child protection, IICSA, Investigative Interviewing, Islington Survivors Network, Operation Hydrant, Organized Abuse, prisoners, Survivors, Truth Project, Uncategorized

Survivors in prison – IICSA ‘Truth’ Project may put them at risk

A recent initiative for the so called ‘Truth’ Project to ask prisoners to share their experiences of child sexual abuse with facilitators from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) raises many questions and concerns for me.  I say ‘so called’ because the project includes no published criteria or methods for testing the accounts so ‘Listening to Survivors Project’ would be a far more accurate title. Continue reading

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brain scans, child protection, children's consent, children's rights, Kids Company, Neuroscience, Uncategorized

Child victims of neuroscience?

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In 2002, Prince Charles first gave Camila Batmanghelidjh, CEO of the former charity Kids Company, the idea of considering the impact of child abuse on children’s brain development. He presented her with 25 clinical papers on the topic.  From that moment I was suspicious because the idea was so wide as to include the impact of all kinds of trauma making any research very confused in aim. Also, the method of research was to scan the brains of ‘troubled teenagers’ which seemed to be more about a social control agenda. I had already detected mixed messages  about the aims of this children’s charity  (Evening Standard: 11.09.2009). Continue reading

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child protection, children's clothing exchange, community action, Neighbourhood social work, Patch social work, social work, Uncategorized

Community work – protecting children

Some more recently qualified social workers are gaining a strong voice on social media and even in the mainstream press with all kinds of comment about the professional role of social work. In this context, I thought it would be useful to put across to those hungry for knowledge, a model of social work practice which has been around in the past and worked well.

Protecting children from sexual exploitation and abuse cannot be considered in isolation, but is one key element in an integrated approach to supporting children and families within their communities. … Local people show immense commitment to their children, young people and neighbourhoods. They can provide the resources of time, knowledge, imagination and skills to reduce risks of harm and support environments where children flourish.

(Nelson and Baldwin, 2016)

It was the late 80s and I had a plan – A Children’s Clothing Exchange –  a swap shop for children’s clothes as a basis for developing a community network on an inner London council estate. My social work colleagues were severely critical. They said this initiative was definitely not Politically Correct. They said what I was doing was degrading for families who were deserving of new clothes and would be ashamed to have their children seen in hand-me-downs.   They said I had not appreciated a local working class culture of being proud and that families would not dress themselves or their children in second hand clothes.

This didn’t make sense to me as I had come from a family where most of my clothes came from jumble sales, relatives and friends. Our next door neighbour gave my mother off-cuts from the clothing trade and as I grew out of knitted cardigans they would be unravelled and re-knitted into a bigger size. Jumble sales provided a good source of wool and fabric that could be re-invented.  It was a post-war ‘make do and mend’ approach. Nowadays it’s called recycling. Continue reading

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child protection, social work, social work privatisation, Uncategorized

Real social work isn’t about chandeliers

I sometimes have the good fortune of being invited by various organisations to attend conferences and meetings without having to pay the fee of between £200 and £400 for a morning – let alone a whole day. I say good fortune because there is no way I would gain funding to attend otherwise and these events provide me with a window into a world of opulence to which I would have no access.

In recent months, I have enjoyed the beautiful surroundings of many central London venues belonging to Royal Colleges and Royal Societies as well as exclusive hotels and private clubs. It’s a good life. Chandeliers, luxurious carpets, marble pillars, wine, canapés and a range of top quality soaps and lotions in the toilets. Topics have included a range of subjects concerning child care and child protection. I have heard presentations from Lords, Baronesses and politicians as well as civil servants and academics – the top of the tree in policy formation and promotion. I’ve learnt about the work of All Party Parliamentary Groups and Select Committees and witnessed the launch of the latest reports and inquiries.

Although I have many hundreds of contacts within social work, I rarely recognise anyone at these events. The audience usually consists of representatives from the private sector  because these events are where ideas and trends in service provision are marketed and promoted within an explicit political context. The academies, private consultancies and social work education and service delivery companies abound. These events are characterised by language such as ‘transformation’, ‘leadership’ and ‘changing children and families’ (rather than changing the oppressive social structures within which they live) and social work aiming to ‘inspire and persuade’. The language used, and the tone with which it is expressed, commonly exposes an absolute lack of social work knowledge or experience. The same speakers do the rounds of most of these events because they speak for their business interests and are often instrumental in organising the programme. They provide glossy brochures and powerpoints with colourful images to accompany their soundbites and almost always tables of evidence that cannot be read, let alone digested, which are used to impress and obfuscate. There are few opportunities for questions and workshops to allow for small group debate and feedback are concepts quite alien to the organisers. The speakers eulogise about each other and restate the same principles as though a statement spoken with an upper class accent signifies a well-researched and well-evidenced policy development. It is smoke and mirrors. Continue reading

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child protection, children's rights, Uncategorized

Lessons Unlearnt -children imprisoned

Following on from my last blog, this week I obtained an original copy of the Home Office ‘Report of the Committee of Enquiry into the Conduct of Standon Farm Approved School and the circumstances connected with the murder of a master at the school on 15th February 1947’. It cost me £22.00 – the original price was just 9D [pence].  It is 69 years since 4 boys were convicted of the murder of a Master at this institution and 5 others pleaded guilty to conspiracy to murder. The Headmaster  was dismissed and the school closed.

The Inquiry concluded that the causes of the murder included;

  • The isolation of the school
  • The prolonged bad weather coupled with the lack of a suitable gymnasium or adequate recreational facilities
  • The prohibition of smoking and the cumulative effect of the long standing regime of limited freedom
  • The collective punishments and threats of collective fines
  • The inadequate system of distributing pocket money
  • The inadequacy of religious guidance
  • The lack of understanding on the part of the Headmaster of his boys as individuals and their belief in his unfairness particularly in respect of the uncertainty as to licensing (permission to leave the institution and be on license in the community)
  • The gross carelessness of the headmaster with regard to the safe custody of fire-arms and ammunition
  • The presence in the school of a boy with a very strong personality and a burning sense of grievance.

The Inquiry led to the establishment of the first secure units for children. Stronger arrangements to imprison children were defined as the solution to the prevention of such crime in the future, instead of analysing the causes of the young people’s behaviour and emphasising the importance of child-centred, therapeutic care systems.

The report makes interesting reading in the context of an inspection report detailing attacks on staff by young people in the Rainsbrook secure training centre, during the first quarter of 2016 when 5 staff  needed hospital treatment.  61 boys and 13 girls, who had a custodial sentence or were on remand, were at this time in jail at Rainsbrook which was run by the private company G4S. Continue reading

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child protection, children's voices, Uncategorized

Stolen childhoods – seeking justice

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Stalking the Bogeyman, based on a true story, is a play about one man’s search for revenge. Twenty-five years after he was raped at age 7 years, David learnt that his ‘bogeyman’ had moved to his neighbourhood. He then planned revenge on the man who stole his childhood. The play draws sharp attention to the devastating impact of sexual crime against boys and explores sensitively how difficult it is for children to speak out about the horrors of abuse.

Peter Saunders, from NAPAC,  (National Association for People Abused in Childhood) says, “What sets this play apart from others is that it pulls no punches as to what child abuse is…..and illustrates the reasons so many victims never speak out. But it also concludes with a proposition that many will find challenging. Did the Bogeyman really only strike once?”

The play is not about promoting revenge but draws attention to the psychological impact of child abuse, increases understanding and opens up debate. Continue reading

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