Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Social workers feel powerless over child neglect

A DISTURBING report based on research carried out by Action For Children indicates that over half of all social workers feel powerless to stop children being neglected because of high thresholds and inadequate resources.

The research was carried out for the charity by the University of Stirling.

Based on interviews with over 4,000 people, including professionals and members of the public, 51% of social workers said they felt powerless to intervene in cases of suspected neglect, up from a third in a similar survey conducted by the charity in 2009.

The new research showed that 42% of social workers felt thresholds were too high. In cases where thresholds were met, 52% of social workers cited a lack of resources and 43% a lack of services to refer families on to as barriers to effective action.

Moreover, 80% of social workers warned that cuts would make it even more difficult to intervene in child neglect cases in future.

“All our findings point to the stark reality that neglected children and their parents are being identified, but neither the professionals nor the public feel empowered to help or intervene, particularly at the early stages,” commented Action for Children chief executive Clare Tickell.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Child poverty figures cause a shock

AN estimated one in five children in Cumbernauld and Kilsyth are living in poverty, according to figures from a study carried out by the End Child Poverty campaign, which also reveal the extent of deprivation in other parts of Scotland.

The Cumbernauld News newspaper reports that according to statistics for the Cumbernauld and Kilsyth area, Cumbernauld South has the highest percentage of children living in poverty at 22 per cent, with Abronhill, Kildrum and the Village totalling 21 per cent. Twenty per cent of children in Kilsyth are in the same situation.

Further details from the report will appear on the Poverty Truth Commission blog shortly.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Scots MPs lobbied on Welfare Reform Bill

LEADING charities, faith groups and trade unions have written to Scottish MPs urging them to vote to uphold a series of amendments to the controversial Welfare Reform Bill.

The Westminster government has been defeated six times by the House of Lords, but is so far refusing to listen to the deep concerns of people living with poverty, disability, sickness and multiple disadvantages.

The Scottish Campaign on Welfare Reform, an umbrella body of more than 60 organisations, has called on MPs to ratify the six amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill in the Commons on 1st February 2012.

The SCWR, with members including the Scottish Trades’ Union Congress, Oxfam, Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland and the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council, warned a reversal of the amendments would have dire consequences for more than half a million people.

Disabled activists have played a major role in highlighting a range of cuts and injustices in the current WRB proposals, and are demanding a genuine say in decisions directly impacting their lives.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Call for formal inquiry into kinship care

CARERS and charities have called for a formal inquiry to be launched into kinship care in Scotland, following growing concern about neglected children.

Voluntary sector groups and carers gave evidence recently to the Scottish parliament's education committee and are determined to continue pressing their case, as we have reported extensively here.

Lindsay Isaacs of the Kinship Care Service was among those calling for an inquiry as the best way of tackling multiple concerns arising from the financial and social constraints experienced by children and carers alike.

These include:

* the performance of local authorities in discharging their responsibilities
* benefits
* housing support
* information support
* access to counselling services
* the definition of looked-after children 
* early intervention strategies

More about these developments here.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Supporting Families debate

JACKIE Baillie MSP has put forward a Supporting Families resolution in the Scottish Parliament today, and Aileen Campbell has been seeking to amend it. The issue in debate is what has - and has not - been done to support carers, and by whom.

The resolution (S4M-01828 ) reads: That the Parliament recognises the crucial role that kinship carers play in supporting the most vulnerable children and believes that they should be supported financially at an equivalent level to foster carers; notes the commitment given by the First Minister on 27 September 2007 to fast-track £10 million to fund this; further notes commitments made by successive ministers for Education and Lifelong Learning and Children and Early Years that this promise would be met via the concordat with local government by 2011 at the latest; regrets that these promises to kinship carers and the people they care for have been broken, and calls on the Scottish Government to ensure that local authorities are provided with the funds to ensure that kinship carers are properly supported and that this promise is finally met.

The amendment wishes to: leave out from first “notes” to end and insert “welcomes that substantial resources have been provided to local authorities to allow them to provide financial support to kinship carers; recognises that, unlike its predecessors, the 2007-11 Scottish administration acted to introduce regulations to allow financial support to be provided to kinship carers; supports wider efforts to empower families, including the development of a national parenting strategy, the Play, Talk, Read campaign and the roll-out of the Family Nurse Partnership; condemns the UK benefits system as not being fit for purpose as it penalises kinship carers and other vulnerable groups, and calls on the UK Government to fairly support kinship carers.

Poverty Truth Commission lecture at Cairns

DONNA Barrowcliffe, Anne Marie Peffer and Martin Johnstone are giving the Roy Paterson Memorial Lecture at Cairns Church of Scotland parish, Milngavie, tonight (26 January 2012).

They are taking the "Nothing about us without us is for us" slogan as a starting point to look at the of the Poverty Truth Commission and how it offers a fresh way of tackling key public and political issues.

The key, of course, is that poverty can never be adequately addressed unless those at the sharp end are fully involved in finding and implementing solutions, rather than having policy 'done to them' from on high.

In practical terms, the agenda and approach of PTC is becoming evermore urgent in a context in which poverty has continued to grow across Britain, and at a time when recession and austerity are making life tougher for vulnerable communities.

As for the man the lecture is honouring. Roy Paterson was minister of Cairns for 29 years. Those close to him say: "Roy's ministry was considered the very embodiment of the New Testament idea of Christian living, clothed in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Sadly, Roy died five years after retirement."

Full details here (**.PDF Adobe Acrobat file).

Kids in Scotland and 'Social Apartheid'

CHILDREN in Scotland who have been taken away from their parents and cared for by relatives rather than by foster carers face being raised in poverty.

Tommy McFall, of Glasgow's New Fossils Grandparent Support Group, has told MSPs that the kids were victims of "social apartheid", reports Tristan Stewart-Robertson in The Glaswegian.

The Scottish Parliament's Education Committee has heard of youngsters being bitten and burned with cigarettes by their parents, and a growing number of children born to substance abusers, we writes.

But they face a life of poverty if taken in by grandparents or other relatives because many "kinship carers" do not receive the same financial support as foster carers.

The full story can be read here.  

The New Fossils Grandparent Support Group can be contacted c/o Community Work Team, Newlands Centre,  Glasgow G31 4 HZ. Their submission to the Scottish Executive National Fostering and Kinship Care Strategy can be read here in full.  

The Poverty Truth Commission has had a particular concern for kinship care, and its report recommendations are outlined here (*PDF Adobe Acrobat).

Disabled people to take to the streets

DISABLED and sick people angry at government cuts and changes that will hit thousands of vulnerable people across Britain are taking to the streets this weekend.

They are to calling on the Westminster parliament to think again about its Welfare Reform Bill, Work Capability Assessment (WCA), and the abolition of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and its replacement by vaguely specified Personal Independence Payments.

The protests, backed by UK Uncut, Disabled People Against Cuts and by the lobbying group 38 Degrees, cover concerns widely shared in Scotland, though determined by reserved powers in Westminster. The government has now suffered six defeats in the House of Lords over welfare issues.

The key role in awakening public and political opinion has been the work of disabled people themselves in publishing the Spartacus Report on DLA. They are demanding full inclusion in policy determination and shaping processes, in line with the ethos and values of the Poverty Truth Commission.

Scottish Health Secretary and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has commented after the first three Lords amendments passed 11 January on that "pleased to hear about Lords votes tonight. The Welfare Reform Bill will hurt many vulnerable people."

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Kinship Carers are still paid less than Foster Carers

In today's Scotsman it is revealed that two thirds of Kinship Carers are still paid less than foster carers by local authorities, despite promises from the Scottish Government that progress would be made.

The article, published on 5th January 2012, reports 'Alex Salmond has been accused of one of the SNP’s “most serious betrayals” by breaking a promise to ensure that the carers of thousands of children being looked after by grandparents or family friends are paid the same as foster carers' and includes comment from Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour's Health spokeswoman, and a Scottish Government Spokesman. 

The Poverty Truth Commission, which included Kinship Carers, has been challenging the Scottish Government, UK Government, Local Authorities, Health Boards and Kinship Carers to work together in order to improve life for for this highly vulnerable group of children and young people. The Commission believes that governments should involve directly those Kinship Carers who struggle against poverty in designing, implementing and evaluating solutions for their families.

The Poverty Truth Commission also believes it is important for decision makers to be reminded of the reality of life for Kinship Children and their Carers by hearing the stories of their lives.  

Moira, a Kinship Carer, is 66 and lives in East Glasgow. When she first took her granddaughter into her care 18 years ago she had no bed for her and very few baby clothes. She gave up her job to care for her full time and life was a real struggle. She now cares for four grandchildren. Two of them receive £40 per week kinship allowance from Glasgow council but the other two have never received an allowance, as lack of social work input when they were taken into her care means they are not recognised as officially under kinship care.