Scotland set to become first country in UK to ban smacking

By Heather Miller and Caitlin Gallagher

Scotland is set to become the first country in the UK to make it illegal for parents to punish their children with physical force.

Parents within Scotland are currently allowed to use “rational” physical force to discipline their children. The Scottish Parliament is holding a vote this afternoon regarding the ban on all physical punishment which is predicted to have large support in giving children the same level of protection from assault as adults.

If the bill is passed, Scotland will become the 58th country to introduce the legislation to parliament.

Green Party MSP, John Finnie, proposal leader of the Equal Protection Bill had this to say ahead of the debate this afternoon:

“Today the Scottish Parliament has the opportunity to pass vital legislation to protect children.

“It’s staggering that the only people not afforded legal protection from assault are our smallest and most vulnerable citizens and now is the time to change that.

“This Bill will take Scotland into line with international best practice, other countries have recognised that physical punishment has no place in the 21st century and it’s time we did too.

“This evening we take an important step towards putting an end to it for good.”

Conservative MSP Miles Briggs disapproves of the ‘Smacking Bill’, stating:

“The Scottish Conservatives believe that we should not replace good law with bad law. The current law already protects children from violence and it works well.

“It allows “reasonable chastisement” from parents, while preventing assault and disproportionate punishment of children.

“ The reality is that a majority of Scottish people are against this Bill as it would criminalise loving parents.”

Currently in England and Wales parents can face charges if children are left with marks or injury. However, Wales are close to following Irelands legislation that was passed in 2015.

Children’s Mental Health Week rounds off fourth consecutive year

(Credit: Let The People Speak)

Children’s Mental Health Week comes to an end in the UK this weekend after the ‘Place2Be’ campaign received an overwhelming amount of support on social media.

Overseeing school talks and spreading awareness has been the main focus for mental health organisations this week after figures were released late last year showing that one in eight people under the age of 19 suffered from mental health issues.

The ‘mental health of young people and children survey’ conducted by the NHS was launched in November 2018 and provided evidence to suggest that one in five children were victims of cyberbullying, statistics many organisations have highlighted to underscore the importance of awareness campaigns like Children’s Mental Health Week this year.

Place2be‘ has focused this week around their ‘Health: Inside and Out’ campaign which attempts to spread awareness around the physical wellbeing of children and how it can affect their mental state.

However, much attention has now been drawn towards the social media aspect of the campaign after reports surfaced of children attempting to commit suicide as a result of online bullying in the past few months.

According to government surveys, at least 40% of parents are concerned about their child’s wellbeing in relation to online bullying.

Many public figures have been spreading awareness on Twitter using ‘#ChildrensMentalHealthWeek’, sparking high levels of online debate regarding recent issues.

Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour party used the hashtag to push for better access to arts and sports in schools:

Mick Coyle, presenter for Radio City Live in Liverpool, highlighted a public art project that saw 200 pairs of childrens’ shoes laid out, representing the annual suicide rate for young people:

Government proposals have now been put forth as a part of Children’s Mental Health Week and MP’s are now expected to introduce sanctions on social media websites in order to tackle the ongoing cyberbullying crisis.

 

Scottish Government pledges £30,000 to help prevent children going missing

The Scottish government has announced plans to finance a programme to support children and young people at risk of going missing.

Nearly two-thirds of missing person investigations in Scotland involve young people. The new scheme aims to educate this at-risk age-group on the dangers of going missing and how to receive professional help.

The programme has been awarded £30,000 funding by the government to tackle the issue from a preventative position.

Nearly 64%, of all missing person investigations in Scotland involve young people and the charity Missing People, one of two charities involved in the new programme along with Barnardo’s Scotland, say that these figures are likely to be a significant underestimate.

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Credit to missingpeople.org.uk

Only 1 in 20 children who run away from home seek professional help.

Missing Persons Operational Coordinator Yackson Bell from Police Scotland spoke about missing people in the Capital. Yackson estimates that in the Edinburgh about 54% of the 3,000 missing person incidents last year involved children.

Yakson pointed out that young people who run away put themselves at an increased risk of experiencing crime or sexual exploitation:

“We live in fear of that on an almost daily basis.”

“All these risks are heightened if a young person goes missing.”

“If we can raise awareness of that then its something that then we support it 100%.”

You can listen to Yackson Bell talk about the programme here.

 

Museum of Childhood

A trip down memory lane.

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The Museum of Childhood, 8th October 2018. Photo by Ross Hempseed.

Initially, looking at the impressive facade of the Museum of Childhood, you might feel overcome with giddy enthusiasm as you prepare to take a trip down memory lane. This is as close as you will come to entering a real-life time machine, and into a work of youthful innocence. The museum’s latest exhibit, entitled Growing Up with Books, showcases some of the oldest and most beloved children’s books throughout history.

The new edition boasts a wonderful collection of early works for children including some well-known titles such as Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and Little Women. All centred around specific themes, many of the books date back hundreds of years. Throughout time,  they have all been loved by generations of children who have grown up to learn important life lessons taught within the pages of their favourite childhood literature.

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Picture of Alice in Wonderland book, 8th October 2018. Photo by Ross Hempseed.

The exhibition is split into themes such as ‘Worlds of Imagination’, in which you find classic fairy-tales. Interestingly, back in the late 19th century, some of these stories were seen as a danger to the growth of children’s minds as they perpetuated worlds which were fictional and unrealistic. However,  for most children, it opened up a whole new world where they could immerse themselves in adventure and explore the impossible.

Since their publications, they continue to be a popular influence in many childhoods; even today books such as Alice in Wonderland, which was first published in 1865 and remains one of the best-selling novels of all time with an excess of 100 million copies sold, are loved worldwide. Other novels from the late 19th century such as ‘Black Beauty’, ‘Pinocchio’ and ‘20,000 Leagues under the Sea’ have all sold over 50 million copies, which shows both the longevity and the relevance of the underlying message of these books, which is to use your imagination.

“Imagination is more important than Knowledge.” Albert Einstein.

Another theme was ‘Worlds of Knowledge’, in which educational children’s books are displayed, highlighting the ongoing importance of books as a learning tool to help children examine the world around them and develop a healthy curiosity. Sadly, nowadays many children look to the internet rather than books to solve simple questions and explore their curiosities, which often undermines the need for books at all. This section of the exhibit proves why it is important for children to be familiar with books, as it showcases books focusing on science, humanities and religion. These give a fascinating insight into children’s learning and how they developed a relationship with these books as learning tools through notes and scripts within their pages.

“The more that you read. The more things that you will know.” Dr Seuess.

Museum Curator Susan Gardner was able to highlight some of the key aspects of the exhibit and how it developed from the back catalogue of over 16,000 books to the 150 that are on display now. These books are a representation of all key themes such as learning, imagination, growth and identity:

Having spent time with the books they speak to you as they do to all children who get lost in the images of dragons and damsels in distress, misty mountains and ancient castles, thunderous giants and promises of gold and adventure. Yet for adults who grew up reading rather than playing video games or surfing the internet, the exhibition offers a gentle reminder of how these books helped shape and define them as adults today.

 

Autistic children need ‘Super-Parents’ to improve their disability

Do children with autism need special care at home as well as in school? So do parents need ‘special’ training to support autistic kids? According to a research published in the Lancet, the parents’ better understanding of what autism is and how it affects their children will improve the autistic child’s disability.

The study focused on children with severe autism, who were often unable to talk to their parents. The training consisted in recording the parents and the autistic child while playing then watching the video back with a therapist to pull out information and highlight easily-missed moments when the autistic child nearly imperceptibly moved to play/interact with their parents.

What this research wants to achieve is improving mum and dad’s parenting to increase and develop the social skills and help the child communicate. This training slowly moved on to getting the child to speak more.

Erin Hall-Gardiner social worker at Supportive Positives Paths based in Edinburgh after two years of experience working with children and adults with disabilities and in particular with autistic children and their families totally agrees with this research. Parents should have access to this kind of help and its through this studies that they have the chance to understand how they can best support their children, can bring out the best in them and allow their relationships to flourish.

Super-Parenting seems like a great therapy as it is an early intervention that incorporates the whole family’

Megan Casson social worker and carer at Supportive Positive Paths as well believes instead that autism is not really about improvement, its about the child becoming slowly more confident and doing things more easily in their own time.

‘I don’t really agree with a specific training to become “special parents”. When a child is diagnosed with autism the whole family automatically develops an interest in the topic, inform itself and starts a mutual process of learning and understanding through a trial-error technique’.

Many parents see this as a very controversial and very sensitive topic. Some families could take the ‘train to improve the understanding of your child’ the wrong way. Families will have to choose freely if taking part in this sessions is beneficial for their autistic kid and for the harmony of their relationship.

 

 

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