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January 2011



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Prime Ministerial Debates launched with Leaders Debates on ITV


The first ever Prime Ministerial Debates take place in Great Britain on Thursday 15th April on ITV, at 8.30 pm, in front of a 200 strong invited audience.

The first Leaders’ Debate chaired by Alastair Stewart willl focus on the domestic agenda.

The three leaders, Gordon Brown of the Labour Party, David Cameron of the Conservative Party and Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrat Party will face each other in the first of three debates on British Television.

An estimated 10 million people will tune into the 90-minute debate on ITV. The debate will be held in a Granada Television studio, in Manchester. They will face only eight questions. At the start of the debate the three leaders will be allowed to make a one minute address and they will be allowed to make closing statements. The debates are bound by over 70 rules negotiated with all three political parties.

The US Presidential Debates between Barack Obama and John McCain in 2008 drew between 52 million and 63 million viewers and over 70 million people watched the famous television clash between Richard Nixon and John F.Kennedy in the United States in 1960.

The Prime Ministerial Debates are new to Britain. The second debate chaired by Adam Boulton on Sky News on 22nd April evening will focus on international affairs and the final debate on BBC hosted by Richard Dimbleby on the 29th of April will be on the economy.

Ivan Corea of the UK Autism Foundation said: ‘We welcome the Leaders’ Debates on television, this is history in the making and I am sure that even parents and carers and members of the Autism Community will tune in but we would like to see Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg tackle questions about public services and important issues on education,health and autism/Asperger’s Syndrome. UKAF has been calling for Disability Issues to be included in the debates but whether a question relating to disability/autism will be picked is of course another matter. We have asked the leaders to remember the needs of vulnerable, in the 2010 General Election and speak out for parents, carers and all people with disabilities including autism and Asperger’s Syndrome.’

Autism campaigners in Britain have called for the next Government to consider setting up stated funded autism schools and state funded Autism Academies, initiating an autism strategy for children and an autism strategy for the elderly, permanent increases in the disability living allowance, the carers allowance, child benefit and tax credits in order to support poor families and people with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, ring fenced investment for autism services, among a range of key issues.


Joint Working: New Labour’s families

By Joe Lepper
Children & Young People Now
13 April 2010

Numerous policies have affected the lives of children and families since Labour came to power in 1997. Joe Lepper asks three families if they have made a difference.


The Goodfellow family live in a remote farmhouse in Sherbourne, near the Somerset and Dorset border. According to a report by the Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) last November, the lives of many families in such locations are blighted by poor transport links, limited access to health services and a lack of childcare places.

The report, Peace and Quiet Disadvantage: Insights from Users and Providers of Children’s Centres in Rural Communities, found that those living the smallest villages were the hardest hit.


But while mum Rachel admits that government support for transport and childcare is rare in the area, she feels well supported by friends and neighbours.

“We are isolated in our location but don’t feel isolated. There is such a strong sense of community, people here really look out for each other,” she says.

The family, which includes dad Phillip, and sons Alex, 22, George, 10, William, six, and Peter, three, used to live in a nearby village and still rely on the support of the community there.

“With health visiting services, we’ve been lucky, as the local health visitor’s children go to the same school so we knew each other,” says Rachel.

The same sense of community helped when a neighbour provided childcare when Rachel returned to work for a period.

Ten-year-old George also enjoys rural life, painting a different picture to that in the CRC report. He says: “It’s brilliant here. You can walk for 10 or 20 miles and there’s just countryside and woods.”

He prefers to be outside playing sport rather than indoors and is looking to join the Scouts next year. “We do have to drive to get to places, but there is lots to do around here,” he says.

School is something he particularly enjoys. “We do a lot outdoors stuff at school and have trips away. I can’t wait for secondary school as it’s got really good sports facilities,” he says.

Life for the Goodfellows changed dramatically four years ago, when Rachel and Phillip decided to become foster parents.

Over the past four years Rachel says she has noticed a heightened focus on ensuring children have the chance to stay closer to home. “Because of where we live that has been difficult but we know it is important. For some children, something like school is the only constant in their life,” she says.

But with limited funds available for fostering, sometimes Rachel has to take tutoring jobs when money gets tight.

“I didn’t go into fostering for the money, though, it was something I wanted to do. When I was young there was a family near us who fostered. They always seemed so happy,” she adds.



Medway resident Claire Ryan has three children with Asperger’s syndrome. She says that Labour hasn’t lived up to its “every child matters” mantra.

Gaining the specialist support and education needed for each of her children, Hollie, 14, Josie, 11 and Jack, four, continues to be an uphill battle. Despite repeated attempts to get support for Hollie, who had problems socialising at primary school, her Asperger’s was not diagnosed until she was 10 years old.

“We thought the diagnosis would be the gateway to support. We were wrong,” says Claire.

It wasn’t until Hollie started secondary school that she was eventually offered support from the child and adolescent mental health support team, “but by then it was too little too late,” says Claire. Hollie’s problems got worse and she was admitted to a child and adolescent mental health unit last year.

Hollie says life is challenging for young people with disabilities: “I don’t feel like a teenager because I can’t do the things other teenagers do. I am more mature than most 14-year-old teens, but I feel incredibly socially awkward. I feel lonely and not part of typical teenage life and that is not fair.'”

For younger daughter Josie, support has been better in some areas. Diagnosis of her Asperger’s came when she was seven years old and she attends a specialist school on the Kent/Sussex border. But in some areas support for the family has worsened over the last 13 years.

“With Hollie I had no complaints about health visiting, but health visitors are like gold dust,” says Claire.

But at least the family feel they have the law on their side since the Disability Discrimination Act was updated to include schools.

Last year, a tribunal ruled that Josie has been unlawfully discriminated against, when the school failed to properly take into account her condition after a change in routine involving a literacy class.

Another ongoing battle is gaining speech and language therapy for Jack, who has had just two hours support in the past two years. “They just do not have the staff or the funding,” explains Claire.

The government is aware of this issue. In response to 2008’s review of speech and language services by John Bercow, ministers pledged £5m to spend on a pilot to identify and share good practice. However, such measures have yet to filter down to a local level.



David Eales lives with wife Shirley and teenage daughters Joanne, 17, and Laura, 13, in Ealing, west London. For the first three years of Laura’s life Shirley remained at home to look after the girls but then she returned to work. “It was easy to find childcare,” recalls David, “but the fees were toe-curlingly expensive. That really surprised me.”

Improvements have been made. National Insurance rules changed in 2005 to encourage employers to offer childcare vouchers, but this was too late for the Eales.

Living in London, the family has also been affected by the creation of elected mayors under New Labour. David has mixed feelings about some of the policies that have been introduced in London, particularly free transport for under-16s and congestion charges for motorists to enter certain parts of the capital.

“On one hand it’s really good that there’s free transport as it really opens up chances to travel and makes life much easier and cheaper,” he says. “But there is a knock-on effect. Young people don’t walk anywhere and don’t exercise. I’ve really noticed that in recent years.”

Congestion charging has also affected his area. “We are just outside the zone which has meant that congestion has got worse, the roads are busier and there is a worry over road safety for children.”

David welcomes Labour’s increased investment in schools, particularly the Building Schools for the Future programme which allocated £300m to spend on improving Ealing’s secondary schools. “It will really help with class sizes and give more choice in the area,” he says. “The large class sizes for Laura and other children are a worry.”

Laura also has concerns about education. She says that lessons often feel “too routine and not exciting”. Pupils also don’t really get a chance to go out of the classroom.

Another bugbear for Laura is the time teachers spend with disruptive pupils. “They focus a lot of their time on disruptive pupils and neglect the rest of us. When I ask the teacher a question, they say, ‘can you wait a minute’ while they deal with a disruptive pupil, but it often takes a long time to sort out,” she says.

David and Shirley’s pressing concern is the cost of higher education for their children, with the cost of taking a degree rocketing with the introduction of tuition fees. “We are starting to realise how expensive it is. It’s a real shock as it was free when I went,” he says.

A report by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2008 criticised the UK’s intolerance and “inappropriate characterisation”

of young people. Laura says adults continue to treat young people unfairly: “A lot of the time when we are out with friends it is as if adults just assume you are up to no good.”


THE NEW LABOUR YEARS: Milestones in the past 13 years of children’s and young people’s services

May 1997 Labour wins a landslide election victory, ending 18 years of Conservative rule

July 1998 The new government announces plans for Sure Start children’s centres, with £452m to get 250 centres running by 2002

February 2000 Victoria Climbie dies. Her death sparks a national outrage as a later review uncovers major failings in child protection

May 2004 Building Schools for the Future programme launched. More than £16bn earmarked to be spent between 2005 and 2011

September 2004 The Every Child Matters green paper is published, which outlines how children’s services can work together better

July 2005 The Youth Matters green paper is published. It promises to provide more things do and places to go for young people

April 2006 All threeand four-year-olds become eligible for 12.5 hours a week of free childcare for 38 weeks of the year

February 2007 A Unicef report places the UK bottom of a league table on childhood wellbeing in industrialised nations

November 2008 Details of the Baby Peter case made public. The case prompts a major review of child protection procedures

March 2010 The government hits its target of having 3,500 Sure Start children’s centres open

Source:  http://www.cypnow.co.uk/news/996090/Joint-Working-New-Labours-families/

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