Posted on November 29th, 2012

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A third of children now live in separated families

Today the Government launched an easy-to-use web app, called “Sorting out Separation”, featuring an innovative and interactive tool, which offers parents personalised advice and shows where they can access further support.

A YouGov poll out today commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions reveals that more than half of parents (52%) find it hard to access help and support they need when they separate.

Sorting out Separation is a one-stop-shop for any parent going through a separation. It covers everything from how to avoid a separation to coping with the emotional impact of breaking up, accessing legal or housing support and arranging child maintenance. The web app will be hosted by a range of leading family websites, starting with the likes of Relate, National Family Mediation, Mumsnet,, Gransnet and Wikivorce.

The Department for Work and Pensions worked closely with the Department for Education and Ministry of Justice in developing the new service, in conjunction with the voluntary and community sector. It forms part of a £20m fund announced earlier this year to help support separating parents.

What you can do to help

The Sorting out separation web app is embedded on websites that parents already use – for example, click here to see it in action on the Child Maintenance Options website.

Any organisation or individual who would like to embed it on their own website can click here. There’s also a range of animated banners available at this link which can be used to promote the app in other areas of the website.

So that the web app helps as many people as possible, it would be great if you could promote it through your online and social media channels from today to encourage people to use it.

If you’re tweeting about the web app, please use #sortingoutseparation. Please also include a short URL linking to the web app on your website – or, if you have not yet embedded the app, but want to spread the word through Twitter, Facebook or online forums you can also link here. If you have any patrons or ambassadors who could help us spread the word, please do encourage them to join in!

More information and ideas on promoting the web app can be found in our information pack, available at the following link:

We’re extremely grateful to all the organisations and individuals who have helped to develop the Sorting out separation web app. We aim to continue refining and updating it on an ongoing basis and are already planning enhancements for early next year

Whilst we cannot guarantee that we will be able to act on all feedback, we do welcome suggestions for how it could be improved and will consider all comments. Please email us your feedback.

Many thanks for your help with this initiative.


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The Magic of Christmas

Posted on November 29th, 2012

As the countdown to Christmas is almost upon us, it starts me thinking about how technology has changed the seasonal holiday. I remember part of the excitement for me was writing Christmas cards to all of my friends and family, and wrapping up warm for the Christmas festivities to begin even before Christmas Day, by visiting all loved ones to give them all your love and to wish them all a lovely time over the holiday. I also loved hanging all Christmas cards received on pieces of string across the living room walls. Now it seems a piece of technology can replace the warm wishes we used to send in person by wishing everyone a ‘Merry Christmas’ via the likes of text messages, Facebook and Twitter. Do these messages really come across in the same way? Does the recipient feel the same sense of affection by reading a typed message, possibly sent to all contacts, as they did when receiving a hand written message or a visit in person?

Has technology completely ruined the magic of Christmas?

I believe it has played a part in the way well wishes are sent to friends and family, but I believe as long as you are with your loved ones sharing a nice meal and spending some quality happy time together that is what Christmas is about…for grownups anyway. As a mum I believe that the real magic of Christmas is for the children of this world, the magic that they believe in, that is what the tales we tell them of the tooth fairy and Santa are for, their belief in magic. The want to see the magical moment where their eyes light up and the smiles on their faces on Christmas morning helps bring your family together. Technology is helping to promote that magic, for some companies it may be for their own pockets, but others are helping promote the magic of Christmas to your children for free. I for one love a website called Portable North Pole, here you can create a personalised video from Santa to your child for free, all you need to do is fill in a few details about your child, whether they have been ‘bad or good’ and you can even add a few photos to make it even more convincing. My son loved it, and I find it works rather well to promote good behaviour on the run up to Christmas with his always ever growing list of things he needs, as all young children seem to have at this time of year.

Another thing I love, and I’m not sure if this is just the big kid in me as I’ve never yet shown this to my son, but you can now track Santa on Christmas Eve via Google Maps/Google Earth. On Google Earth you can view a live feed of Santa flying over his current location showing where he is headed. On Google Maps you’re shown a map of Santa’s journey around the world, if you click on Santa it will tell you his current location, if you click on the gifts dotted on the map it will tell you where he has been and you are also able to view more information on that location, there are also some video icons dotted around the map, which if you click will show you a clip of Santa flying by local landmarks. You can even view Santa’s location on Google Maps on your mobile, simply by searching for Santa. Santa even updates you on Twitter as to his current location.

Don’t forget the traditions of Christmas and remember all your loved ones at this time of year, but I hope you all have as much fun as I do with today’s modern technology, in putting the magic into yours and your child’s Christmas.

This month’s Guest Blogger is DM


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Being a member of a political party affects fostering role

Posted on November 27th, 2012

Rotherham Council removed three children from the care of foster carers who are alleged to be members of the UKIP. This is a political party allowed to contest in local and general elections despite the fact their views might be ones that we do or do not wish to support.

Whatever the stance we wish to take as individuals, the fact of the matter is that UKIP is not a political party that is banned. This is to some degree a critical piece of information as Social Work decisions should be based on evidence, and initially the facts suggest the foster carers have not acted inappropriately.  They are not members of an illegal political party within the UK and only today a member of the Conservative party voiced the opinion that an alliance with UKIP should be sought.  If this joining of the two political parties took place imagine the potential consequences for foster placements all over the country. If other local authorities followed the example of Rotherham Council and decided that UKIP was not a suitable political party – then by alliance would the Conservative party be considered an unsuitable political party to join for foster carers?

Media reports suggest that the local authority made their decision because they had allegedly been criticised at Court for not meeting the cultural needs of the children. No evidence has been produced to date that the children’s cultural needs were not being taken into consideration by the foster carers in their day to day care of the children however it the local authority might not be in a position legally to share any such information with general society.

The issue of cultural needs and background is at times a ‘grey’ area which comes to the fore on occasion and on others it is ignored.  We see the importance of placing any child with a family as a culturally sensitive issue.  This does not mean a white middle class family cannot care for a working class white child unless they can understand the values this child holds and respects and promotes their cultural needs.  The same can be said that a black African family might not comprehend the needs of a black afro-Caribbean child, without knowledge of the child and his or her needs.

The important aspect of this issue is, were the foster carers, whether or not they were members of UKIP, able to demonstrate that they were meeting the needs of the children on a daily basis. This issue should be judged on evidence as that is the basis of Social Work practice.


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Children’s rights test case by boy aged 15 over foster care

Posted on November 21st, 2012

A teenager who wants to live with his mother has a brought a test case at the Court of Appeal on the rights of children to be heard. The youngster has been put in long term foster care by Carmarthenshire council after his “stubborn and difficult” mother said she wanted to work abroad. The 15-year-old claims a family judge took an “overly paternalistic approach” when she met him in her chambers. The three appeal court judges are to deliver their verdict at a later date.

The teenager’s case is that he was denied the opportunity to express his views, denying him the benefit of feeling he had played a part in deciding his future. The court heard the local authority took action last year after the boy’s mother “engaged in an inappropriate game of poker” with officials in the hope her son could be put in temporary foster care until she returned from working abroad. The family judge ruled the teenager should stay in foster care until he is old enough to make choices for himself. She came to the judgment after hearing from social workers, a specially-appointed guardian acting for the teenager, and after meeting the teenager herself in her chambers. But the teenager’s lawyers told the appeal court judges that the family judge did not ask him for his opinion on the case when the two of them met.The boy argues that his rights – as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – were not taken in to account by the judge’s refusal to let him give live evidence in the case.

Huge impact

The court heard the youth accepted his mother could be “stubborn and difficult” but that he still wanted to return to her care as he accepted her character. Lawyers for the boy argued the judge adopted an “overly paternalistic approach”, both in refusing to allow him to go back to his mother and in failing to listen to his wishes.

David Blake, speaking for the boy, said: “It is submitted that this approach does not sit comfortably with what is a growing trend to make strenuous efforts to at least listen to – if not always act upon – the voice of the child and the rights that are contained within Article 12 of the UN Convention. The judge has failed to factor in the cathartic welfare benefit in being heard and knowing that you have done all you reasonably can do to influence your own destiny.” Mr Blake added: “The young person does have the absolute right to do what they feel is in their best interests, which is having a say in the proceedings which will have a huge impact in their young life.”

Lords Justice Ward, Elias and Pitchford reserved giving their decision until an unspecified later date, saying the court would take some time to think about the important points raised.


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