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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