Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Raising the standards in Early Years..

There has been so much said recently about raising the standards in the Early Years sector and reducing the cost of childcare.  I have been a childcare professional for 18 years and have worked in a variety of settings and roles and wholeheartedly believe that there needs to be stricter qualification requirements for those wishing to enter this wonderful and important profession.
I have been on all sides of childcare.  I have been a student (yes it was some time ago but I did it),  I have been a nursery worker, team leader and on the management team.  I have been a childcare tutor and assessor and more importantly I have been a parent who used childcare from an early age in my children's lives.
Let me take you back, it was late 1993 when I went to visit a local college to try and decide what I wanted to do with my life post school. At that age I couldn't boil an egg properly let alone make such difficult decisions.  I always wanted to be

  • a social worker
  • a teacher
  • or work with children in some way
so as you can see, I had an idea of the type of people I wanted to work with I just wasn't sure in what capacity.  I had applied to complete A levels in case I wanted to go to Uni to complete the Social work degree, but out of curiosity I was drawn to the college.  Admittedly I went to see about the Health and Social Care course but somehow found myself in the Childcare rooms talking to the tutors about becoming a Nursery Nurse.  I applied, was interviewed and offered an unconditional place on the course.  the course I was completing was an NNEB and to get on this course you needed to have a minimum of GCSE grade C in Maths and English.  To cut a long story short, I completed my course, gained my experience and went out into the big wide world.  I was so excited, until I realised I would only earn £5ph
Now my course required me to attend college for three days a week and two days in placement in year one and vice versa in year 2, I had 6 placements in total in different settings - invaluable experience which I don't believe students gain nowadays. I was NOT allowed to be counted in the ratios as I was a student and only learning.  I was taught to a high level and the knowledge I gained can NOT be learned whilst 'on the job'.
The current system of NVQ's, of which I know a great deal about since I assessed them, doesn't offer this level of in depth knowledge and relies on the individual and the setting to learn/teach all the underpinning knowledge they need.  Imagine this, if you are trying to run a busy day nursery or classroom, you just don't have the time.  NVQ's can be manipulated to ensure the learners meet the criteria and it all boils down to the assessors ability to assess them and ensure they have all the right attributes and knowledge required.  This you might think would go without saying, but they are also under pressure to meet targets and get as many learners through as possible with none leaving or not completing the course.  I had to complete exams and lots of observations/plan/activities etc etc. I am not saying those who have completed an NVQ are in any way shape or form are less qualified or any less of a worker than I am, what I am saying is that it is my belief that NVQ's aren't sufficient in ensuring competency of staff and standards need to be raised.  These people are looking after and teaching our most precious creations.
In order to raise the standard of people looking after and teaching our children we need to ensure they are paid appropriately and qualifications are reflective of the fact that they are our children's first teachers (apart from us parents of course).
I like the idea of an Early Year Teaching qualification and an Early Years Educator Qualification, as long as the pay is reflective of the job role.
It's about time people stated to realise that childcare is not just sitting and playing in sand, water or pushing cars around a mat all day, it is much much more.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Is this country fair?

I was asked to write my views on the current benefit system we use in the UK following my post about the 'Council Housing Crisis', as you can imagine this is a very emotive topic and one that has taken some careful consideration of all the points that need to be made.

So to start with I want to think about all the people that NEED to claim benefits.  I believe that there are people out there that are deserving of their benefits, for example, those who are disabled or unable to work due to health reasons and the elderly.
Unfortunately there are some people who truly believe that the country owes them a living, and it's these people that I question as to whether they are deserving of help from the state.
I would also question whether enough checks are done on people who emigrate to this country to see if they have money in the home country??

It is quite clear that  this country doesn't  have enough money to go around and some cuts have to be made, strangely, I find myself agreeing with the Conservative Government on quite a few (not all) of the changes they would like to impose.

We have got to accept that we cannot go on doling out money to those that don't need it, if that means cutting child benefit from the top earners or cutting housing benefit then so be it.  What would be nice would be to see the MP's taking a cut too (a drastic cut in salary, not a pathetic 1%), this would then make the people feel as though we are all in it together.  This,  I fear, is easier said than done as there will always be people who complain that their money is being cut.

There are jobs out there - people need to realise that they have to do whatever job they can and are not going to go straight into a £20k job.  I HATE the argument that migrants are 'coming over here and taking our jobs'.  I mean, come on, those who say this are generally those who haven't worked a day in their lives and find it an easy excuse.  There are jobs, unfortunately, it might mean swallowing your pride and taking whatever you can get, but there are jobs.

What has happened to the work ethic of this country?  Generations ago there was real shame in accepting help from the Salvation Army and having to get handouts for school clothes/shoes etc, nowadays it's seen as a right to have these things paid for you.  We are now in an epidemic of workshy youths who believe that the world owes them a living, don't get me wrong not all young people are like this, but it is a culture that is growing more and more.  It's a vicious circle that no-one seems to be able to break.  In other European countries Job Seekers Allowance, or their equivalent, is only available to those who HAVE paid into the system already and they only get a certain amount back which is relative to what they have paid in.  Therefore, any young people who haven't worked will NOT be able to claim anything.  There Parent's are responsible for them.  Anyone who moves to them countries must  have money to sustain themselves, if they end up out of work they will be able to claim but only what they have paid in... this seems a fairer system (one that will never be adopted here though)

I had an interesting discussion with my Mother-in-Law over the holiday period about this, she was stating that she felt all those who were addicts shouldn't be given handouts/vouchers for their vices.  She is a staunch Labour supporter and feels that they would 'deal' with these people more effectively than the current government.... I had to point out to her that this is exactly what the Labour government stand for and if anyone wold stand up to them it would be the current government... I was wrong....apparently.

I have read a few Facebook posts recently with regards to the Early Education Grant for 2 Year Olds, for those of you who don't know, people who are claiming Income Support/JSA/Child Tax Credits and are NOT entitled to Working Tax Credits can claim 15 hours free childcare, however, these places are limited and there are other criteria that need to be met before a place is offered.  The Government aim is that ALL 2 year olds will benefit from 15 hours free childcare and are aiming for this to happen from 2014.  Now people have been complaining because they see it as yet another handout for those that don't work and that they are being penalised for working.  I ask you to think about the children in all this.  They might not be from stable, loving homes and may desperately need this escape where a professional can look after them and monitor them.  Also by providing this childcare, Parents are encouraged to seek part time work or enrol on courses to up skill so they can seek employment.  It's very easy for people to throw stones where they don't know the full story, but I beg you to think about the children who are benefiting not the adults.

If anything in  this country is to change, then we all have to prepare to tighten our belts and stop feeling that we are owed a living by the government, things HAVE to change, the system needs to be tightened up, it would help if the different agencies talked and shared information then people wouldn't receive things they are not entitled to and we have to teach the next generation what work is all about.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Council Housing Crisis

Over the holiday period I posted a couple of blogs about children who were homeless and living  in refuge's or temporary accommodation.  This is a situation that we would all hope we never found ourselves in, however, it may happen.  All it needs is a separation in your family or a redundancy and you could find yourself there.

Imagine my horror and shear frustration when I was driving home on Boxing Day and stumbled across LBC's radio phone in.  At the point I tuned in they were talking about the shortage of council housing in the country and the reasons for this.  The presenter was asking whether or not people who are living in council houses that are now too big for them should be asked to move.  Now I know the government have flaunted this idea recently and it has caused quite a stink, personally I think we need to re look at the purpose of council housing and make a stand against those that abuse their right to have a council house.

Should a council house be for life?  The simple answer for me is NO.  A council house should be an emergency accommodation that can be used to support people getting back on their feet and in a position to move on with their lives.  It shouldn't be seen as a right to have a council house - they're just isn't enough of them to go around.  Now don't get me wrong, I am all for people who need help getting the help they require, what I am not keen on is people abusing the welfare system and milking it for all they can get.  

One o the phone is guests on the show explained that she and her family had been on the waiting list for a council house for 10 years.  The lady began getting emotional, and at first you would think Oh My God, that's ridiculous 10 years is a long time.  She then went on to tell her story, there is her, her husband and their child.  Both adults are working and are currently living in privately rented accommodation.  At this point I was shouting at my radio (much to the disgust of Titch, The Boy and t'other half who were sleeping nicely in the car).  Why did this lady believe that she was entitled to a council house?  why was she getting upset because she hadn't had her banding changed in years?  BECAUSE YOU ARE WORKING AND YOU HAVE A HOUSE!!!!!  There are plenty of people out there who don't have a house and this family would be depriving one of them further if they were offered a council house.

The other thing that wound me up about this programme was the general public's lack of knowledge on how Local Authorities work.  One lady from East London came on and said she had been asking her council for years to find her somewhere smaller to live (she had a 4 bed council house with garden), when asked where she wanted to live she said Bognor or Wales!  A local authority can't place someone out of their area as that new authority will have a very long waiting list too.  It's just not that easy, but people were under the impression that it should be straightforward.  She needs to be pestering the authorities where she wants to live to try and get housed, unfortunately her priority rating will be low because she already has somewhere to live.

I do think the government needs to look at the situation and ensure people who are living in housing that they no longer require, single people in large homes etc, are moved to more appropriate housing. The council houses should never have been sold originally, but we can't look backwards, we need to address the situation we are currently in.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

2013 the start of something new....

Happy New Year One and All.

2013 is set to be a year of excitement and numerous possibilities and I would like to wish each and every one of you health, wealth and happiness for the coming year.

I have over the last few (20+) years said at this time of year that I will aim to lose weight and get fit in the New Year....... this has NEVER happened!!

2013 is going to be different, for a start I have a determination I never had before, also I am going to start blogging about my trials and tribulations over at  I am hoping that this public (humiliation) documenting of my progress will give me the support and determination to continue and progress.

I will continue to blog here also and aim to regale you with more interesting tales.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blogs and once again, Happy New Year.  

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Are we normal??

After a full and stressful day at work, going from meeting to meeting, I find myself driving home listening to talksport and remembering that the Mighty Leeds United play tonight.  Excited, I pull over and phone my other half....
"what time will you be home tonight?"  I say
"I'll be setting off shortly, not going to the gym now, not feeling too well so gonna come home and have a bath.  Why?" he says.
"Leeds are playing tonight and I wanted to know if I could watch in peace..... I was also hoping you might bring me some beer home to watch the match with??!!"
"Not a chance" he says.

Cut to 7:30pm...

"are you going up yet?" I say
"Yes, I'm going now"
"Good, I can put the footy on now"

I then put the football on, while the other half goes for a nice relaxing bubble bath!!

While he is soaking his weary bones I am downstairs shouting at the TV..........

I'm pretty sure this is the wrong way round......

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Christmas, the season of good will.....

It's early morning and the kids are excited that the big man has visited.
You lie in bed and wait til you can get in the bathroom
You jump out of bed, make your way to the bathroom and then return so you can begin Christmas morning...
Sound familiar???  How about if I explained it more....
It's early morning and the kids are excited that the big man has visited.  I am in a blind panic wondering if they will notice that all their toys come from the pound shop or the charity shop... I just don't want to let them down.
You lie in bed and wait til you can get in the bathroom.  All the other residents are using the bathroom, I am not sure who is in their and don't want to be seen by them in my bed clothes, especially if they are a man.
You jump out of bed, make your way to the bathroom and then return so you can begin Christmas morning... I am literally running down the corridor to the bathroom to get in next and to avoid other residents as they scare me.

Is this how you would like to spend Christmas Morning?  No, I didn't think so, but this is the reality for a lot of people this Christmas.
More and more families and children will be waking up in temporary accommodation, a refuge (if they are the lucky ones) or on the streets.  There is a staggering amount of children (75,000) who will be homeless this year.
Some of these children will be there because their parents have been made redundant and subsequently lost their family home.
Some will be there because they have been evicted from their home.
Some will be there because one of their parents may be fleeing domestic violence, imagine going to your local housing department thinking you will get help, you explain that you are currently staying with your family but you can't stay there as there just isn't enough room for you and your children, you have been asked to leave.  You tell them this and they try and find you a hostel, you get promised a place, when they phone you to complete the risk assessment you are turned down because you are pregnant.  It's now 5pm and the housing department are shut, you are forced to stay another night where you are not wanted, the next morning you go through the same thing, again you are denied a place in hostel because you have too many children. You repeat this process, and all the time you are slowly sinking into depression and beginning to feel like you don't belong anywhere.... maybe you should return to your abuser at least you will have a roof and that's got to be better right??  Anyway, you stick it out another night, and you don't get a hostel but are given a B&B for the NIGHT (you have to repeat the performance the next day), you go as it seems a better option, however, when you arrive you realise you are surrounded by alcoholics/drug users... what do you do?? (This is a true scenario)

These families need protecting and supporting.  Please help them.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Roofless vs Homeless

Whilst at work today, where I am a Family Support Worker, I was supporting a friend to help a relative of their's complete an application to the local Foyer.  This is a supported accommodation for young people aged 16-25yrs.  Whilst filling it out, it asked what his housing status was.  I was surprised to see the following terms and definitions:

□ Roofless (sleeping rough / on the streets) 
□ Homeless (e.g. living with friends / family but temporarily or on a sofa)
□ Difficulty with current accommodation (e.g. harassment/disrepair) 
□ Fleeing violence / Unsafe address 
□ Threatened with homelessness (e.g. told to leave home / notice to leave from landlord)

I guess for me it was the first one that puzzled me.  Most people think of homeless as being the 'sleeping rough/on the streets definition, I know I did.  When talking to people and they said that they were homeless it never occurred to me that the definitions had changed and there for when they sought housing from the local authority were they giving them the correct phrase to show their current housing situation??

How many of you, if you were in that situation, would know to describe your situation as Roofless rather than homeless?