John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
  Cassell/Times Justice for Families Event (sections 1, 3 and 4)
These are the other presentations.

Video 1












Video 3








Video 4








 
  Other payments to MPs and Peers
Whilst people are at it we really should consider what other payments are made to members of the House of Commons and House of Lords. In the lords there is no "salary" only "expenses".


Ministers' and other Office‐holders' salaries: 1 April 2008
Salaries of Ministers and other office‐holders detailed in this table are the maximum available; post holders may accept a lesser salary. Where it has been announced that post holders are drawing a lesser salary this is noted.
Ministers (with the exception of those who are provided with an official residence or any Lords’ Ministers who receive Night Subsistence Allowance) may choose to receive £2,916 London Supplement or, if eligible, to retain the Additional Cost Allowance.

Office‐holders in House of Commons
Ministerial Entitlement (£) Total (including parliamentary salary of £63,291) (£)
Prime Minister 130,959 194,250
Cabinet Minister 78,575 141,866
Lord Chancellor 78,575 141,866
Government Chief Whip 78,575 141,866
Minister of State 40,759 104,050
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State 30,937 94,228
Solicitor General 68,464 131,755
Advocate General 68,464 131,755
Government Deputy Chief Whip 40,759 104,050
Government Whip 26,231 89,522
Assistant Government Whip 26,231 89,522
Leader of the Opposition 72,529 141,820
Opposition Chief Whip 40,759 104,050
Deputy Opposition Chief Whip 26,231 89,522
Speaker 78,575 141,866
Chairman of Ways and Means (Deputy Speaker) 40,759 104,050
First Deputy Chairman of Ways & Means (Deputy Speaker) 35,823 99,114
Second Deputy Chairman of Ways & Means (Deputy Speaker) 35,823 99,114

These are the figures for the House of Lords. Ordinary peers only get paid through "expenses" and have no salary defined as a salary.

Office‐holders in House of Lords (No parliamentary salary)
Ministerial
Entitlement (£)
Lord Speaker 106,653
Cabinet Minister 106,653
Minister of State 83,275
Parliamentary Under Secretary 72,529
Attorney General 111,574
Advocate General 96,854
Government Chief Whip 83,275
Government Deputy Chief Whip 72,529
Government Whip 67,068
Leader of the Opposition 72,529
Opposition Chief Whip 67,068
Chairman of Committees 83,275
Principal Deputy Chairman 77,689
 
  MP Expenses
There is a fuss about expenses going on at the moment. This comes from the fact that historically allowances have been used to boost MP pay. This was obviously a mistake, but has been hidden until the current decade. Gradually it has become clearer and clearer that what is going on is indefensible.

My own view is that the rules of MP expenses should be determined by an independent body. The outcome of this would be properly justified.

The expenses for 2007/8 have just been released. It is important to distinguish between those figures which are for supporting the constituents and those figures which are for supporting the MP.

My own figures are:
Constituency and Research
Staffing: £82,588 (I have published a list of staff none of whom are relatives)
Office Costs: £29,031 (basically 1772 Coventry Road and postage costs)
Communications: £6,313 (annual report etc)
Personal costs
Additional Costs Allowance: £21,375
Travel by Car: £1,415
Travel by Rail: £1,737

I am one of few MPs who put additional money into staffing costs from my salary, but that is not reflected in the above figures.

My view is that when looking at expenses the concentration should be on minimising the cost to the public purse rather than having a complex paper trail.

I have done some calculations on the personal costs of MPs and I think I am still the most cost effective MP (in terms of personal costs) in Birmingham. Lynne Jones is the second most cost effective.
 
Sunday, March 29, 2009
  Congratulations to the websters
The link is to a story on the Mail on Sunday where Nicky Webster and her new born daughter are pictured.

Their sibling group of five is now split into three families. One sibling sees the other two, but the remaining two are isolated from their siblings.

I know of other situations where judges are deciding to remove and adopt one child from a family whilst leaving the rest together with a grandparent.

That is such an absurd decision as there has to be some other pressure on decisionmaking beyond "the best interests of the child".
 
Friday, March 27, 2009
  Ofsted and Adoption
I have a response from Ofsted as to what they are doing now about encouraging councils to have more children adopted from care. They say:
2059SC - PAF CF/C23: Number of looked after children adopted
during the year as a percentage of the number of looked after
children at 31 March (excluding unaccompanied asylum seekers)
who had been looked after for six months or more on that day (BVPI
163)
Notes on Interpretation:
This indicator is designed to give some data on the effectiveness of the end of
the adoption procedure and seeks to encourage the use of adoption.
For most children the best place to grow up is with their birth parents. Where
this is not possible, society has a clear responsibility to provide children with
stability and permanence in their lives. The Government believes that more
can and should be done to promote the wider use of adoption which offers
the only legally secure placement for children unable to return to their birth
families. This does not mean that adoption is appropriate for more than a
minority of children.
This is a complex indicator. Very important contextual data for this indicator
is the actual trend in numbers of adoptions in each council. This is because
an improvement in numbers of adoptions is not always evident in the final
indicator value. Small numbers in this indicator can also lead to some
variability in the indicator value year on year. This volatility means, therefore,
that the data needs to be treated with some caution.
Consideration should be given to the age at adoption, as older children with
more complex needs are more difficult to place, as are sibling groups,
disabled children and children from black and ethnic minority groups. Other
factors worth considering are the proportion of placements for adoption
ending in adoption; the trend in numbers of children looked after for more
than 6 months; the numbers of children returning to own families; the
numbers of children looked after for fairly short periods; the number of
adoption breakdowns and the numbers of special guardianship orders in the
relevant council.
A high figure is, generally, considered good performance and a low figure
poor performance. Comparatively low rate of adoptions may suggest: delays
in permanency planning and care planning; failure to consider adoption as an
option for every child not returning to parents; insufficient adopters to meet
need, lack of interagency budget to purchase placements outside the council;
court delays. The figures may be low, though, because of the prevalence of
factors, already discussed, which can militate against a higher score, but over
which the council has little of no influence.
A very high figure, particularly sustained over some years, should prompt
further enquiry. It may be the result from the prevalence of factors assisting
a council to achieve a high figure, but it may also be a result of a council
placing children inappropriately.
Consideration should also be given to other indicators on adoption (2058SC),
placement (2043SC PAF CF/A1, 2067SC PAF CF/D78, 2068SC PAF CF/B79),
distance from home (3085SC PAF CF/C69).

And then there is a table which says below 3 is red, 3<5 is amber, 6,7 is yellow and 7<8 is light blue. 8<25 is green (ie ok).

Then there is a table I shall try to upload. Graphical rather than numerical sadly.

adoptionsgraph
 
  Cassell/Times Justice for Families Event
Roger Kennedy of the Cassell Hospital organised as justice for families? event at which I spoke amongst others last Wednesday. It was unique in having system people and non-system people at the same event. I found it quite useful talking to some judges about the issues. We took four tapes of the speakers and have so far uploaded one of them. These are now on youtube.













The presentation is available here.
 
  Election Results 26th March 2009
North East Lincolnshire UA, Yarborough
LD Peter Bailey 763 (35.8; +4.4)
Con 513 (24.1; -0.3)
Lab 437 (20.5; +2.5)
BNP 370 (17.4; +17.4)
The Generalist Party 49 (2.3; +2.3)
[Ind (0.0; -4.7)]
[Ind (0.0; -21.4)]
Majority 250
Turnout 25.5%
LD hold
Percentage change is since May 2008

Redditch DC, Headless Cross and Oakenshaw
Con 764 (48.2; -14.7)
Lab 502 (31.7; +8.5)
LD John Stanley 162 (10.2; -3.7)
Green 113 (7.1; +7.1)
Ind 45 (2.8; +2.8)
Majority 262
Turnout 23.2%
Con hold
Percentage change is since May 2008

Newham LBC, Royal Docks
Lab 723 (46.3; -0.2)
Con 708 (45.4; +13.9)
Christian Peoples Alliance 94 (6.0; -6.2)
Respect 35 (2.2; -7.5)
Majority 15
Turnout 22.8%
Lab hold
Percentage change is since May 2006

Wolverhampton MBC, Ettingshall
Lab 1274 (58.8; +0.3)
Con 449 (20.7; -3.8)
LD Stephanie Kerrigan 366 (16.9; -0.1)
Ind 77 (3.6; +3.6)
Majority 825
Turnout 25.2%
Lab hold
Percentage change is since May 2008

Oxford City DC, Headington Hill and Northway
Lab 548 (38.3; +2.0)
Con 443 (31.0; -2.6)
LD Ruth Beer 378 (26.4; +2.4)
Green 62 (4.3; -1.8)
Majority 105
Turnout not known
Lab hold
Percentage change is since May 2008

Keynsham TC, Keynsham East
Con 584 (43.9)
Ind 314 (23.6)
LD Duncan Hounsell 221 (16.6)
Lab 138 (10.4)
BNP 73 (5.5)
Majority 270
Turnout 30.5%
Con hold

Llandudno TC, Mostyn
Con 217 (43.2)
Lab 123 (24.5)
Ind 83 (16.5)
LD Malcolm Bullock 79 (15.7)
Majority 94
Turnout 19%
Con gain from Lab

Redditch DC, Central
Lab 700 (51.3; +15.2)
Con 511 (37.4; -9.6)
LD Simone Rudge 84 (6.2; -3.5)
Green 36 (2.6; +2.6)
Ind 34 (2.5; -4.7)
Majority 189
Turnout 29.4%
Lab gain from Con
Percentage change is since May 2008

Melton BC, Long Clawson and Stathern
Con 463 (50.7; -6.9)
Ind 231 (25.3; -17.1)
BNP 120 (13.1; +13.1)
Lab 100 (10.9; +10.9)
Majority 232
Turnout 29%
Con hold
Percentage change is since May 2007
 
  Government Efficiency Meeting
The link is to one report from the meeting about government efficiency.

What interested me was that there was general agreement that more openness is needed in government and that the secrecy allows bad practise.
 
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
  Politics in the UK is Broken and this is one reason why
The link is to the evidence session from the Procedure Select Committee. Questions are being asked of Chris Bryant MP (Rhonnda) who is Harriet Harman's deputy (ie the Deputy leader of The House).

The enquiry is into written questions. In essence what he says is that if a minister refuses to give a proper written answer to a question then the solution is to beat the government at the next general election.

This issue about the refusal to explain the details of policies is at the nub of how things go wrong so many times. Apart from using the Freedom of Information act it is difficult to find out precisely what is going wrong by using parliamentary procedures. If we don't know what is going wrong then we cannot fix it.

The theory is that the legislature holds the executive to account in between elections. To hold to accounts requires asking questions and getting answers. However, at times the government simply refuses to answer.

Here is an extract
Q70 John Hemming: I think it is known that I am concerned about the issue of unsatisfactory answers. Generally this means the occasions when people do not answer the question. I did a round robin test of different departments by asking them about red boxes. In itself it was a relatively trivial question, but it identified that some departments answered the question and others avoided it. When you compare and contrast that with freedom of information there is an appeals process under that mechanism but no formal appeals process for written parliamentary questions. If you really want to get an answer and people will try to resist it the trick is to ask a written parliamentary question and a freedom of information question. If the WPQ does not provide the information you can take the freedom of information through the appeals process which is subject to deadlines and timing. What would you regard as an unsatisfactory answer to a question?

Chris Bryant: To make the position clear in relation to freedom of information, if the department has the information and it knows that it will have to give it under a FOI request it should give it in a parliamentary answer - full stop.

Q71 John Hemming: But they do not.

Chris Bryant: They should.

Q72 John Hemming: How do you make them do it?

Chris Bryant: But there is a difference between that and the situation where they do not hold it but other agencies do. I have written FOI requests to my local police force since I have been a minister to find out statistics, facts and figures and so on, so I am quite conscious that there is a sharp distinction. I am closer to being atheistic than agnostic on the issue of having an adjudication process to decide whether or not a question has been adequately answered. I think that in the end ministers and the government are accountable to the electorate when it comes to a general election.

Q73 John Hemming: You are quite happy to have a system where if you are a citizen you can appeal through freedom of information for a failure to answer a question but basically if they do not answer a written parliamentary question that is just tough?

Chris Bryant: An MP also has the same right as a member of the public. On top of that, the MP has the opportunity orally to question a minister in the Chamber and try to get an adjournment debate on an individual issue. I have already answered three adjournment debates on parliamentary matters to do with correspondence with ministers, questions and so on.

Q74 John Hemming: You say you can try to get an adjournment debate but you do not necessarily get it. You can try to raise business questions and there is a higher probability that you will be called. But you feel that it is entirely reasonable to have a system of government where the powers of members of the legislature to obtain factual information from the executive are weaker than those of an ordinary citizen?

Chris Bryant: They are not weaker because they have exactly the same powers as an ordinary citizen. On top of that they can exercise a series of other powers. What I am hesitant about is that even if that is not the best of all possible worlds I do not see how you can create a better one because I am not sure what adjudication system you have. Even if you had a system whereby a Member could say he was unhappy with a previous answer and therefore he would ask another question the enticement would be for every single question should end up becoming that kind of question. I do not think that would provide greater truth for Members.

Q75 Chairman: You made a very interesting statement a moment ago on which we would all agree. You said that if ministers held the information they should always give the same information in answer to a question as they would to a freedom of information request. I think there is evidence that that is not happening. The ministerial guidance or code refers to the key elements in a minister's job of openness and accountability. I think that it refers to debate but not written questions. Do you think there is a case for putting this beyond doubt by having a reference to written questions and saying that ministers should always give whatever information is in their possession?

Chris Bryant: I have a desperate hope that I am about to be handed a copy of the ministerial code of conduct from which I shall be able to provide a complete and adequate answer in a timely fashion, but I do not think I am in that position. I will just have to busk it by giving my understanding of the position. If I am incorrect I shall write to you. My understanding is that there is an expectation written into the code. The ministerial code refers to "all dealings with Parliament", so it does not differentiate between one form of dealing and another. If you are asked a question in the House in the middle of a debate you should be helpful, honest and accurate, just as you should be in answering a written parliamentary question.

Q76 John Hemming: How do you enforce that?

Chris Bryant: There is an assumption that we are all honest. I think that in politics that is a good premise from which to start. As to whether or not ministers have been adequate, enforcement is through the electoral system, that is, the ballot box.

Q77 John Hemming: In essence, you are saying that if departments through their ministers refuse to answer written questions it is up to the electorate to chuck them out at the next election?

Chris Bryant: If a minister has misled the House either in a written question or in any other way-------

Q78 John Hemming: I am not talking about misleading the House but just not answering questions. Refusing to answer a question is not misleading; it is just saying, "I am not going to tell you."

Chris Bryant: I look through the answer book every day. An awful lot of answers are provided. I know that we are focusing on those areas where Members are not satisfied with the answers they have received and that sometimes a question is worded in a way that seeks to trip up a minister rather than necessarily to elucidate the world. In those moments when ministers catch a whiff of politics in the air the temptation is to answer with politics.

Q79 John Hemming: To take the example of tax credits, if people's annual returns are lost in the post they have to pay back all of those tax credits. Your boss accepted at business questions that that is the case, but the department steadfastly refused to give any indication about how many people are affected by it or how much the government saved by asking people to repay money merely because their annual returns were lost in the post. That is the sort of scrutiny of the executive that a written or oral question is in place to achieve. Yet the failure to have any system of appeals means that basically Parliament is powerless compared with the executive.

Chris Bryant: But I am not sure to whom you would appeal. Do you appeal to the Speaker, in which case you put him in a completely invidious position?

John Hemming: You appeal to a departmental Select Committee. You can do that now but codifying it has merit. You can say that the first step is a pursuant question to say you do not like the absence of an answer; the second step is to go to the departmental Select Committee. You can do all of this at the moment. There is merit in saying: why not do this? When you have a point of order the Speaker allows you to ask the question again, which is futile. It is really a matter of having a system that guides you potentially towards an adjournment debate. That is delivered on the basis of a Select Committee considering that a particular question has not been sufficiently answered and there should be an adjournment debate on it.

Q80 Chairman: If we can provide you with examples of where ministers have given away less in answer to a parliamentary question than they have in answer to a FIO request would you be prepared to write to them pointing out that they are not really following the spirit of the ministerial guidance?

Chris Bryant: It would be helpful to see instances. Quite often I hear people talk of instances and then I never see them. We knew when the Freedom of Information Act came into force that it would pose a challenge to the relationship between that legislation and parliamentary questions and, for that matter, correspondence with MPs and the public, so it is important to get this right.
 
  Yardley Libraries
A number of people have contacted my office with questions about what is happening with the Community Libraries in Yardley.

There are proposals on the agenda to have additional hours in Acocks Green, Sheldon and South Yardley. There are also proposals for some outreach work in Sheldon and to move Kents Moat Library from inside the Poolway Shopping Centre to just outside (in the Neighbourhood office). The Glebe Farm library is to remain as it is.

The meeting is Thursday night.
 
Saturday, March 21, 2009
  The psychology of the teenager in song
 
Friday, March 20, 2009
  Election Results 19th March 2009
Staffordshire Moorlands DC, Leek East
Con 452 (38.7; -7.6)
LD Roy Gregg 238 (20.4; +20.4)
Ind 197 (16.9; +16.9)
Staffordshire Independent Group 189 (16.2; +16.2)
Green 91 (7.8; +7.8)
[Lab (0.0; -20.4)]
[Residents (0.0; -33.3)]
Majority 214
Turnout 30.2%
Con hold
Percentage change is since May 2007

Salford City MBC, Pendlebury
Lab 1055 (38.2; +1.3)
Con 874 (31.6; +0.4)
BNP 373 (13.5; +0.2)
LD Paul Gregory 368 (13.3; -0.9)
Ind 49 (1.8; -2.6)
Green 43 (1.6; +1.6)
Majority 181
Turnout 30.7%
Lab hold
Percentage change is since May 2008

Waltham Forest LBC, Larkswood
Con 1393 (73.5; +19.4)
Lab 255 (13.5; -2.1)
LD Henry Boyle 144 (7.6; -4.1)
Green 102 (5.4; -4.3)
[UKIP (0.0; -8.8)]
Majority 1138
Turnout 23%
Con hold
Percentage change is since May 2006

Thatcham TC, Thatcham South and Crookham
LD Marvellous Ford 1053 (60.8)
Con 680 (39.2)
Majority 373
Turnout not known
LD hold

South Oxfordshire DC, Chiltern Woods
Con 382 (79.4; +9.4)
LD Philip Allison 99 (20.6; +5.2)
[Ind (0.0; -4.1)]
[Green (0.0; -10.4)]
Majority 283
Turnout 25.9%
Con hold
Percentage change is since May 2007
 
Thursday, March 19, 2009
  My Brum TV - St Patricks Day Parade
It is good to have a local Internet TV channel for Birmingham. I have linked to their piece about the St Patricks Day parade.

http://www.youtube.com/stpatricksbirmingham
http://www.stpatricksbirmingham.com/media.html
 
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
  Jersey Prosecutions
The link is to an article in JEP as to whether it is possible to either have a private prosecution or judicially review a decision by the Attorney General in Jersey to prosecute. Viz it says:

THERE is no mechanism in Jersey to launch a private prosecution if the Attorney General decides not to pursue a case.

Attorney General William Bailhache told the States this week that private prosecutions were not part of Jersey law and added that there was a question mark over whether his decisions could be the subject of a judicial review.

Mr Bailhache gave the information in response to a question by Senator Stuart Syvret, who asked what appeal mechanism was open to alleged victims of crime if the Attorney General decided not to prosecute.

Mr Bailhache said that private prosecutions could not take place in Jersey, unlike in England as the laws were different.
 
  Targets change priorities
The saga in the Health Service is the same as the saga in Child Protection. The introduction of targets changes the decisionmaking processes to lead towards hitting the targets. That is what they are supposed to do.

In areas in which the decisionmaking processes are complex and require subtle judgment targets are more damaging in ways that cannot easily be forseen than in making rivets.
 
Sunday, March 15, 2009
  St Patricks Parade Birmingham 2009 Tipperary County Association
Today was the Birmingham St Patrick's Day Parade. It was the best weather for some time (probably since 2003 when the route was different).

As usual I paraded with the Birmingham Tipperary County Association which is led by Bromsgrove Independent Councillor David McGrath. Often there are quite a few acoustic musicians, but I was the only one this time.

The song we sing (A long way to tipperary) was in fact written by a London based composer, but the chords I have are as follows:


G C G
It's a long way to Tipperary, it's a long way to go,
A A7 D
It's a long way to Tipperary to the sweetest girl I know!
G C B7
Goodbye Piccadilly, farewell Leicester Square!
G C G A D G
It's a long, long way to Tipperary, but my heart's right there.

My own belief is that really there should be a D on the word "right" in the last line.

This time I took my camera and tried to photograph as many of the parade as possible whilst waiting to move off. The staged photo of the Tipperary Association was easy:
IMG_0957
Behind us initially were the Sandwell Dhol players. We had arranged with them that they would stop playing so we could sing, but later in the parade the organisers moved them way from us. Being acoustic we could not compete with the drum groups or pipe bands. Some of the drum groups could compete with the floats with music stacks on them. However, I recorded a small segment on my still camera (11 seconds) to give some indication of the rhythm. They did every so often switch to a rendition of Queen's "We will, we will rock you."

All the crops I felt were of any use are on my flickr account which can be accessed via this link.

Here are a few selected at random.

Birmingham Wexford Association
fIMG_1027
Wexford is important to my family law campaigning as it is a place where many of the refugees persecuted by the family courts in England go.

Another drum group - I have heard their rhythms in parts of the city, but don't know their name.
fIMG_1025
County Offaly Association
fIMG_1020
Archbishop Illsley's School (in Yardley Constituency)
fIMG_0986
The bus at the front of the parade. People may wonder why St Patrick looks like the twin of St George (in the St George's festival). Perhaps I should not reveal the truth.
fIMG_0961
Flags at front of parade
fIMG_0958
There is a political significance to some of the objects in the parade which is why it is sad that I have had to crop out some of the more significant elements in some photos (because they are covered by people's heads and hats etc). In this case the tricolour is missing.

I shall try to find other online sources of photos and add them to this entry.
The Dog Instructor seems only one photo.
Tim Ellis
The BBC
Birmingham Alabama
Very Quiet???
g4pfk
BRMB

If there are any more please put in the comments and I will add to this page.
 
Friday, March 13, 2009
  Laming Report 2 - a missed opportunity
I have now had the time to read through all of Lord Laming's second report. The report at least recognises the increased numbers of child deaths since the first Laming Report's changes were implemented.

It was difficult for Herbert Laming to question whether the changes that were introduced following his report into Victoria Climbie were the right changes. I did have a meeting with him, but unsurprisingly the report does not go into the basics.

It does recognise some of the new problems (such as the Integrated Childrens System), but it does not make any attempt to look at the situation from the perspective of first principles or what happens elsewhere.

Basically the system is in crisis. There is good practise, but the system still concentrates on recycling children between families rather than protecting children. There is also a large amount of bad practise that is not held to account. Unless we bring in proper accoutability for practise we will not improve the outcomes.

One of the biggest problems is that of people voting with their feet. There needs to be a proper investigation into what would bring back some of the people who have left (I have my own ideas as to why) we also need to stop worrying so much about the qualifications of the workforce, but instead be more concerned as to the quality. The crisis in terms of vacancies has to be top priority. The government's proposals are likely to make this worse.

The report still seems to be something which does not challenge the direction of travel of DCSF. However, it does warrant a comment on each of the recommendations (or groups of recommendations)

1. The Home Secretary and the Secretaries of State for Children, Schools
and Families, Health, and Justice must collaborate in the setting of
explicit strategic priorities for the protection of children and young
people and reflect these in the priorities of frontline services.

This sort of thing is like being against sin. I am pretty certain that we have strategies flowing out of our ears. The problem is at the detailed level not the strategic level.
2. A National Safeguarding Delivery Unit be established to report directly
to the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Families, Children and Young
People. It should have a remit that includes:
●● working with the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Families, Children and
Young People to set and publish challenging timescales for the
implementation of recommendations in this report;
●● challenging and supporting every Children’s Trust in the country to
implement recommendations within the agreed timescales,
ensuring improvements are made in leadership, staffing, training,
supervision and practice across all services;
●● raising the profile of safeguarding and child protection across
children’s services, health and police;
●● supporting the development of effective national priorities on
safeguarding for all frontline services, and the development of local
performance management to drive these priorities;
●● leading a change in culture across frontline services that enables
them to work more effectively to protect children;
●● having regional representation with expertise on safeguarding and
child protection that builds supportive advisory relationships with
Children’s Trusts to drive improved outcomes for children and young
people;
●● working with existing organisations to create a shared evidence
base about effective practice including evidence-based
programmes, early intervention and preventative services;
●● supporting the implementation of the recommendations of Serious
Case Reviews in partnership with Government Offices and Ofsted,
and put in place systems to learn the lessons at local, regional and
national level;
●● gathering best practice on referral and assessment systems for
children affected by domestic violence, adult mental health
problems, and drugs and alcohol misuse, and provide advice
to local authorities, health and police on implementing robust
arrangements nationally; and
●● commissioning training on child protection and safeguarding and
on leading these services effectively for all senior political leaders
and service managers across those frontline services responsible for
safeguarding and child protection.

This is Ofsted's job
Leadership and accountability
3. The Cabinet Sub-Committee on Families, Children and Young People
should ensure that all government departments that impact on the
safety of children take action to create a comprehensive approach to
children through national strategies, the organisation of their central
services, and the models they promote for the delivery of local
services. This work should focus initially on changes to improve the
child-focus of services delivered by the Department of Health, Ministry
of Justice and Home Office.

Lots of work no real changes
4. The Government should introduce new statutory targets for
safeguarding and child protection alongside the existing statutory
attainment and early years targets as quickly as possible. The National
Indicator Set should be revised with new national indicators for
safeguarding and child protection developed for inclusion in Local
Area Agreements for the next Comprehensive Spending Review.

I agree with Laming that the performance indicators have been counter productive. It is wrong of him to criticise the National Indicators as they only came into operation less than a year ago and we cannot draw any conclusions from them.
5. The Department of Health must clarify and strengthen the
responsibilities of Strategic Health Authorities for the performance
management of Primary Care Trusts on safeguarding and child
protection. Formalised and explicit performance indicators should be
introduced for Primary Care Trusts.

No that won't help.
6. Directors of Children’s Services, Chief Executives of Primary Care
Trusts, Police Area Commanders and other senior service managers
must regularly review all points of referral where concerns about a
child’s safety are received to ensure they are sound in terms of the
quality of risk assessments, decision making, onward referrals and
multi-agency working.

This is an important, but difficult point
7. All Directors of Children’s Services who do not have direct experience
or background in safeguarding and child protection must appoint a
senior manager within their team with the necessary skills and
experience.

Stating the blindingly obvious. Something that is the case almost everywhere anyway. Before saying this there should be an attempt to find out where it is the case and where it isn't.
8. The Department for Children, Schools and Families should organise
regular training on safeguarding and child protection and on effective
leadership for all senior political leaders and managers across frontline
services.

There is a role for better understanding as to what is happening.
9. Every Children’s Trust should ensure that the needs assessment that
informs their Children and Young People’s Plan regularly reviews the
needs of all children and young people in their area, paying particular
attention to the general need of children and those in need of
protection. The National Safeguarding Delivery Unit should support
Children’s Trusts with this work. Government Offices should
specifically monitor and challenge Children’s Trusts on the quality of
this analysis.

More work to no avail
10. Ofsted should revise the inspection and improvement regime for
schools giving greater prominence to how well schools are fulfilling
their responsibilities for child protection.

Back to the Performance Management problem.
11. The Department for Children, Schools and Families should revise
Working Together to Safeguard Children to set out clear expectations
at all points where concerns about a child’s safety are received,
ensuring intake/duty teams have sufficient training and expertise to
take referrals and that staff have immediate, on-site support available
from an experienced social worker. Local authorities should take
appropriate action to implement these changes.

I cannot see how this produces an improvement.
12. The Department of Health and the Department for Children, Schools
and Families must strengthen current guidance and put in place the
systems and training so that staff in Accident and Emergency
departments are able to tell if a child has recently presented at any
Accident and Emergency department and if a child is the subject of a
Child Protection Plan. If there is any cause for concern, staff must act
accordingly, contacting other professionals, conducting further
medical examinations of the child as appropriate and necessary, and
ensuring no child is discharged whilst concerns for their safety or
well-being remain.

This is the Childrens Index issue. There is a complex issue here.
13. Children’s Trusts must ensure that all assessments of need for children
and their families include evidence from all the professionals involved
in their lives, take account of case histories and significant events
(including previous assessments) and above all must include direct
contact with the child.

Obvious, but no identification of problems
14. Local authorities must ensure that ‘Children in Need’, as defined by
Section 17 of the Children Act 1989, have early access to effective
specialist services and support to meet their needs.

Another issue not really relevant to the remit or drawn as a conclusion from the evidence.
15. The Social Work Task Force should establish guidelines on guaranteed
supervision time for social workers that may vary depending on
experience.

Another departmental task.
16. The Department for Children, Schools and Families should revise
Working Together to Safeguard Children to set out the elements of
high quality supervision focused on case planning, constructive
challenge and professional development.

This could be good.
17. The Department for Children, Schools and Families should undertake
a feasibility study with a view to rolling out a single national
Integrated Children’s System better able to address the concerns
identified in this report, or find alternative ways to assert stronger
leadership over the local systems and their providers. This study should
be completed within six months of this report.

ie do nothing about one of the biggest procedural problems that exists. There is no sense of urgency here.
18. Whether or not a national system is introduced, the Department for
Children, Schools and Families should take steps to improve the utility
of the Integrated Children’s System, in consultation with social
workers and their managers, to be effective in supporting them in
their role and their contact with children and families, partners,
services and courts, and to ensure appropriate transfer of essential
information across organisational boundaries.

This has to be driven by practitioners and almost certainly won't be.
Interagency working
19. The Department for Children, Schools and Families must strengthen
Working Together to Safeguard Children, and Children’s Trusts must
take appropriate action to ensure:
●● all referrals to children’s services from other professionals lead to an
initial assessment, including direct involvement with the child or
young person and their family, and the direct engagement with,
and feedback to, the referring professional;
complete list of recomendations
●● core group meetings, reviews and casework decisions include all
the professionals involved with the child, particularly police, health,
youth services and education colleagues. Records must be kept
which must include the written views of those who cannot make
such meetings; and
●● formal procedures are in place for managing a conflict of opinions
between professionals from different services over the safety of a
child.

This would completely seize up the system. It happened in Birmingham over DV referrals. This is a "systems" thing. If there are too many referrals and too much time spent on triage then there is too little time for the work needed to deal with the more serious issues.
20. All police, probation, adult mental health and adult drug and alcohol
services should have well understood referral processes which
prioritise the protection and well-being of children. These should
include automatic referral where domestic violence or drug or alcohol
abuse may put a child at risk of abuse or neglect.

Apart from the fact that this tends to happen with MARAC it also is one of the bigger problems causing the system to fail.
21. The National Safeguarding Delivery Unit should urgently develop
guidance on referral and assessment systems for children affected by
domestic violence, adult mental health problems, and drugs and
alcohol misuse using current best practice. This should be shared with
local authorities, health and police with an expectation that the
assessment of risk and level of support given to such children will
improve quickly and significantly in every Children’s Trust.

That would be good if we could stop silly referrals.
22. The Department for Children, Schools and Families should establish
statutory representation on Local Safeguarding Children Boards from
schools, adult mental health and adult drug and alcohol services.

Why?
23. Every Children’s Trust should assure themselves that partners
consistently apply the Information Sharing Guidance published by the
Department for Children, Schools and Families and Department for
Communities and Local Government to protect children.

Here we need to do proper research to find out what the problems are.
Children’s workforce
24. The Social Work Task Force should:
●● develop the basis for a national children’s social worker supply
strategy that will address recruitment and retention difficulties,
to be implemented by the Department for Children, Schools and
Families. This should have a particular emphasis on child protection
social workers;
●● work with the Children’s Workforce Development Council and
other partners to implement, on a national basis, clear progression
routes for children’s social workers;
●● develop national guidelines setting out maximum case-loads of
children in need and child protection cases, supported by a
weighting mechanism to reflect the complexity of cases, that will
help plan the workloads of children’s social workers; and
●● develop a strategy for remodelling children’s social work which
delivers shared ownership of cases, administrative support and
multi-disciplinary support to be delivered nationally.

"shared ownership of cases" - this is dangerous as it makes cases someone else's job.
25. Children’s Trusts should ensure a named, and preferably co-located,
representative from the police service, community paediatric specialist
and health visitor are active partners within each children’s social work
department.


26. The General Social Care Council, together with relevant government
departments, should:
●● work with higher education institutions and employers to raise the
quality and consistency of social work degrees and strengthen their
curriculums to provide high quality practical skills in children’s social
work;
●● work with higher education institutions to reform the current
degree programme towards a system which allows for specialism in
children’s social work, including statutory children’s social work
placements, after the first year; and
●● put in place a comprehensive inspection regime to raise the quality
and consistency of social work degrees across higher education
institutions.

However, we start with a recruitment crisis which is not solved by making things worse.
27. The Department for Children, Schools and Families and the
Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills should introduce a
fully-funded, practice-focused children’s social work postgraduate
qualification for experienced children’s social workers, with an
expectation they will complete the programme as soon as is
practicable.

Again undermining the problem with capacity.
28. The Department for Children, Schools and Families, working with the
Children’s Workforce Development Council, General Social Care
Council and partners should introduce a conversion qualification and
English language test for internationally qualified children’s social
workers that ensures understanding of legislation, guidance and
practice in England. Consideration should be given to the appropriate
length of a compulsory induction period in a practice setting prior to
formal registration as a social worker in England.

A sensible idea, but making the job one attractive for English Social Workers is better.
29. Children’s Trusts should ensure that all staff who work with children
receive initial training and continuing professional development which
enables them to understand normal child development and recognise
potential signs of abuse or neglect.

Sounds a surprising novelty.
30. All Children’s Trusts should have sufficient multi-agency training in
place to create a shared language and understanding of local referral
procedures, assessment, information sharing and decision making
across early years, schools, youth services, health, police and other
services who work to protect children. A named child protection lead
in each setting should receive this training.

Sounds a surprising novelty.
31. The General Social Care Council should review the Code of Practice
for Social Workers and the employers’ code ensuring the needs of
children are paramount in both and that the employers’ code provides
for clear lines of accountability, quality supervision and support, and
time for reflective practice. The employers’ code should then be made
statutory for all employers of social workers.

This would be an improvement as the code tend to concentrate on employment accountability.
32. The Department of Health should prioritise its commitment to
promote the recruitment and professional development of health
visitors (made in Healthy lives, brighter futures) by publishing a
national strategy to support and challenge Strategic Health Authorities
to have a sufficient capacity of well trained health visitors in each area
with a clear understanding of their role.

I am not sure that national strategies are the real solution.
33. The Department of Health should review the Healthy Child
Programme for 0–5-year-olds to ensure that the role of health visitors
in safeguarding and child protection is prioritised and has sufficient
clarity, and ensure that similar clarity is provided in the Healthy Child
Programme for 5–19-year-olds.

An attempt to go back to a better past that is sensible.
34. The Department of Health should promote the statutory duty of all GP
providers to comply with child protection legislation and to ensure
that all individual GPs have the necessary skills and training to carry
out their duties. They should also take further steps to raise the profile
and level of expertise for child protection within GP practices, for
example by working with the Department for Children, Schools and
Families to support joint training opportunities for GPs and children’s
social workers and through the new practice accreditation scheme
being developed by the Royal College of General Practitioners.

An odd thing on the back of Baby P which was not a GP issue. Rather than having a list of nice ideas there should be an attempt to identify patterns of failure and deal with those.
35. The Department of Health should work with partners to develop a
national training programme to improve the understanding and skills
of the children’s health workforce (including paediatricians, midwives,
health visitors, GPs and school nurses) to further support them in
dealing with safeguarding and child protection issues.

This is important and applies also in social work. However, the nature of the training is key.
36. The Home Office should take national action to ensure that police
child protection teams are well resourced and have specialist training
to support them in their important responsibilities.

The police tend to do quite well compared to local authorities
Improvement and challenge
37. The Care Quality Commission, HMI Constabulary and HMI Probation
should review the inspection frameworks of their frontline services to
drive improvements in safeguarding and child protection in a similar
way to the new Ofsted framework

I am not sure that there has been an identified problem for this solution.
38. Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission, HMI Constabulary and HMI
Probation should take immediate action to ensure their staff have the
appropriate skills, expertise and capacity to inspect the safeguarding
and child protection elements of frontline services. Those Ofsted
Inspectors responsible for inspecting child protection should have
direct experience of child protection work.

One of the advantages of Ofsted has been having a fresh look at the work of those in child protection. I would not wish to lose this.
39. The Department for Children, Schools and Families should revise
Working Together to Safeguard Children so that it is explicit that the
formal purpose of Serious Case Reviews is to learn lessons for
improving individual agencies, as well as for improving multi-agency
working.

Surprising that this is not already the case.
40. The Department for Children, Schools and Families should revise the
framework for Serious Case Reviews to ensure that the Serious Case
Review panel chair has access to all of the relevant documents and
staff they need to conduct a thorough and effective learning exercise.

Surprising that this is not already the case.
41. The Department for Children, Schools and Families should revise
Working Together to Safeguard Children to ensure Serious Case
Reviews focus on the effective learning of lessons and implementation
of recommendations and the timely introduction of changes to protect
children.

Surprising that this is not already the case.
42. Ofsted should focus its evaluation of Serious Case Reviews on the
depth of the learning a review has provided and the quality of
recommendations it has made to protect children.

This is a bit silly. Unless the Serious Case Review is rigourous then the other things cannot be achieved.
43. The Department for Children, Schools and Families should revise
Working Together to Safeguard Children to underline the importance
of a high quality, publicly available executive summary which
accurately represents the full report, contains the action plan in full,
and includes the names of the Serious Case Review panel members.

That is sensible
44. Local Safeguarding Children Boards should ensure all Serious Case
Review panel chairs and Serious Case Review overview authors are
independent of the Local Safeguarding Children Board and all services
involved in the case and that arrangements for the Serious Case
Review offer sufficient scrutiny and challenge.

This is right, but more importantly they should be appointed by someone independent of the LSCB.
45. All Serious Case Review panel chairs and authors must complete a
training programme provided by the Department for Children, Schools
and Families that supports them in their role in undertaking Serious
Case Reviews that have a real impact on learning and improvement.

Not a bad idea
46. Government Offices must ensure that there are enough trained
Serious Case Review panel chairs and authors available within their
region.

Obvious
47. Ofsted should share full Serious Case Review reports with HMI
Constabulary, the Care Quality Commission, and HMI Probation
(as appropriate) to enable all four inspectorates to assess the
implementation of action plans when conducting frontline
inspections.

The full reviews need to have a wider audience even if not being published.
48. Ofsted should share Serious Case Review executive summaries with
the Association of Chief Police Officers, Primary Care Trusts and
Strategic Health Authorities to promote learning.

If they are published then this becomes possible
49. Ofsted should produce more regular reports, at six-monthly intervals,
which summarise the lessons from Serious Case Reviews.

There is merit in this, but what matters is looking for patterns of failure
Organisation and finance
50. The Department for Children, Schools and Families must provide
further guidance to Local Safeguarding Children Boards on how to
operate as effectively as possible following the publication of the
Loughborough University research on Local Safeguarding Children
Boards later this year.

A bit obvious.
51. The Children’s Trust and the Local Safeguarding Children Board should
not be chaired by the same person. The Local Safeguarding Children
Board chair should be selected with the agreement of a group of
multi-agency partners and should have access to training to support
them in their role.

I am not sure that this matters and it could be counter productive.
52. Local Safeguarding Children Boards should include membership from
the senior decision makers from all safeguarding partners, who should
attend regularly and be fully involved as equal partners in Local
Safeguarding Children Board decision making.

There is a challenge if you take up too much senior management time.
53. Local Safeguarding Children Boards should report to the Children’s
Trust Board and publish an annual report on the effectiveness of
safeguarding in the local area. Local Safeguarding Children Boards
should provide robust challenge to the work of the Children’s Trust
and its partners in order to ensure that the right systems and quality
of services and practice are in place so that children are properly
safeguarded.

I am not sure this will make any difference. Most annual reports merely say how well some organisation is doing. We need challenge instead.
54. The Department for Children, Schools and Families, the Department of
Health, and the Home Office, together with HM Treasury, must ensure
children’s services, police and health services have protected budgets
for the staffing and training for child protection services.

They already have budgets. How much they are ring fenced is another issue.
55. The Department for Children, Schools and Families must sufficiently
resource children’s services to ensure that early intervention and
preventative services have capacity to respond to all children and
families identified as vulnerable or ‘in need’.

That is a real challenge for government.
56. A national annual report should be published reviewing safeguarding
and child protection spend against assessed needs of children across
the partners in each Children’s Trust.

As long as it means something.
Legal
57. The Ministry of Justice should lead on the establishment of a systemwide
target that lays responsibility on all participants in the care
proceedings system to reduce damaging delays in the time it takes
to progress care cases where these delays are not in the interests of
the child.

This is a big mistake. We need to review the process whereby care proceedings and care plans operate. In many ways a child's care plan does need continual review. One big problem is getting children out of care. A rush to a court judgment is not necessarily good for the chidlren. If we could get more cooperation whereby the system cooperates with families then there would be less of a need for coercion. This particular area is one what needs a really detailed review and gets almost no attention.
58. The Ministry of Justice should appoint an independent person to
undertake a review of the impact of court fees in the coming months.
In the absence of incontrovertible evidence that the fees had not
acted as a deterrent, they should then be abolished from 2010/11
onwards.

Personally I don't think the court fees issue is a key issue. Court fees are perhaps 5% or less over time of the total costs of taking a child into care.
 
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
  Government Cuts Guideline Council House Rent increase
Quoting from a letter from Margaret Beckett:

We are therefore halving the national average guideline increase [of council house rents] from 6.2% to 3.1%.

This is a typical example of the government looking both ways. They are trying to absolve themselves of all responsibility for rent increases, but benefit from the popularity from reducing rents.

They are, however, offering some extra cash and it is unclear how much.
 
Friday, March 06, 2009
  Election Results 5th March 2009
Broadland DC, Buxton date: 05/03/2009
LD Barbara Rix 555 (71.3; +50.4)
Con 201 (25.8; -14.6)
Green 22 (2.8; +2.8)
[Ind (0.0; -38.6)]
Majority 354
Turnout 40%
LD gain from Con
Percentage change is since May 2007

Carlisle City DC, Belah date: 05/03/2009
Con 700 (46.4; -20.3)
Lab 307 (20.3; -3.4)
Ind 221 (14.6; +14.6)
BNP 142 (9.4; +9.4)
LD James Osler 79 (5.2; +5.2)
Green 61 (4.0; +4.0)
[English Democrats (0.0; -9.7)]
Majority 393
Tunout 31.4%
Con hold
Percentage change is since May 2008

Carlisle City DC, Castle date: 05/03/2009
LD Colin Farmer 465 (36.0; -8.3)
Lab 304 (23.5; 0.0)
BNP 255 (19.7; +19.7)
Con 143 (11.1; -5.2)
Green 125 (9.7; +9.7)
[Ind (0.0; -15.9)]
Majority 161
Turnout 30.4%
LD hold
Percentage change is since May 2008

North Warwickshire BC, Atherstone Central date: 05/03/2009
Lab 320 (37.1; -4.8)
Con 221 (25.6; -17.9)
BNP 186 (21.6; +21.6)
Ind 136 (15.8; +15.8)
[LD (0.0; -14.6)]
Majority 99
Turnout 28.8%
Lab gain from Con
Percentage change is since May 2007

Newcastle Under Lyme BC, Ravenscliffe date: 05/03/2009
Con 229 (25.4; -14.5)
Lab 213 (23.6; +1.2)
BNP 180 (20.0; +20.0)
LD John Parsons 149 (16.5; -2.4)
UKIP 131 (14.5; -4.4)
Majority 16
Turnout 26%
Con hold
Percentage change is since May 2008

Selston PC, Underwood date: 05/03/2009
LD Kelly Jackson 540 (79.2)
Lab 142 (20.8)
Majority 398
Turnout 29.1%
LD hold

Selston PC, Jacksdale date: 05/03/2009
LD Marion Sears-Piccavey 541 (73.6)
Lab 194 (26.4)
Majority 347
Turnout 29.8%
LD gain from Ind

Vale of Glamorgan UA, Llandow / Ewenny date: 05/03/2009
Con 612 (69.6; +3.8)
PC 140 (15.9; -3.4)
Lab 127 (14.4; -0.4)
Majority 472
Turnout 41%
Con hold
Percentage change is since May 2008
 
  Ed Balls finds a way of making things worse
The link is from the COmmunity Care website.

Children's secretary Ed Balls today declared that social work should become a Masters level profession to boost its quality and status.

One of the reasons many local authorities are deemed "inadequate" is a shortage of qualified social workers. This means often that someone without the formal qualifications is in place.

The "official" determination of inadquacy is something that really undermines morale. If Ed Balls gets his way this will mean more Local Authorities being deemed inadquate.

One thing we need to do is to relax formal requirements for a while whilst we bring the standard of the service up (something mentioned to me by lower level managers).
The government's proposal is the opposite of this.
 
Thursday, March 05, 2009
  Justice for families meeting MPs Researchers and Advisors
A meeting was held for MPs researchers and Advisors to discuss how to progress on Family Court issues.











 
  Theo Chalmers John Hemming Edge Media TV

http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=johnhemming&view=videos















 
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
  Crown Dependencies and the UK
The link is to a court of appeal judgment about Sark which has relevance to the case in Jersey.

This has the helpful part from the MoJ
18. In his witness statement, Mr P.F.U. Bourke, head of the European and International Division of the Ministry of Justice, stated, at paragraph 35:

"Proper consideration is given to the Crown's responsibilities, so that if a Projet de Loi violated the Crown's international obligations or any fundamental constitutional principle, or if it would clearly not be in the public interest for it to become law, then a recommendation might be made to withhold Royal Assent . . .".

19. Mr Bourke described the constitutional position, as he saw it:

"The United Kingdom Government is responsible, as a matter of international law, for any breach by Sark of its international obligations, including its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. . . . In addition, the Crown has ultimate responsibility for the good government of the Channel Islands. In this respect, the Crown acts through the Third [Respondent] on the recommendation of Her Majesty's Ministers, in their capacity as Privy Counsellors (ie members of the Third Respondent). In practice, the Third [Respondent's] functions in relation to the Islands principally concern the ratification of legislative measures by way of Orders in Council . . ."
 
Monday, March 02, 2009
  The RP case pops up again
The link is to the published judgment to a second appeal in the string of cases relating to RP v NCC.

This judgment was published very recently. I asked a written question last Wednesday as to why it had not been published.
 

Click Here for access to higher resolution versions of the photos The license for use allows use of the photos by media as long as they are attributed.

better brent chart

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