Archive for October, 2007

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People who live in rural areas often face poor access to welfare services, education, employment, income and life chances, according to Shucksmith’s 2003 review into social exclusion in the country. Other research has reinforced this message and found that social care services in rural areas generally fail to provide the same level of service as those in larger towns and cities. In recent years, there has been more recognition by UK governments that rural people and their concerns have been marginalised. In England, all new government policies are “rural proofed” to ensure that they are applicable to people who do not live in towns and cities. Some obstacles to using and providing health and social care services in rural areas are easily recognised, such as the increased costs in time and transport taken to provide and access services, or the lack of alternative provision from the independent and voluntary sector. Others are less obvious and result from general features of rural life such as lack of anonymity, poverty and homelessness, which can impair people’s capacity to find out about services and to use them. Evidence The tendency to idealise country life and make inaccurate assumptions about what it is like can lead to a lack of recognition of social problems and the development of effective responses. It may be wrongly assumed that poverty, drug use, racism, and domestic violence are essentially urban rather than rural problems. Scie’s overview of research on this topic – Obstacles to Using and Providing Rural Social Care – found that overall the evidence base on rural social care is uneven. Most studies are based on what services are provided rather than what are needed. Evidence shows considerable variability in the provision and availability of services between different rural areas. But the overall picture is of under-provision compared with urban areas. For example, older people in rural areas are likely to receive lower levels of supportive services such as domiciliary care and meals on wheels than those living in urban areas, and the general take-up rates for welfare benefits seem lower. A possible barrier to delivering rural social care is cost. A comprehensive review of the evidence on the additional costs of service provision in rural areas concluded that there was a clear cost premium in order to achieve a similar standard of service to that in urban areas. It also found that, even where there were uplifts in rural funding, these were often insufficient to cover the service costs. For example, in one case where the uplift for rural domiciliary care was £51 a case, the modelled costs were estimated at about £460. Despite the sound evidence of the higher costs of rural provision, several reports have shown that funding mechanisms for resource allocation to public services have disadvantaged rural populations

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Following renewed criticism of its past practice, the Church of England has confirmed “the broad principles for a protocol for the systematic review of past child protection cases”, following on from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s announcement earlier in 2007. Effectively, the Church of England has agreed it will investigate the records of thousands of clergy, dating back decades, in an attempt to uncover unchecked incidents of child abuse. Over 2,500 letters will be sent to clerics and staff urging them to come forward with information on any cases of abuse or concerns that were not followed up at the time in the way they would be now. Each diocesan bishop is to initiate a review of clergy and other files, including priests who have retired to their diocese, diocesan lay employees and Readers (as such files are held at a diocesan level, not centrally). An Independent Reviewer will be appointed by each bishop to review the files to assess whether any ‘causes for concern’ exist. Each diocesan bishop is also to write to previous bishops, archdeacons, bishops’ chaplains and secretarial staff to ask whether they have any information about any cases of abuse or concerns expressed that they can recall from their time in the diocese, which were not followed up at the time in the way that they would be now. Such concerns will be listed alongside any issues raised by the diocesan file search. Additionally, any concerns expressed by other clergy or members of congregations will be included in the list. If any urgent issues arise these will be dealt with immediately by referring to the relevant statutory authorities. The Reviewer will recommend action on each case, and pass the portfolio to the Diocesan Child Protection Management Group to formulate an action plan to be led by the Diocesan Child Protection Adviser. Dioceses are being encouraged to complete the above process within 18 months of the final protocol being published, likely to be early next year. The protocol is currently being finalised in light of feedback from the House of Bishops to a draft text. The Rt Revd Anthony Priddis, Bishop of Hereford and Chair of the Church’s Central Safeguarding Liaison Group, which produced the draft protocol, commented: “Children deserve the very best care, nurture and teaching the Church is able to provide whatever the context of their contact with the Church.”

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Care for the Family is gearing up for the launch of its Community Representative programme, which is being trialled in Derry, ahead of the launch of a possible scheme throughout Northern Ireland.
The Derry-based Community Representative will be part of a team co-ordinating the charity’s activity in Omagh, Strabane, Limavady and Coleraine.
Jean Gibson, Care for the Family’s Northern Ireland manager, said, “It is increasingly important to support families,” she said. “It is proven that strong family life underpins social improvements.
“When couples stay together, and parents are given the mechanisms to engage with their children, there is a corresponding drop in social inequality, and a reduction in antisocial behaviour, crime, drug dependency, and joblessness.”
Through the Community Representative scheme, Care for the Family will offer vital services to families, including marriage-strengthening courses, parenting courses and the hugely successful How to Drug Proof Your Kids course for parents.
The plans for Community Representatives were announced three weeks ago at a reception breakfast at Stormont attended by Members of the Assembly. Members of every party expressed interest in the charity’s work.
Rev Sam McGuffin, Chairman of The Derry Churches Trust welcomed Care for the Family’s initiative, saying, “The Churches Trust has been discussing with Care for the Family how the organisation can best bring its superb range of programmes and expertise to the North West.
“We are thrilled that a core of five Care for the Family Community Supporters is going to be based in this region.”
In addition, Rev McGuffin said, “We’re delighted Care for the Family has included the city in its autumn scheduling with its thought-provoking evening for women. We look forward to an inspiring evening and to further promoting this excellent organisation’s work locally.”
Care for the Family is also running a special event for women in Derry, ‘Reality – The Challenge of Forgiveness’, which takes place on Wednesday 7 November.

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A SHORTAGE of foster carers to look after vulnerable and neglected children is costing the council £2.5 million a year in payments to the voluntary sector. The local authority is increasingly relying on organisations such as Barnardo’s and St Andrew’s Children’s Society to plug the gaps in its own service. It currently has 80 children in the care of voluntary organisations – up from an average of 57 last year. It has run several campaigns to attract more foster carers, but those who have been taken on have failed to deal with the increase in demand. A recent inspectors’ report said the city council’s child protection service was too slow and uncoordinated to protect properly youngsters at risk of harm. It revealed the council had too few beds in residential homes and too few foster carers and families willing to adopt on its books to meet the growing demand. Council chiefs have blamed drugs and alcohol problems among parents for the rise in the number of children needing the service. Councillor Marilyne MacLaren, the city’s education leader, said: “This is one thing the department is trying hard to sort out. We’ve just had a foster and adoption recruitment week. We try hard to advertise and have improved our number of foster carers, but there are still not enough.” The council turns to outside agencies when it does not have any of its own foster carers able to take on more children. Cllr MacLaren said: “If we’ve got a child who is at risk then we have to move that child, and if we have to use an independent agency then that is what we have to do, there’s no other option. Sometimes it costs an awful lot of money to keep a child safe.” The council estimates that in the voluntary sector, the cost per child can be up to £60,000 a year, with an average cost of between £35,000 and £40,000. That compares with a starting salary of £18,000 for foster carers. In the first six months of this financial year, the council spent more than £1m on foster care through voluntary agencies. It expects to spend the same amount again in the next six months.

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Child abuse experts at a new specialist police unit will study hundreds of hours of interviews with paedophiles to find out how they think and behave. The information will be used to identify patterns of behaviour and to build criminal profiles. The centre is based on a similar FBI unit in the US. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith will open the unit, part of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop), later. Ms Smith told BBC News: “This will look at interviews already carried out with paedophiles, so that we can get inside the head of those who want to abuse our children, making us more likely to be able to catch them and get them out of the way of the sort of harm that they’re bringing to children.” The centre was an example of how the UK was a “world leader” in tackling child abuse, she added. As well as examining what individuals say in interviews, the team will also analyse body language and unconscious facial gestures to try and glean insight into the true feelings of the paedophiles. Ceop head Jim Gamble said the information would help police stay ahead of paedophiles who were constantly changing their methods. “We are going to know what they think before they do so that next time they arrive in a place where a child is vulnerable we will be there waiting for them,” he said. The information would also help police to improve education campaigns for children, he added.

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IT IS A common belief, but a myth, that there has been an increase in the number of teenagers becoming mothers in recent years. Factfile, a collection of statistics compiled by One Parent Families Scotland, reports that among 13-15-year-olds, the rate increased between 1983 and 1988, but has remained steady at about eight in 1000 since then. Births to schoolgirls in Scotland have ranged from 450 to 660 a year in the past decade. In 1999, researchers for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reported that the provision of education for pregnant teenagers was inconsistent both within and between regions and that pregnancy often marked the beginning of girls’ detachment from education. While the UK Government is keen for pregnant teenagers to attend school and return to school as mothers, the researchers found there was little practical support or understanding about the psychological impact of early pregnancy on teenagers. My research was with school-aged mothers in Scotland. My interest was stimulated when I realised that despite media reports of rising numbers of pregnant teenagers, they were almost invisible to services. When I asked about pregnancies in the schools I worked in as an educational psychologist, it seemed that expectant schoolgirls and school-age mothers were known to the head teachers, but did not attend school. It was not clear whether they were unable to go to school or whether the school preferred them not to be there. I hypothesised that schools knew who these pupils were, but they appeared unable to consider their educational needs; perhaps finding it difficult to have them in school. I wondered whether the school was anxious about the message that having pregnant girls at school might send to other students. Were adults in the school concerned that the number of pregnant girls might increase? Extensive research revealed that very little has been written about the actual experiences of school-age mothers and the work that had been done focused on the social implications of school-age motherhood in terms of the “cost to society”. So, what was it that caused pregnant schoolgirls to disappear from the education system when they discovered, and it became known, that they were pregnant? Several of the girls I interviewed reported a favourable school experience during their primary education. While experiences in secondary school were more varied, many had been successful in their exams.

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IT IS A common belief, but a myth, that there has been an increase in the number of teenagers becoming mothers in recent years. Factfile, a collection of statistics compiled by One Parent Families Scotland, reports that among 13-15-year-olds, the rate increased between 1983 and 1988, but has remained steady at about eight in 1000 since then. Births to schoolgirls in Scotland have ranged from 450 to 660 a year in the past decade. In 1999, researchers for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reported that the provision of education for pregnant teenagers was inconsistent both within and between regions and that pregnancy often marked the beginning of girls’ detachment from education. While the UK Government is keen for pregnant teenagers to attend school and return to school as mothers, the researchers found there was little practical support or understanding about the psychological impact of early pregnancy on teenagers. My research was with school-aged mothers in Scotland. My interest was stimulated when I realised that despite media reports of rising numbers of pregnant teenagers, they were almost invisible to services. When I asked about pregnancies in the schools I worked in as an educational psychologist, it seemed that expectant schoolgirls and school-age mothers were known to the head teachers, but did not attend school. It was not clear whether they were unable to go to school or whether the school preferred them not to be there. I hypothesised that schools knew who these pupils were, but they appeared unable to consider their educational needs; perhaps finding it difficult to have them in school. I wondered whether the school was anxious about the message that having pregnant girls at school might send to other students. Were adults in the school concerned that the number of pregnant girls might increase? Extensive research revealed that very little has been written about the actual experiences of school-age mothers and the work that had been done focused on the social implications of school-age motherhood in terms of the “cost to society”. So, what was it that caused pregnant schoolgirls to disappear from the education system when they discovered, and it became known, that they were pregnant? Several of the girls I interviewed reported a favourable school experience during their primary education. While experiences in secondary school were more varied, many had been successful in their exams.

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