Wednesday, 6 November 2013
That campaign was to stop planning permission being granted to turn the building next door into flats. Well, I say next door, it actually shares the playground. What that would have meant was that single-aspect studio flats would have a clear view into the playground, at ground level, which was just unacceptable for the children's privacy. That wasn't the only issue with the development, but it was a very sizeable one.
I was involved at the start of the campaign, less so latterly, but the baton was taken up admirably by other parents, with the support of local councillors, especially Nick Gardner, and our local MSP, Malcolm Chisholm.
Today those mentioned above, among others, spoke at the development committee where planning matters are decided. The result, despite the recommendations of the planning department, was a vote against permission being granted. It was by the narrowest of margins, but it was still a victory, and I am so pleased for the parents at Broughton Primary who have worked so hard for this result.
You can read more about it here.
Well done to everyone involved!
Monday, 4 November 2013
Learning New Things
Games Review , the site that I edit on Hubgarden.com is going quite well, and starting to build some momentum. I'm also building up a library of articles as a writer on Weekend Notes and MyKidCraft, However, I don't want to just edit and write for other peoples' sites.
So, I've decided that if I want to start my own website, then I need to learn how to code, if only to understand what the challenges will be and how little I actually know. It's a stroke of luck, then, that my blogger interface doesn't appear to work with this version of IE and so I have to use the HTML tab to write the thing. I'm going to continue to thinking of it as a stroke of luck, as that stops it from being so annoying that the admins won't let me have a decent browser.
That's really all my chat about that. Well, not quite. I suppose I'd better illustrate that I am actually learning something, and put all this Codeacademy stuff into practice. So far, I've learned about:
- Titles, Headers, Paragraphs
- Image links and URL links
- Ordered Lists
- Unordered Lists
Wednesday, 30 October 2013
The article talked about a set of three siblings. They had moved from foster carer to foster carer, and could only have got adopted if they had split up. The article talked about why it was difficult for three older children to be adopted together: emotionally hard for parents, would need extra bedrooms etc. It didn’t mention the financial issues of suddenly having three more children in the house. In fact, it didn’t mention the economic barriers to adoption at all. However, it made a pejorative statement when talking about the quality of foster parents: “some foster parents only do it for the money”.
Here’s the thing. If you foster, most local authorities will pay you around £130ish per week per child. That’s for two reasons: 1. To cover the additional costs of having another child 2. Because at least one foster parent is expected to treat the fostering as their full-time job.
It used to be the case that foster parents were simply willing volunteers, but that’s changed. Why do they need to treat it as a full-time job? Because the foster children often have complex support needs, some emotionally, some physically. You would not, for example, be expected to foster a child of under-5 and then be able send them to a day nursery and expect them to get on with it while you continue a full-time jobs.
So, the siblings are fostered, but the ideal for most children in long-term foster care is to be adopted permanently. But what happens if you’re fostering three children, with complex emotional and behavioural support needs, and you decide you’d like to adopt them?
Well, of course, you stop getting that money. The state doesn’t pay people to have children whether they’re your own, or adopted (with the exception of Child Benefit, but that’s not a huge amount). The addition of three extra people is going to be difficult to absorb into the household finances.
First – you need to give up your full-time job of fostering. Second – you can’t get another job because you’re now required to do your previously-paid full-time job for free.
It strikes me that the difficulty of placing siblings together is more of an economic issue than adoption organisations and councils have thus far admitted.
I know I couldn’t suddenly take on three more children without little financial support and at the same time need to give up a full-time job.
Despite what that article claimed, most people who foster do not do it “for the money”. I have known foster parents and they have done it for a variety of reasons. It’s not an easy job, and it’s not easy money. The foster parents I knew were not rich, but they did something they thought was right, often at great cost to their own families and even their own mental health. It is difficult to bring in a child, to form a bond, to do your very best for them and then later watch them be returned to the family that caused all the issues.
The article implied that more of these foster parents should be less money-grubbing, and simply adopt the children.
How? How would be that financially possible for the majority of people?
But what’s the alternative? Pay people to adopt children, and keep on paying them for years? I’m not sure that would solve the problem.
The problem with adoption is that the people who want to adopt siblings can’t afford it, and the people who could afford to adopt 2 or even 3 siblings don’t appear to want to adopt. Until either of those two things change, children like those three siblings will not get the permanent, loving home that they not only deserve, but that they have a right to expect.
Wednesday, 18 September 2013
That's all very well, but who is really going to benefit, and why are the politicians all so impressed with themselves?
The policy will cost £600m, and puts parents in the bizarre situation of being told they are too rich for Child Benefit, which many would have used for school dinners, but now are entitled to free school meals. It's a lot of money to spend on a theory, that school dinners are almost always more nutritious than packed lunches, which has been reported in an independent government review. Independent of the government, but of not of be food industry - two restaurant founders wrote it. It's not even as though this policy will be targeted at those with the greatest need - they already are entitled to free school meals.
Wouldn't it be better if the government instead focused more on these children? They talk about narrowing the attainment gap between rich and poor, while at the same time making life easier for richer parents, and no less hard for poor parents. £600m could have funded a lot of other things.
It could have funded breakfast and homework clubs, where children from poorer backgrounds increase engagement with school and get a nutritious hot meal in the morning and the evening. Instead, it's going straight into the pockets of the food industry (because most local authorities contract out school dinner provision) and providing a state subsidy to more private business, who deliver sub-standard food to a captive audience. The lack of choice is appalling. In theory, the dinners might be more nutritious, but this depends on children picking the nutritious options and actually eating them. I've written about this before, and I'm not hopeful at all.
I don't underestimate how helpful this would be to an average family. It would have saved so much money if we had had free school meals in P1-3, or at least meant I could spend child benefit on something else. However, when housing benefit has been cut so children aren't even allowed their own room, I just don't see how they can justify introducing another universal benefit.
What do you think? Do you really need free school meals? Will you use them?
Thursday, 18 July 2013
At the time it was just an off-hand remark, in response to her considerate comforting of her sister when Lori had fallen off her scooter for the millionth time that day, and I was too occupied with getting us all along the road in time for holiday club and school to give Lori the sympathy she felt she deserved.
Josie did give her that sympathy, and it was helpful for me, and kind to her sister. So I awarded some points. I've never done this before, it's not like sister points are a thing in our house. But despite that unfamiliarity, Josie's affinity with them was immediate:
"Oooh. Sister points! And five of them."
Later on in the walk, Lori helped Josie in return. She got some too. They both jumped up and down, cheering:
"Hurray, we've both got five now!"
The concept of reward for helpfulness isn't foreign to them. We do have a pocket money system, which is based on the doing of household chores, helpful tasks, perfect play-throughs of piano tunes, and things like that. Pocket money can also be lost, through extreme naughtiness (not that much of a problem) or laziness (more of a problem, thay are little Laws after all).
Sister points are not like pocket money, I've decided. They can't be pre-awarded for specific tasks ("Share that toy, and you'll get a sister point), they can't be docked ("You weren't nice to your sister, 5 points off"), they're just a spontaneous and fun way of saying, "Well done!", which my two have really taken to. The important thing is that they are unexpected and not-looked-for. I don't want two girls who are only kind to each other for a reward, and we certainly don't have that at the moment.
So, it begs the questions...should I allow conversion of sister points into something tangible? Should I keep a formal tally of sister points? If I did, it would be a shared pool. Sister points are not a competition.
Or does that miss the point of Sister Points? Should I keep them just as a fun, light-hearted, and a bit of a silly way to gameify life?
Friday, 12 July 2013
Apparently, parents are providing sub-standard meals, which aren’t as nutritious as the school meals being offered at school. Media reports are claiming that the report (written by owners of a restaurant chain) calls for packed lunches to be banned, and for school meals to be compulsory, and free for everyone.
On the one hand I applaud them for trying to improve the nutritional intake of our children, and doing it while also trying to reduce the cost of raising them. It is sorely needed. When I was on a zoo trip with Lori’s class one child had Nutella on white bread for their sandwich, with crisps, followed by a chocolate bar for afters. I’m mortified if I send my two in with only fruit and no veg, let alone junk food that’s so inappropriate for a child’s packed lunch that it would be funny if it wasn't so sad. On the other hand, for the majority of parents.
I think that a simple comparison between a packed lunch and a school dinner is misleading, and the proposed solutions address the symptom of a disease (parents provide bad lunches) rather than a disease itself (parents don’t know/don’t care what should be in a healthy lunch).
I’ll confess, I have an inherent bias TOWARDS to school dinners, while growing up, I always had them, and I sent my children to school assuming that I would always buy them school dinners too. It was convenient, relatively cheap (only £1.75 a day), and they’d be assured of a balanced meal.
I was wrong. It was convenient and cheap, but over time I began to suspect that they were not getting a healthy, nutritious, and filling meal made to the standards I would expect.
To illustrate, let’s compare a normal Lindsay-prepared lunchbox with the reports I would get from the children on what they would eat in their school dinners:
Lunchbox: 1 wholemeal sandwich or roll, with a reduced sugar jam, ham, or cheese. Usually eaten
Ham label checked to ensure welfare standards met for piggies. Usually eaten.
Batons of fresh cucumber. Usually eaten.
Red Pepper strips: Usually eaten.
Banana: Almost always eaten
Yoghurt tube/fruit winder/biscuitty bar: Always eaten
Babybel cheese: Always eaten
Orange or apple juice, squash, or water: Always drunk
Anything that isn’t eaten at lunchtime is consumed at after-school club or on the way home under Daddy orders. There’s normally no wastage, and we know exactly what they have or haven’t eaten. This has been absolutely critical with 2 children who tend towards anxiety over eating food in rushed scenarios (and the school lunch hall is loud, and rushed, and stressful), but who are not cunning or naughty enough to hide food and pretend they ate it.
And when they go to school lunches?
Well, the comments below are real ones that I have had back over the course of my lunch investigations:
Josie: I had a quorn burger.
Wow. Processed soya on a white bun. Great.
Josie: I had a baked potato with cheese, but the cheese tasted funny and so I didn’t eat it. Mr Devine [the head teacher] had it too and he agreed with me.
So, she ate the potato bit then had a sponge pudding with custard for after.
Lori: I had a baked potato with cheese, but I got up to go to the toilet and when I came back it had been cleared away and I didn’t know who to ask for more so I just went out to play.
She had no lunch.
Josie: I had strawberry milk to drink.
Filled with sugar. There’s a history of diabetes in the family. I try to minimise these types of hidden sugars in foods that people think are “healthy”.
Lori: Sausages! I didn’t eat my beans.
Oh great. More processed pork.
Josie: There was hardly anything left by the time I got down to eat, so I just had mashed potatoes and sausages.
There wasn’t a single day where one of them came home and described a meal that had more than a tiny portion of fresh fruit and vegetables in it, or meat that I could be assured was good quality.
My own golden rule when I maked the packed lunches, that I never break, is that I always must put at least three portions of fresh fruit and veg in the packed lunch (and it’s usually 4 or 5), and my bread product must always be wholemeal. The same can’t be said for the school dinner provision: - they might offer fruit and veg, but no one is making sure the children are either:
a) Selecting the healthy option
b) Actually eating the healthy option
And parents don’t know, because anything uneaten is just tipped into a bin. Furthermore, my house has more rules: all eggs free-range, all milk organic, meat from suppliers who are committed to animal welfare.
With school dinners, I have no control over those choices I can make at home. And at £1.75 per child, I highly doubt their using free-range eggs in their muffins.
To me, to ban packed lunches is completely missing the point about what the issue is: teaching parents on budgets how to feed their children healthily, and cheaply.
If some parents aren’t providing their children with healthy and nutritional packed lunches, then educate the parents and treat the underlying issue in the family!
Don’t penalise the parents like us, who are trying our best to give our children fresh fruit and vegetables, and a healthy attitude to food. We aren’t being helped at all by a privatised school meal system which is failing to provide a decent standard of food, and our children would get much worse food if you forced us to take school dinners.
Further, if you don’t fix the underlying problem, what happens when the children go home? Sure, they might get one vaguely nutritious meal a day at school (and I am not convinced they would anyway), but if the family keeps on eating nuggets and chips for dinner every single day then it’s not really helping much.
Ultimately, plans to ban packed lunches smacks of big business dressing up their interests as a welfare concern. I’m sure all those school meal providers would be rubbing their hands with glee at the idea of millions more captive consumers, paid for by the state, all of whom have no opportunity to opt out or object if the standards are poor.