| South Africa, Palestine sign MoU for cooperation!

South Africa: SA, Palestine Collaborate to Improve Local Government ~

SAnews.gov.za (Tshwane)

Pretoria – Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Lechesa Tsenoli and his Palestinian counterpart Saed Al Koni have signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which will see the two countries deepen their working relationship.

The MoU makes provision for an exchange programme between SA and Palestine, in the interests of improving the work of local government.

Speaking to SAnews after signing the agreement, Tsenoli said the MoU was a symbolic representation of a step towards building a better world.

“… The MoU benefits are not only aimed at the advancement of local government, but also for the education of young engineers and others who would like to get skills opportunities in both South Africa and Palestine.

“The signing of this MoU is important because we’ve always maintained that our freedom is interconnected with the freedom of others elsewhere, who are facing similar challenges like us. So this relationship also fits in with our own agenda of strengthening local government capacity, which we need from the Palestinians.

“The MoU also speaks to our agenda of building a better world through working together, as we undertook in 2009 that we will work with others to make our world a better one. The signing of the MoU today is a symbolic representation of the step we are taking towards that direction,” he said.

Tsenoli described the relationship with Palestine as an “historic one”, which dates back to the period before the dawn of democracy in 1994. He said through the MoU, South Africa will reinforce its capacity to turnaround its municipalities.

The minister had high hopes for the exchange work that will take place following the signing of the MoU. He said the MoU laid the foundation not only for government-to-government exchange, but also for people-to-people.

“People expect to see change in their lives, especially at the local government level. If the Palestinians can help us to improve the capacity of our local government, we will also contribute to their programmes aimed at improving their local government as well.

“This … will offer us an opportunity to learn from each other… We also view this as a great opportunity for our people, especially the youth, to be skilled and trained.”

Al Koni said the Palestinians were enjoying their deep-rooted relationship with South Africa.

“With regard to local government, what we’ve noted is that we have mutual experience, a similar history to our struggle. We had the same programme to build a strong local government,” he said.

He said Palestine admired South Africa’s democratic institutions, which have grown in leaps and bounds since 1994.

“We hope that the MoU will benefit us from your experience of building a well capacitated local government,” he said.

Al Koni and his delegation of senior officials have been in South African from 16 February and are expected to stay until Saturday, 22 February. The visit is part of strengthening relations between the two countries, after a MoU was signed between the respective ministries in July 2013.

The MoU provides a framework for cooperation between the two countries in the fields of local governance and municipal development and is currently being implemented.

It also provides for cooperation in various fields including the legal framework of local governance; municipal finances and intergovernmental fiscal relations; urban and strategic development planning and the amalgamation and restructuring of local government units.

The cooperation is based on the needs, interests and potential of both parties. It set the foundation for launching an exchange and cooperation programme between Palestine and South Africa.

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| Social workers antagonising parents: Experts cashing in by manufacturing risk?

PSYCHOLOGICAL ISSUES IDENTIFIED IN PARENTS – IS THERE ENOUGH UNDERSTANDING BY PROFESSIONALS INVOLVED IN CARE CASES? ~ Kirsty Richards, Jordan Publishing.

 

Since I wrote my last opinion piece in April 2013, I continue to practice in children law proceedings (both private and public) and read the article by Kitty Knowles in the Metroyesterday (2 December 2013) : ‘Social Services have a baby taken from mother’s womb’.

While it is inappropriate to comment on that particular case without being aware of the full facts and circumstances, it raises a very serious issue for practitioners involved in care work when psychiatric and/or psychological concerns are raised against one or both parents.

The article in the Metro reports that this particular mother had been taken to a psychiatric ward after failing to take her medication and suffering a panic attack. The local authority then had concerns for the welfare of her unborn child.  After a period of 5 weeks, it is stated they forcibly sedated her and performed a caesarean section, placing the child with foster carers and refusing to return the baby to its mother due to their fears she may relapse. See the response from the local authority at http://www.essex.gov.uk/News/Pages/Essex-County-Council-responses-to-interest-in-story-headlined-Essex-removes-baby-from-mother.aspx

My discussion here centres around the attitude towards any mental health diagnosis, not with regards to the specific case mentioned above.

One would usually expect to see some Expert Reports commissioned during public law proceedings and it is the attitude of some professionals as to the lack of empathy in considering a particular diagnosis, with the effect of “writing off” of parents which is a growing concern in care proceedings.

I have vast experience of public law cases whereby following the receipt of an Expert report, with a diagnosis of either a Psychological/Psychiatric condition, that particular parent is very quickly written off as a possible carer by the Local Authority and other professionals involved in the case when there is clearly scope to consider a more holistic approach as to what support and care package could be provided to enable that parent to provide good enough parenting to the child subject to proceedings.

The recent judgments in Re B-S (Adoption: Application of s 47(5)) [2013] EWCA Civ 1146, [2014] 1 FLR (forthcoming) and Re G (Care Proceedings: Welfare Evaluation)[2013] EWCA Civ 965, [2014] 1 FLR (forthcoming) have provided practitioners and the court with a much needed reminder that the premise of the Children Act 1989 is to afford children the opportunity to remain with their birth parents if it is at all safe to do so.

Further reminding us that if support is required to enable that parent to look after the child, a thorough analytical report is required setting out exactly what support is required, whether it can be provided and if not, why not.  A holistic approach is required in care proceedings, with thorough and in-depth planning so as to allow the court to reach decisions as to a child’s long term care arrangements with a sound evidential basis.

All too often, professionals will read a psychological/psychiatric report and all too quickly assume its conclusions render that particular parent unable to provide good enough parenting to their child/children.  We should keep it at the forefront of our minds that there is no such thing as perfect parenting and the test is one of ‘good enough’ parenting, which should be achievable with some support in place for particular parents that require it.

As an example, earlier this year, I had an expert report commissioned in a public law case which concluded both parents have personality disorders and the very nature of their particular disorders means they will struggle to deal with information from the local authority (and other professionals) if it is not presented to them in a particular way.

The expert recommended that parties acknowledge the diagnosis of the parents and ensure they communicate with them in an open and honest way, in order to achieve a good working relationship with them.  (It had also been a part of that report that there is clear evidence the parents are able to communicate with some professionals; those that speak to them in an honest way and so the presence of this particular personality disorder did not mean it was an unworkable situation).

Sadly, I did not see any other professional take those conclusions into account and saw an overwhelming attitude that there was no time to put in the extra support needed in terms of explaining things clearly to those parents – leading, inevitably to a poor relationship between the parents and local authority, in particular, who the parents considered would always make decisions and tell them about changes rather than engaging them in open communication and decision-making regarding their children, for whom they still held parental responsibility for – alongside the local authority.

The refreshing judgments coming from the Court of Appeal, such as Re B-S and Re G, are simply reminding practitioners of the basic point that every child deserves to live with his/her biological parent if it is safe to do so. Practitioners and other professionals dealing with care work are supposed to be involved in the careful planning for these vulnerable children and in writing off their parent(s) simply because a psychological issue has been identified is surely providing that child a disservice. A truly holistic approach requires all parties to challenge any linear care planning put forward by local authorities and for there to be, in my view, a better understanding of psychological issues and indeed an empathy towards those suffering personality disorders (for example), who will need more support than others to provide that good enough standard of parenting.

The Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming says he plans to raise the case discussed in the Metro in the Commons and I think that most certainly should be done.  He states that ‘[he worries] about the way these decisions about a person’s mental capacity are being taken’ and I too am concerned that unless there is a conscious effort by all involved in care proceedings to look beyond mental health issues, too many children will be stripped of the opportunity to live with their birth parents and that surely goes against the very premise of the Children Act 1989?

Kirsty Richards is a Senior Family Solicitor at GT Stewart Solicitors in London.

The views expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily those of Family Law or Jordan Publishing and should not be considered as legal advice.

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| UK: ‘A million children growing up without fathers!’

‘A million children growing up without fathers’ ~ Hannah Richardson, BBC News education and family reporter, 10 June 2013.

A million UK children are growing up without a father in their lives, says a new report on family breakdown.

The Centre for Social Justice report says lone parent families are increasing by more than 20,000 a year, and will top two million by the next general election.

In some areas fatherlessness has reached such high levels that they are virtual “men deserts”, it adds.

And it accuses politicians on all sides of a “feeble” response.

The report says the number of single parent households has been rising steadily over the past 40 years, and that now 3m children are growing up predominantly with their mothers.

‘Tsunami of breakdown’

This has led to a huge number of children growing up without a meaningful relationship with their fathers – which the report defines as contact twice a year or more.

The absence of fathers is linked to higher rates of teenage crime, pregnancy and disadvantage, the report says, warning that the UK is experiencing a “tsunami” of family breakdown.

And it highlights areas of the UK with very high levels of lone parent households – although this does not necessarily mean the children living in them have no contact with their fathers.

In one neighbourhood in the Riverside ward of Liverpool, there is no father present in 65% of homes with dependent children. Liverpool has eight out of the top 20 areas with the highest levels of fatherless households.

‘Men deserts’

There are 236 pockets of towns in England and Wales where more than 50% of households with dependent children are headed by a lone mother.

And an area in the Manor Castle ward of Sheffield tops the lone parent league table – among households with dependent children, 75% are headed by a lone parent.

CSJ director Christian Guy says: “For children growing up in some of the poorest parts of the country, men are rarely encountered in the home or in the classroom. This is an ignored form of deprivation that can have profoundly damaging consequences on social and mental development.

“There are ‘men deserts’ in many parts of our towns and cities and we urgently need to wake up to what is going wrong.”


For children growing up in some of the poorest parts of the country, men are rarely encountered in the home or in the classroom”

The CSJ report recalls David Cameron‘s election pledge to lead the “most family-friendly Government ever”.

Yet, in power, the family stability agenda “has barely been mentioned”. Comprehensive action to tackle existing policy barriers to family stability “has been almost entirely absent”, it adds.

‘Transferrable tax allowance’

The report calls for concrete steps to encourage marriage, including transferrable tax allowances for married couples.

The Department for Communities, Local Government and the Regions responded highlighting its programme for highly troubled families.

A DCLG spokesman said the programme was helping to get thousands of children back into school, reduce youth crime and anti-social behaviour and put parents on a path back to work, as well as reducing costs to the taxpayer.

“In the first year of the three-year programme councils had already identified 66,000 fully eligible families and were working with over 35,000. This is good progress considering many services have been established from a standing start and puts us on track to work with 120,000 families by 2015.”

“For children growing up in some of the poorest parts of the country, men are rarely encountered in the home or in the classroom”

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