This week, John Bolch and I cover the latest news on family law; from the most recent comment on child maintenance, to court mapping and more.
We’re sorry for the 24 hour delay in our Question It questions, however we were out making mischief. Now we are in making mischief and our question this week is varnished with our usual naughty nuance.
This week, the Council of Europe have launched a campaign for the “total abolition” of physical punishment of children, which would include smacking. Lexis PSL and Researching Reform, as well as many others we don’t doubt, were quick to consider David Lammy’s contrasting opinion this week, where he expressed the view that a lack of smacking was a factor in the reason the riots took place. At the moment, the Children Act 2004 says smacking is okay, as long as there is no reddening of the skin. So, what do you think: is smacking acceptable or should we ban it?
Possible answer: We really don’t need to smack children to educate them. In fact, even if no reddening of the skin takes place the emotional and psychological messages leave long-lasting imprints, imprints which in the future may play a negative part in that child’s development. We’re also not impressed with David Lammy’s tenuous link between the riots and smacking. To us, at least, it shows a complete lack of understanding when it comes to parenting, children and development. Bring on the campaign to stop corporal punishment, we say!
This evening, armed with a pair of binoculars and a wobbly telescope my son and I went to his school to do a bit of star-gazing and in what could only be a delicious cliché, we came back completely starry-eyed…..
The Herschel Astronomical Society was set up for keen amateur enthusiasts of astronomy to meet and share their mutual interest in the stars. Named after Sir William Herschel, the astronomer who, on 13 March 1781, using a telescope he had made himself, discovered the planet Uranus, the society organises meetings and events at Eton College for anyone interested in learning more about astronomy.
The society has its own observatory with two ginormous telescopes (which we got to use and which were so powerful we could see Buzz Lightyear brushing his teeth on the moon), and they offer what they call Public Viewing Sessions, where the society will either invite children to their observatory or come to schools with their telescopes with a view to promoting astronomy. My son’s school had invited the society to come to the school itself and so we all arrived at the main building at 6.30pm, in the dark with our gazing gear. As we were ushered into the school, tables inside were piled high with little booklets, each entitled “Star Guide for 2012” which had been prepared by the BBC and Open University. The booklets offered really great, practical tips on what kind of things were good to take with you on a star spotting mission and which stars you could expect to see throughout the year.
Little people love going out at night, so the fact that you have to wait until it’s dark to see the stars makes the evening feel very magical and it was lots of fun, too. A big projector screen had been put in the main hall and as we watched the screen, we could see all the stars that were out near the school.The images were amazing and then we discovered that the software being used was actually a free download from the internet.
Stellarium is a free open source planetarium which you can download onto your computer and it’s seriously cool. With over 600,000 stars to look at, a powerful zoom tool and even constellation set ups to view, this software is impressive and very life-like.
Once we had been briefed about what we might see in the night sky (and as the sky was clear, we were in for a treat – Venus, Jupiter and the moon were all up and shining brightly), we walked to the school garden and were greeted by several large telescopes, with tracking equipment, locked on to various planets and stars ready for us to take a peep at.
The gentlemen who came from the Herschell Astronomical Society were passionate about astronomy and were very informative and brilliant to listen to. When I asked if I could try to take a photo of the moon from one of their telescopes, they were incredibly kind and allowed me to do so. I nearly fainted with excitement, but that is another story for another day.
We stayed outside for an hour and a half, gazing into all the telescopes, trying to find Orion’s Belt, ooh-ing and aaaah-ing at Jupiter’s moons and wowing at Venus, who slipped away first, leaving Jupiter and the moon behind. Then, the cloud began to set in and suddenly everyone could feel the cold creeping under their jackets and gloves.
As events for children go, this one has to count as one of the best we’ve ever experienced. It was in the dark – you can’t beat the dark for excitement where little people are concerned (and big people aren’t much better) and it offered the chance to see something unusual and fantastical. Kids are naturally curious and the sky is an endless source of fascination for them, a place which takes centre stage in fairy tales and where wishes come true. Stars are the stuff dreams are made of and the Herschel Society’s hands-on evening was truly enchanting.
If a little person comes away from an educational experience having learned something but not realising that they have, you know you’ve done a great job. That’s exactly what the Herschel Society delivered this evening and we can’t recommend their star-gazing extravaganza enough. A stellar ten out of ten for a spectacular production.
The photos are all of children’s bedrooms around the world and as a piece of photo journalism it’s extremely powerful. These pictures allow us into another world, a private world filled with cultural colour, sometimes controversial and often hugely revealing. The photos are truly beautiful but all hide their own unsettling secrets about the way children dream and how it affects their world when they wake.
There’s Risa, 15, training to be a geisha and a small boy from Romania who sleeps outside. And then there’s Indira, 7, from Nepal who works in a quarry and Erien, 14, who slept on the floor until the late stages of her pregnancy. These images challenge our view of the world, from those children who sleep in cell-like rooms with hard beds to those whose rooms are filled with toys and tokens of their achievements, each picture tells a story and each one asks us to question the tale.
We haven’t come across such a haunting and thought-provoking set of photos like this for a while. A definite must-see.
This week, John Bolch and I cover the latest family related stories, from Essex County Council’s payout for child abuse failings to the latest news on child abduction.
Happy Monday!….. We realise this might be something of a Paradox, but we can’t but help but feel sorry for Mondays. It really isn’t their fault that the working week starts with these guys, so we wish Mondays happiness and go on our merry way, especially as the sun is shining and, thankfully, it does not appear to be Minus Ten outside.
Our question this week comes from the latest research on divorcing couples. A new study indicates that depending upon whether a spouse feels guilt or shame, their conduct in the divorce process will vary, with quite distinct results. The report goes on to suggest that if a spouse feels guilty, their behaviour is more likely to be conciliatory but if a spouse feels ashamed, the opposite is true and that spouse is more likely to be confrontational. Do you agree?
Possible answer: This study is quite narrow and we are not told what nationalities took part, but we feel it is too simplistic. Variations in reaction to a traumatic event like divorce, we feel, differ greatly from culture to culture and person to person and in any event, guilt and shame are often so closely interlinked in divorce that one spouse may feel both emotions at any given time.
Another hat tip, and this time to the wonderful Alison Stevens at PAIN, who shared this article with us. The news item, which comes from Reuters, tells us that a new study in the US indicates that pediatricians who read a fictional case report of a toddler with a leg fracture were more likely to suspect abuse if the child was described as coming from a lower-income family. Interestingly, the child’s race did not seem to have any bearing on this assumption.
The article goes on to say that, “When the child’s family was lower-income, 48 percent of pediatricians thought there’d been abuse, versus 43 percent when the family was higher-income”. We are not sure, given the relatively narrow margin, whether this is a material finding, although we do think that stereotypes can play a dangerous part in misdiagnosis.
The source for this study, (Journal of Pediatrics, online January 5, 2012) can be found at the bottom of the news article.
Hat tip to Julian Whiting, a dedicated gentleman who works on trying to highlight systematic child abuse within the church for alerting us to this event, which takes place on Friday 27th January.
Survivors’ organisations and specialist abuse lawyers have become so concerned about the level of abuse and the way these incidents are being ignored that they have come together to set up this meeting for interested groups. Organised by Jordans Solicitors, and supported by MACSAS, the aim of the meeting is to gather support for the purpose of getting government to open up a public enquiry into this area. The enquiry would look at the extent of abuse in recent decades, the level of cover-ups and new legislation to safeguard children and adults who turn to the church. This meeting is also supported by the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers.
The agenda for the meeting is as follows:
(Chair – David Greenwood – Jordans Solicitors)
- Welcome and Introduction
- Richard Scorer of Pannone LLP
(To summarise the media interest and political response)
- Anne Lawrence of MACSAS
(Evidence of the inability of church organisations to regulate themselves and responses in other jurisdictions)
- Sue Cox of Survivorsvoice-europe.org
- Contributions from the floor
- Motion to empower a working party to:-
a) Gather more evidence
b) Make political connections
c) Start a media campaign, etc.
- Close (approximately 3– 3.30 pm)
This is a public event, but if you wish to go, please do send an email to David Greenwood, who is a partner at Jordans, at David.firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also get hold of David on the phone, Tel: 07770 741 407 or 01924 868911. The event takes place on Friday 27th January 2012 at 1.30 pm – Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square , London , WC1R 4RL . If you are unable to attend but are interested in this area, Jordans would really appreciate an email stating your support.
– Association of Child Abuse Lawyers
– MACSAS (Ministry and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors)
It is certainly something we have mentioned before on Researching Reform, but the lack of care local authorities have been taking will inevitably come to haunt them, and it looks as if these floodgates are starting to creak open.
In an unsettling news article in Community Care, we are told that a council has had to pay one million pounds in damages for ‘shocking child abuse failings‘.In this case, Essex County Council had failed to protect four siblings from systematic child abuse – you can see the timeline of the case here. The case essentially revolved around the fact that the council did not discover the father’s conviction for sexual assault of his two young children from a previous marriage. A child protection investigation then took place, the conviction was uncovered, but regular contact between the siblings and the father was continued.We can only imagine the trauma these young children experienced, both in facing the reality of that contact and in trying, and failing, to find safety amongst the very adults who were meant to be protecting them. There must be a huge price to pay in terms of long-term damage to these children, not just in terms of the harm they suffered but also in terms of whether they will ever be able to trust anyone again.
This scenario is not new to us. We receive dozens of phone calls with distraught parents telling us their children are facing similar arrangements and social workers are just not listening. However, in order to compensate and deal with this, we sometimes see local authorities swing the other way and prevent contact outright, often without any convictions present, at all and no sound basis upon which to remove that contact. The truth is, social workers do a very difficult job, one, that in our opinion,often requires a great deal more training than they are given. Errors like this will continue to happen unless the government addresses this very point.
We also predicted last year that it would only be a matter of time before these floodgates would open and all the terrible errors made in relation to taking care of vulnerable families and children would come home to roost. It is not a prediction we relish coming true, but it is certainly a likelihood and others agree with us.
A very disturbing read. Please do take a look and as always we are very interested to hear what you think.
We came across NotAlone365, whist we were slinking around the net and got very excited (we know we’re excitable, you’ll just have to pretend it’s a lovable trait).
This new project, and it’s very new, looks at the phenomenon that is loneliness and seeks to address it by offering a hugely innovative platform to do just that. Set up by a group of for now, anonymous individuals, the website is a platform for bringing together people who feel alone, whether through physical isolation or emotional quiet and offering them a space to connect and chat with others who feel alone or with individuals who are simply offering a listening ear and emotional support.
Initially starting out life as a twitter account, which was set up in the latter part of December 2011 to offer a friendly network for people who were alone during Christmas, NotAlone365 is now growing rapidly and now has just shy of 1,000 followers on Twitter, a social media website which allows people to chat to one another and ‘connect’. The banter is gentle and polite, people come together to share stories and humour and there is a very pleasant and human feel to the account.
The website offers other things, too. Inside Out is a page where you can go to write about anything you wish, from your feelings to your experiences and is essentially for people who don’t have blogs and don’t wish to set one up. You can send your piece in and it will get posted, either anonymously or with the author’s name. Defamation issues aside, which the site will have to manage just like all blogs who invite comments must, this could make for very insightful reading. Our favourite section is The Red Rag Room, where you can go and vent off steam about whatever’s got your goat! Table for 2 with NA365 is also cute, allowing singletons and others to post up recipes to share with the community and there’s even talk about having nutritionists feature interesting recipes and articles, too.
Like all truly social, social media sites, the invitation to engage and evolve the project is explicit. On their ideas and suggestions page, people are encouraged to write down what they would like to see on the site and offer their perspective on it so far.
In today’s world, being alone is often part of the condition of modern life, so a project like this is hugely timely and potentially invaluable and the importance this kind of platform could have for divorcing/ separating men and women is very significant. More often than not, separating spouses just need to talk to human beings without judgement or expectation and this very simple thing can make an enormous impact; it can quite literally lift the dark clouds inside someone’s soul and lift some of the weight off their shoulders. So, if you’re feeling a little down this evening or you want to feel a friendly buzz about you, why not head on over and see what all the fuss is about?