Author: John Waters

Why I asked the Queen to adopt me

She said no – but for someone who had grown up in care and feared life alone as an adult, it was worth trying for a happy ending

We all know the story of the well-loved orphan who sings her way through life’s miseries and gets to live in a mansion with the mega-rich Oliver Warbucks. Everyone’s sung along to the catchy and cheery songs that make Annie so fantastic. And we’re always so pleased that Annie gets a happy ending, despite her bad beginning. But it’s fiction – of course there was going to be a happy ending.

The reality is not all young people growing up in care get a happy ending: 23% of the adult prison population has been in care and almost 40% of prisoners under 21 were in care as children. Only 6% of care leavers go on to university, compared to 38% of other young people. Whether it’s financial issues, accommodation or not having supportive people around them, children in care have the odds against them and it doesn’t get any better as they hurtle towards adulthood.

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Dementia damaged Ron’s emotions. Then I took him chocolate shopping

As a Dementia Friend I gave Ron’s wife weekly respite and something even more precious: I helped him rediscover his ability to show her affection

Being semi–retired, I often have spare time on my hands, so last year I started to volunteer through the Alzheimer’s Society as a Dementia Friend. I had a career of dealing with society in all its facets, so this seemed ideal for a people-person like me.

Once I was trained-up, I was introduced to Ron and his delightful wife, Mary. They had been together for more than 40 years and it soon became clear that Mary’s life revolved entirely around caring for her husband. She was always very friendly, cheerful and never complained but, as the months passed by, I could see she was under pressure.

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Scrapping social work bursaries will push students out of poorer areas

Cornwall is the second poorest region in northern Europe – without a bursary, the cost of training will be beyond many students’ means

The government is planning to redirect money used for social work student bursaries into a national Frontline graduates development scheme. This could have potentially devastating consequences for the future of social work provision – and for the most vulnerable service users – across the south-west of England.

Even though a decision on the scheme has yet to be officially announced, students at my institution, Plymouth university, are already preparing for the worst and considering how they will be able to continue their studies. Without the bursary, the cost of training to become a qualified social worker would be beyond their means.

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As someone with learning disabilities, I believe we need a say in the services we use | Gary Bourlet

I started Learning Disability England so we can take part in improving the services and support we depend on

This week sees the launch of Learning Disability England, a new organisation that aims to strengthen the voice of people with learning disabilities in politics, policy-making and service provision. People with learning disabilities and their families will be directly involved in how the new organisation is run and what it decides to do.

Part of the reason for launching the organisation now is that services and support for people with learning disabilities and their families are in a terrible state. The implementation of the 2014 Care Act is failing, with some people experiencing a reduction in their quality of life and local authorities not providing good-quality information on people’s rights under the act.

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Councils cancel special educational needs contracts with law firm over ‘gloating’ tweets

Law firm attacked after publicly celebrating ‘win’ over a family seeking educational support for their child

At least eight local authorities cancelled or promised to review contracts with a law firm that specialises in fighting support claims for children with special educational needs (SEN), after its managing director published a series of tweets apparently gloating at parents.

Mark Small, the founder of Baker Small, which until Tuesday acted for around 20 local authorities, attracted widespread condemnation from parents of children with disabilities after publicly celebrating “a great ‘win’” over a family seeking educational support for their child. The firm later deleted the posts and made a donation to charity.

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What would Brexit mean for the NHS, social care and disabled people? | Denis Campbell, David Brindle and Patrick Butler

A leave vote could lead to a reduction in healthcare spending, experts warn, and an exodus of social care staff, while disabled people fear for their rights

Alongside the economy and immigration, the NHS has emerged as a key battleground in the EU debate. That is because the leave campaign decided early on to deploy the health service as a core argument in their plea to voters. Leave leaders Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have said consistently since campaigning began in April that Brexit could free up up to £8bn extra a year to spend on the NHS.

Leaving the EU would not, however, provide more money to spend on the NHS, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies. “Rather, it would leave us spending less on public services, or taxing more, or borrowing more.”

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For child asylum seekers turning 18 is a time of fear not celebration

When unaccompanied asylum-seeking children turn 18 their support can be completely cut off – no matter how long they have been in the UK

Do you remember your 18th birthday? Was it a time of anticipation, excitement and joy? Your whole life ahead of you and so much to look forward to.

Not so much if you are an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child in the UK. You might have been here for a few years, done well in school, be happily settled with your wonderful foster parents – but your life is about to be turned upside down.

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After 30 years of Childline, children in trouble still need a friendly ear | David Brindle

The helpline has moved with the times as many children’s first contact with the organisation is online. But the ‘value of voice’ persists

Colin Butler’s first call was from a girl, perhaps seven or eight years old, in a phone box in Northern Ireland. Her father was “a devil” and she wasn’t going home, she blurted out. Thus began Childline, 30 years ago this autumn.

Butler, then a teacher, was one of the volunteers operating the 30 telephone lines available to the new organisation that first evening. They had no idea what to expect. As it turned out, the lines were swamped: an estimated 50,000 calls were attempted that night by children desperate to talk in confidence about abuse or other things troubling them. Esther Rantzen, the TV celebrity behind the initiative, declared: “Childline is here to stay and will remain open round the clock.”

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What does the EU do? Making it clearer is key for people with learning disabilities

Those with autism and learning disabilities haven’t always been seen as an important part of the electorate. We must make politics more accessible

We often hear about people being disengaged from politics because of age, gender, race or background. However, people with learning disabilities are one disenfranchised group rarely spoken of.

I have Asperger syndrome and am aware of the challenges people with autism and learning disabilities face; from finding a job to carrying out regular everyday tasks such as planning a journey. For many, getting to grips with politics is just another challenge and a potential cause of isolation.

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It’s not only serious case reviews that need to change

Reviews are costly and repetitive but the new framework needs investment before it can make a difference to children’s lives

Last week saw the publication of Alan Wood’s review of local safeguarding children boards (LSCBs), which also looked at the purpose and function of serious case reviews. I have been leading serious case reviews since 2008 and so, like many others, was intrigued to see what his conclusions would be. But while I accept the system was ripe for change, I am not sure how his recommendations will achieve what he set out to.

The Department for Education (DfE) has accepted there needs to be fundamental change and that serious case reviews, in their current form, will be scrapped. They will be replaced by local learning inquiries, which will have to be completed quickly and published, and national reviews, which will investigate the most serious and complex cases. A new panel will be responsible for commissioning and publishing these national reviews, and a What Works centre for children’s social care will analyse and disseminate learning.

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