Threads – Referendum reflections: we did this

Matt White has written a reflection on the referendum for Threads.  Here’s a snippet:

We. Did. This.

I’m not just talking about the mechanics of democracy. More people putting their cross in one box than another. It goes way beyond that.

Our actions of not just the last 24 hours have led us to this point. And if we don’t get to grips with that, then we can’t be surprised when it happens next time, or the next time, or the next time…

And as I take a long, hard, look at myself in that light this morning, some things are uncomfortably staring right back; if I choose to denigrate our politicians, labelling them all “dishonest” or “self-serving”, then I can’t be surprised when people don’t trust what is being said by them. Or refuse to take part in the process at all.

If I disengage from politics from election to election, headline to headline, only diving in a few hours before or after the next big thing, I’m not adding or shaping the discourse. I’m just clanging at the last minute in the hope my pithy tweet or couple of paragraphs on Facebook will really make a difference.

If I make villains out of those who stand up for what they believe in – even if I don’t share their belief – I push others away. Afraid to appear in agreement with those I so clearly find laughable. Making them too nervous to ask why, or start conversations that might help bring clarity to us both.

If I rush to caricature those in my communities who hold different opinions, I stop seeing them as my neighbours. I write them off with broad brushstrokes, and make it clear that my walls will always be built and my borders firmly in place.

And so today I, and we, get another choice. Not leave or remain. Not in or out – that ship has sailed.

Today I get the choice to act.

Do go read the rest of it to hear how Matt suggests we act.

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EU referendum: Statement by Archbishops of Canterbury and York

Archbishop Justin Welby and Archbishop John Sentamu have issued this joint statement today after the UK voted to leave the European Union: 

On Thursday, millions of people from across the United Kingdom voted in the referendum, and a majority expressed a desire that Britain’s future is to be outside the European Union

The outcome of this referendum has been determined by the people of this country. It is now the responsibility of the Government, with the support of Parliament, to take full account of the outcome of the referendum, and, in the light of this, decide upon the next steps. This morning, the Prime Minister David Cameron has offered a framework for when this process might formally begin.

The vote to withdraw from the European Union means that now we must all reimagine both what it means to be the United Kingdom in an interdependent world and what values and virtues should shape and guide our relationships with others.

As citizens of the United Kingdom, whatever our views during the referendum campaign, we must now unite in a common task to build a generous and forward looking country, contributing to human flourishing around the world. We must remain hospitable and compassionate, builders of bridges and not barriers. Many of those living among us and alongside us as neighbours, friends and work colleagues come from overseas and some will feel a deep sense of insecurity. We must respond by offering reassurance, by cherishing our wonderfully diverse society, and by affirming the unique contribution of each and every one.

The referendum campaign has been vigorous and at times has caused hurt to those on one side or the other. We must therefore act with humility and courage – being true to the principles that make the very best of our nation. Unity, hope and generosity will enable us to overcome the period of transition that will now happen, and to emerge confident and successful. The opportunities and challenges that face us as a nation and as global citizens are too significant for us to settle for less.

As those who hope and trust in the living God, let us pray for all our leaders, especially for Prime Minister David Cameron in his remaining months in office. We also pray for leaders across Europe, and around the world, as they face this dramatic change. Let us pray especially that we may go forward to build a good United Kingdom that, though relating to the rest of Europe in a new way will play its part amongst the nations in the pursuit of the common good throughout the world.

UNICEF creates virtual child from photos of children in conflict

There are currently 250 million children around the world living in countries affected by conflict, and half of the 19.5 million refugees globally are children. A new awareness campaign hopes to shine a light on them all — by focusing on one.

UNICEF Sweden has created “Sofia,” a 3D-animated child using 500 photos of real children from emergency areas. The images were provided by Getty Images, the campaign’s visual partner, and animators from the films Planet of the Apes and Avatar worked with creative agency Edelman Deportivo to bring her to life.

Per Westberg, deputy executive director of UNICEF Sweden, said in a statement.

“We have created Sofia to give a face to all the children that aren’t visible to us.  Sofia is a symbol for all the orphan children, all the children that have been forced to leave their homes due to conflicts, who have stopped growing because of lack of nutrition and who dream of going to school.”

UNICEF decided to call the child Sofia because it was reported as the “most popular” name across the world last year.

The animation released this week marks the first of three videos in the organization’s #FörSofia spring campaign, according to Swedish news outlet Resumé.

“Meet Sofia,” the video opens. “She is the children that no one sees, in the disasters no one talks about. This is her story.”

While the video runs the risk of perpetuating an idea that there is a single refugee experience, the most compelling part is when Sofia says, “I’m not real. I’m the face of all the children suffering from emergencies no one talks about.”

Then, images of refugee children and those in conflict areas populate the screen.

3D_work_in_progress

In addition to awareness, the campaign aims to inspire people to become donors to UNICEF, as “world parents.”

Westberg said:

“Sofia is representing all the children you are helping when you are a world parent, UNICEF supports the children, through long-term development projects and through acute support when disasters occur. We are distributing our efforts according to needs, and the most exposed children will get help first.”

Amazing student invention

Two undergraduate students at the University of Washington have worked to invent a new way to communicate. Navid Azodi and Thomas Pryor won a $10,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize — an American search for the most inventive undergraduate and graduate students — for their invention, SignAloud gloves, which can translate American Sign Language into speech or text.

Azodi told UW Today:

“Our purpose for developing these gloves was to provide an easy-to-use bridge between native speakers of American Sign Language and the rest of the world.  The idea initially came out of our shared interest in invention and problem solving. But coupling it with our belief that communication is a fundamental human right, we set out to make it more accessible to a larger audience.”

Each of the SignAloud gloves has sensors that record movement and gestures then transmit the info wirelessly to a central computer. The computer then looks at the data, and if it matches a gesture, then the associated word or phrase is spoken through a speaker.

Church leaders say they will fight Westminster Council to install ‘Homeless Jesus’ statue

A life-size statue of a ‘Homeless Jesus’ is at the centre of a row between Westminster Council and senior clergy over its proposed installation outside a central London church.

The council has refused to grant permission for the installation of the artwork outside Methodist Central Hall as the area is already “saturated” with statues.

But church leaders said they will continue to fight the council’s decision.

Reverend Dr Martyn Atkins, a minister at the church, told the Evening Standard that the clergy plan to “respond with a statement or appeal” following the result of their application, which was rejected in February.

The monument is designed to prompt public reflection on homelessness and depicts Christ hidden beneath blankets, identifiable only by stigmata wounds in his feet.

It was created by Canadian sculptor and devout Catholic Timothy Schmalz, who has said it was “supposed to make you feel uneasy,”according to the Irish Times.

What are the largest religious groups around the world?

The Independent reports that the world is going to become more religious, with the number of people who identify as non-religious shrinking as a percentage of the world’s population, according to a report by the Pew Research Centre.

But what are the world’s religions, and how they distributed? This map, developed by The Independent and Statistia, shows which religions have the most subscribers in different parts of the world.

largest-religious

Syrian refugees share their stories and struggles in #IamSyrian campaign

It has been five years since the beginning of the Syrian war.  In that time, 4.8 million Syrian refugees have become displaced around the world, with an additional 6.6 million people displaced within the country itself. Due to the ongoing conflict, many Syrians have lacked basic necessities like food, shelter and health care. But they also lack the ability to return home — the one thing many of those displaced want most.

Over five years, the mass displacement of Syrians has become an international conversation — and, at times, a fiery debate. Yet the debate over whether to aid refugees often glosses over something essential: humanity.

The statistics, after all, aren’t merely numbers. They represent lives in crisis.

A new campaign called #IamSyrian hopes to reframe the current narrative around the crisis, shifting the focus on those who need it most — Syrians themselves.

The campaign, launched by the World Food Programme at the London Syria conference in February, encourages social media users to use the hashtag #IamSyrian to draw attention to the stories and struggles of those who have been living through war.

The campaign also hopes to encourage a global conversation about what all nations and people can do to help end the crisis.

Gregory Barrow, head of the World Food Programme liaison office in London, said:

“We are now five years into the crisis in Syria, and we have to work harder to keep the world engaged with the issues behind the conflict and the basic needs of the millions of Syrians whose lives have been turned upside-down,”

“#IamSyrian provides an opportunity for people to show solidarity by sharing the stories of ordinary men, women and children who have been affected by war and, by doing this, demonstrating that the world still cares.”

The campaign will roll out new content and rally participation every month leading up to the U.N. General Assembly in September.  For the first stage of the campaign, the World Food Programme has released photos and stories of those most impacted by the conflict.

Iamsyrian_aliye880x440__1_

Four years ago, Aliye heard the sound of rain in the middle of the night, so she asked one of her four daughters to gather the laundry hanging outside.

But her daughter responded, “No, it is not raining. They are dropping bombs.”

Two days later, Aliye’s family had to leave their home.

Displaced as a refugee for four years, Aliye still longs for the life she had in the city of Raqqa before the war — the stability, the familiarity, the community. Now, she says she can’t help but cry when she thinks of Syria and what she’s lost.

“If I had the choice, I would go back to Syria today,” Aliye says. “My tears won’t end until I go back home.”

 

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.

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.

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.