Archbishop of York criticises the new Living Wage

An article written by the Archbishop of York on the introduction of the new Living Wage challenging the new Living Wage that George Osborne has created, arguing that it is essentially an increase on the national minimum wage for over-25s and rebranded it the national living wage:

Last year, just after a certain supermarket announced their plans to pay a Living Wage, I overheard an interesting conversation in a different supermarket. The woman operating my till asked her colleague whether she would consider applying for a job with the Living Wage supermarket. She said no; she did not believe it was a real Living Wage,  they had simply found ways to dock wages elsewhere – such as no longer paying staff extra for working on a Sunday.

Like that checkout assistant, many of us remain unconvinced by Chancellor George Osborne packaging up what is essentially an increase on the National Minimum Wage for over 25s and rebranding it the “National Living Wage”. Of course it is to be welcomed that Mr Osborne is increasing wages at the bottom level for over 25s. But let’s call it what it is: a new legal minimum wage for over 25s. It is not a living wage in any real sense; it is not paying workers what they deserve and it is not paying workers what they need in order to achieve a decent standard of living in the UK.

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Children’s & Youth Work links

Here’s some links from the last few weeks that are worth taking a few minutes to read if you’re involved in children’s and youth work:

10 reasons we MUST keep Children’s Centres & Early Help Hubs

The Challenge

Hampshire County Council is asking for the views of service users, other stakeholders and members of the public, on a proposed new Family Support Service for families with children aged 0–19 years (or up to age 25 for young adults with learning difficulties and/or disabilities).

The theory of a 0-19 united service is a positive move, and one that has been developing over the last few years through the way professionals have been working closer together.

Worryingly though the proposal includes the closing of 43 Children’s Centres, and reducing the current staffing levels (currently 300 employees) for the Children’s Centres and the Early Help Hub by 60%.

The context is clearly driven by economic challenges: the County Council must meet a funding shortfall of £98 million by April 2017, and of this, the Council have decided that £21.5 million must be met from the Children’s Services budget.  These proposals for changes to Children’s Centres and Early Help Hubs total £8.5 million of savings.

What are Children’s Centres & Early Help Hubs?

Introduced 17 years ago by the Labour government as Sure Start, children’s centres are designed to help parents in the community, providing a central hub for activities for under 5s, early education, health and family support. They have faced heavy cuts as a result of dwindling council budgets and hundreds have closed over the past five years, either by shutting down entirely or through mergers.

The Early Help Hub is a more recent innovation that came as a result of The Munro Review of Child Protection which argued a moral argument, a timing argument (now or never) to put right the problems in early years support; and an economic argument that early help hub was cost effective.

 

 

10 reasons we MUST keep Children’s Centres & Early Help Hubs

  1. The high level of reach: In the New Forest East cluster of Children’s Centres reach 84.5% of children under the age of 5 (3,648 out of 4319 children) – these are children who engage with universal and targeted services (this is 12.1% above the Hampshire County Council average).  Even in the most deprived area of the cluster (Cadland and Forest First Children’s Centre) 83.7% of families are reached with universal and targeted activities.
  2. The support and development of parenting skills: over 4,600 parents in the last year across Hampshire had attended evidence-based parenting programmes such as PEEP, Positive Parenting Programme (Triple P) or Incredible Years in the last year.
  3. The number of parents supported into work and education: Over 1,000 parents across Hampshire have been supported into work, education, training or volunteering by their local Children’s Centre.
  4. The support and development of health lifestyles: 514 parents attended evidence based healthy lifestyle programmes such as Cook & Eat and Henry.
  5. The increase in accessing Early Years education: the Children’s Centres have actively promoted the 2 year old offer, and by Autumn term 2015 78% of eligible children were taking up the free entitlement in Good or Outstanding settings.  In the the area of highest deprivation in the cluster (Holbury and North Blackfield) there is an 84% take-up rate.
  6. The support of parental health: research has shown using Children’s Centres in a consistent way predicted improved mental health outcomes for mothers later on, and taking children to organised activities (anywhere although Children’s Centres currently lead the way on under 5s provision) also predicted improved physical health outcomes for the mother.  Most importantly the research showed that mothers who attended centres that were expanding services (in combination with no cuts to services) also showed improving mental health compared to mothers attending centres that experienced budget cuts and were reducing services.
  7. The support for Child Protection: 100% of children on Child Protection Plans are known to the Children’s Centres through routine notification by the Social Care Team and a very large majority in the New Forest East cluster (88.4%) are actively engaged (10.7% higher than the Hampshire average).
  8. The economic dangers: the National Audit Office states that it costs £33k to put a child into foster care, and £135k to put a child into residential care.  All it takes is 258 children (23.45 children per District) taken into foster care or 63 children (5.7 children per District) taken into residential care for the whole of the £8.5m savings to be wiped out.  Q1 of 2015 saw 2,073 children open to the Early Help Hub across Hampshire, of which 55% were stepped down from Child Protection and Child in Need plans and 45% were referred up from other agencies.  If Early Help Hub services are dismantled how many more children and young people will end up on Child Protection plans?
  9. The political damage: only a few months ago Hampshire County Council stated that “The 2015-18 Children’s & Young People’s Plan will continue to be underpinned by our commitment to early help for children, young people and their families, identifying as early as possible whether a child or family need support, enhancing parental capacity, helping them to access services, and working together to ensure this has maximum impact.” – is this just another example of a broken promise by politicians.
  10. The voluntary sector cannot do anymore: running throughout the Hampshire consultation is the assumption that the voluntary sector will step in and run more universal and low-level targeted support.  In the last year the voluntary sector has seen grants from Hampshire County Council shrink from £2.4m to £1.1m and yet they expect the voluntary sector to be able to increase their service capacity.  In the New Forest Early Help Hub nearly 50% of cases are led and co-ordinated by members of the voluntary sector, again if there are 60% reductions in staffing who is going to be taking on the co-ordination of these cases?

Two-thirds of England’s children’s centres, more than 2,300, have had their budget cut in the past year, according to an annual census by the charity 4Children. These cuts follow four consecutive years of shrinking finances and means that almost a quarter report facing a highly uncertain future.  More than half of the Children’s Centres  who had experienced a cut said it would mean reductions to frontline services.  Now, a further 130 centre sites are at risk of closure, according to the 4Children research.

Quotes from key leaders

Imelda Redmond, the charity’s chief executive, said:

“More than a million families use children’s centres. No other part of our national infrastructure offers the same opportunity to identify and address problems early; bring communities together and make public services work better for families.”

“Year on year reductions to children’s centre budgets are a real cause for concern. Our census shows that cuts are directly impacting on their abilities to reach out and support families. The trend towards targeting services on the most vulnerable risks missing those families who we would otherwise only see through universal services.”

The shadow Education Secretary, Lucy Powell, said:

“We’ve had nothing but broken promises from this Government on Sure Start. There are now 763 fewer centres since 2010 and services are withering on the vine in many areas.”

A DfE spokesperson said:

“We want to see strong children’s centres across the country, offering a wide range of local, flexible services, tackling disadvantage, and helping all children fulfil their potential. That is why we invested more than £2bn in early intervention last year.”

What can you do?

Please sign the petition to save the Hampshire Children’s Centres.

Most importantly please add your views to the Consultation that Hampshire County Council are running.

Origins: A youth prayer course for 11-18 year olds

There’s a new resource from the fabulous team over at 24-7 Prayer, to help young people aged 11-18 engage in prayer.

In the gospel of Luke, one of Jesus’s disciples asks him to teach them something. The disciple asks,

“Lord, teach us to pray…”

In a fun and laid back way, Origins will engage young people in the idea of prayer over 7 weeks, as well as giving practical suggestions to help them grow their prayer lives.

OriginsStack.jpgWHO IS ORIGINS FOR?

Origins is a 7 week prayer resource for 11-18 year olds, that will teach young people to pray.

The course is designed for young people from all backgrounds. The desire is that anyone at any place with God can come along and build community whilst learning how to have a relationship with Jesus.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

OriginsSpreadEach session is designed to fit into one and a half hours, but it can be changed to suit your group circumstances. The length of prayer times will increase over the seven weeks.

This course is designed for youth groups of all sizes but we suggest splitting into smaller groups for discussions.

HOW MUCH IS ORIGINS, AND WHERE CAN I GET IT?

It costs £5 per copy and is available on the 24-7 Prayer Shop.

Government report revealing full impact of cuts to children’s centres

A damning report which revealed the full extent of the harm done by funding cuts to children’s centres was among more than 400 statements, documents and reports quietly released by the Government just before Christmas.

A six-year study by Oxford University researchers ‘The impact of children’s centres: studying the effects of children’s centres in promoting better outcomes for young children and their families‘ highlighted how children’s centres – often known as Sure Start – were making a difference in some of the poorest areas of the country, but have suffered acutely from cuts or restructuring.

The final report was agreed in August, but the Department for Education (DfE), which commissioned it, quietly slipped it out on 17 December, along with hundreds of other statements, documents and reports.

The study is the most detailed ever conducted into the impact of children’s centres on the families who use them. The researchers examined 117 children’s centres in 2011 and 2013 – many of which may have been hit by further cuts since – and analysed interviews with more than 2,600 parents who used them, in order to calculate the impact the centres were having on families using different types of service.

23 Ways To Communicate With A Non-Verbal Child

The key to working with children and young people often centres on communication.  But how do you do this with non-verbal (or mainly non-verbal) children and young people.

Parents of children and adults with special needs contributed their best tips to Scope leading to these 23 ways to communicate.  This is a really useful read for those of us living with or working with non-verbal (or mainly non-verbal) children.

Here’s a few of my favourites:

2. Level it up

Playing and talking are easier if you can see each other. Sit so you are at the same level.

3. Talk about it

Eddy can’t speak and also has limited understanding but it is important to keep talking to him about what’s going on.

4. Eye contact

I put stickers on my forehead as a target for my son to look at.  This reminds him to look at people’s faces, so people feel more like he is engaging with them.

8. Find other means of expression

Give your child an opportunity to express themselves. Dance, music, drawing, painting, messing with textures, banging drums, shaking maracas – and join in too. Don’t be afraid to lay down with them on the carpet and see the world from their point of view.

9. It’s not obvious

Therapist often ask you to keep eye contact with them.  We (Aspies – people with Aspergers syndrome) often avoid eye contact because it helps us to focus on what someone is saying.  I find it hard to process verbal information and think about signals from someone’s face at the same time.

11. Create social stories

I have been creating my own social stories using pictures of my son and clip art pictures. You can find images of most things through Microsoft Office and easily type up your own personalised stories.

12. Make ‘flash cards’

Take photos of a non verbal person’s favorite toys, family members, objects eg cup, biscuit etc. Choose the most motivating items to begin with. Print and laminate them postcard size. Giving a choice of no more than three cards at a time, encourage them to choose by pointing or touching. May also be helpful to put the relevant sign on the back of photo as a reference for others

19. Communication passports

A communication passport is a one page document that the child has with him or her all of the time. It gives the people they meet basic information about how they communicate and what support they need. You can find out more about communication passports at www.communicationpassports.org.uk

22. Personal portfolio

Cerebra provides a free service to help parents create a personal portfolio for their child aged 16 and under. A personal portfolio is a user-friendly booklet about your child to introduce them to others. It is especially helpful when your child has communication difficulties. Very useful for teachers & professionals. www.cerebra.org.uk

23. Intensive Interaction

I have two children on the spectrum, aged 7 & 5. Intensive Interaction helped me stay sane and unlocked the barriers so I could communicate with them. www.intensiveinteraction.co.uk

 

 

 

 

James Milner reads his Twitter parody account tweets

If you’re a big Twitter user and a football supporter there’s a good chance you’re aware of Boring James Milner (@BoringMilner). If you’re not it’s a really simple yet almost brilliant concept. It’s, as the handles suggests, a parody twitter account mocking James Milner as being one of the most boring people you’ll ever meet.

james-milner_ap_m

The account basically tweets out the most boring things possible and acts like the Liverpool midfielder while doing so. It’s strangely amazing and quite funny. So much so that it’s grown a following of nearly 500K on the social media site.

The account is so popular that football culture outlet Copa 90 had the real James Milner recite some of the tweets from his Twitter counterpart. The results are as boring as you’d expect.

Here is Boring James Milner tweeting a video of James Milner reciting Boring James Milner tweets:

No matter your feelings about Twitter, the fact that something like this can grow to be this big is quite astonishing. The power of social media knows no bounds.

Children’s Services cuts could be dangerous

Here’s a brief interview I did with BBC Radio Solent this morning on the issue of Children’s Services cuts:

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