Apr 072017
 

With thanks to Eoin Smith, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

Mark Milne, who will be taking part in Etape Loch Ness, to raise money for a trust set up for his son, Alfie. The youngster has a rare and incurable disease and the fund provides support to other patients with the condition.

The father of a young boy with a rare and incurable disease is saddling up and getting on his bike to
help parents around the world
whose children have also been struck down by the same debilitating condition.
Mark Milne, whose son, Alfie, is one of an estimated 250 people worldwide to have been diagnosed with lymphangiomatosis, will take on Etape Loch Ness to raise money for research into the disease and to fund patient support services.

The Alfie Milne Trust was launched by Mark and his wife, Tracy, after their son was diagnosed with lymphangiomatosis at less than a year old.

The condition leads to the formation of benign tumours of the lymphatic system which can grow anywhere in the body, and due to their massive expansion can cause severe and life-threatening complications.

Mark (48) will join thousands of other cyclists in completing a 66-mile route around the iconic loch on April 23 – and in doing so he hopes to spread the word about the condition and give patients better access to support services.

The couple from Aberdeen found it hard to get any information about the disease because it is so rare: it is thought that Alfie is one of only 250 estimated cases in the world and one of only 15 in the UK.

They want their fund-raising, which currently stands at over £200,000, will help other patients living with lymphangiomatosis by raising awareness of support services and by providing grants to medical bodies.

Mark says,

“Before we launched the Trust, I would be the one who would be standing at the finish line at sporting events, smoking a cigarette and watching everyone else do the hard work. But we’ve done lots of events to raise money since 2012 and although I am still no fitness freak, I’ve completed a couple of bike rides,10Ks and half marathons.

“I’m actually going to be doing a 10K the day before Etape Loch Ness, so I’m not sure how I will be feeling for the event. I’ve always fancied doing this one because it is so beautiful up there, and I think the fact that it is on closed roads will make it really special.”

Alfie, who is now aged nine, was a happy and healthy boy for the first eight months of his life. However, his parents noticed that one of his legs was swollen and after x-rays were carried out, doctors also identified a curve in his spine.

After an MRI scan, the family travelled to Great Ormand Street Hospital in London where the diagnosis of lymphangiomatosis was made. The disease was in Alfie’s right leg, pelvic area and in the marrow of some bones, and it was also preventing his blood from clotting.

His health rapidly deteriorated: while he was still in London he suffered internal bleeding, frequently high temperatures and had to undergo countless blood transfusions – he was so poorly that his parents and doctors feared the worst. However, he battled through and some weeks later was well enough to return to Aberdeen to undergo chemotherapy.

From there on, the family has had to watch as Alfie – who was five by the time he took his first steps – has endured numerous stays in hospital, blood transfusions, drug therapies and various treatment plans.

His leg has deteriorated and Alfie has not been able to walk unaided since 2012. However, the family hope there will be a drastic improvement in his mobility after undergoing specialist surgery at the start of the year.

Mark explains,

“Last year we learned about a procedure that could be performed on Alfie’s leg to try and straighten it, with the hope of allowing him to walk unaided.

“Surgery is always very difficult with Alfie’s condition because of the high risks of infection and lymphatic leakage, but after undergoing lots of physiotherapy to prepare him for the surgery, we went ahead with it.

“The surgery was carried out at Great Ormand Street and it went really, really well. It was a success but it’s down to Alfie now to work on the physiotherapy and battle through it to get up on his own feet. As with any condition like this, we have good days and we have bad days.

“When Alfie was diagnosed we really struggled to find out information about his condition because it is so rare. We hope that other families, regardless of where they are in the world, will be able to benefit from the work of the Alfie Milne Trust, so that getting the support they need becomes easier.”

Further details about Alfie’s Trust are available at www.alfiemilne.org.uk and donations to Mark’s fund-raising efforts can be made on uk.virginmoneygiving.com/MarkMilne  

Thousands of cyclists, many of them raising money for good causes including official charity partner Macmillan Cancer Support, are gearing up to take part in Etape Loch Ness on April 23.

Starting and finishing in Inverness, the 66-mile route follows the north side of the loch and then loops round at Fort Augustus to return via the south side. Once past Fort Augustus, cyclists face the toughest challenge of the course – a 4.8 mile climb rising to 380m in height at the Glendoe Summit.

Etape Loch Ness has grown to become one of the nation’s best loved cycling events and places this year sold out in a record 50 hours. Further information about the event is available at www.etapelochness.com and regular updates also appear on social media at facebook.com/etapelochness and @EtapeLochNess on Twitter.

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Mar 242017
 

With thanks to Clare Scott, Communications Consultant, CJS Communication & Marketing.

An Aberdeen-based family support charity is using Mother’s Day to highlight the important role that experienced parents can play in supporting new mums and dads.
Home-Start Aberdeen works with families in the city, with at least one child under five years old, who may be vulnerable or suffering from
isolation. 

It provides these families with weekly support, which is delivered in their own home by a trained home visiting volunteer.

The majority of Home-Start Aberdeen volunteers are parents themselves, who understand the challenges involved in bringing up a family.

Now one of the largest Home-Start schemes in the UK, Home-Start Aberdeen supports over 220 families and 360 children each year. Isolation remains one of the most common reasons for referrals and the charity has a waiting list of more than 30 families who are in need of help.

Georgette Cobban, scheme manager, Home-Start Aberdeen said:

“Many of today’s new parents don’t have immediate access to a solid support network.

“People move around a lot more, meaning that extended family are not always available to give a helping hand, or to provide new parents with a break.

“Our home visiting volunteers help to fill that role, by providing a regular presence along with advice and encouragement on how new parents can get involved with community life. As we approach Mothering Sunday, we hope that experienced parents might consider reaching out to others.

“The Home-Start model works very well as the relationship is equal. It is all about parents supporting other parents and we know that our volunteers, as well as our families, get a great deal from it.”

Now in its 30th anniversary year, Home-Start Aberdeen has launched a ’30 in 30’ campaign to recruit 30 new volunteers within 30 weeks. Volunteer induction courses are taking place throughout the year, with the next course starting on Wednesday, 3 May. For further information, go to www.homestartaberdeen.org.uk or email volunteering@homestartaberdeen.org.uk.

Home-Start Aberdeen has been working with communities in the city for 30 years. The charity provides vulnerable families with practical and emotional support in their own homes. Support is provided by trained volunteers, with supervision from a small team of coordinators. Families must have at least one child under five years old and live within the city, otherwise there are no barriers to access.

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Jan 132017
 

By Anne Foy.

Doctors have issued a warning published in a British Medical Journal, that grapes are a ‘choking hazard’ to small children after two Scottish children have died choking on the fruit in the last few years.
45 deaths in Scotland in 2015 among people of all ages were due to choking on food.

Parents already know not to give toddlers under three years old, toys with small parts.

Every mum and dad is well versed on the dangers of marbles and tiny building blocks but foods often aren’t given the same consideration. 

Hotdogs, Grapes and Sweets Risk

The top three foods that children choke on are hotdogs, grapes and sweets because they are exactly the right shape to obstruct an immature airway. Not only do sweets cause dental problems, they are a major choking risk to children. Cherry tomatoes are also a problem and if parents don’t slice them into smaller pieces, they can become lodged in the throat. Babies and under 5 year old’s are at much greater risk of choking accidents because their trachea is so small.

Aberdeenshire Boy Dies

Five year old Aberdeenshire boy, Louis Emaho died in 2012 after choking on grapes at an after-school club. Staff at the club attempted to dislodge the fruit when it became apparent that he couldn’t breathe. He was suctioned by ambulance technicians and given CPR but despite their efforts was dead on arrival at the hospital.

17 Month Old Toddler Dies

In another case, a 17 month old boy died died when he was eating lunch with his family after choking on grapes. His parents attempted to clear his airway but were unsuccessful so they dialled for an emergency ambulance. Initial attempts at CPR failed because the fruit was still blocking the airway so paramedics met the ambulance crew on route to the hospital and were able to remove it via laryngoscopy (a telescope that allows the doctor to see into the back of the throat and extract objects). 

Medical staff were unable to revive the little boy.

A Lucky Escape

A third child narrowly escaped death when he began choking on grapes in the park. An ambulance crew was already nearby and were on the scene within minutes. They were able to remove the grape and the child began breathing again, although he had two seizures as a result of the oxygen starvation and signs of brain swelling. After being placed on artificial ventilation for five days. Just six days following the removal of his vent, he was well enough to go home. Miraculously, he showed no signs of any disability.

Advice for Parents

Due to these infrequent but tragic incidents, NHS Health Scotland has updated their childcare guidance and now suggest that parents chop up fruits like cherry tomatoes and grapes into tiny pieces, remove any pips and stones and avoid whole nuts. They also advise that it is safer to cut larger fruits into slices rather than chunks, as this makes them thinner and less likely to get stuck in the throat and they urged that parents supervise their young children when they are eating.

What To Do If Your Child Chokes

  • Check your child’s mouth for blockages and remove any you can see. Don’t poke your fingers down their throat or you could push it down even deeper and make the situation worse.
  • If your child can’t cough due to the blockage, place him face down across your lap and slap him in the middle of his back between his shoulder blades, five times in succession. If he is a baby under one year, make sure you support his head with your other hand.
  • If the blockage isn’t dislodged, begin chest thrusts. In an older child, you can do this by kneeling behind him and putting your arms around his upper waist, under his arms. Make a fist and place it between the ribs and the navel, then place your other hand over your fist and make a forceful inwards and upward thrust. Do this five times and then check your child.
  • Babies need a different type of thrust. If your baby is under one year, you can perform chest thrusts by placing him face up on your lap, along your thighs and put two fingers in the middle of his breastbone. Push sharply five times in succession. 
  • If your child has lost consciousness, dial 999 and use speakerphone so that you can still do back thrusts or CPR until help arrives.

References:

Picture courtesy of Selovekt used under Creative Commons license.

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Sep 162016
 

With thanks to Clare Scott, Communications Consultant, CJS Communication & Marketing.

01/06/15 Open day at new HOME START offices

Home-Start Aberdeen’s chairperson, Roberta Eunson, reads a book with young Jack Evans

Family support charity Home-Start Aberdeen is appealing for donations of children’s books towards its 2016 book advent. Introduced by the charity in 2014, the initiative encourages parents to read a book with their children in the 24 days leading up to Christmas and on Christmas day itself.
It is believed that reading together encourages families to bond, as well as helping with literacy, communication and imaginative skills.

This year’s book advent is set to be the charity’s biggest yet and represents a mammoth challenge in terms of collecting, wrapping and distributing book parcels.

Home-Start Aberdeen currently provides over 180 city-based families with emotional and practical support via its trained home-visiting volunteers. The team are therefore urging people to get behind the campaign by donating both excellent-quality children’s books and rolls of Christmas wrapping paper.

“The feedback from previous years indicates that our book advent is an extremely worthwhile initiative that is greatly appreciated by the families we support,” says Georgette Cobban, scheme manager, Home-Start Aberdeen.

“We require significant additional quantities of books and wrapping paper this year, so we are launching our campaign early in the hope that people will remember us – particularly if they are having their own pre-Christmas clear-out.

“Last year some local playgroups and other organisations organised their own mini-collections for us, which was very helpful.  We would love others to follow suit this time.  We have also introduced some additional drop-off points to make it easier for groups and individuals to get their donations to us.”

Children’s books, which should be in excellent condition, and donations of wrapping paper can be dropped off at Home-Start Aberdeen’s headquarters at 1A Alford Place or at its charity shop at 101 George Street, opposite John Lewis.

The charity’s corporate partner, Peter Vardy Vauxhall, is accepting donations at its premises on Lang Stracht. The appeal is also supported by Kirsty Blackman MP, whose constituency office at 46 John Street is a further drop-off point.  All donations should be made by Friday, 4 November.

Home-Start Aberdeen provides vulnerable local families with emotional and practical support in their own homes. The charity has been working with communities in the city for 29 years. Its team of trained home visiting volunteers work with referred families to help them access relevant health and welfare services, manage family budgets and nutrition, engage with their own communities and enjoy family life again.

Further information is available at www.homestartaberdeen.org.uk

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Jun 172016
 

By John Wallace.

Teach-The-WorldUsing the Scottish Government’s own figures, 300,000 people in Scotland have been totally ignored in the badly thought out and intrusive named person legislation.

People living with a rare disease and their families face significant social and daily life challenges which affect their autonomy, their dignity and their fundamental human rights.

It is not rare to have a rare disease, there are between 7,500 rare diseases in Scotland, 75% of them affect children and 80% are hereditary.

Integrated care provision in coordination between medical, social and local support services, via multidisciplinary care pathways and innovative care solutions, is a crucial game changer to tackle the unmet social needs of people living with rare diseases and none of this was even considered in coming up with the named person legislation. Nobody asked anyone in the 300,000 strong rare disease community in Scotland.

Families of children with rare diseases represent a motivated group striving to find what is best for their loved one, and the vast majority make the time and find the energy to sift through many thousands of pieces of information to find that one pearl that helps their child turn a corner, no matter how small.

They understandably dedicate their lives to researching their children’s condition. This dedication, in turn, can mean that even as they turn to medical professionals for help, it is those same professionals that in fact look to the parents for guidance.

Parents are accustomed to being the experts; in fact, they are acknowledged to know more than the specialists, even at renowned children’s hospitals worldwide, because while we expect our doctors to be experts in all things medical, the truth is they are not, they often have little knowledge outside the area of their expertise.

Most doctors who treat a rare disease child may never even heard of, much less have any degree of medical expertise in, the disease at hand, including our GP and both pediatric and adult consultants.

My son is eight-years-old and the only child in the UK with Familial Cold Autoinflammatory Syndrome Type 2. It is a gene mutation which makes his autoimmune system stay on when it should have switched off, attacking his body – a lot of his life is in pain and is at times totally unable to walk. My wife has the same hereditary disease.

We have a brilliant working relationship with my son’s school. Whether his attendance is at 50 or 80 per cent (depending on his illness), we all work together to ensure that his education is kept up to date.

The drug is fairly toxic and had massive painful and traumatic side effects

We see medical professionals in Edinburgh on average twice a week, have appointments in London every few months. From the professors down, they tell us that in fact we are the disease’s experts and they take guidance from us.

Even before diagnosis we brought together hospital, school and family to ensure everyone is aware. At present there are five drugs which might help alleviate some of the symptoms. Four of those drugs seriously compromise the immune system and have extremely serious and painful side effects and are trials, used in other conditions, because the condition is so rare.

The least toxic one did no good. The second one caused his condition to seriously deteriorate. The third drug he tried after seven months deliberation, against our gut instinct. The drug is fairly toxic and had massive painful and traumatic side effects. It was our 34 days of hell watching our son going through so much pain and fear, watching his condition get worse, and dealing with his fear of us giving him the daily injections directly into the lesions on his legs.

Thankfully, the consultant agreed with us that enough was enough. My son, to this day a year later, still winces at the mention of the drug’s name.

What if our consultant changed and the new consultant wanted us to try a drug we were not happy giving to our son, or indeed try once again the drug which gave us our 34 days of hell? The legislation allows the consultant to contact the named person and promote said views without even consulting us. This is a fact and it is not open to discussion.

We go out of our way to enable everyone dealing with my son to work together, whether that be professors, consultants, GP, rheumatology nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and all the other medical professionals and the educational professionals in school.

We make the time to ensure that every single minute of my son’s life is as meaningful and fulfilling as it can be. I am the named person and I can do it better than his head teacher or anyone else because I live with it 24 hours a day, 365 days a year I don’t take school holidays nor weekends off. I am with my son whenever and wherever he needs me.

No matter what trials and tribulations I go through with my son’s and wife’s condition, the one thing that keeps me awake at night is worrying about getting a new consultant or a new head teacher who tries to force my family down a path I don’t want to follow for my son’s treatment and I know I am not alone in my thinking.

(Previously published in the Scottish Sunday Express. Reproduced by kind permission of the author.)

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May 052016
 

Tots2travelWith thanks to Janice Hopper.

May 2016 sees the professional launch of a Scottish Family Travel online resource called Tots2Travel.

Based in Aberdeen it encourages Scottish families to explore what’s on their doorstep and beyond.

Tots2Travel started when local writer and new mother Janice Hopper struggled to find travel recommendations written from a family perspective, be it family friendly destinations within Scotland or international locations within easy reach of Scottish airports.

Janice said:

“I was initially terrified travelling with a newborn baby and was looking was advice and child friendly places to visit. I saw a gap in the market for Family Travel writing within Scotland and it was a great incentive to do something about it. What started as a hobby then developed and I now work to show parents the family orientated destinations available across the country.

“There’s so much to do! It’s a privilege to showcase Scotland to a wider audience and highlight what’s on offer at home and abroad for Scottish families.”

The Tots2Travel team is Janice Hopper, Mr Husband, Mr Toddler (aged 2) and Mr Baby (aged 1). Janice spent over a decade writing and directing documentaries for the BBC before having two children and becoming a freelance writer.

Tots2Travel can be found and followed at www.tots2travel.wordpress.com, and its supporting social media is www.facebook.com/tots2travel.wordpress, www.instagram.com/tots2travel, www.twitter.com/tots2travel and www.pinterest.com/tots2travel.

Apr 082016
 

No other European country has attempted to enact a programme of this level of mandatory state intrusion into family life than the Scottish Named Person scheme is attempting. Suzanne Kelly looks at recent developments, reaching conclusions and making recommendations.

No2NP picThe Named Person Scheme is a complete shambles, whatever anyone’s political views on the SNP.

It is rolling out in August – despite no one from the First Minister down to the front line Named Persons being able to say for certain whether or not it is mandatory. Local authorities seem bound to bear most of the costs.

It has already been rolled out in places under the clunky and completely misleading moniker ‘Getting It Right For Every Child’.

One of the first approved Named Persons has been struck off teaching. Government-funded quangos and other organisations are queueing up like obedient circus animals to say what a great thing this is for children.

Groups concerned with human rights, rights of the child and abuses of power by the State are condemning it. It’s an out-of-control catalogue of failures and misleading statements set to put the State above the family.

The proponents tell you that they simply want children to be protected from abusive families. There is absolutely nothing in this scheme that seems to seek to provide protection from abusive teachers and authorities, and nothing in it to tackle the long-running, highy-damaging problem of bullying in schools. No, the only ‘enemy’ of the child that the scheme’s fans want to protect children from is the child’s family.

Chilling accounts of the pilot scheme are attracting some (but perhaps not enough) press coverage.

A girl in Aberdeen was pulled from her classes, asked lots of questions by a ‘nurse’ she’d never met before and who had not identified the purpose of the questions, which included highly personal ones.

A father finds a whole ream of documentation has been built up about a child’s runny nose and nappy rash – and a child being declared by a Named Person to be ‘depressed’ (Depression of course being a serious mental health condition requiring a physician’s diagnosis. Nevertheless, the child’s observed ‘depression’ is now on a permanent record for them and their family).

Questions about the scheme and its precursors have been met with a few answers, a number of conflicting answers, and a good deal of evasion.

Here are some of the issues which every young person and family should be aware of, and also some recommendations for those who have decided they do not want any part of this scheme.

Cautionary Tales for Families:

1. The Fairy Tale – Don’t worry about any perverts or abusive individuals becoming Named Persons:

“Anyone undertaking the Named Person role, such as Health Visitors and Head Teachers, will have already undergone a process of checks and vetting through the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme which checks their suitability to work with children.” 

That was the official line from a Government spokesperson in July last year.

The Fact – Teacher appointed first Named Person State Guardian has been struck off. 

As the Scotsman reports, Elgin teacher Dayna Dickson-Boath was a named person; she was struck off for sharing fantasies of abusing children. In court it was found she:

“did send, by means of a public electronic communications network, messages to another person that were grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character, in that you did converse regarding the sexual abuse of children.” 
http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/teacher-appointed-first-named-person-state-guardian-struck-off-1-4014998#ixzz44lJ8ideZ

How did someone get this far into the educational system without being found out? How did the ‘checks and vetting’ promised by the Named Person Scheme’s administrators fail so profoundly? The scheme’s spokespeople are refusing to comment on whether or not disgraced former Aberdeen music teacher John Forrester – currently secretary of the Parent Teacher Association in Auchenblae – would have been a named person or not.  Forrester was investigated over an alleged affair with another pupil previous to this, and was meant to be supervised – yet started this relationship.

He’d left his first wife for a schoolgirl (he was 44), took up with schoolgirl Claire Bennett, and has since left her.

Could you imagine a person like that asking you or your child questions of any kind let alone about whether they were on the pill or had their period? The State wants this control over children, but when it came to this case of a student running away from home and then marrying her music teacher as soon as she was 16, the State decided it ‘was not in anyone’s interest’ to pursue a case against him. Well, it wasn’t in the state’s interest, anyway.

The authorities are happy that their vetting procedures are fine which saw a woman with sick child-related fantasies. They also didn’t find anything wrong with a 44 year old teacher having a clearly improper relationship with a 15 year old girl (maybe it’s OK because the couple swore they didn’t have sex until she was 16). So what kinds of things does the State actually object to so strenuously that they must be recorded?

2. The Fairytale – No new powers, child or young person will know what information is being shared:

Those in government determined to get the scheme approved have written:

“The legislation brings no new powers for teachers, or any other professionals.”

and,

“The Act does not introduce any powers over a child for the Named Person role,”

and,

“There are no powers in the Act plans to routinely gather and share information, or records. If there is a concern about wellbeing then relevant public bodies will share information proportionately and if relevant to addressing a concern. The child or young person will know what is being shared, for what reason and with whom and their views will be taken into account.”
– [email to S Kelly of July 2015]

The Fact – Thumbsucking, nappy rash, and a parent’s perceived refusal to take advice on thumbsucking:

So, perhaps you think that your child will just have a couple of pages about whether or not they’re happy, in serious trouble, have serious concerns to be addressed. Think again. By the time a toddler is sucking its thumb – now a reportable incident as is a parent’s lack of concern for it – expect dozens of pages of spying to have been amassed.

As the Scotsman reported, an education professional decided to try and obtain the records for their family The massive report, which was largely redacted, recorded that the father didn’t seem to take the Named Person’s advice about thumb sucking. Did he have to? Is that the type and level of detail that the State should get involved in? Is there an official position now on thumb-sucking?

The Scotsman’s article reads in part:

“Contained within a 60-page document that had been compiled about his family, the note referred to a blister which had appeared on the toddler’s thumb as a result of the childhood habit. It also suggested Smith contact his GP if the blister became “hot to touch or very red”.

“Smith, whose name has been withheld to protect the identities of his children, grew more alarmed as he leafed through the document, the vast majority of which had been redacted.

“The surviving extracts appeared to indicate that the minutiae of his family life had been recorded in painstaking detail for almost two years, under a Named Person scheme which has been introduced in his part of the country ahead of its final roll-out across all of Scotland in August. A separate note made by the Named Person charged with keeping an eye on the academic’s two little boys was concerned with nappy rash.” http://www.scotsman.com/news/revealed-what-can-happen-when-a-named-person-reports-on-your-children-1-4089077#ixzz44lR69DmU

Maybe this level of detail wouldn’t be so intrusive if the State showed as much interest in the children it has taken into care. Maybe this level of reporting doesn’t have any cost implications – even though it clearly has Human Rights implications (family life being a cornerstone of EU Human Rights legislation). Or maybe Mr Smith and others could simply exercised their rights to opt out of the Named Person Scheme?

Myths? Fairytales? The ambiguity of opting out and of the scheme’s costs:

So, do people need to comply with this programme? The government’s spokeswoman advised in July 2015 advised:

“No. As we have said before, there is no obligation for a parent, child or young person to engage with the Named Person. The legislation brings no new powers for teachers, or any other professionals.”
– [email to S Kelly July 2015]

Surely if the First Minister says it’s not mandatory, that is grounds for anyone to disregard a NP?

During First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood, Ms Davidson asked:

“Are parents who don’t agree with this scheme able to stop their child from having a named person and withdraw their child from all named person provisions?”

Ms Sturgeon responded:

“The named person scheme is an entitlement, I think it is a good and sensible entitlement. It is not an obligation. It helps children and families get the support they need from services when they need it.

“It does not in any way, shape or form replace or change the role of the parent or carer or undermine families… It is not possible to predict in advance which children might become vulnerable.”
http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/14378517.Sturgeon__parents_are_not_legally_obliged_to_use_named_person_scheme/

Perhaps ‘Mr Smith,’ reading the 60 page report on his toddler and seeing himself criticised for not paying attention to the NP’s thumb-sucking advice might disagree with Sturgeon on the undermining of families.

If it is not possible to predict in advance which children might be vulnerable, then that would come as a surprise to paediatricicans, hospitals and social workers. Perhaps what I needed is not this Kafkaesque scheme, but far better training and funding for the professionals who are charged with finding children who are at risk. Of course in some tragic instance, it is the State that fails our children.

From the girls in care who were physically abused by police (who drove them to a secluded spot and made them walk without shoes in manure while threatening then), to the tragic girls in care who jumped to their deaths – the state does not always get it right for the very people they have deemed at risk.

Wouldn’t logic dictate spending more resources on the risks we know about and looking for potential risks based on hospital records and clear indicators rather than from spying on each and every child in Scotland? It doesn’t get easier finding a needle in a haystack by adding more hay to it. So is it mandatory – and as bad as this Daily Mail article makes it seem?

As the First Minister is at odds with some of the NP evangelists, who can say? Why they want this database which any NP can add to and almost anyone in government can access raises alarm bells.

The word is that Sturgeon wants out of this ludicrous scheme – probably before we all start realising that the costs are coming from our taxes – and that the cost could be extremely exorbitant. Money has already been spent on a ludicruous, patronising song and a play for children (although anyone over 4 years old will fee their intelligence is being insulted).

The less-than-catchy anagram ‘SHANARRI’ (something to do with children’s rights) is a song rolled out by the Hopscotch Theatre Company and bankrolled by the taxpayer. Schools pay £400 to have the theatrical troupe come to their school to teach the children this state-supporting dogmatic song.

To call it a train wreck would be to do a huge disservice to train wrecks. Watch the video here, if you are able to stomach it:

“Let’s hold a vigil for every individual to play a part in the greatest team” the song suggests.

So, what is this one team we’re all meant to join and who’s in charge of it. This is the worst kind of brainwashing propaganda there is. Anyone associated with this should be ashamed. Alas, the comments are disabled on the video, no criticism will be brooked.

Just Say ‘NO’

There are more reasons to scotch this Scottish scheme. Here in the meantime are some tactics that might be useful.

School pupils – if you are old enough to understand the issues, and if you decide you don’t want to answer questions about whether you house is cozy, you like your siblings, or anything personal, tell your parents how you feel now. Get them and you to write a letter for you to both carry with you and for you to give a copy to your school head.

It should say:

‘I do not want to participate in any questions about my home life. The First Minister said that the Named Person scheme is not mandatory. I have told my parents how I feel and they support my decision not to answer personal questions or to have any notes kept about how I might be feeling.

‘If I have any problems, I will take them to an adult I feel comfortable discussing them with. I understand that one of the rights I have is to be respected. I am asking you to respect that right and leave me my privacy.’

Write to your elected representatives as an individual or as a family and say how you feel – here is an easy way to find them: www.writetothem.com/

If someone asks you questions at school that are personal – ask them politely to tell you why they are asking. Show them the letter. Tell them that you have chosen not to participate in the Named Person scheme and you don’t wish to discuss it further. If you don’t know who they are, ask for their name.

Ask them for a list of questions they intend to ask you. Be aware that they are possibly going to start asking you questions as if they are just having a friendly conversation – if questions start getting uncomfortable or personal, you are always allowed to say you don’t feel it’s an appropriate subject to talk about and that you will let them know if you do want to talk about anything.

Keep a list of every time you are asked questions, what the questions are, your answers, and who is asking them.

If you ever feel pressured or threatened by anyone be they a relative, peer or a teacher or person in authority, tell someone who you trust about it straight away.

For teenage girls – it seems as if you might be in for the worst excesses of this scheme. It seems like your doctor or clinic might now be supposed to tell your named person if you want anything to do with birth control. Girls are being asked questions about their periods, sex and other items which you probably don’t want written down in a record somewhere.

Stand your ground, politely say now. If you are worried about your doctor revealing any information, remember that you can get some forms of birth control at the chemist, which won’t go on any record. But be safe, whatever you choose to do.

For adults – if your child doesn’t want to participate, see advice above. Further, think about asking your school for information about who your child’s Named Person is: turn the tables on them.

Tell them that you don’t want to participate, especially as you first want to know: Named Person’s criminal records, length of time teaching, whether they or any of their relatives, acquaintances have ever been on the sex offenders’ register. Ask them what qualifications they have to be asking questions which are very personal and which could have psychological implications.

If you/your child wants to find out what information is already being held about you, do a Subject Access Request.

As parents you can to access information about your child by making a SAR if the child is unable to act on their own behalf or has given their consent. Further information can be found here: https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisations/documents/1065/subject-access-code-of-practice.pdf

Make sure your child knows what I going on, and when they decide whether or not they want anything to do with this scheme, support their decision.

There is a chance commonsense, human rights, and logic will yet put this scheme on the scrap heap where it belongs. This might be too optimistic. We have a scheme no one knows whether it is mandatory or not, no one is sure of the cost or the scope of it, and those at the heart of grilling you or your children have already been proven to be disturbed potentially violent people with unhealthy interests in children.

Best advice? Be careful (and/or consider home schooling).

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[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]

Feb 112013
 

When The Going Gets Tough, Aberdeen Parents Get Selling! Faced with the ever-rising cost of bringing up a child, Aberdeen parents are selling and bartering in a bid to reduce the cost of raising children. Jack & Jill organisers advise Aberdeen Voice of their next event.

Thousands of Aberdeen mums and families took part in their local monthly Jack & Jill Markets last year at The Treetops Hilton Hotel in Aberdeen.

At the last market of the year, 508 shoppers joined in. 37% of mums selling made £100 – £200, 45% made £200 – £350, and our top-selling stall made £355.

This month’s local Aberdeen Jack & Jill event, the first of 2013, will be on Sunday 17th February.

Local Mum Laura Letts said:-

“We had a great time! Hoping to do another one early next year.”

Local Aberdeen mum, Charlene McConnachie, said:-

“I got some great bargains that I am over the moon with.”

It costs £90,000 to raise a child up to age 11, an increase of 15% over the past 5 years, according to new figures released by Halifax, whose economist, Martin Ellis, says the figures have:-

“…added to the already considerable strain on household finances during the economic downturn.”

Thrift is the New Cool.  When the going gets tough, the tough get going. As the cost of raising children soars, an increasing number of smart money mums have beefed up their selling and bartering skills to make and save money.

A trend is emerging where mums and dads are now much happier to choose selling and shopping at local car-boot sales and market days as a cost-effective alternative to the high street for what their children need. Over a third of parents are now choosing to buy and sell second-hand, according to recent figures.

Scottish Success Story

One organisation Aberdeen parents have turned to is The Jack & Jill Market which runs monthly nearly-new baby & children’s markets in Aberdeen and across Scotland, solely for local families, with the emphasis on quality goods. The Jack & Jill Market is so swamped with demand from mums wanting to make and save money, that new locations are being set-up all the time in an effort to meet this demand. Smart Money Management.

Recent research has shown that UK adults can have up to £581 worth of useable but unused items; for a two-parent family this can add up to more than £1000, much of it locked up in buggies, bikes, cots, clothes, toys, all the all the rest that still have plenty of life left in them, so it makes smart money sense to release this money into the family budget.

80% of mums and families selling at the markets make £100-£350 in 3-hours of selling, with a significant number of mums having made up to £550 and our top selling mum to date making £800. This is money that can then be re-invested back into the family budget to help with the ongoing costs of raising a family.

Many baby and kids items are barely used, or never used, and on offer at the markets for up to 90% off the retail price. And with over 13 million toys still ending up in landfill each year, it makes perfect sense to recycle and save.

The next monthly Aberdeen Jack & Jill Community Market will be held on Sunday 17th February at Hilton Treetops Hotel, Aberdeen, 10.30am – 1.30pm.

The following event will be on Sunday 17th March.

For further details, visit: www.jackandjillmarket.co.uk

Aug 172012
 

As Wednesday 15th August this year marked National Relaxation Day, a free service that promotes serenity by giving children a chance to keep in touch with both parents after relationships break down is appealing for volunteers. With thanks to Claire McBain.

VSA, the UK’s largest city social care charity supporting people in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, runs the Richmondhill-based Family Contact Centre.
It is a calm, safe and neutral ground where separated mothers, fathers and grandparents can stay in a youngsters’ life without them having to see one another.

The centre, one of the oldest meeting places of its kind in Scotland, recently celebrated its longest serving volunteers by highlighting the achievements of people who have dedicated as much as 20 years to the service. 

But increased service demand means an urgent need to recruit the next generation of volunteers.

Cathy Maxwell, family support co-ordinator at VSA’s Family Contact Centre, said:

“It may sound clichéd but, without them, maintaining the service really won’t be possible.

“It’s a welcoming place where people don’t feel they’re being judged.  I’m looking for family-friendly volunteers, both male and female, to join the team that welcome people to the centre on a Saturday.  Parents aren’t supervised, but volunteers are on hand to offer assistance if necessary. 

“Usually, it’s a case of offering refreshments and providing reassurance about the principles of the centre.  Often it just means emphasising the fact that parents don’t have to come face-to-face.  Essential volunteer qualities are a sense of humour, a desire to help and a clear understanding of confidentiality.

“On-the-job training is provided and credible, local volunteering experience is a great way for people to boost their employability, particularly if they have an interest in working with children or families.  Once they decide this type of volunteering is for them, I’d urge our new recruits to make a commitment to stay with us for up to a year.”

There are more than 45 child contact centres in Scotland.  Last year, 1650 children met their non-resident parent, or other significant family member, at one of these centres.  This was an increase of 22% on the previous year.  More than half of these children were under five years old and 85% aged below eight.

Cathy continued:

“Some parents find it very difficult to agree to share their children’s time with their ex-partner.  But visits need not be awkward and distressing. 

“Visits facilitated by a contact centre can lead to improved communication between the non-resident parent and their children, reduction or prevention of conflict and, in many cases, decision by parents to work together in the best interests of their children.”

VSA’s Family Contact Centre is based at the Maisie Munro Centre, 18 Richmondhill Place, Aberdeen, on a Saturday.

  • To find out more about becoming a volunteer or using the service contact Cathy Maxwell, family support co-ordinator, on 01224 358638 or e-mail her at cathy.maxwell@vsa.org.uk
  • For more information, photographs or to get the perspective of a current volunteer, contact Claire McBain on 01224 358611 or e-mail her at claire.mcbain@vsa.org.uk
Sep 292011
 

The Northfield Academy based Music Centre is holding an Open Day organised by F.A.I.M. (Friends of Aberdeen Instrumental Music ) this Saturday morning.   With thanks to Kathryn Reid.

The parents and teachers behind Friends of Aberdeen Instrumental Music (F.A.I.M.) will welcome Aberdeen Lord Provost Peter Stephen to hear several rehearsals in progress at the Music Centre situated at Northfield Academy.

F.A.I.M. want to promote the achievements of the youth within the groups of the Music Service. These groups include Jazz, Brass Band, Choirs, Wind Bands Guitar and Percussion groups and Orchestras for young people from 7 to 23 at various levels.

It is this system of graded groups that produces the outstanding track record of budding musicians.

More children in Aberdeen learn an instrument than anywhere else in Scotland and more children go on to take part in National groups than any one area or city in Scotland. We have a lot to be proud of!

The Music Centre’s funding was secured by councillors in this year’s budget. The Lord Provost will see first hand how the groups have continued to flourish as he watches rehearsals by three wind bands and the beginners’ string groups and that’s only Saturday morning! The Music Centre is busy every night of the week.

The F.A.I.M. group will host its Open Day in Northfield Academy on Saturday from 9.30am to 12.30pm. Lord Provost Peter Stephen will visit F.A.I.M. between 10am and 11am.

Come and have a cup of tea or coffee and see what takes place. Marvel at the tiny double basses and their wonderful players! Get caught up in the enthusiasm these youngsters have for music. Warning – it’s contagious!

More Info: FriendsOfAberdeenInstrumentalMusic.co.uk/