The Value of a Child

Posted on April 12th, 2011

What can you buy for under £1? There are several items that spring to mind – a pint of milk, a bag of sugar, a small bottle of Coke, Oh! And training for residential social workers looking after vulnerable children.  The Guardian Newspaper reported on 12 April 2011 that the government have allocated 69p each to the estimated 36,000 workers in residential homes in England. The £25,000 set aside by the government does not appear to cater for staff turnover.  So what is the value of a child?

The recent Neil Morrissey documentary highlighted the effects of children receiving positive and negative care whilst being looked after by the Local Authority.  The residential unit that Mr Morrissey’s brother resided at was subject to a police investigation due to the abusive behaviour of specific employees.  The Guardian Newspaper highlights the scandals of the seventies as a reason for more investment in staff training.  Sadly these scandals have occurred much more recently than the seventies.  I recall a member of staff was charged with two counts of rape at Frant Court residential unit for girls.  The alleged offences took place in the later eighties, early nineties.

Moving away from scandals as training is not all about residential staff abusing children.  There are some excellent residential social workers producing some quality work with some difficult and damaged young people. These fellow professionals need training on life story work and identity work to enable these vulnerable children to develop a positive self-image. Without this support the cycle of deprivation for these children will continue. Young women and men exposed to domestic violence could easily become adult victims or perpetrators of physical violence. The cost of dealing with the outcome of this violence far outweighs the expense of doubling the training budget.

Interestedly the government places the value of training members of staff, who care for vulnerable children at 69p per year for each employee when the annual cost of training a solider is £19,000 and now a number of them are being made redundant.  Apparently the MP for Chesterfield, Mr Toby Perkins spent £451.86 training three members of staff, an investment of £150.62 per individual. These people’s training must have been extremely specialised to warrant a budget of over 218 times that assigned to residential workers, caring for vulnerable children.

Maybe the next time we go to Sainsburys we need to remember that the value of a loaf of bread is £1.37 and six eggs is £1.45 to purchase. Each of these items are practically double the amount the government has allocated to train staff caring for children. Given the spending budget allocated by the government to ensure children are cared for safely, could we say the value of a child is less than a small bottle of Coke?

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Good and Bad Day for Asylum Seekers

Posted on April 12th, 2011

The Refugee Council claim that the government have cut 62% of their funding to front-line services. These reductions in funding will come into force in three months and hit many vulnerable children and young people. The Refugee Council state that the speed of the cut means that they are unable to adapt the services that they are able to offer service users. This could mean that children and their parents may not receive the support to accurately complete asylum forms, with the possible outcome of children being returned to countries that violate their Human Rights.  Another possibility for children and parents is that they become trapped in a situation leading them into poverty or homeless. A hidden consequence is that these children and adults can find themselves in the Court arena in care proceedings. These parents are asked to state how they are to provide for their children, without being able to apply for state benefit or access employment making securing housing extremely difficult.

Assessing these parents in community based parenting assessments requires the Independent Social Worker to be creative and imaginative. The Home Office’s complex decision making process does not take into consideration the timescales for children or the consequence of their actions.

A case brought before the Supreme Court stated that immigration authorities need to listen more to the views of children whose parents face deportation. The children born to ‘illegal immigrants’ have rights, as demonstrated by a Tanzanian woman whose asylum claim had failed whose 12 and 9 year old children were born to a British man and entitled to remain in the country. The Supreme Court upheld the mother’s appeal, allowing her to remain in the UK to care for her children even though she had a history of fraudulent asylum claims. The Court described the mother’s immigration history as ‘appalling’, but added that the children, whose father is British – ‘should not be held responsible for their parents’ shortcomings’.

The parents’ relationship needs to be established for a ‘significant’ period of time, although no exact time frame is stipulated. The assessments are more complex as parents often do not tell children that they are under threat of deportation. This creates as situation where our Independent Social Workers are to communicate with children through pictures, puppets and other direct work tools on a subject that their parents have not previously spoken about with them.  Avocet Independent Social Workers are aware of the rights of the child and are experienced in preparing immigration reports for Court. However, parents do need to help prepare children to answer some difficult questions that they might finding distressing, but need to be asked in order to address issues raised in letters of the instruction from the family’s legal representatives.

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One World Different Childhoods

Posted on April 12th, 2011

Over recent months English students at schools and universities have taken time out from their studying and socialising to protest about government cuts to fees. The majority have exercised their rights in a peaceful manner, with a few damaging property to highlight their cause. These few have been to Court and were sentenced accordingly. They have been allowed legal counsel and the opportunity to present their version of events to a Judge. The newspapers have taken photographs on them during the protests, entering Court and occasionally exiting Court, if they were not detained.  All these young people had names.

Now consider an Afghan child, who encounters US solider called Jeremy Morlock. The boy, reportedly the son of a farmer, crossed paths with Mr Morlock and had his photograph taken. Before the boy had his picture captured on film, he allegedly lifted his shirt to demonstrate that he was not carrying explosives, strapped to his body. The reaction of Mr Morlock and his colleagues in the ‘Kill Team’ was to throw a grenade and shout the child. Mr Morlock posed smiling with the dead boy, gripping the hair on the head of the boy in order for the camera to capture the boy’s dead face as a memento. The ‘brave’ Mr Morlock had turned on his former colleagues to testify in return for a shorter prison sentence. Mr Morlock accused his former Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs of being the ring leader. Mr Gibbs received a life sentence a couple of weeks ago.

Move forward a few days, change countries and another boy is approached by adults in authority in Brazil. This time the boy’s crime appears to be that he was living on the streets. Five Police Officers dealt with this boy by shooting him five times at close range for the audacity of being homeless. The boy survived because another Police Officer intervened. This Police Officer has not been hailed as a national hero. Instead, he is in a witness protection programme.

These two boys were not given a trial or legal counsel to defend their existence in a Court of law, with a Judge overseeing proceedings to ensure fairness.  These boys were shot in the street.  They were not even given a name in press reports, simply referred to as ‘A boy’.

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