Give a little time!

Posted on January 27th, 2012

Recently it was announced that the Duchess of Cambridge will be volunteering with the Scouts in North Wales, near where she lives. She has made it clear she wants to ‘get her hands dirty’ with hands on help with Beaver Scout Colonies and Cub Scout Packs, and not ‘just come along and open things’. She’ll be doing things that any other volunteer would do. This hopefully will draw attention and encourage other potential volunteers to get their hands dirty too and indicate that even those with erratic schedules can find time to give something back to their community. The Scout Association has indicated that there is a role for all kinds of volunteering not just regular week after week running of meetings.

This hopefully will encourage even those with busy lives to find a small area that they can volunteer in – and also encourage groups and charities who need volunteers to be flexible themselves and accept whatever potential volunteers can offer. Groups and charities may need to alter the way they use volunteers to make sure that they make best use of the resource offered and value their volunteers.  The person, who spends an hour once a month, may later turn into a regular helper every week, should their circumstances change.

Workers at Avocet volunteer for the Scouts and a charity called Young Carers which supports children who have a family member with a long-term condition or terminal disease for which the child takes on some caring responsibilities. This all adds towards the ethos of Avocet being ‘child focused’. We enjoy giving our time to help children do something that they might not otherwise be able to and hopefully make small changes for the better in their lives. Children can mix with other children who have similar experiences and interests and perhaps make new friends from different areas and from different schools. Helping the children and seeing them enjoy themselves and watching them progress over the weeks and months certainly makes it worthwhile giving up some of your time.

The Duchess of Cambridge’s volunteering will hopefully inspire some people, who were wavering about helping and finding out that she has time may encourage them to take that step and volunteer themselves. Most groups could do with more adult helpers that would enable them to make a difference to more children’s lives.

So go on give it a go and try volunteering in 2012 – you’ll be glad that you did!


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Landmark case

Posted on January 18th, 2012

Essex County Council has paid out £1 million in compensation to four siblings in a landmark case.  The four children were sexually abused by their father who the local authority knew had abused children from a previous relationship.

Despite learning of the father’s history of abusing children the local authority made the decision that he should move out of the family home but agreed that he could continue to have contact with his four children under the supervision of their mother.  It was during these supervised contacts that the children were subjected to further abuse.

It is apparent that a comprehensive risk assessment was not undertaken with regards to the mother’s understanding of the risk he posed to the children.  In such situations it is imperative to ascertain whether the mother is open to the fact that her partner is sexually abusive and to gain a clear understanding of how she intends to protect her children.

Avocet Independent Social Workers undertake risk assessments in cases where children are at risk of harm.  Our Independent Social Workers are experienced and highly competent practitioners and are currently being commissioned to undertake Court directed risk assessments.


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Multiple Births

Posted on January 11th, 2012

On 28 December 2011, The Daily Telegraph reported that there has been a dramatic rise in the number of so-called ‘selective reductions’ to women with multiple pregnancies, whereby one or more foetus(es) is terminated, but the pregnancy is continued with one or more other foetus(es).

The figures show an increase from 59 ‘reductions’ in 2006 to 85 during 2010, however there are no corresponding figures released regarding any increase in the numbers of IVF cycles and pregnancies over the same period, which means that although there is an increase in numbers, they do not indicate whether there has been a corresponding increase in multiple pregnancies in the same period.  Separate figures show that although one third of the selective abortions involved pregnancies that were a result of fertility treatment, the remaining two-thirds did not involve such treatments.

Multiple pregnancies are more dangerous to both mothers and babies and most termination decisions are still made on the baby being seriously handicapped once born, as are similar decisions for singleton pregnancies. The risks of both prematurity and handicap are increased with a twin pregnancy and increase greatly with three babies or more. Older mothers are naturally more likely to have multiple pregnancies than younger women and in addition, many of the pregnancies achieved using IVF are often to older mothers who have and have had to go down the lengthy IVF process before achieving a pregnancy. Older mothers have an increased chance of having a child with Down’s Syndrome whether the pregnancy is a singleton or multiple; by natural conception or by fertility treatment.

An alternative reason that parents consider a selective reduction is to increase the chance of getting the pregnancy to a successful delivery, as multiple pregnancies usually lead to premature delivery of the babies, with prematurity increasing as the number of babies increases, to the point of non-viability.

Long waiting times and high costs of IVF treatment mean that although women are encouraged to have a single embryo implanted, despite the risks they often still wish to maximise their chances of a successful cycle and see the implantation of more than one embryo as a way of achieving this. This will continue to be an issue whilst the treatment costs are so high. If a more achievable fee structure for fertility treatment can be made, then couples may be more likely to have cycles of treatment with the aim of achieving a singleton pregnancy.

Several comments regarding this controversial procedure have been with well-rehearsed arguments regarding the moral use of fertility procedures and terminations in general, rather than the specific weighing up of risks to babies and mothers in a multiple pregnancy.

All decisions regarding abortion need careful weighing up of risks and circumstances, but to take a pragmatic decision regarding selective reduction will be particularly difficult given the possible loss of the entire pregnancy (either as an indirect result of the procedure or by doing nothing and all the babies being born too early to survive). The difficulty will be further increased by the relative rareness of the procedure meaning that couples will probably not know anyone who has been in the same situation as them and indeed many professionals may not have come directly across the situation before.


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Institutional discrimination but not at the top!

Posted on January 11th, 2012

Last week saw the conviction of David Norris and Gary Dobson for the murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993.  The original murder enquiry led to the Macpherson report into the conduct of the Police with a finding of institutional racism.  This phrase became a powerful motivator for change within organisations, with the wording alternated to institutional discrimination in order to encapsulate issues relating to gender.  We view the consideration of discrimination through the structures of organisation as an important method for ensuring that minority groups are not abused by those in power.

There have seen some highly published events in football regarding alleged racist comments by fans and players, which have seen a Liverpool fan arrested and bailed.  The Chelsea and England Captain, John Terry has been charge with racial abuse and is currently waiting for his case to be heard.  These incidents demonstrate that racism remains an undertone within some aspects of our society.  The answer is education and positive role modelling.

Step forward Mr Cameron, our Prime Minister.   This leading political figure sets the ethical tone for his party and helps create the public image of the UK at home and abroad.  Within the last year Mr Cameron as told a female politician to ‘calm down dear’ during a Parliamentary meeting, which he later apologised for.  If Mr Cameron had attended a Social Work meeting and used the same comment it would have caused a great stir with fellow professionals, leading to stunned silence and at the very least a manager having a quiet word with him regarding his inappropriate behaviour.

Mr Cameron’s recent reference to shadow chancellor Ed Balls as a person with Tourettes suggests that Mr Cameron has not been taken aside and given advice on issues of equal opportunities. The comment caused dismay amongst those with first had knowledge of this complex neurological condition that has the potential to blight a person’s day to day functioning and the outcome was another apology from Mr Cameron.

What is sadly lacking is meaningful change.  Stephen Lawrence’s death prompted an enquiry which concluded that institutional racism affected Police officers when it came to fulfilling their professional role.  Yet in 2012 we still have a political leader, the elected head of UK politics, making crass and insensitive comments of a discriminatory nature.  The remarks made by Mr Cameron would not have been tolerated in many organisations with anyone using similar statements likely to be facing some of disciplinary action.   There is no indication of Mr Cameron being suspended so the institutional discrimination remains within the very place where legislation is passed.   The question is would the Macpherson report have highlighted racial discrimination in the Houses of Parliament. Mr Cameron’s actions suggest that any derogatory comment would have been dismissed with a quickly apology. Mr Cameron does not stand alone in making inappropriate remarks in Parliament; I make an example of him in the belief that as head of the government he should know better. A heightened awareness by Mr Cameron might encourage those in general society to be aware of the impact of words used in a prejudicial nature.

This might be a simplistic approach to racism, but it is one where a lack of basic politeness has led to offensive phrases used in public. If these situations cannot be avoid then the complex issue of institutional racism and sexism indeed most forms of discrimination, will remain within organisations and British society.


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