Saturday, 4 July 2009

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Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Celeb child case tests media access to family courts

The media's new right to attend family court proceedings should only be overturned in the most exceptional circumstances, the President of the Family Division has been told.
When applications were being made to exclude the media from such hearings, the media also had a right to be properly informed of the application and the reasons behind it, said Gavin Millar QC, representing a group of media organisations.
His comments came at a hearing yesterday at which the media were opposing an application they should be excluded from hearings in a case involving a celebrity, a child and the child's mother.
The hearing was in private, although journalists were allowed to attend.
Richard Spearman QC, for the celebrity, had argued that as a general rule in cases involving celebrities and their children, the requirement to protect their privacy would require that journalists should be excluded from the hearings.
He also argued that protection of celebrities and children's privacy meant that when applications were made for journalists to be excluded from all or parts of hearings, the media should not be told the reasons on which such applications were based.
The case is the first in which the Family Division has had to consider the operation of the new system of openness in the family court and the rule allowing the exclusion of journalists from all or parts of hearings in certain circumstances.
It is believed that Sir Mark Potter, President of the Family Division, intends to use the case to set out guidance for the courts on the approach to be taken.
The new rules allowing the media into family proceedings hearings provide that journalists may be excluded from all or part of a hearing if this is necessary in the interests of any child concerned in or connected with the proceedings, or for the safety or protection of a party or witness or person connected with such a person, or for the orderly conduct of proceedings, or if justice would otherwise be impeded or prejudiced.

MP's fears at child risk register

A Somerset MP has raised concerns about the safety of data held for the government's new child register scheme.
ContactPoint will retain records of all 11 million children in the UK. It aims to provide a database to be used by those working in child protection.
Weston-super-Mare MP John Penrose said he was worried that the data collected in the project could be lost.
However Wansdyke MP Dan Norris, a former social worker, said the data was vital to safeguard children.
The information contained by ContactPoint will be accessible to at least 390,000 people nationwide, including health visitors and social workers.
It aims to provide a single point of contact to help avoid tragedies such as the Victoria Climbie and Baby Peter cases.

Grandparents are left out of the family picture too often

When parents separate, grandparents can find themselves cut off from grandchildren with no rights. The law should change
Stage lights sway beside the tall trees in Regents Park theatre on Saturday night, casting a golden glow on Beatrice and her reluctant wooer, Benedick. It was shivering cold, but our hearts were warm, first because of the play, but also because I was there in the company of my grandson. Much Ado had been a set text at school so he got the plot and understood the rude jokes as much as I did. The following morning we were off again, just the two of us, grandma and grandson, heading for the British Library and its exhibition of Henry VIII. Yes, my grandson is already in his teens and enjoys these one-to-one weekends almost as much as I do.
Jimmy and Margaret Deuchars in Glasgow had a fine time with their granddaughters at half-term, too. The two teenagers stayed over in their home and went on outings to Loch Lomond and such, just the sort of treats grandparents enjoy sharing. But in Jimmy and Margarets case it hasnt always been that easy.
The Deuchars lost their daughter to breast cancer only weeks after her second baby was born. Her husband soon married again and moved away to Liverpool. His new family took precedence in his life and the grandparents found contact hard. Their requests to keep in touch came to nothing. They realised that they had lost more than their daughter. But they werent willing to accept the situation, and went to court. The laws of this country do not acknowledge any legal relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. However, after a somewhat heated negotiation, the families came to an agreement. In the years that followed they would meet their granddaughters once a month at Carlisle Castle or the Tesco near by. It wasnt much of a family life, but it would have to do. However, they didnt stop there.
When I was first a grandparent, about 17 years ago, grandparents didnt have much of a profile. They were simply bundled in with the general family background and not expected to have much of a role. All that has changed, and people such as Miriam Stoppard are writing delicious books about the joys and rewards, but also about the skills and pitfalls of what I suppose must be called grand parenting. Being a grandparent, it seems to me, can be gloriously free of rule books and restrictions. There is only one qualification parentage and after that you make it up as you go along.

Closing the gap on shortage of social workers in West Sussex

West Sussex County Council is starting to 'close the gap' on a shortage of social workers in children's services, members were told.
Cllr James Walsh asked how many of the vacancies required to be filled to meet the demands of the children's delivery programme had been filled since the council last met.
Leader Cllr Henry Smith said he did not have an exact figure to date, but he could say that Pfund500,000 of extra investment provided earlier this year had resulted in more children's social workers being recruited.
"We are starting to close the gap on the number of social worker vacancies for children's services, and for adults' services as well," he added.
This was a key priority for the county council, but it was very
difficult to get people to enter social care at the moment hardly
surprising given the extreme adverse publicity the profession had faced in the last year or so.
The situation was particularly challenging in West Sussex, which was competing with authorities in Greater London for staff.
"This is something we have an absolute commitment to resolve," he told the council.
Cllr Smith was questioned by Cllr Irene Richards about why a target set under a 'local area agreement' involving the county council, police, health service and other local authorities for reducing fatal and serious road accidents had not been met, and whether any additional measures were proposed to achieve this.

Partnership rights in place for gay couples by end of year

THE CIVIL Partnership Bill giving statutory rights to gay and lesbian couples will be enacted and operational by the end of the year, the Government said yesterday.
The Bill was published yesterday by Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern.
It will allow same-sex couples to register their civil partnership and allow them to enjoy the same statutory protection as married couples across a wide range of areas. However, it stops short of allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.
The rights and obligations include the protection of a shared home, pension rights, the right to succession and equality with married couples of treatment under the tax and social welfare codes.
According to the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, thousands of couples in Ireland will be in a position to register their relationship from early next year.
The second major feature of the Bill is a new redress scheme for unmarried cohabiting opposite-sex couples, and for same-sex couples who have not registered.
The scheme will afford protection to a financially dependent person when a long-term relationship comes to an end. The cohabitation scheme covers a number of scenarios, including bereavement and the break-up of a relationship.
Green Party leader and Minister for the Environment John Gormley welcomed the Bill, calling it a major breakthrough for gay and lesbian couples in Irish society. He said it had involved many meetings with Mr Ahern and his officials, and had taken a lot of time because of its complex nature.I believe its the start of a process and today is a major step forward in terms of equality.
Mr Gormley said the party still favoured marriage rights for gay and lesbian people. He said any move in that direction was contingent on the outcome of the case that has been taken by Ann Louise Gilligan and Katherine Zappone to have their Canadian marriage recognised in Ireland.

Social services knew toddler was in danger - but failed to stop her being kicked to death by babysitter

Social services are in the dock again after a toddler was left to die at the hands of a schoolboy babysitter despite repeated warnings that she was in grave danger.
Demi-Leigh Mahon, two, was punched, kicked and bitten by 15-year-old Karl McCluney, while her drug-addict mother was out collecting child benefit.
The little girl suffered at least 68 separate injuries.
As McCluney was convicted of murder the catalogue of failings by social services was finally revealed.
An independent report found that social workers should have taken action. They knew that Demi-Leigh was being raised in a drugs den.
Members of the public and neighbours had told children's services that the child was left crying a lot and that her mother, Ann-Marie McDonald, was injecting heroin and was unable to care for her.
Police had reports of domestic abuse.
Yet at no point did social services intervene, and Demi-Leigh was never placed on the 'at risk' register.
The case is the second in two years in which Salford social services - branded inadequate by Ofsted in 2007 - have been found to be at fault.
However, no one has been disciplined over the errors which enabled Demi-Leigh's mother to leave her daughter with McCluney, who had previously threatened to beat up a teacher and stab another man.
In March last year 31-year-old Miss McDonald - known as Sindy - was given a rehabilitation order after being convicted of supplying heroin and cocaine from her flat in Eccles, near Manchester. But she failed to comply and took Demi-Leigh to a friend's flat, resulting in a warrant for her arrest.
On July 15, she left her daughter with McCluney at his father's flat. It was his 15th birthday. When Demi-Leigh began crying he flew into a rage. He subjected the defenceless toddler to an appalling assault, punching her in the face, biting her and kicking her.
View summaries of the case reviews here.

Michael Jackson dies

King of pop music, Michael Jackson has died. He was 50.
As news of his death came through, CNN interviewing legend Larry King said this world is a sad place tonight.
He dies at a time when he was planning one of the biggest comebacks in pop history and was lined-up for gigs in Britain.
Zimdiaspora joins the music fans around the world in mourning the passing of the greatest entertainer of our generation. We cannot imagine the impact his death will have from around the world, including Zimbabwe, Victorial Falls and Harare where he visited in the late 1990s.
Michael suffered a cardiac arrest earlier this afternoon at his Holmby Hill home and paramedics were unable to revive him. We're told when paramedics arrived Jackson had no pulse and they never got a pulse back.
Michael is survived by three children: Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr., Paris Michael Katherine Jackson and Prince "Blanket" Michael Jackson II.
In 2004, Jackson seriously considered a touring Zimbabwe, South Africa and Senegal to raise money to fight AIDS.
Jackson had 13 number one hits during his solo career.
Michael Jackson is referred to as King of Pop in the same manner that "The King of Rock and Roll" is given to rock legend Elvis Presley.
The title "King of Pop" was allegedly first coined by Elizabeth Taylor. The term has commonly been mistaken as being "self proclaimed" by Michael Jackson, though it was his fans that first gave him the title, which was later accepted by mainstream.
Critics have questioned whether Michael Jackson is still the King of Pop. His 1982 album Thriller is the best-selling all-original album of all time, with over 59 million records sold to date.
In February of 2005, Michael Jackson's Thriller music video was voted No.1 on the UK Channel 4's vote for the 100 Greatest Pop Videos of all time.
Michael Joseph Jackson (born August 29, 1958, in Gary, Indiana), is an African-American singer, dancer, screenwriter, songwriter, record producer and one of the recognizable names in the world. Jackson began his career as the lead singer of Motown act The Jackson 5 in the 1960s and 1970s. After beginning a full-fledged solo career in 1979, Jackson went on to become one of the most successful solo artists in music history .He is known as the King of the Music Video and the King of Pop, a nickname that Elizabeth Taylor gave him in 1989 during an awards ceremony.
He has, however, been dogged by media fascination with his alleged transracially changing physical appearance and what some perceive as an eccentric lifestyle, resulting in his being nicknamed Wacko Jacko. Jackson's skin color, which he attributes to vitiligo, is believed to have been bleached by some. Jackson uses makeup in his public appearances, and is protected from the sun by a parasol when he is outdoors. Jackson believes that the media's coverage of him is fueled by racism. Jackson and others claimed, that in 2002, he outsold Elvis Presley, the first white rock star. Comparisons with Elvis are difficult to verify due to the lack of reliable sales information.

Findings due in child death probes

A local authority's child protection system is due to come under fresh scrutiny.
Doncaster Children Safeguarding Board is publishing the findings of the serious case reviews into the deaths of Amy Howson and Alfie Goddard, who were both known to the town's social services department.
The deaths placed the local authority under the national spotlight after it emerged that seven children had died while under the care of Doncaster Council's children's services department since 2004.
Sixteen-month-old Amy died in December 2007 after her spine was snapped in two. Her father, James Howson, 25, from Nelson Road, Doncaster, was found guilty of her murder and sentenced to a minimum of 22 years in prison.
The toddler was malnourished and dehydrated and had been punched and slapped on numerous occasions, suffering fractures to her arms, legs and ribs.
Alfie, from the Toll Bar area of Doncaster, was just three months old when he died at Sheffield Children's Hospital in May 2008.
A post-mortem examination showed he had suffered a fatal head injury two days earlier. His father, Craig Goddard, 24, squeezed, shook and then threw him to the floor after he lost his temper when he refused to stop crying. Goddard had been drinking and had smoked several cannabis joints.

Judge's concern over lack of family court reporting

A judge has today spoken of her disappointment that few journalists are taking up the opportunity to report on family court proceedings.
The Ministry of Justice opened up the family courts to the media at the end of April as part of plans for greater openness in the justice system.
But Lynn Roberts, a judge at the Principal Registry of the Family Division in London, told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that, after the initial interest, journalists were not attending day-to-day hearings.
And she said it was a shame that journalists only appeared to be interested in the more high-profile cases involving celebrities.
"There was a lot of enthusiasm on the first day - I had three journalists in my court on the first day - but I haven't seen anybody since," she told the programme this morning.
"I think it's going to be cases which are perceived to be of particular public interest rather than the run-of-the-mill cases, which I think in a way is a bit of shame because it would be helpful if the public got an idea of what's happening on a day-to-day basis rather than the spectacular celebrity cases."
Roberts added: "We have a very good system in my view and I'm quite proud of how we do things and I think it would be very good for more people to understand how we reach these very difficult decisions."
Times journalist Camilla Cavendish, who won British Press Awards campaign of the year for her battle to open up the family courts, said: "It is still extremely unclear what we can report on and what we can read.
"The Family court relies heavily on expert witness documents, which are not accessible to the press.

Gas death family's 'justice wait'

The family of two children who died on a holiday in Corfu have reacted angrily after a manslaughter trial was delayed until February.
Christi Shepherd, seven, and her six-year-old brother Robert, of Horbury, West Yorkshire, died of carbon monoxide poisoning in October 2006.
Thomas Cook holiday reps Richard Carson, 27, and Nicola Gibson, 25, face charges of manslaughter and negligence.
The family said Thomas Cook's request for an adjournment was "disrespectful".
The trial was due to start on Thursday but was adjourned until 4 February after legal applications by the defendants.
Paul Wood, the children's stepfather, read a statement saying: "Unfortunately Thomas Cook led us to believe that they wouldn't request the case to be adjourned.
"They continue to play these games with the memory of our children Christi and Bobby and we find this extremely disrespectful.
"We flew from England at great personal cost because we have faith in the Greek justice system. Our pain for the loss of our children cannot be expressed in words.
"We wish for the legal process to come to an end soon, doing justice to our children's memories so we can then try to rebuild our lives."
The defendants are accused of causing manslaughter by negligence in relation to the children, and of causing bodily injury by negligence to Mr Shepherd and Ms Beatson, who recovered after being overcome by fumes.
Ten Greeks, including staff from the Louis Corcyra Beach Hotel in Gouvia, where the family were staying, were also due to be tried.
Mr Shepherd and Ms Beatson flew to Corfu for the trial, as did the children's mother Sharon Wood and her husband Paul.

Agencies failed to safeguard baby

Opportunities to intervene before a 16-month-old girl was killed by her father "were missed" by social services and other agencies, an inquiry has found.
Amy Howson, from Doncaster, South Yorkshire, had her spine snapped by her father James in December 2007.
A serious case review found the town's children's services team failed to take proper action to safeguard the girl, who also was beaten several times.
It identified "three key missed opportunities" to intervene.
Howson, of Nelson Road, Doncaster, was jailed for life with a minimum term of 22 years after being convicted of Amy's murder.
Her mother Tina Hunt was given a 12-month sentence suspended for two years after admitting she allowed the death of a child and child cruelty.
The serious case review referred to Amy as Child B.
In its conclusion, it said: "The murder of Child B by her father... was not predictable given the information and knowledge held on him and other family members by agencies.
"However, there was sufficient information and knowledge on family members, including (the father), held by individual agencies to conclude that, on balance, both Child B and (another child) were at risk of significant harm from him.
"Some agencies within the Doncaster multi-agency child protection system failed to follow basic safeguarding procedures and did not take proper and effective action to safeguard and promote the welfare of Child B and (the other child)."
The review also concluded an "inter-agency working and communications were deficient".
It identified "three key missed opportunities for agencies to intervene with a proper assessment and subsequent child protection plan".

Social services failures resulted in 16-month-old girl's murder

Doncaster agencies failed to follow basic procedures in case of Amy Howson, who died when her spine was snapped by her father, says inquiry report
A series of errors meant child protection agencies missed several opportunities to intervene to protect a 16-month-old girl physically abused and finally murdered by her violent father, a inquiry has found.
Social workers, schools and health visitors all failed to follow basic safeguarding procedures in the case of Amy Howson, from Doncaster, South Yorkshire, who died when her spine was broken by her father, the serious case review says. She had been punched and slapped on numerous occasions in the four weeks before her death, leaving her with fractures to her arms, legs and ribs.
A separate serious case review into the death from abuse of another Doncaster youngster, three-month-old Alfie Goddard, concluded that although there had been no prior evidence of abuse, safeguarding agencies failed to recognise important signs that he was at risk. Alfie died of head injuries after being violently shaken and thrown to the floor by his father.
Although much of the media focus on child protection in recent months has been on Haringey, the council in north London at the centre of the Baby P tragedy, Doncaster has been for some time a focus of concerns about child safeguarding. Seven children known to Doncaster's social services have died as a result of abuse or neglect since 2004.
An Ofsted inspection last year branded children's services in the town "inadequate"and the decision by the children's secretary, Ed Balls, to send in outside experts to overhaul the services helped trigger the departure of former mayor, Martin Winter, who announced in March that he would not be standing for re-election.
The review into the circumstances leading up to Amy's death in December 2007 found social workers and schools critically failed to act on two occasions when presented with evidence of aggressive behaviour by her father, James Howson.

Child protection: cash 'not the reason for failures'

The leader of Dundee City Council today said he agreed with the Scottish Government that a lack of central funding was not responsible for the failures in the citys child protection services (writes David Clegg).
It had appeared Councillor Ken Guild was at odds with his SNP colleagues in Holyrood yesterday when he confirmed the council had set aside an extra Pfund500,000 to help fund improvements.
That was despite the Scottish Government claiming improving childrens services in the city was not about spending more a view echoed by Dundees two SNP MSPs, Shona Robison and Joe FitzPatrick.
But speaking to the Tele today, Mr Guild said he agreed that money was not the solution to the problem and that the Pfund500,000 had only been put aside in the event it was needed.
I would absolutely agree (with the government), he said.
We are looking at ways of improving how the system works. What we have said now is that if we need to spend money rapidly it will be there. But the solution is not to throw money at it we need to ensure the existing service is mobilised so it works properly.
But I know there has been considerable pressure from the opposition politicians to throw money at it. If we do find we need to spend money to improve the service it will be there on standby.
The money has been set aside as part of an improvement plan for child protection in light of this weeks damning report into child protection services in the city.
Inspectors found major deficiencies and said they were not confident children at risk were not being identified or receiving the protection they needed.
The report sparked calls from Labour and Tories for a review of Scotlands child protection services and an increase in funding.
Rory Malone, Dundee branch secretary of the union Unison, also claimed a lack of government funding was behind the poor performance.

Let's get rid of social work's blame culture

Social workers should be able to complain without being sacked, and be allowed make practice mistakes in a supportive learning environment, says Liz Davies
I recently visited Maria Ward and Gillie Christou the social worker and team manager, respectively, for Baby Peter. It was how I imagine it might be visiting someone under house arrest. Shutters drawn, secret venues, sneaking out at night when no one would recognise them, and jumping at every sound. I've also spoken to Lisa Arthurworrey this week, social worker for Victoria Climbie.
Nearly 10 years on from Victoria's death and having presented evidence at the criminal trial of the murderers, the serious case review, the Haringey disciplinary hearings, employment tribunals and appeal, the appeal against the General Social Care Council (GSCC) for refusing her social worker registration, and the appeal to the Care Standards Tribunal against her name being placed on the Protection of Children Act list, Lisa is also mainly confined to her house. She is also 10 years older and still awaits GSCC registration three years after a judge said she was fit for practice "as of today".
This is a very depressing picture to paint for my social work students who fear that when they make a mistake, which is inevitable in a profession that works with the complexity of human beings, they may also be subject to such relentless punishment.
Maria and Gillie have just begun these legal processes with three sets of investigations ongoing. They have already given evidence at two serious case reviews, the criminal trial, and the GSCC and Haringey disciplinary hearings. Thanks to a recent House of Lords ruling, no social worker can be placed on the Protection of Children Act list without a hearing. It is also to be hoped that the legal decision in Lisa's case about the use of the list for professional mistakes as "an unusual occurrence, to be used only in the most clear cut of cases" will bode well for them in this respect.
Nevres Kemal, social worker and whistleblower, was sacked by Haringey council but fought it at employment tribunal and won an out of court settlement. She remains out of work, despite still being registered. Who wants to employ a whistleblower? These are four ex-Haringey social workers who have no salaries and no professional employment, and three who fear public recrimination every moment of every day.
What can be done to end this misery? None of these social workers acted maliciously in any way. They all worked very hard, often late into the night, struggled with massive caseloads, lack of quality supervision and essential child protection training and practiced in the midst of service uncertainty and restructuring. All of them had previous spotless employment records; in fact Maria was made into a permanent worker after Baby Peter's death. Having supported Lisa through her various hearings I wonder where Maria and Gillie will have got to in nine years time. There has to be another way.

Today's tragic victim, tomorrow's feral brat

Frankly, it's distressing how illogical we are about cruelty to children. Remember the national spasm of grief when we saw that smudgy picture of Baby P: the blond curls, the wistful expression? We grieved like sentimental saps, gripped by the thought of the poor soul dying in agony, unloved and abused. And we hugged our own children tighter, congratulating ourselves that they would never experience anything like Peter's brief, terrible existence. I did it; every mother did it. It was a kind of surreptitious mother porn.
And then we promptly switched off our brains to wait for the next harrowing death. Where was the outcry when we read of the thousands of children, some only 18 months older than Peter, who are excluded from primary school for bad behaviour? Nowhere to be seen.
Where was the special response to the evidence of biting, swearing, kicking and inappropriate sexual behaviour among infants - other than the usual litany of moans: it's dreadful, isn't it? An indictment of society. It has to be dealt with, punished. Those children must learn respect and the difference between right and wrong before they come to school. The parents must be told. And other children certainly shouldn't have their education disrupted by that kind of thing.
If we were rational, of course, we would be moved to a different kind of outrage. But we aren't. It is a plain fact that, while we emote for the Baby Peters and Brandon Muirs of this world - those who die in terrible circumstances at the hands of their parents - we are remarkably less sympathetic to the Peters and Brandons who survive long enough to get to school and to manifest the results of their terrible start in life. Somewhere, without any change in circumstances, pity has turned to antipathy; everyone's tragic victim has become tomorrow's feral brat.
According to research by The Times, revealed before this week's Ofsted report, the number of children temporarily excluded from primary school rose by 14 per cent in the past year to 27,000. Of those 12,000 were under the age of 8.
But the really damning statistic for me is that more than 1,200 of the fixed-term exclusions from schools in England and Wales in 2007 involved children aged 4 and under. Dwell on that, mothers. Think about an average child of 4, its considerable needs, its curiosity, its innocence, its desire to laugh, its trust in adults.
Then understand that there are some infants of that age already so profoundly damaged by an absence of love and attention that many of their chances of participating fully in the world have probably already been taken away. Children who, according to Ofsted, don't understand that adults are in charge or that no means no. Who have witnessed nothing but aggression at home, who see smack cooked up more often than sausages. That's not me being emotional - that's a fact.

Expulsion is not the answer

Children displaying sexualised behaviour need better support, not a fast track to bored and angry unemployment
Ofsted inspectors investigating an increase in exclusions from primary schools have discovered "worrying" levels of sexual behaviour among very young children.
It would be easy to tip into yet another moral panic, with the tabloid headlines writing themselves. The figures, however, show that the numbers are small, though they are on the increase.
What also causes concern is that the solutions applied in some schools expulsion and/or the immediate involvement of social services may do still more harm to both the infant victimisers and those who are the recipients of inappropriate sexual behaviour. "Sexualised behaviour" covers a wide range of invasive behaviour not all of which signals the child is her/himself being sexually abused although possibly equally as damaging, they might be witnessing adult sexual behaviour.
In the middle ages, there was no childhood; infants were deemed miniature adults and there were few sexual boundaries. Now, in some families, short of intelligence and life skills, the same attitudes apply. Yet, arguably, while some of those parents may be incapable of giving love and protection, others can and will change, given the right kind of support. If this kind of parenting support, mentoring from parents from a similar background and intensive help in schools, sounds like the nanny state, that's still infinitely preferable to children being placed in care or poor fostering arrangements that only add to the damage.
Better and more imaginative support for families; greater investment in schools with a high proportion of challenging pupils; expulsion only used in extremis (while properly protecting children on the receiving end of physical and sexual assault) and a sense of perspective is required.
According to Ofsted's chief inspector, Christine Gilbert, exclusion of children under seven is still very rare.
The latest figures for 2006-07 show there were 13,460 fixed-term exclusions (suspensions) and 260 permanent exclusions with boys 10 times more likely to be excluded. Eight of the 69 schools visited by Ofsted inspectors had suspended children for behaviour that was perceived to have an inappropriate sexual element. Most schools had instigated child protection proceedings or contacted social workers.

Search continues for missing 2-year-old Indiana girl, Jada Justice

As the family of Haylee Donathan rejoice at her safe return home, the family of Jada Justice are desperate to find their little girl, who disappeared almost two weeks ago.
Jada Justice, 2, went missing on June 16 at about 9:40 p.m., when her 18-year-old babysitter said she left Jada in the back seat of the car while she went into a gas station convenience store to buy cigarettes and milk.
According to Jadas mother, Melissa Swiontek, police are working around the clock to find Jada.
Swiontek told Nancy Grace that she asked the babysitter, Engelica Castillo why she left the car unlocked and parked on the side of the gas station instead of the front. she just keeps telling me I dont know, I dont know. I was just running in real quick.
She said she spoke to a gas station attendant who saw Castillo. He told Swiontek that Castillos demeanor was normal until she returned appearing to be hysterical.
Swiontek and Jadas father, who has regular visitation with the toddler, have both taken polygraph tests, however, as of Tuesday, Castillo had not taken one.

Children's services staff praised

Council employees in Bridgend have been praised for "sustained and substantial improvement" in children's services.
It has led to the lifting of a "serious concern" protocol after a review by the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW).
Inspectors said Bridgend County Borough Council now responded "much more promptly and effectively" to initial concerns about children.
Council leader Mel Nott called it "excellent news".
"As a cabinet we have been determined to see a sustained and substantial improvement in this area, and I have been very closely involved in monitoring progress," he said.
"I know how dedicated staff within the children's directorate have been to making this happen."
The council said the review of children's services by CSSIW found that social services staff and managers had "have continued to work hard to secure further improvements and have established more robust systems for consistent assessment of risk and effective decision making".
The authority said staff were "supported by strong corporate leadership for children's services and performance management arrangements have been established".
Reviewing progress
CSSIW chief inspector Rob Pickford said the council was also much more reliable in planning for children's welfare and reviewing progress.
He added: "The relationship between the inspectorate and the authority can now revert to one of normal business, with the Inspectorate checking progress through our normal programme of inspection and reviews."

Children's services failed in Doncaster child deaths

Children's organisations across health, education and social services have been criticised in the serious case reviews into the deaths of two children in Doncaster. The first review, into the death of a 16-month-old girl known as Child B, who was killed by her father in 2007, found that children's agencies missed three key opportunities to intervene. They also failed to follow basic safeguarding procedures. Doncaster Primary Care Trust's health visiting team and Doncaster Council's community and schools social work service came in for particular criticism for failing to safeguard Child B as well as her brother, known in the report...

Four-year-olds excluded over violence

Children as young as four are being excluded from school for displaying violent and inappropriate sexual behaviour, according to an Ofsted report published today. Children were excluded for offences including biting other students and attacking school staff. Fourteen of the schools visited by Ofsted reported problems with pupils' sexualised behaviour. Teachers told Ofsted that the young children who were excluded had all experienced varying degrees of trauma. Many had experienced family breakdown or domestic violence. In one case a child who saw his mother killed in a refugee camp before moving to England was excluded for bad behaviour. The watchdog...

Woman 'social worker' approached child in Abingdon

Police today issued a warning about a woman posing as a social worker who approached a two-year-old child in Abingdon.
At about 1.40pm yesterday, a woman was looking after a two-year-old girl in the communal garden area in Stratton Way when another woman went up to the girl.
The woman claiming to be from social services asked questions about the girl. She then went back over to a man who was waiting on the pavement and they walked away.
The woman is white, aged between 35 and 40 and of medium build. She was wearing a floral top and white trousers and had brown hair with red streaks in it.
Det Con Jon Shaw said: Although no offences were committed, this incident has understandably concerned the parents of the little girl.

Brandon Muir death: Social work department blasted over failings

WATCHDOGS yesterday savaged the social work department that failed to save tragic Brandon Muir.
But the head of child protection in Dundee at the time of the toddler's brutal killing wasn't around to hear the damning verdict.
Fred McBride was enjoying a sunshine holiday before moving to a new top post - on a salary of Pfund107,000 a year.
After the boyfriend of Brandon's junkie mum battered the little boy to death, McBride claimed there was no "systemic failure" in the way the authorities handled the case.
But yesterday's official report reveals that child protection in Dundee was a shambles.
The watchdogs found that:
Kids at risk of abuse or neglect were not spotted or helped in time
Risks facing children were not assessed quickly enough
Bosses failed to give social workers a clear idea of how to do their jobs
Bad parents were often allowed to carry on severely neglecting their children.
The report is the latest in a long line of calls for improvements to child protection in Scotland. But despite repeated promises to improve the system, children continue to die.
Government inspectors looked at 18 key performance areas in Dundee and ruled that NINE were weak or unsatisfactory.
They were: operational planning; policies and procedures; vision, values and aims; leadership and direction; leadership of change; meeting children's needs; spotting and assessing risks; effectiveness of planning and responding to concerns.

Earl Spencer fails to win blanket press ban in divorce proceedings

Earl Spencer and his former wife, Caroline, were united yesterday in an attempt to oust the media from their battle for a divorce settlement at the High Court.
In the first high-profile test of reforms that allowed reporters into family courts, including divorce hearings, Lord Spencer and his former wife wanted a blanket ban on any publicity.
But the High Court judge hearing the case, Mr Justice Munby, rejected their request and instead asked the parties to put forward a request for restrictions on the coverage of the hearing, expected to last all week.
Nicholas Mostyn, QC, representing Lord Spencer, brother of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, said that the reason why the media were allowed in to the once-private Family Division hearings was because of lobbying to open up secret proceedings involving battles over children.
He said it was not the object of the reforms to allow the press to report anything of news interest, particularly battles over how assets are split after a divorce. These parties have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Thousands of family court hearings that previously would have taken place in private were opened to the media in April after pressure from fathers groups, campaigners and the media, including The Times.
Mr Mostyn said that the parties expectation of privacy should override the limited freedom of expression allowed under the European Convention on Human Rights.
There is nothing interesting about this case apart from the fact that it is Earl and Countess Spencer. If this were two anonymous people there would be no press in here at all. It would be fundamentally boring. We are going to be looking at housing and budget. In these circumstances there is no overreaching freedom of expression consideration and privacy must prevail.

Earl Spencer and former wife settle divorce out of court to avoid glare of publicity

Earl Spencer and his former wife Caroline have opted to settle their bitterly contested divorce out of court to avoid details of their lives being revealed in the press.
The pair and their lawyers made the decision overnight after a High Court judge told them that if they wanted him to help divide up their assets, he would do so in public.
It came after parliament passed new legislation which instructed that all family court hearings should be open to public scrutiny in the same way as criminal proceedings.
The judge was told that as well as the details of the couple's wealth, assets, financial commitments and lifestyles, the court would hear "allegations of conduct on both sides which it may be necessary to explore in evidence".
The 41-year-old Countess was granted a decree nisi of her six-year marriage to 44-year-old Lord Spencer in March 2007 on the grounds of his "unreasonable behaviour".
Lord Spencer, who was previously married to Victoria Lockwood, left Caroline, their four month-old daughter and two year-old son nearly three years ago and shortly afterwards is alleged to have begun a relationship with a US television reporter.
The pair have not yet had a decree absolute because of wrangling over the division of their assets, including the former family home overlooking the Regent's Canal in Little Venice, West London, which Lord Spencer bought from Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour.
On Tuesday, Earl Spencer and the Countess attended London's High Court court to hear their lawyers ask Mr Justice Munby for a blanket ban on media coverage of the case, despite the change in law opening up the family courts.
Mr Justice Munby declined, saying such a ban would suggest there was one law for celebrities and "another law for those who live their lives in tranquillity and anonymity" when really theirs was simply another "big money case".

Partnership Committee responds to city child protection report

The committee responsible for coordinating the protection of children and young people in the North-east of Scotland has responded to the findings of a follow-up report on provision in Aberdeen city.
HM Inspectorate of Education (HMIe), which carried out an inspection during April this year, published its report on Wednesday, June 24.
Inspectors examined how the agencies work individually and together to protect children and assessed progress made on points identified for action in the initial report published last November.
The agencies tasked with child protection in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray, are members of the North East Scotland Child Protection Committee (NESCPC).
NESCPC chairman Chief Constable Colin McKerracher welcomed the report on behalf of the committee.
Chief Constable Colin McKerracher said: "I am pleased this report recognises all the good work and improvements made in Aberdeen.
"Agencies and their staff have worked closely together and this helps us all to strengthen services for children across the city.
"We must now continue driving forward improvements to ensure children across the city and the North-east of Scotland provide the best possible outcomes."
Aberdeen City Council Chief Executive Sue Bruce said: "It is very encouraging to see the progress made to date.
"The report recognises the progress made in the areas identified for action. This is a very good start on our long-term programme to improve services for vulnerable children.
"Staff at all levels have worked very hard to implement the changes made to date and I am confident that their continued commitment will bring about further improvements to these vital services."
Aberdeen City Council Social Care and Wellbeing Programme Director Philip Cotterill added: "Significant advances have been made since the initial inspection last November.

Analysis: Sexual abuse case - Is it time to ban cameras?

Both the public and the nursery sector have been shocked at the Plymouth child sex abuse revelations. What can childcarers do now to reassure parents? Mary Evans hears their views.
Leading early years practitioners and experts are calling on the sector to respond with common sense and sensitivity following the allegations of child sexual abuse made against a nursery worker in Plymouth. Vanessa George, aged 39, who worked at Little Ted's nursery in the city, has been charged with making and distributing indecent images of children and with sexually assaulting children. Childcare professionals, while expressing their shock at the case,...

Worker 'lie' costs council £750K

A council faces a huge legal bill after a social worker concealed her criminal past and allegedly lied in court.
Lynda Barnes, 56, worked for the council for four years despite having been convicted of conspiracy to murder.
After Mrs Barnes, of Nailsea, allegedly lied under oath in a family court case an inquiry revealed her background.
Now the family court judge has ordered Bath and North East Somerset Council to pay an estimated Pfund750,000 towards the cost of that case.
In 1995, Mrs Barnes - then employed by Avon County Council - pleaded guilty to asking someone to hire a hitman to kill her husband.
She received a two-year suspended sentence and was dismissed by the council.
However, Bath and North East Somerset (Banes) took her on in 2005 as a child protection manager.
Last year, Mrs Barnes is alleged to have lied under oath in a child protection case and asked another social worker to lie in court as well.
The judge in the case, Judge Paul Barclay, was appalled and carried out his own inquiries into Mrs Barnes' past.
He published his report into the case last week after Mrs Barnes failed in an application to the Court of Appeal to have her identity withheld.
Judge Barclay has now ordered Banes to pay half the court costs of the complicated and multi-party family court proceedings.

Dead Newport four-year-old was on child protection register

Despite looking after their five-year-old grandson and four-year-old granddaughter for three years, social workers decided they were "too old" and unsuitable to continue.
And, tragically, the children now think that their grandparents are dead.
"Social workers made up their minds that we were too old," says the grandad, who is 59. His wife is just 46 and both look much younger.
"It just breaks my heart and eats away at me every day. My own grandchildren have been wrenched away and now they think that me and their granny are dead."
The children went to live with their grandparents because their mother, a heroin addict, couldn't look after them. The boy's father is dead and the girl's father has not had any contact with her.
But social workers later insisted the children would be better off with the two gay men. "My wife and I were happy bringing the children up ourselves," says the grandfather.
"We are their family. Now we've been told we'll never see them again. How can that possibly be right? They are our flesh and blood."
The children have now been given new identities and totally removed from their former life, family and friends.
The only contact their grandparents have had with the children in the last eight months is a two-paragraph letter from their new parents giving a few scraps of news about the pair.
The case provoked a storm of criticism in February when the adoption was first revealed.
The grandparents and children cannot be identified for legal reasons so we are calling the boy Adam and his sister Katie. We are calling their grandparents Brian and Margaret.

Social services rapped over response to sexualised behaviour

Ofsted cites lack of response to referrals from schools from some social workers
An Ofsted report into school exclusions of pupils aged four to seven has uncovered a worrying lack of response by some social workers after children were referred to them over concerns about their sexualised behaviour.
Ofsted called on the government to take urgent action to ensure that all child protection services responded appropriately to young children who displayed inappropriate sexual behaviour at school.
Of the 69 schools examined in the report, eight said that they had excluded children for sexually inappropriate behaviour, with the majority also instigating child protection procedures. A further six schools referred cases directly to social services without excluding the child.
Lack of social services response
However, two schools reported a lack of response from services to seemingly serious incidents.
One headteacher of an infant school was told by a local authority specialist support agency that a child was too young for a referral and he might grow out of it. Ofsted discovered that the same child had subsequently moved to a junior school where he was again referred for the same types of behaviour.
Ofsted urged the Department for Children, Schools and Families to issue guidance for schools on identifying and responding to childrens sexually inappropriate behaviour and said that teachers should consider the reason for such behaviour as part of their child protection training.

Disgraced child worker costs council £750k

A council will have to foot a Pfund750,000 legal bill for a court case in which a disgraced social worker lied, leading to her criminal past being exposed.
Bath and North East Somerset Council employed Lynda Barnes, who had a conviction for conspiring to murder her ex-husband.
Mrs Barnes, 55, from Nailsea, North Somerset, was employed by Banes in 2005 despite the fact that she had been sacked by its predecessor, Avon County Council, ten years earlier following her conviction.
She was given a two-year suspended jail sentence at Bristol Crown Court on March 24 1995 after pleading guilty to conspiracy to murder her ex-husband after asking someone to hire a hit man for Pfund10,000.
Mrs Barnes worked as a social work team manager for Banes for more than three years on child protection cases.
The matter came to light during a child protection case being heard in a family court where she is alleged to have lied on oath and asked another social worker to lie to the court.
The judge in the case, Judge Paul Barclay, was appalled and carried out his own inquiries into Mrs Barnes' past.
He published his ruling in the case last week after Mrs Barnes failed in a Court of Appeal application to prevent her being identified.
Judge Barclay has now ordered the council chiefs who hired her to pay half the legal aid costs of the families involved in the case.
They are expected to exceed Pfund500,000, which will be on top of the council's own legal fees, which could be around Pfund250,000.
Today the council reassured taxpayers that services would not be directly affected by the case.
A spokesman said they had planned for the possibility of a hefty legal bill in their budget and would take the case from their 'risk reserves' pot.

Aunt wants social work chief to quit

The aunt of Brandon Muir today said she believed the tragic toddler would still be alive if Dundees child protection services had been working properly (writes David Clegg).
She also called for the citys head of social work to resign.
Dayna Garty was speaking in the wake of a report from Her Majestys Inspectorate of Education yesterday, which found major deficiencies in the citys Children and Young Persons Protection Committee.
She said her brother John Muir Brandons father had been left in shock over the disturbing findings of the inspection and demanded the resignations of senior social work figures.
It is very disturbing, she told the Tele.
I think it is actually worse than I first thought. It is unbelievable that so many aspects of the service came out as unsatisfactory.
I think there would be a really good chance that if the department was able to do its job properly that Brandon would be alive today.
They said they had grave concerns for him, but nothing was done.
Brandon was killed by Robert Cunningham the boyfriend of Brandons mother, Heather Boyd at the flat they shared in Douglas on March 16 last year.
It has since emerged that the neglected child may have been days from safety as social workers confirmed a case conference was due to take place that could have seen him removed from the care of his mother.
Following Cunninghams conviction for culpable homicide earlier this year the findings of the HMIE report which was already in the process of being compiled were brought forward.

Inspection pressure 'hits social work'

The increasing pressure of inspections risks hampering councils ability to recruit and retain more social workers, a director of childrens services has warned.
Helen Denton, Lancashire CCs director of childrens services, said she believed that Ofsteds new inspection framework for child safeguarding - which includes unannounced visits, council performance indicators, and other statutory obligations - were pressure that could not be ignored.
Ms Denton told a New Local Government Network safeguarding conference that a culture of fear was being created, and that innovation to help and support front-line staff was vital.
There are eight different ways in which frontline social workers may be able to be subjected to inspection and challenge thats an enormous amount of stress, she said.
Im seriously worried that were going to impose such constraints on team members and social workers that eventually there will be no-one there to inspect.
Ms Denton told LGC she would not be surprised if the increased pressures social workers had been operating under in recent months had resulted in increased levels of work-related illness among frontline staff.
She said that in addition to the increased burden of inspection, social workers were also dealing with rising referrals of potential cases with varying degrees of merit but all of which had to be investigated.
Ms Denton said she hoped the Childrens Workforce Development Council was factoring those pressures into its guidance on workloads that is due later this year.
Helga Pile, social services national officer at Unison, said it was clear that there was a lot of anxiety about unannounced inspections, and fundamental questions about what performance indicators and inspections were really for.

Judges still have wide powers to restrict reporting and media access

Family courts were opened to the press at the end of April but as yet there has been remarkably little reporting of them. Sanchia Berg spent a fortnight in different family courts to find out why.
The judge was happy for me to sit in his courtroom, the duty clerk informed me, so I walked in and found a seat in the corner.
This was my first day at the Principal Registry in Holborn - London's equivalent of the county court family division.
These courtrooms are quite informal, rather like seminar rooms, except for the little raised area where the judge and clerk sit.
The judge asked me to introduce myself. I explained that I simply wanted to observe the processes of the family courts, and report what I could, anonymised of course.
The judge seemed quite pleased - but the barristers looked uncomfortable.
One became quite agitated. He explained he represented the children's mother - and he needed to check what she thought about it. He went out to find her.
As we waited, we heard muffled screams coming from the corridor outside - and the sound of someone running. After a short while, the barrister came back.
"I think you all heard my client's reaction," he said. The mother had violently objected to me being there. In fact, she said she would not be present if I was.
The judge invited the barristers to give their view. They said they did not know if the case could go forward if the mother was not there - that it would not be in the best interests of the children involved.
The judge didn't ask me to leave, however I decided to go - I didn't want my presence to affect the case.
It was a reminder of how intensely personal these cases are.
As they assess whether a parent is the best carer for their child, experts will talk about parents' mental ability, their IQ, their personality, their ability to learn.
They talk about their state of mind, the condition of their home, and the nature of their relationships. Even though any reporting has to be anonymous - the reporter's still there listening.
'Lose-lose situation'
Yet that was the only case I had to leave.
I did hear part of several cases, but then stumbled across one where the local authority had applied to take several children from one family into care.
I followed that through its last few days - hearing evidence from the father, and the court-appointed guardian, the final submissions and the judgement a few days later.

Children as young as four are being expelled from school for sexual behaviour, finds Ofsted

Children as young as four have been excluded from school for 'inappropriate sexual behaviour', Ofsted has revealed.
More than one in five primary schools has raised the alarm over pupils' conduct.
A study of 69 schools showed that a total of 14 had witnessed this type of behaviour.
In eight school, pupils had been suspended or expelled as a result. Two schools reported a 'worrying lack of response from social workers'.
One head teacher was told that a child of five or six whose behaviour was displaying 'sexual elements' was 'too young for a referral and he might grow out of it'.
The Ofsted report urges teachers to keep details of every child expelled for this kind of problem and monitor any action taken by the relevant support services.
Mick Brookes, the National Association of Headteachers general secretary, said: 'Some of it could be innocent childish behaviour, but there are some quite worrying things going on.'
Ofsted investigated after figures revealed more than 4,000 children under the age of five were expelled last year.
Inspectors found that some primaries had suspended the same children more than ten times in a year.
Schools reported youngsters biting, persistent disobedience, swearing, running away from staff, kicking or hitting staff, throwing chairs and climbing over the school fence.
The report criticised one school for branding a child 'feral' in behaviour records and writing a behaviour policy with a 'negative tone'.

Probe into Scots child protection demanded

Inspectors praise aberdeenfor tackling problems The Scottish Government was last night under pressure to order an inquiry into crisis-hit child protection services. Labour and Conservatives demanded immediate action following a third damning report into child protection in just eight months. HM Inspectorate of Education found a litany of weaknesses and failures in Dundee, very similar to those in Aberdeen last November and Moray in February. In the case of Aberdeen, inspectors had said they were not confident all children at risk of harm, abuse or neglect, and in need of protection, were receiving support. They found 10 categories weak, four unsatisfactory and four satisfactory. The findings were branded very concerning by the Scottish Government. However, child protection chiefs in Aberdeen have acted to make improvements in the last seven months, under interim social work director Philip Cotterill. A follow-up inspection report published today said they responded positively to the main points of action. It said there had been significant improvements in the leadership and direction of the city council and social workers are now working in a more open and supportive environment. Childrens Minster Adam Ingram said encouraging progress is being made. The Dundee report was issued three months early following toddler Brandon Muirs death from an assault by his mothers boyfriend, Robert Cunningham, who was jailed for the youngsters culpable homicide. The report said vulnerable children did not receive help until their circumstances had reached crisis levels.

Inspections on care regime 'vital for child protection'

INDEPENDENT INSPECTIONS for thousands of children and adults in institutional care are needed to prevent the abuse and neglect highlighted in the Ryan report into industrial schools.
That was one of a number of recommendations made at a conference at Queens University Belfast yesterday, aimed at learning lessons from mistakes highlighted in the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse.
The conclusions will be given to Minister for Children Barry Andrews, who has been tasked with drawing up an action plan on foot of the Ryan reports findings.
Dr Aoife Nolan, assistant director of the human rights centre at Queens Universitys school of law, said it was vital to tap into the momentum caused by outrage over the reports findings to benefit current and future children in Ireland.
She said there was an urgent need to put a comprehensive constitutional amendment to the electorate that would strengthen the rights of children and allow the public to vote in favour of maximising protection for young people.
While such an amendment will not transform the position of children, it will constitute a significant societal statement of intent, she said. Crucially, rather than just serving as a stick with which the elected branches of government will be beaten by the courts, it will establish a mandate and an imperative for those branches to adopt a truly child rights-based approach in law and policy.
Dr Nolan said there had been a shameful lack of urgency on the part of the Government and politicians to acknowledge the need to improve the rights enjoyed by children under the Constitution.
A crucial part of any future recommendations must be an obligation on the State to ensure the voices of victims form part of any future actions, said Christine Buckley, director of the Aislinn Centre and a former victim of institutional abuse.
She said victims were among the best placed to offer ongoing advice and monitoring of the States efforts to address issues such as the abuse of children in institutions.
Fiona Duignan of Inclusion Ireland, an umbrella group which represents people with intellectual disabilities, said her organisation was very disappointed that the Government opted just weeks before the Ryan report not to enforce care standards or inspections of residential centres for people with disabilities.

Peace process in disorder

Judges' powers are rarely being used to help prevent marital conflict causing damage to children
Few parents have attended a court-ordered programme to help reduce the harm their children suffer from family splits - more than six months after judges were given the power to make them take part.
Since December, judges have been able to order separated parents embroiled in court battles over their children to go to parent information programmes. These classes, which teach parents the long-term effects of their warfare on their children and give them tips on how to avoid conflict with their ex-partner, have proved highly successful in other countries, including the US, Canada and Australia.
In a pilot programme in Australia, 88% of parents said they found it useful, reporting that they learned communication techniques and dispute resolution skills, and gained greater understanding of their children's experiences.
The reform in England and Wales was backed by fathers' groups. A poll last week by charity Families Need Fathers found that nearly 95% of its members felt they were not adequately supported by the family courts and the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass) in staying involved with their children after separation.
Judges' slowness to embrace the new tool is causing huge frustration to the 55 agencies - many of them charities such as Relate, Family Action, and the National Youth Advocacy Service - that have contracted with the Department for Children, Schools and Families to provide the programmes and have trained their staff to deliver them. The dearth of cases poses a threat to their funding because they budgeted to be paid for hundreds of referrals .
Salli Ward, chief executive of Pro Contact, one of five providers in Greater Manchester, says they have had only two referrals, both so recent that nobody has yet taken the course. "The parenting programme is relevant to 90% of parents in court proceedings, so we should be getting swarms of them coming," she says.
The four-hour course, which parents attend separately, helps them to understand that conflict can harm their children, and that putting them in front of the TV while they argue is not enough. Ward says: "What they don't realise is how easy it is to damage children through just very subtle displays of conflict. You don't need to be scrapping in front of them."
A survey of providers by Cafcass, which is responsible for the programme, has revealed only 23 referrals to date, and 11 of those were in Bournemouth, where Relate is actively promoting the programme.

Thousands of violent children excluded from primary school

Thousands of very young children are being excluded from primary schools for physically attacking pupils and teachers, research by The Times shows.
It exposes the extent to which children of infant-school age are being expelled or suspended, even though the tactic is more commonly associated with uncontrollable teenagers.
The Times survey of 25 local authorities found that almost 4,000 primary school children had been excluded for fixed periods in 2007-08.
This is the national equivalent to 25,128, a 6 per cent increase on last year, if extrapolated to cover the whole of England. Over the same period the primary school population fell by almost 20,000, so the real rise is 6.7 per cent.
More than three quarters of those who gave reasons said that one of the biggest causes of exclusion was the child physically assaulting another pupil. Another main reason was attacking a teacher.
Our findings underline national figures, which show temporary exclusions in primary schools have risen by 10 per cent in three years, from 41,300 in 2004 to 45,730 in 2007, because staff could not cope with their threatening and disruptive behaviour.
More than 1,200 of the fixed-term exclusions in 2007 involved children aged 4 and under. Another 12,000 were under the age of 8.
Our survey paints a picture of teachers struggling to deal with violence from ever-younger children, some of whom in effect drop out of the education system before reaching secondary school.
John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers, said: Theres a small and growing group of very young children creating very real problems, over whom parents seem to have no control. Its a relatively new phenomenon for primary schools. They are reporting that groups of parents have real problems with their young children.
Professor Carl Parsons, who has researched primary school exclusions for 16 years, said that children may be picking up bad behaviour younger. The rise in fixed-term exclusions could be because there are more socially troubled families who are more isolated and less able to provide guidance and support for children.
Many primary schools do not have the resources to deal with aggressive children in any other way, as they lack staff to offer one-to-one teaching and do not have on-call child psychiatrists.

Ofsted report reveals data on very young children excluded from school

Very young children are being excluded from primary school because of their aggressive and sexual behaviour, an Ofsted report says.
The schools receive inadequate support from local authorities in some cases, or cannot afford the alternative strategies that help troubled young children to cope with school.
Some have repeatedly removed children under the age of 7, for fixed periods or permanently, although the total numbers of exclusions are still low for this age group. Reasons for exclusion included biting, chair-throwing and inappropriate sexual behaviour.
Earlier this month The Times exposed the extent to which children as young as 4 were being excluded, after a survey of local authorities.
The Ofsted report, published today, paints a picture of some schools struggling to cope with the disturbed behaviour of children from complex backgrounds.
Some of the children had been exposed to domestic violence, sexual abuse, poverty or a parents illness. One boy had seen his mother killed in a refugee camp.
The report criticises the Government for not collecting enough data on exclusions. This has resulted in an incomplete picture of what has been happening to children aged 7 and under, it says.
Primary schools did not always receive adequate support from the local authority, in addressing childrens mental health needs or getting specialist support for overtly sexual behaviour.
Early intervention, and strategies such as nurture groups (small supportive groups) were highly effective, but schools often could not afford to put these in place. Those that managed to reduce the number of exclusions had all taken a strong line on low-level disruptive behaviour. Two groups of infant and primary schools were selected for the survey: one where the number of exclusions was high and one that did not exclude children.
The report said: What determined a schools rate of exclusion was not its social context but the combination of its philosophy, capacity to meet challenges and, sometimes, the response received from its local authority and outside agencies when they were asked to help.

9 city school kids abused, say UK police

CHENNAI: Nine students of St George Anglo Indian Higher Secondary School were sexually abused by Patrick Matthews, a 62-year-old UK national who worked as a volunteer in the school between 2003 and 2006, a four-member team of Gloucestershire Constabulary, UK has concluded. The UK team, which arrived in the city for the investigation on June 13, will now present the evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service, UK for initiating criminal proceedings against Matthews who is on bail in that country.
"We have interviewed 14 children and 16 adults. We are convinced that these nine students and former students (of St George School) were sexually abused. We have strong evidence against Matthews," detective inspector Mark Little told TOI. The team will fly back to the UK on Wednesday. Little said this is the first case his specialist child protection team was handling under the Sexual Offences Act, 2003, outside the UK. The Act gives special powers to the state to prosecute its national who commits a sexual offence even outside that country.
In an earlier statement, Little added: "I hope the management of St Georges School and the Boarding Home comes to understand its duties to prevent abuse and immediately report incidents of abuse to the parents and to the authorities when allegations come to light. These responsibilities can be achieved through staff training and by having clear child protection policies in place within organisations working with children."
The investigation obviously has not gone down well with the St George School officials who had, however, promised all assistance in bringing out the truth. "The investigation by the UK police has further traumatised the students. The investigators' intention may have been to punish the accused, but the process has left some of the students they interviewed in a bad shape. I had to organise an excursion to pep them up. One of the boys was weeping even today and refusing to attend class," said school correspondent G K Francis.

Dundee child protection services criticised for 'major weaknesses' by new report

INSPECTORS have blasted Dundee's child protection services - just a few months after the conviction of Brandon Muir's killer.
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education warned of "major weaknesses" in identifying children who needed protection and that "some children were left in high-risk situations without adequate protection or support".
Their report comes after the conviction of Robert Cunningham, 23, for the culpable homicide of 23-month-old Dundee toddler Brandon Muir in the flat he shared with the toddler's mother Heather Boyd.
During Cunningham's trial it emerged Dundee City Council's social work department had been in contact with Boyd before Bandon's death.
Today's HMIE report did not look at the Brandon Muir case, pointing out that Dundee Children and Young Persons Protection Committee had commissioned a significant case review into the circumstances surrounding Brandon's death.
And the chief officers group of Dundee City Council, Tayside Police and NHS Tayside has commissioned an independent review of matters relating to the youngster's death.
HMIE inspectors could not "assure the quality of service received by every single child in the area who might need help".
Most staff recognised when children were at risk of abuse or neglect but "not all of these children were reported quickly to social workers or police".
The report continued: "Immediate action was sometimes delayed and some children were left in high-risk situations without adequate protection or support.
"The needs of vulnerable children and those recovering from abuse were not always met well.
"Staff across services did not always respond quickly enough to children who were at risk of significant harm.

Social worker Lynda Barnes 'devastated' by court ruling

A social worker convicted of conspiring to murder her husband has said her life and health have been "devastated" following a family court judgement criticising her conduct.
Last week, the ruling revealed that the General Social Care Council and Bath and North East Somerset Council failed to check Lynda Barnes's criminal file when registering her and employing her as a children's team manager.
Judge Barclay slammed "serious failings" by the council and Barnes in the handling of a child protection case. Barnes lied under oath and also "fabricated" evidence, the judgement published last week said.
Conviction 'never a secret'
In response, Barnes's solicitor issued a statement on her behalf saying that her previous conviction "was never a secret" and was widely known among professionals before the case was concluded.
John Weatherall said: "Mrs Barnes always endeavoured to be a supportive and professional team leader with Bath and North East Somerset Council. She denies that she ever told anyone to lie in court or manufactured evidence.
'Trauma' of events
"The events leading to her conviction occurred during a period of great trauma in her life. She sought counselling and reconciled with her husband. She disclosed her previous conviction to the GSCC and gave permission for the criminal file to be disclosed. She never deliberately misled anyone.
Background to the case
The family court judgement naming Barnes said that she had been a social worker at Avon Council in the child care department when she was convicted for conspiring to murder her husband.

Schools 'need not expel under-7s'

Schools can avoid excluding very young children through techniques to manage behaviour that includes running off, biting and swearing, inspectors say.
It is rare for schools to exclude those aged seven or under and those that do are usually in very deprived areas.
Ofsted compared schools in England that had done so with others that had not.
It found good relationships with parents, opportunities for children to talk together and the use of nurture groups all helped prevent exclusions.
The latest figures, for 2006-07, show there were 13,460 fixed term exclusions [suspensions] and about 260 permanent exclusions - with boys 10 times as likely as girls to be excluded.
Inspectors visited 30 schools which had excluded several young children on more than one occasion.
They also went to neighbouring schools which had not used exclusion during the same period and 12 which had excluded only one young child but on several occasions.
In the report, The Exclusion From School of Children Aged Four To Seven, Ofsted said most children "responded well to the school's expectations", but a few found this difficult.
Ofsted chief inspector Christine Gilbert said: "Exclusion of children aged under seven is still very rare.
"Ofsted inspectors found that almost all children in the schools they visited knew how to behave properly.
"Only a small number of children found this difficult but, with proper guidance and support, the need to exclude them can be avoided."

News from the Welsh National Social Services Conference

Welsh government to pilot integrated response to families where parents have complex needs
Delegates at last week's Welsh National Social Services Conference welcomed plans to establish multi-agency teams to support families where parents have complex needs but raised concerns about how they would be implemented.
The Welsh government is to legislate to introduce integrated family support teams (IFSTs) from 2013-15, following a pilot in three authorities starting next year. The pilot areas will be announced next month, with each receiving Pfund1.8m over three years.
Speaking at last week's conference Neelam Bhardwaja, president of the Association of Directors of Social Services Cymru and director of social services at Cardiff Council, said the teams would improve multi-agency care planning and speed up response times.
Yvonne Rodgers, director of Barnardo's Cymru, said the multi-disciplinary approach would provide better support to parents with complex needs.
Delegates' concerns
However, in a seminar on the scheme at the conference, delegates raised concerns about how the teams would work in practice and the level of funding available for non-pilot authorities.
The multi-professional teams will also test new workforce roles, such as that of social work consultant. In Hackney, east London, consultants have led small teams working with vulnerable children and families and taken responsibility for all cases while continuing to practice.

Child protection failures

IN WHAT is virtually a carbon copy of previous damning reports into child protection failures by local authorities in the north-east, it is now Dundees turn to hang its head in shame.
Government inspectors have already delivered their shocking verdicts on poor child protection among public bodies based in Aberdeen and Moray. Dundee has received an almost identical report in the wake of the killing of toddler Brandon Muir.
A picture is emerging which shows the malaise has been spreading throughout social services and its partner agencies. Far from being isolated, the incompetence was endemic. Aberdeen moved swiftly to implement urgent reforms without ever really explaining how it got into such a mess in the first place.
All of these authorities have highly-paid professionals drawn from every strand of child protection and from the highest levels, yet they still failed to protect children at risk adequately.

Ofsted finds primary children excluded: 'A very high rate of children acting in sexually inappropriate ways'

Ofsted finds primary children excluded: 'A very high rate of children acting in sexually inappropriate ways'
Polly Curtis, education editor, on an Ofsted report finding primary school children as young as four excluded.
Polly Curtis, Speaks About The Ofsted Report.

City’s child care chiefs are failing youngsters

Inspectors condemn Dundee council and other agencies
Child protection chiefs in Dundee have been accused of failing to take action to protect vulnerable youngsters until their circumstances reach crisis levels.
A damning report into the citys child protection service published today the first since the death of Dundee toddler Brandon Muir last March revealed a litany of weaknesses and failures.
HM Inspectorate of Education officials, who published the report three months early at the bequest of SNP ministers in wake of Brandons death, had no confidence that all children at risk of harm, abuse and neglect are protected.
They found major weaknesses in the type of help children are given in immediate response to concerns for their safety.
The report, one of the worst in Scotland alongside criticism of Aberdeen services last year and Moray in February, graded eight of the 18 categories examined as weak.
The indictment applied to leadership, policies, procedures and planning.
Six categories were rated as satisfactory, one as unsatisfactory and three as good.
No aspect of the service by Dundee City Council, Tayside Police, NHS Tayside, the Scottish Childrens Reporter and voluntary and independent organisations was rated excellent or very good.
The inspectors, who looked at services in February and March, said there were not enough social workers to respond quickly to all the needs of vulnerable children.
They found that some youngsters had been removed from the child protection register without clear evidence that the identified risks to their safety had been reduced.
The report focuses on child protection services in general and not the circumstances that led to the death last year of 23-month-old Brandon.
Its author, Jacquie Pepper, said: Inspectors were not confident that all children who were at risk of harm, abuse or neglect, in need of protection were identified and received the help and support they needed.