And Life Goes On

The random bloggings on what gets my goat!

Archive for the category “Social Care”

Living with Alcoholic Parents

At least one million children in the UK are living with alcoholic parents, with up to 3.6million people in Britain scarred by the drinking of one or both parents.

Latest research estimates that there are at least one million children living with an alcoholic parent, but the true number is believed to be much higher. But because drinking is very much “the norm”, social workers often turn a blind eye, or do not even realise the seriousness of what is going on.

If a social worker were to enter the home of a heroin user, action would be taken, but if they were to be drinking, this will not even be recorded.

Children who grow up with alcoholic parents bear emotional, mental and behavioural scars, with 55% of domestic violence incidents happening in alcoholic homes and alcohol being a factor in as much as 90% of child abuse cases. The NSPCC states that 1 in 4 cases of neglect that is reported to them involves a drinking parent.

Alcoholism affects the entire family, especially the children. Children of alcoholics are 4 times more likely to become an alcoholic and 50% more likely to marry an alcoholic.

The late Mo Mowlam, whose father was an alcoholic stated the “hidden suffering” of families is getting worse as the excessive drinking increases.

We need to be more aware of the signs and give these families, especially the children more help and understanding of the issues they face and for social workers, doctors and teachers to be given training to be able to notice the signs early on to perhaps break this dangerous cycle.

NACOA – 0800 358 3456

Is Jon Venables a Monster?

Jon Venables was returned to prison last week after breaching the terms of his licence conditions.

Venables and Robert Thompson, both 10 at the time, abducted and murdered James, two, in February 1993.

James was taken from a shopping centre in Liverpool and found on a railway line having been beaten with bricks and an iron bar. Venables and Thompson, who were truanting from school, walked James around the streets of Liverpool for more than two miles, stopping occasionally to kick and punch him. They told adults who intervened that he was their brother.

Venables who was released under a new identity at the age of 18 and given a new identity when released after the sheer savagery of their crime that had the nation divided as to whether or not both Jon Venables and his co-defendant Robert Thompson should be tried as children or adults. The age of criminal responsibility in the UK is 10, the doli incapax rule conclusively presumes that a child less than ten years old cannot be held legally responsible for their actions, and so cannot be convicted for committing a criminal offence. They were tried in an adult court rather than a children’s court, was this right? Did they have the capability at 10 to realise what they were doing?

They were convicted following a trial at Preston crown court and ordered to be detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure, the usual sentence for life imprisonment when the offender is a juvenile

Thompson and Venables grew up in circumstances which had both striking similarities and profound differences. Both boys had parents who had separated; each had difficulties with attendance, learning and behaviour at school. They bunked off, they shoplifted, they were violent; all these pieces in a pattern that made up a pair of empty, broken young lives.

A narrative emerged of two childhoods influenced not merely by the flaws of parents or the absence of a father, but by the environment in which these boys lived, a world of social and economic deprivation, of trashy television and cultural poverty, inadequate social services, failed schooling and general confusion. It was a place that left a moral vacuum for two children who would go on to kill and leave the unanswered question: why did they do it?

After the trial, Mr Justice Morland laid the moral responsibility squarely with the parents. He said a public debate about the parenting and family background of Thompson and Venables was required. “In my judgement,” he averred, “the home background, upbringing, family circumstances, parental behaviour and relationships were needed in the public domain so that informed and worthwhile debate can take place for the public good in the case of grave crimes by young children.”

Thompson was a member of what can only be described as a terribly dysfunctional family. The fifth of seven children, he proved as difficult to his mother as the rest of her progeny. Ann Thompson had been deserted by her husband five years before the killing of Jamie Bulger, and in the week after he left the family home burned down in an accidental fire. Left on her own, Thompson sought consolation in drink and was often to be found in the bar in Higson’s Top House rather than looking after the children in her chaotic home.

While it was their sons up there in the specially-raised dock, the parents of Thompson and Venables could have been left in no doubt that they too were on trial – that the blame for this terrible murder was placed at the door of their shambolic households.

But can such guilt be so neatly apportioned? There are many families where the parents are struggling to cope, where the children have behavioural problems. Parents are invariably ordinary people with problems of their own. They should instill values and principles in a child but they cannot be there all the time – as Denise Bulger (now Fergus) learned at a terrible cost.

The Venables and Thompson families were at very different places on the spectrum of “dysfunctional” families: if the chain of causality between parental failings and juvenile homicide were so straightforwardly simple how many families should be regarded as pathological – potential producers of more child childkillers?

The parents themselves are not murderers, but whatever blame attaches to them has been abundantly punished. Thompson and Venables moved away from Liverpool after their sons’ convictions eight years ago. They took on new identities, tried to create new lives. Yet these are haunted by the fear of being found and blamed all over again. For they themselves will always feel guilty.

Last night, James’s mother Denise Fergus, 42, said through a spokesman she believed the public should be told what Venables had done to trigger his recall to prison.

“Denise has always said she did not believe that it was safe to parole Venables and Thompson at 18, before they had ever spent a day in an adult prison,” the spokesman said.

“She believes this breach of parole shows that she was right … But she believes that she and the public have a right to know what Venables has done and what is to be done with him now he is an adult offender.”

The Ministry of Justice refused to say what Venables had done to breach his licence. It also refused to confirm or deny whether it involved an act of violence against a person or any other criminal act.

The conditions placed on the killers after their release included that they did not contact each other, and that they stayed away from the Liverpool area.

Michael Wolkind QC said he thought there was a “significant chance” the breach had been serious.

He said: “Licence is a means of controlling people once they are released. Now this has been publicised, I think there must be a possibility of his new identity being exposed in prison and the inference must be it was a serious breach.

“To go to all the trouble of building him a new identity and a new life, there must be a significant chance it was serious.”

So, was Denise Fergus right, were these two boys anable to be rehabilitated?

The Growing Problem of Child Neglect

Tiffany Wright was a child of 3 who died in September 2007 after a catalogue of failures. This poor defenceless child was let down by a barrage of people that brought tears to my eyes when I learned of the poor little darlings plight.

When Tiffany was found dead by police officers, she was not stiff with rigor mortis, she was floppy and covered in insect bites due to the fact that when she was found, Tiffany had been dead for some time.

Her Mother, Sabrina and stepfather, Robert Hirst claimed that she had been ill with a bug and had not eaten as a result if this, this meant she had not been given any food for over 36 hours. They were pub landlords in a pub in Sheffield, this was not even a private residence, surely someone must have noticed something? Appparently not.

Officers in charge claim that Tiffany’s living conditions were ghastly, there were soiled nappies and dog excrement everywhere. Tiffany’s bedroom had no toys, no sheets, no duvet, she was found clutching a pair of old trainers when she had died. Hidden beneath a mattress were christmas presents from family members that had been left unopened! On the floor in Tiffany’s bedroom were pieces of lilac wallpaper scattered all over the floor. How was this child overlooked?

Tiffany’s death was identified as terminal bronchial pneumonia, this condition is mostly associated with victims of famine, she must have been visibly ill, but no one took her to see a doctor. Tiffany had not eaten for more than 20 hours before death, or 3 days before her mother called the ambulance.

Because her mother entered an early guilty plea, she was sentenced to 12 years for manslaughter, her step father pleaded guilty to child cruelty and neglect and received 5 years.

In order to identify that Sabrina was seriously failing her child, she would have to stay in one place long enough, she did not. There surely needs to be a change in the law that if a child is on an at risk register, or somebody has voiced a concern over this child then they should have to register a move, in order that the child is not lost from the system?

Sabrina and Robert ran a busy pub for locals in Sheffield that was near Sabrina’s friends and family and none of these or the locals ever queried why Tiffany was never seen, the Hirst’s would venture out with their son, but because Tiffany was not his child she would be locked in a bedroom and left behind! A c0mmunity midwife was alarmed by the filthy conditions that the family were living in she registered her concerns. Once she entered the pub when Robert was there alone and forced him to take above the pub, their baby boy was cold, hysterical and naked strapped into a chair, there was no side of Tiffany; she was probably locked in her bedroom.

Despite the midwife’s warning, the Hirst’s were contacted by letter and unsurprisingly never replied and no one ever visited the pub to check on the children.

A barmaid at the pub commented after Tiffany’s death that Robert would shout and swear at Tiffany, an odd job man said how he had found Tiffany locked in her bedroom naked, cold and whimpering, he commented “She had clearly been there for some time”.

Relatives also turned a blind eye with one quoted as saying that she had heard tapping in the bar underneath where Tiffany’s room had been she commented “I had the horrible thought that Tiffany was being locked in her room when Sabrina and Robert were out”.

In December of 2006 Sabrina spent most of her time working the bar whilst the chilfren were locked in upstairs, Robert was disappearing on a regular basis by this time, Sabrina was later to find out that these absences were when Robert was spending time with the family he had left to be with Sabrina.

On 27 September 2007, the last day that Sabrina admitted to police to feeding Tiffany, CCTV from the pub captured Sabrina saying she must get her daughter up as “I’ve not seen her for a week”, the next day the tape shows her going shopping for an hour, or the next when they went to visit friends for two hours. Shortly after 9pm, Sabrina went into check on her sick daughter, CCTV images again bear witness to her returning after 10 minutes in distress to collect Robert, he stayed upstairs for an hour and a half, detectives believe that in this time he was tidying up her room and putting a clean nightdress on her cold, naked body. After the pub closed, again the CCTV captures Robert saying “Obviously she has been dead for two days, we could get fucking banged up for this, everything taken away from us”. It was then that Tiffany’s mother called 999.

Sheffield Social Services, in their review of the case stated that there had been serious failings in their handling of the case, despite the midwife, Kathleen Delaney trying to raise the alarm on several occasions, these were all ignored.

How can a community not report the Hirst’s? How can a couple with two young children repeatedly explain their absences time after time? I have two children myself and they are an extension of me, if they suddenly disapperred from my side, neighbours, friends, shopkeepers etc would be asking questions, you would hope.

DCI Powell, the detective in charge of the investigation, has said that the lilac flakes found in her bedroom were the result of her having no toys, clothing or food, Tiffany had resorted to licking or eating the wallpaper fom her wall, an entire arc had been cleared above her bed. This poor child lived above a public house where she would have heard the sounds of people eating, drinking, laughter and talking whilst she was starving to death, naked, cold, frightened and so very alone whilst people in the community turned a blind eye to what was happening to continue to drink beer in their pub. How could you?

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