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Showing posts from May, 2007

Pregnant Mothers and Stress

The linked article is interesting. “What is now clear is that high levels of stress in pregnancy can, in some cases, be detrimental to the health of the baby and to remain as stress-free as possible is certainly important. It is vital that pregnant women are given adequate support and reassurance from their family, friends and employers, to ensure they have a happy and healthy pregnancy." Is something Childrens' Services should take into account. They should remember when causing stress to pregnant women that this affects the baby as well. A midwife in Birmignham told me that if a pregnant woman attends a child protection conference she is normally in tears as a result of the stress - caused by the people who are supposed to protect the child. "The research is published in the May edition of Clinical Endocrinology. Professor Glover has previously shown a link between stress in pregnancy and the baby’s IQ. The greater the stress felt by the mother, measured by cortisol l

In the matter of CW (A Child) (1) IW (2) SW Enfield [2007] EWCA Civ 402 and Shaken Baby Syndrome

The following is my commentary on the judgment in respect of the above case: The judgment is in the link. On 27th March 2007 there was a hearing in the Court of Appeal where I appeared as a Mackenzie Friend. This related to a case where a couple (IW and SW) were asking the Court of Appeal to stop the Local Authority (Enfield) from having their daughter adopted whilst the case was considered by the European Court of Human Rights I became involved in this case because I felt that it highlighted a number of the problems with the current system of Public Family Law. The Court of Appeal Judge (Munby) has since published an anonymous judgment which allows the consideration of the points of law and other aspects in public. This response is a response to that judgment that hopefully can also stand alone. The history of the case is that IW and SW are married. IW was previously married to TW and had two children. The second child was taken to hospital on 30th March 1999 and was found to be s

Enterprising Communities

Last night was the meeting of Enterprising Communities. A massive wrangle driven in part by the Balsall Heath Forum and in part by Respect occurred. The biggest row was about whether it was a meeting of a Joint Board or a Joint Meeting of Two Boards. Constitutionally until last night there was not a "joint board" and all meetings were in fact meetings of both boards. However, because some papers had been titled "Joint Board Meeting" about a half hour of wrangling occurred. In any event finally the meeting voted about 18:1:1 (1 against 1 abstention) to go forward properly (generally Respect abstained and BHF voted against). The difficulty faced by the organisation was that if it did not conclude on a way forward then the membership of the boards lapsed. I normally don't comment that much on what is happening in Birmingham, but to spend some time debating whether the words Joint Board Meeting meant (Joint Board) Meeting or Joint (Board Meeting) was relatively

Written Parliamentary Question 30th May 2007

Education and Skills: Adoption Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills pursuant to the answer of 15 May 2007, Official Report, column 662W, on adoption, what intensive targeted work has been carried out by his Department with local authorities to improve placement stability for children in care; and what assessment he has made of the effect of this work. A: Too often, children who stay in care long-term are affected by numerous changes of carer, which impacts on their security and wellbeing, their ability to make and maintain friendships, and their schooling, which is often disrupted as a result. The Department appointed a small team of independent consultants—all former senior managers in social services—to work with 34 local authorities who had a significant contribution to make to the department's PSA target on improving stability for children in long term care. Each local authority received five days' free consultancy to help them develop their own actio

The Scottish Question

This Scottish Question is about adoption. Scotland had 120 children adopted from care in 5-6. England had 3,700 in 2006. Scotland has a population of about 5M and England about 51M. For all that it matters you can scale up the scottish figures by 10. That would give 1,200 adoptions from care. Scotland has a form of jury in children's cases. Is that the reason why more children are adopted from care in England than Scotland? If it isn't what is?

The wonders of Modern Technology - using the TV as a TV

Finally the Wii has been linked to the wireless network. This means that my children can now watch Youtube vidoes of kittens on the TV. For the moment the TV has reverted to being used to watch TV. It does confuse the cats. To be fair it does show how well people have implemented Internet Protocols on different equipment. The ActiveX control used by YouTube manages to run on the Wii.

The rank hypocrisy of family court judges

The title is one of Camilla Cavendish whose article is linked, but it is a sentiment I share. The secrecy in the family courts does not protect the children it protects the system and those who operate it. I have written a response to Munby's published judgment (the publishing of which we need to thank him for), but it may be published elsewhere first. Although I don't agree with the judgment it is good that it is published and we must thank him for this. If other judges published their judgments this would be a step forward (and perhaps they would recognise that their judgments are not generally supported).

Written Parliamentary Question 24th May

Health:Departments:Ministerial Red Boxes Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how many ministerial red boxes her Department bought in each of the last five years; and how much each cost; (2) what tendering process is used to decide which company supplies ministerial red boxes to her Department. A: The Department orders red boxes from Banner Business Supplies as and when they are needed. Ministerial boxes are used by successive Ministers over many years. Ivan Lewis (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health)

Submission to UN

A submission to the UN Human Rights Commission asking for an investigation into UK Public Family Law has now been written and should be posted off later today. There will probably be a bit of tooing and froing whilst this is put into the right form.

Freedom of Information: Don't believe the hype

I have just checked the words of the freedom of information amendment bill. It does exempt the House of Commons from being a "public authority" (and the House of Lords). Furthermore it is wrong to make letters written by an MP to say the local health trust exempt automatically. If they contain confidential details about an individual's case then they are exempt, but if they merely talk about generalities then they should be treated as any other documents. Letters written to an MP remain outside FoI in any event.

Written Parliamentary Question 22nd May 2007

Justice: Prisoners Release: Acquittals Q: To ask the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice pursuant to the answer of 30 April 2007, Official Report, column 1420W, on prisoners release: acquittals, in what cases remand prisoners are entitled to (a) travel warrants and (b) housing benefit and council tax benefit and mortgage interest for a limited time. A: All prisoners who are released from prison custody are issued with a travel warrant to an agreed destination. Housing and council tax benefit and mortgage interest are available on release in all cases where prisoners meet the eligibility criteria to receive these benefits. If a remand prisoner is already in receipt of these benefits they continue to be payable for up to 52 weeks or until conviction. Gerry Sutcliffe (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Justice)

Written Parliamentary Question 22nd May

Education and Skills: Adoption Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment he has made of the impact of progress towards adoption targets for local authorities on children and families. A: The Government have set a number of targets on adoption. The following target was included in the Department of Health publication 'Improvement, Expansion and Reform: The Next Three Years (Priorities and Planning Framework 2003-06)': "Maintain current levels of adoption placement stability (as measured by the proportion of placements for adoption ending with the making of an adoption order) so that quality is not compromised whilst increasing the use of adoption as follows: By 2004-05 increase by 40 per cent. the number of looked after children who are adopted, and aim to exceed this by achieving, if possible, a 50 per cent. increase by 2006, up from 2,700 in 1999-2000. All councils will bring their practice up to the current level of the best performers. B

Written Parliamentary Question 21st May

Trade and Industry: OM Energy Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry pursuant to the answer of 27 April 2007, Official Report, column 1361W, on OM Energy, what his definition is of academic validation of the technology; and who validated the technology. A: By academic validation, I mean that appropriately qualified experts have judged that the technology works. The experts were Dr. Juan Matthews PhD, FInstP (DTI International Technology Promoter), Dr. Fulcieri Maltini, former World Bank scientist and fuel cell expert who conducted the on-site inspection, and Professor Derek Fray, B.Sc.(Eng.), Ph.D., D.I.C., M.A., A.R.S.M., C.Eng., M.I.M., F.I.M.M., F.Eng., Head of Cambridge University Department of Materials Chemistry, who met the scientists involved. Ian McCartney (Minister of State (Trade & Investment), Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Cleveland 20 years on

The question being asked is whether or not things have got better since the scandal of false diagnoses of sexual abuse in 1987 in Cleveland. 121 children were removed from their families because of false claims. It is important to recognise that this was not good for the children concerned. A "false positive" for child abuse is in itself abusive of the child. It causes emotional trauma and insecurity. Given the limits as to numbers of foster carers available children can even be placed in risky situations. The question is whether the situation has improved since then. Because of the secrecy it is much harder to monitor the situation overall. However, it seems quite clear on the evidence that I have that generally things have deteriorated.

MTAS - It didn't work

So, the government have admitted that MTAS was a mess. This shows how their approach of ignoring all criticism really is not the best thing to do in the long term. (see link). If, however, you look at the Department of Health website in an attempt to find out what they are saying should happen, it is not there.

Written Answers - Health: Sharon Payne (10 May 2007)

Sharon Payne Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will apply for rescindment of the court order relating to the provision of the medical files held by Sharon Payne to the Attorney General A: It would not be appropriate for the Secretary of State to seek a rescindment of this court order as this remains the responsibility of the Attorney-General.(Caroline Flint (Minister of State (Public Health), Department of Health)

Eurovision Song Contest

Even if you ignore the balkan block vote and what appeared to be an attempt by the Serbian government to fix the result Eurovision demonstrates the unpopularity of the UK. Scooch produced what was a good Europop number, but appeared nowhere in the results because of political allegiances.

Damned if they do, damned if they don't

The excuse used by people to defend the current system is that Children's services are "damned if they do and damned if they don't". The problem is that when you look in detail at situations considerable questions are asked. The linked story is one where the investigation was recently released into the death by starvation. It seems odd that nothing could be done. At the same time the system clearly intervenes where it shouldn't. In the mean time the UK's figures for child deaths (the only abuse statistic that is properly comparable between countries) show a relative decline in the UK's position. I am working on getting some form of generalised review of the UK's system of Public Family Law. Comparing countries is difficult because the stastics are not that comparable. However, we cannot allow the current mess to continue.

Failings found over baby's murder

This is the other side (see link) quoting from the article: Social workers failed properly to follow up child abuse allegations about a baby from Swansea who was later murdered, a report has found. The cases that cause great concern like this one that involve clear physical harm to a child. On one hand we have the system intervening because an "expert" states that there may be emotional abuse in 5 years time. On the other hand the system fails to intervene in an obvious case of a baby being hurt badly. The Climbie inquiry found that the time spent on Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy prevented people from dealing with the more serious case.

Tony Blair - a hard act to follow

Tony Blair is an effective salesman and has managed to sell over time a number of rather bad policies. He did, however, make progress in Northern Ireland. His failure on Iraq is one issue, but also his failure to properly manage the civil service has caused a number of problems. He has presented these things well, but the reality is flawed.

Legislation and Sausages

I must admit today was one of those Bismarck Sausage Days. "To retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them in the making. Otto von Bismarck There is a problem. The problem is that now and again there are people who are not UK citizens who commit crimes. If you have someone who is continually attacking other people who is not a UK citizen then the obvious thing to do is to deport them. This is not new. The old system had the judge recommending deportation, but the Home Office then forgot to do it. The government have now brought in what they call "automatic deportation". The problem with their way of doing it is that it will unravel in two ways. Firstly it will fail to deport people that it should, secondly that it will deport people that it shouldn't. Our immigration law is a total mess. There are different categories of immigration and different rules in terms of the rights to work, vote and interface with state services. The system produced

Written Parliamentary Question 9th May 2007

Ministerial Red Boxes Q: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many Ministerial red boxes his Department bought in each of the last five years; and how much each cost. A: During the last five years HM Treasury has purchased only one box pouch in 2005-06 and just one despatch box in 2006-07. The total cost including VAT was £1,388 and £511 respectively. John Healey (Financial Secretary, HM Treasury)

Written Parliamentary Question 9th May 2007

Ministerial Red Boxes Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many Ministerial red boxes his Department bought in each of the last five years; and how much each cost; (2) what tendering process is used to decide which company supplies Ministerial red boxes to his Department. A: The MOD has purchased a total of 11 new ministerial red boxes over the past five years. The cost of each box purchased in each of the previous five years has been: Cost 2002 One box at £585 2003 One box at £559 2004 Two boxes at a total cost of £916 2005 Two boxes at £564 each 2006 Four boxes at £550 each and one box at £720. The MOD purchases its ministerial red boxes from Banner Business Supplies but has on exceptional occasions approached Barrow and Gale (formerly BH Leather Ltd.) directly.

Respect wins three seats

I have linked to the story about Respect on their website. Nationally they won three seats. (Birmingham, Bolsover and Preston) They have lost a councillor recently (in Tower Hamlets) who has defected to Labour. What we noticed was that they piled people into Springfield, Sparkbrook and Moseley Wards. We won 3 of the wards in the Hall Green Constituency and Respect won Sparkbrook (but with a lower vote than last year). What is clear is that Respect split the vote against Labour in the inner cities allowing Labour to hold on in Bordesley Green, Nechells, Lozells, and Aston. Given their lack of electoral success in the elections they will have some difficulties holding together. The deal in Bethnal Green was a one election deal which is why George Galloway is not expected to stand again. This gives Respect a considerable challenge because they have little electoral success and need more wins to hold together. The BNP went into reverse from 2006 which is good news. They, however, won

Taking down the election posters

It is so good that we don't have to take down the election posters on Lamp Posts because we didn't put them up. I don't think there will be any politicians driving to bring back lamp post posters. We will keep the boards for a few years just in case, but they are really things for recycling now.

Cameron Candidate Gets No Votes

The "Cameron Effect" clearly has not hit Tony Blair's constituency wherein a Conservative Candidate managed the relatively rare achievement of getting no votes at all. See link for press story. New Trimdon & Trimdon Grange Bowes Shirley Conservative Party 0 Foster Amanda Marie British National Party 75 * HOVVELS Lucy Labour Party 441 (from the Sedgefield Election Web Page )

Good results in Birmingham

We were very pleased to win Hodge Hill and move into second place in Tyburn. This means that our sitting Councillor in Tyburn will be able to hold her seat in 2008. We were also pleased to hold Springfield (a seat we lost last year). Notwithstanding the framing of our candidate in Bordesley for postal vote misdirection he still won 2,628 votes against Labour's 3,908. Sadly we lost Dilawar Khan in Sparkbrook. He had his nose broken at the start of the campaign and his car smashed up on election day. This is a worrying movement towards more violent campaigns that Respect need to be held responsible for.

Written Parliamentary Question: 2nd May 2007

OM Energy Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when his Department expects to cease providing support to OM Energy Ltd. A: The key objective of UK Trade and Investment's Global Entrepreneur Programme is to create self sustaining, high growth UK technology businesses by attracting both worldwide intellectual property and entrepreneurial talent here. The latest phase of the OM Energy project will include the recruitment of highly experienced global management team to take forward the next stage of the company's strategy. This will limit the need for significant ongoing support from the Global Entrepreneur Programme. (Ian McCartney, Minister of State (Trade & Investment), Department of Trade and Industry)

Why two days before the election

One Lib Dem Candidate and a Lib Dem Councillor in Birmingham have been arrested in respect of allegations about the 2006 Local Elections. The real question is why this has been done two days before the election (this morning) rather than after the election. (Mohammed Saeed and Cllr Zakar Ullah Choudhry) Superficially it appears that the police are intervening in the election itself. They arrested one of our candidates in the 2006 election. He, however, was found to have not committed any offence (the postal votes found with his wife were his, his wifes and their children). We know that some form of setup is going on because a postal vote was misdirected to the same Lib Dem Candidate's house. It is a bit like harrassing people with Pizzas and Taxis instead we have harrassment with postal votes. Obviously we need to investigate the allegations further, but it all seems a bit fishy to me.

The truth of the UK Family Courts and forced adoption

The linked story is from York. It is another one where the children (who were forcibly adopted and taken to Canada) are returning to their birth mother. The UK Family Courts decided that it was "in the best interests of the children" to remove them from their mother. What use is it to have this sort of thing done to families where in the end no-one has won. The adoptive family lose out, the birth family lose out and the children themselves lose out.

Written Parliamentary Questions: 1st May 2007

OM Energy Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the status is of the OM Energy projects; and what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of Government support for OM Energy. A: Phase one of the OM Energy project has progressed well with its objectives being fully met including academic validation of the technology; the establishment of a UK company; the securing of private seed capital investment; the filing of a worldwide patent; and the design of a next generation laboratory prototype. Phase two will begin shortly and discussions are under way with top UK engineering firm to evaluate potential market applications and the design of commercial prototype. Government support has been effective because much of this activity was achieved with assistance from UK Trade and Investment's Global Entrepreneur Programme. This has seen the formation of a pioneering UK company, developing an exciting technology in the renewable energy sector. (Ian McCartney, Minister