from exposing the truth.

She goes on to allege that Ben Emmerson QC, who was lead counsel for the Inquiry at the time, warned her that if she made her concerns public, she would be discredited. Sharon tells Talk Radio:

“I was taken to one side and it was made clear to me, I was told that Theresa May was going to be the Prime Minister, this inquiry was going to be part of this, and that if I didn’t toe the line and do as I was told, if I tried to get information out, I would be discredited by her advisors.”

Ms Evans also claims that she was given a 23 page document which she was to take her cues from when speaking to the Home Affairs Select Committee. The restrictions left her feeling unable to tell the Committee what she felt was the truth about the Inquiry and the way in which it was being governed.

In answer to the radio host’s question about who she felt was responsible for trying to suppress information, Ms Evans replied, The Home Office.

Ms Evans first came to the public’s attention for her initial attempts at speaking out about what she felt were internal conflicts within the Inquiry. She also went head to head with then lead counsel Ben Emmerson, telling the Home Affairs Select Committee that Mr Emmerson had threatened and intimidated panel members whilst acting as interim Chair for the Inquiry. Emmerson retaliated by telling the Committee that Evans had done “a great deal of damage” to the Inquiry.

The Home Office, which Miss Evans says is responsible for sweeping important information under the carpet, had previously sent Evans a letter accusing her of “extremely serious” breaches of confidentiality, a letter which the Home Affairs Committee went on to publish.

Fast forward two years and current Inquiry Chair, Professor Alexis Jaye, suspects that there are forces at work trying to destroy her investigation. She cites the incident of alleged sexual assault at the Inquiry as the catalyst for its near death experience.

Professor Jaye told the media in July of this year that “dark forces” were attempting to shut her down, and that, “strong vested interests would like to see this inquiry implode… There are institutions which would prefer to see us fail, because we are such a threat.’

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Question It!

Welcome to another week.

Well known vigilante group Dark Justice were interviewed on LBC earlier this year, claiming that their work is vital in stopping child abusers.

Another interview on LBC over the weekend featured a victim of child abuse who said vigilante groups were responsible for catching paedophiles the police had been unable to arrest.

This latest interview comes after police called on vigilante groups to take a step back, alleging that their activities were frustrating police operations. Senior officers have also expressed concern at the methods vigilantes used.

The warning comes as Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced £20 million funding in March to extend an initiative allowing undercover detectives to operate in internet chat rooms and forums used by suspected offenders. The government would not comment on how its operatives would conduct themselves within these operations.

In June this year, Angus McPherson, Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire, invited vigilantes to come and work for him. 

A ruling in April confirmed that vigilante groups could pose as children online in order to catch paedophiles. The judgment allows vigilante groups to operate without regulation.

Our question this week then, is just this: do you think vigilantes should be allowed to operate independently of the police?

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In The News

The latest child welfare stories that should be right on your radar:

Thank you to Nick for sharing the first news item with us.

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Please Help Us Raise Awareness Of This Little Known Children’s Cancer

Three months ago my cousin was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer which tends to affect boys.

His courage and dignity as he fights this disease, and his desire to raise awareness of it, is simply outstanding.

This is his story.

“Yes, I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, but I am beating it with the know-how of my doctors, surgeon and the love and support of my family and friends and with a strong positive attitude.

I would like to raise awareness of this disease so people catch it before metastasis. The form of osteosarcoma I was diagnosed with commonly occurs at the age of 14 to 15 years and more frequently in boys. This is a disease that can come to the best of us and the worst of us. Take your ongoing aches and pains seriously and get yourself checked out. Medicine is an amazing thing and it has come along way; as has surgery.

The process can be very difficult emotionally, physically and mentally but you have to stay strong and positive. There are MRIs, three hour-long scans blood tests galore, intrusive procedures and so much more. The side effects of chemo can be every bit as horrendous as you have heard and read…. dreadful nausea, partial or full hair loss; body aches and pains that you just can’t imagine.

Life is worth living so you can see this through. I feel a purpose… I need you to be aware that this disease exists but you can all overcome difficulties that life brings to your door. I will be here to help you where I can, and give you knowledge of my experience. I have researched this disease, its treatment process, the medication, suitable diet and lifestyle and I will be here for you any time you need me. thank you all for your concerns love and understanding.”

Follow Kammy on Instagram @kamraan_phz

On behalf of Kammy, please may I ask you to share this post so that he can reach more people struggling to cope with this disease. Thank you.

Natasha xxxx

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