Special Needs Jungle has a new LinkedIn group!

LIgroupWe have exciting news!

Special Needs Jungle now has a brand new group on LinkedIn. While there are a couple of other SEN groups there, the Special Needs Jungle group is aimed at anyone on LinkedIn involved with 0-25yrs special needs and disability issues in the UK.

This includes health, education, mental health, social care, childhood illness/rare disease & its implications among other issues. And you are welcome whether you are a practitioner , parent/carer or another individual or professional with an involvement in these areas.

We aim to offer a chance to learn from each other by sharing knowledge, experiences, news, best practice and views you may not have previously considered!

There is so much knowledge available from many different sources and we’d like to offer a place for you to contribute your ideas, views, resources and knowledge.

With so many changes on the way in the wider area of special needs, it makes sense for knowledge to be disseminated and shared as widely as possible.

The group is managed by myself and Debs, so you’re sure to have a warm welcome. We’ll be on the look out for great contributions for the SNJ site as well, so don’t be shy in your suggestions!

Join, share, contribute, make yourselves at home!

If you are a LinkedIn user, you can ask to join here

Stop the DLA Takeaway campaign – your help needed

Stop the DLA Takeaway campaign – Contact a Family and The Children’s Trust need your help

The Children’s Trust, Tadworth and Contact a Family would like to hear from parents and carers of children who spend long periods in hospital. The charities are asking families to fill out a short survey which could provide vital information to strengthen their “Stop the DLA Takeaway” campaign.

Link to survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/StoptheDLATakeaway2012

The Stop the DLA Takeaway campaign highlights that disabled children who spend long periods in hospital are at risk of having their Disability Living Allowance (DLA) suspended. Current regulations mean DLA payments are suspended if a child’s hospital stay is more than 84 days. The days do not have to be consecutive, so hundreds of severely disabled and sick children, who are regularly in and out of hospital, could be affected.

The Government argues that when a child spends longer than 84 days in hospital ‘a patient’s needs are fully met free of charge’. However, Contact a Family and The Children’s Trust hear from families that they provide the same or more care when their child is in hospital and incur extra costs such as loss of earnings, travel to and from hospital, parking and childcare expenses.

If you are the parent or carer of a child who has spent a long time in hospital you can complete the short survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/StoptheDLATakeaway2012

This information could help Contact a Family and The Children’s Trust strengthen their call for the Government to scrap the rules that deny some of the UK’s most severely disabled children financial help when they need it most.

For more information visit the Children’s Trust website.

Latest information and advice for families

Contact a Family’s latest updated parent guides include:

Parents can order free hard copies of Contact a Family’s printed guides by calling our helpline on 0808 808 3555.

It’s Dyspraxia Awareness Week – be alert for early signs

The Dyspraxia Foundation is calling on families to be alert to the early signs of the condition in their awareness week campaign from 14th – 20th October 2012.

Chair of the Foundation Michele Lee said: “Many parents are unaware of the early signs of dyspraxia. It is vital families are on the lookout so we can ensure their children benefit from help and advice as soon as possible. All the research shows the earlier children are helped, the better their chances are for achieving their potential in the future. Early identification means that children can be referred for the help of specialists such as occupational therapy or physiotherapy whose input can be invaluable.”

“This year we have worked with CBeebies to develop a new early years programme, Tree Fu Tom, which encourages the development of foundation movement skills in all children, but especially those with dyspraxia. We are delighted that the series reached over 300,000 children aged 4-6 years in the first series and that parents are reporting improvements in their children’s motor skills and confidence”.

Dawn, mum of Rowan aged 5 years says “My son was diagnosed with dyspraxia by a consultant paediatrician last year. Rowan loves watching Tree Fu Tom with his younger sister and they both join in with the spells. Rowan tries really hard to master the movement sequences and takes this very seriously. He says that Tree Fu Tom is just like him!

With practice Rowan has got better at the spells and he doesn’t fall over as much. He’s also getting better at staying in one spot rather than migrating around the room, and he has started to be more aware of where his sister is when they are doing Big World Magic together

Early signs of dyspraxia can include:

  • Being late to achieve motor milestones such as sitting and walking
  • Some children avoid crawling or bottom shuffle instead
  • Frequently falling
  • Difficulty manipulating toys and other objects
  • Being a messy eater
  • Having speech/language problems
  • Slow to respond to instructions
  • Sensitivity to noise, touch and other sensory information

Dawn’s advice to other parents is “Be persistent. We felt that something wasn’t right for Rowan. He never jumped and couldn’t manage buttons or hold a pencil, but because he is a bright boy he compensated for his difficulties so they weren’t noticed by his nursery teachers. Fortunately our GP listened to our concerns and referred Rowan to the paediatrician for an assessment”.

Dawn also says: “It can be really hard to get help for young children with dyspraxia and it’s so frustrating trying to get your child to do things that they find difficult. We are so lucky to have Tree Fu Tom which is something fun that we can do with Rowan that we know will make a difference. There are lots of wonderful things that Rowan can do and it’s important to focus on them and not what other children are doing.”

If parents of pre-school children are concerned about their child’s development they should speak to their GP or Health Visitor. Further information about dyspraxia can be downloaded from www.dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk. All the advice and guidance produced by the Dyspraxia Foundation is written in consultation with people affected by dyspraxia and checked by professionals.

As part of Dyspraxia Awareness week a survey is being launched to gather information from parents about their early experiences of trying to get their child’s difficulties recognised. The survey findings will help to develop targeted resources to enable parents and early years professionals to recognise the early signs of dyspraxia and to provide the help and support these children need. A link to the survey will be available on the Dyspraxia Foundation website during Dyspraxia Awareness Week www.dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk

The Dyspraxia Foundation is also holding a two-day conference for parents and professionals in Bournemouth on 9/10th November 2012 with renowned speakers Dr. Madeleine Portwood, Barbara Hunter and Gill Dixon. Further information about the conference and a booking form is available from admin@dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk

SNJ on MumsNet – The Paralympic legacy debate

So, here I am, back from Sweden after what was an amazing meeting for people with limb disabilities from 12 different countries. It’s not easy to travel with a disability and especially with a wheelchair but this did not deter them from making their way to Malmo to take part. It was fantastic to get together so many people from far apart who face so many similar challenges. It was possible for them to discuss their own experiences and how they can work together to bring a strong, positive voice for the needs of the limb difference community

Just before I went, I was asked by MumsNet to submit a debate piece about the legacy of the Paralympics against the Equalities Minister, Maria Miller. This I was delighted to do and, this afternoon, it is published here http://www.mumsnet.com/bloggers/paralympics-legacy-debate.

Ms Miller’s piece is about the positive influence the games have had, whereas mine is a little darker. The games were great – inspirational, a great spectacle – but their legacy?

Well, you can read both points of view here and then click the debate link at the bottom to have your say.

 

KFC dish out work placements to ‘shunned’ youngsters

News today of a great initiative to help young people who are socially disadvantaged to gain valuable work experience and find a potential new career path.

The UK’s largest children’s charity Barnardo’s has joined forces with restaurant chain KFC to help Barnardo’s service users get a foot on the job ladder. Evidence provided by Barnardo’s shows that vulnerable young people are more likely than their peers to struggle to find work:

  • Permanently excluded children are 37% more likely to be unemployed than those who complete mainstream schooling;
  • Those who have engaged in substance abuse or criminal acts by the age of 13/14 are more likely to struggle to get into employment, education or training;
  • 33% of care leavers are not in employment, education or training at age 19;
  •  12% of 16 – 18 year olds with learning difficulties are NEET compared to 6% of those without disabilities

The new partnership harnesses KFC’s expertise in training and development, and invites young people from Barnardo’s are invited to interview for a work placement in their local KFC restaurant. The work placement can last from 1 day up to four weeks and is followed by a work review. Depending on their ability, a young person may complete one or all stages of the programme.

Barnardo’s Chief Executive Anne Marie Carrie said, “Now is a tough time for any young person to start out in the world of work but those who are vulnerable are in danger of being shunned by the work place. The Government has made some headway to tackling the issue of youth unemployment but private and voluntary sector partnerships have a vital role to play in equipping all young people with confidence and skills on their journey towards work. Collectively, we must commit to doing whatever it takes to get young people into work, so that we can look the most marginalised in the eye and know that we are doing right by them.”

Barnardo’s takes part in the Government’s Youth Contract and Work Programmes but also works in partnership with local employers, schools, colleges and charities across the country. The charity trains and supports more than 4,000 young people through its thirty employment, training and skills services across the country every year. The young person does not get paid for his or her short placement because they must be supervised at all times and are not deemed to be ‘adding value’ to the business, but are, instead,  learning and gaining valuable skills and experience from it. Travel, lunch and uniform costs are reimbursed by KFC.

Barnardo’s service user Jamie, 20, who recently completed a work placement with KFC and as a result of his hard work has been offered a job at a KFC restaurant in Manchester said, “I’ve been in and out of care homes most of my life. I could never concentrate in class, and I didn’t get good grades. To be honest I thought I’d never get a job. But Barnardo’s has helped me deal with my problems, and thanks to KFC’s training, now I’ve got a job. I feel proud of myself.”

KFC UK & Ireland Managing Director Martin Shuker said, “Training and development is one of our greatest strengths as a business so we feel this is an area in which we can make a difference. By getting Barnardo’s youngsters into our restaurants, we are not only transforming their lives by giving them vital work experience skills, but we are motivating our own staff and gaining fresh perspectives on our work. We want to encourage employers everywhere to be braver and to give vulnerable young people a fighting chance at getting their foot on the employment ladder.”

The number of unemployed young people in the UK has increased dramatically by 80% in the last ten years and 50% in the last five.

  • Youth unemployment (18 – 24) currently stands at 1,012,000 – close to its highest level since comparable records began in 1992. That’s one in five 18 – 24 year olds who are unemployed.
  • 968,000 young people are currently NEET (16 – 24) – close to the highest since records began in 2000. That’s one in six 16 – 24 year olds.
  • Long periods of unemployment, or moving frequently from one temporary post to another, while people are young, has a ‘scarring effect’ that lasts throughout their working lives.

But the young people who come to Barnardo’s – and many others who don’t find their way there – may have been through and left the care system; may have been victims of abuse; may have experienced homelessness; have been permanently expelled or who may struggle with behavioural or emotional difficulties. This means their chances of finding work are even more dire. KFC and Barnardo’s are urging others to engage in private and voluntary sector partnerships, in order for doors to be opened to disadvantaged young people, to ensure that their fate is not dictated by circumstance.

Do you run a company that could give a young person from a disadvantaged background some training or could speak to your boss about it? If so, please contact Barnardo’s right away and help give a young person like Jamie a chance of a better future.

Tweet them: http://twitter.com/barnardos

Facebook them: https://www.facebook.com/barnardos

Email them here

The Every Child in Need Campaign – help needed!

A campaign is being launched today (Thursday 26th July 2012) aimed at protecting society’s most vulnerable children from “damaging changes” proposed by the Department for Education.

The Department of Education is proposing wide-ranging changes to the legal framework which protects these ‘children in need’. Although the changes will affect all ‘children in need’ in England and Wales – including all disabled children – they are focused solely on child protection. The proposals are set out in a consultation which runs until 4th September 2012 [details here].

However, a group of charities, campaigners and lawyers, who are today launching :Every Child In Need” say these proposals are wrong-headed, dangerous and will place the most vulnerable children at risk .

The organisations include Maxwell-Gillott SEN solicitors, Ambitious About Autism and child protection charity ECPAT UK. The organisers, between them, work with and reach thousands of children across the country, including disabled children, children who have been trafficked, and others facing challenges such as street homelessness, physical or sexual violence (often gang-related), parental neglect, educational difficulties and behavioural or mental health problems. All of these are children ‘in need’.

The organisers say:

The Department for Education is proposing wide-ranging changes to the legal framework which protects these children.  The Ministers, Michael Gove MP and Tim Loughton MP, say these changes involve cutting ‘red tape’, allowing local authority children’s services departments more freedom to meet children’s needs.  Many local authorities – cash-strapped following swingeing cuts to their budgets – are happy to take this lifeline, which will mean less pressure to act quickly when a child in need comes to their attention.

We disagree.  The legal framework is not ‘red tape’ – it is an essential safety net for children when they are failed by their local authority.  Basic minimum national standards and requirements are essential.  A hands off approach, allowing local authorities to do what they want, when they want, is dangerous.

Even the Government’s own impact assessment (.pdf) recognises this – it accepts that, “there is a risk of negative impact on children if central government is less prescriptive.”  That is not a risk we should be taking.

We believe these changes are wrong-headed, dangerous and will place the most vulnerable children at risk.  Join us and stop these changes.

Although headlined as a consultation about ‘safeguarding’ and ‘child protection’ only, following on from the Munro report, in fact the proposed changes are far wider, impacting upon all ‘children in need’ across England and Wales, and drastically altering the current guidance regarding how local authorities should assess and meet their needs.

Time is short.  The consultation is running over the summer, 12th June – 4th September 2012.  We recognise that the issues are complex and you may have many questions.  We have arranged a campaign and information meeting for Thursday 26th July 2012, to discuss the proposals further and answer any questions.  It will take place at Doughty Street Chambers at 6 – 7.30pm and we very much hope you can join us.

The Department for Education’s wide-ranging proposals are set out here: https://www.education.gov.uk/aboutdfe/departmentalinformation/consultations/a00211065/revised-safeguarding-guidance.  In short, Michael Gove MP and Tim Loughton MP say these changes involve cutting ‘red tape’ and stopping prescription by central government, allowing local authority children’s services departments more freedom.  Many local authorities – cash-strapped following swingeing cuts to their budgets – are happy to take this lifeline, which will mean less pressure to act quickly when a child in need comes to their attention.

We disagree.  The legal framework is not ‘red tape’ – it is an essential safety net for children when they are failed by their local authority.  Basic minimum national standards and requirements are essential.  A hands off approach, allowing local authorities to do what they want, when they want, is dangerous.  Even the Government’s own impact assessment recognises this – it accepts that, “there is a risk of negative impact on children if central government is less prescriptive.”  That is not a risk we should be taking.

The campaign has three central concerns:

(i)            The proposals are based solely upon ‘children at risk,’ but the changes will apply to all ‘children in need’ – a far wider group.  For example, all disabled children are ‘children in need’ but their needs have not been taken into account in the proposals.  There are at least 770,000 disabled children in England and Wales. Why have their needs been disregarded?  How will they be impacted by these changes?

(ii)           The proposals remove national minimum standards for child in need assessments, basic standards which all local authorities must meet.  At the moment there are maximum timescales in place, so that when a child in need is referred to children’s services his or her needs must be assessed within 35 working days at most.  Gove and Loughton are removing this requirement.  We believe that many children in need will be left to languish, without the assessments and services they desperately need – and are statutorily entitled to.

(iii)       The revised statutory guidance proposed in the consultation is hopelessly vague and general, and will not ensure that children in need obtain assessments with a ‘realistic plan of action’.

The campaigners say they are very surprised to see the Department supporting the removal of national minimum standards on the timing and quality of assessments for children in need at this time, when in other contexts they are demanding more proscription and are criticizing local authority decision-making.  They cite as an sample, how Tim Loughton MP recently sharply criticised local authorities for their placement and management of vulnerable young people in children’s homes, and the poor quality of local authority data on such children.

The campaign website is at, www.everychildinneed.org.uk.  Full details of our meeting on 26th July are available at http://www.doughtystreet.co.uk/seminars_events/.

We hope to see you on 26th July.  If you wish to attend please book your place by contacting Doughty Street’s Events Coordinator at 020 7404 1313 or events@doughtystreet.co.uk.

Feed a child with an old phone

Just a heads up about this in case you missed it on the news.

Two meals in my hand

A new campaign has been launched by NetMums and Kids Company to help provide meals for children who are going hungry. This isn’t in some far-flung developing nation hit by natural disasters we’re talking about – it’s this country of our own, that’s been hit by a very man-made disaster. I would like to say how shocking this is, but, with the stories I’ve been highlighting recently, I’m sad to say it’s all too familiar, though no less disturbing.

Imagine being a ten-year-old in the UK. Your mother has left you alone with your younger siblings. You are starving, but she is too disturbed to notice. The neighbours know about your hunger and through the letterbox they throw in biscuits, but are too frightened to alert social services because your mother’s boyfriend might harm them. The biscuits make for a good day, on a bad day you draw pictures of food and swallow the paper.

This is a true life example of the children that find their way to the charity Kids Company where they no longer spend the day alone and hungry but are fed, played with and cared for. They have to go home at night, but at least they can come back the next day. And the next.

But instead of wondering how it’s possible to make a difference, root around in your cupboards for those old phones that you not longer use and take them to your local Orange or T-mobile store.

 The campaign, led my Kids Company’s Camila Batmanghelidjh and the NetMums website want you to donate your old mobile phones because with the help of  Orange and T-mobile, each phone donated is converted into cash to pay for a meal for a hungry child.
I’ve got two phones on my desk that I’ll be donating. What about you?

Who will care for our vulnerable ‘Looked After Children’ in a care-less society?

There was a news report this morning about an investigation by MPs finding “serious weaknesses” in England’s care system that showed children’s homes failed to protect runaways.

Children’s Minister Tim Loughton said “urgent steps” would be taken. Much of the criticism by the all-party parliamentary groups on children in care and on runaways and missing people focuses on homes where about 5,000 of the 65,000 of those in care are looked after. The report, first highlighted by BBC Two’s Newsnight programme earlier this month, says the system of residential care is “not fit for purpose” for children who just disappear from the system.

It is very timely that this was mentioned this morning, following the Towards a Positive Future Conference that I spoke at at the weekend. I was going to write about my part in that that today, but it will have to wait because I want to tell you about one of the most disturbing things I have ever heard.

Another speaker at the conference was Child Psychologist and former headteacher, Charlie Mead. Charlie works with children from around 35 homes in the Midlands and the South West. In a talk entitled “The Care-less System” he told of how Looked After Children lose not only their families but also their voices. Many are not in school because schools won’t take them. Charlie said that service heads and agencies are unengaged, denying responsibility for what happens to these, our most vulnerable, young people.

Most have some kind of special need whether it is educational, emotional, social or behavioural. They do not have loving parents to fight for them. Many simply disappear and fall into the hands of drugs runners, sexual exploiters and ultimately, the criminal justice system. All because no one cared about them enough to give them a home, a school place or love of any description.

I will be bringing you Charlie’s speech in more detail in the next week or so, because it is vitally important that you read it. And not just read it, but do something to help these abandoned children who are living among us, invisible and ignored.

It is all our responsibility to help. Why should my children or your children have the best of what we can give them while these children are rejected through no fault of their own?

I really want to highlight this issue and want to call on you all to help me do this too.