Local charity launches appeal for homeless children

By Arantxa Barrachina

AN ONLINE campaign launched yesterday to give Christmas presents to homeless children across Scotland.

The Social Media Santa campaign will deliver presents to homeless children by working with housing and homelessness charity Shelter Scotland.

According to the new statistics, 21 per cent of children in Edinburgh live in poverty. More than 4,000 children will be homeless in Scotland this Christmas.

Social media users are encouraged to buy presents for boys and girls from the age of 6 months to 16 years old. Gifts can be ordered or bought and sent to Shelter Scotland office in Edinburgh by 12th December.

Everyone who buys a gift can post a photo of it on social media using the hashtag #SocialMediaSanta

The campaign was launched by Ross McCulloch, Director of Third Sector Lab, a specialist digital agency working with charities and social enterprises.

Ross McCulloch said: “Twitter users can make a real difference to homeless children in Scotland this Christmas. By sending gifts like books, toys or games, we are hoping that Social Media Santas will help make this Christmas better for hundreds of children and their families across Scotland.”

Graeme Brown, Director of Shelter Scotland, said: “Social Media Santa is an innovative and generous way of using social media to help bring a little bit of Christmas cheer to homeless families and their children.

“No child should be homeless at Christmas but we know there will be more than 4,000 children homeless this festive season across Scotland, so we will carry on our campaigning until there’s a home for everyone. Until then, we will always be grateful for the kindness and generosity of fundraisers and members of the public who donate to help our clients.

“On behalf of all the children and families already helped, we say a big thank you to Ross McCulloch and all the Social Media Santas across Scotland. We now look forward to receiving and distributing the results of this year’s campaign.”

For the last three years social media users have been participated giving a Christmass gift for homeless children. Last year, Shelter Scotland charity have  received a whopping 227 gifts.

In Scotland 220,000 children are living in poverty, one in five of the child population, and this could soon rise.

The charity is calling people to participate in the project and remembers the importance of solidarity, specially at Christmas time.

The child poverty campaigners are also urging Scottish and local government to ratchet-up delivery of the Child Poverty Strategy.

 

 

 

Scotland’s first Festival of Erotic Arts smothers the smut

With Edinburgh International Festival’s much-anticipated summer programme being launched on Wednesday and the first Fringe tickets already on sale, March is the time when the buzz of Edinburgh’s summer festivals really kicks off.

But there’s a new festival in town which is getting the tongues of arts enthusiasts wagging: the Festival of Erotic Arts (FEA).

Running for three days in June, FEA is the first of its kind in Scotland and follows a growing number of cities who have begun hosting such festivals in recent years; Seattle’s Festival of Erotic Art is now in its tenth year, and attracts over 10,000 visitors, while similar events take place annually in Paris, Berlin and New York among others.

As with any new and controversial event, FEA’s programme announcement sparked furore over the weekend, with both the city council and the Church of Scotland voicing concerns over the potential risks posed to vulnerable women and the impact advertising could have on children.

But rather than reinforcing and perpetuating clichés, the festival’s organisers, Itsy Live Events, promise to give a platform to erotic art in all its forms, as well as creating a place for art and performances not otherwise seen in mainstream venues.

Events are typical of any other arts festival; exhibitions and talks include Erotic: Surreal and Abstract and A Spoken History of the Erotic Arts. The innocently named Arts & Crafts Fair is being plugged as “a one-of-a-kind sexy fair” with everything from books to accessories to clothes being sold by craftmakers and artists alike.

For those keen to dip their toe into the erotic water, there’s a beginner’s workshop in Japanese style bondage, which involves decorative ties with ropes. Run by a bondage professional, the ticket price includes a goody bag with lesson sheets, 15 metres of rope, and an all-important pair of safety scissors.

Despite being a short, weekend festival, many of the names involved in the FEA are the crème de la crème of the UK’s fetish scene. London-based Torture Garden’s fetish, burlesque and body art club nights for “alternative arty weirdos” are the biggest in the world, with previous visitors including Marilyn Manson, Dita Von Teese and Jean Paul Gaultier. A debate on the nature of human sexuality will be hosted by award nominated cabaret act, ArtWank, while internationally bestselling author and blogger extraordinaire, Zoe Margolis, will be giving a Q&A on the art of sex blogging.

With Margolis a regular contributor to The Guardian and The Observer, the FEA is going out of its way to make sure this festival is taken seriously. Describing it as “a sleaze-free celebration of a thriving art form”, there’s an undeniable absence of smut in the way it’s being marketed – and if nothing else, it’s good advertising for Itsy Live Events’ other specialist service, “reputation management”.

UK parents can’t afford to lend money to their children

Disturbing figures reveal that a quarter of UK families with children under 16 have no savings at all, compared to a national average of 19%.

People in their late thirties and those who are divorced are also among the ones left most financially vulnerable as they bear the brunt of family responsibilities.

The numbers show that a quarter of Britons aged 35-44 years old have no savings at all, with 73% of these people saying they have no money available to save. Although they do have some savings, 39% of people who are divorced and living alone are currently failing to save anything at all, noticeably higher than the national average of 32%.

“Although these groups aren’t mutually exclusive, what we can discern from the research is that all the points in this ‘Risk Triangle’ have significant family responsibilities. We can see that family giving has risen exponentially, but this is clearly unsustainable.  It begs the question, that without taking steps to provide, how will they help their children in another five years through education or onto the property ladder?” commented Iain McGowan, Head of Savings and Investments at Scottish Widows.

According the latest Scottish Widows Savings & Investments Report, the average amount of money UK parents can afford to lend to their children is £12,846. This number has increased by almost a third since the financial downturn in the last five years.

A further trend shows that over half of Britons are saving for the short-term, or not at all.

Explaining this short-term attitude, Mr McGowan said: “We are increasingly seeing people fail to plan properly for the future. When a life stage – whether having children, buying a home or planning for retirement – is so far away, we tend to not take it into account, preferring to focus on the here and now instead. However not only is this misguided, this short-sightedness will cost the current generation dearly, and deliver a huge savings shock further down the line.”

San Fran bans Happy Meal toys

By Claudie Qumsieh

If you’re going to San Francisco, don’t expect a toy in your Happy Meal.  The city has become the first major U.S city to stop giving children toys with unhealthy meals. For meals to be sold with toys they will need to have less than 600 calories, contain fruit or vegetables and have a drink without lots of sugar. 

The decision is an attempt to address the childhood obesity problem. San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar said ‘Our children are sick. Rates of obesity in San Francisco are disturbingly high, especially among children of colour’

McDonalds’ spokeswoman Danya Proud said “We are extremely disappointed with today’s decision. It’s not what our customers want, nor is it something they asked for.”

Kids are big customers in fast food. In the US more than $520 million is spent on toys and marketing directed at children, according to the US Federal Trade Commission report (2006). When combined with how much is spent targeting children by other food and drink companies, it totals $41.6 billion. In a recent Which? survey 38% of 8-11 year old said McDonalds was their favorite chain because of the toys in Happy Meals.

Although advertising during children’s TV is banned in the UK, advertisers are coming up with more sophisticated routes into children’s psyches. “Don’t play with your food”, parents used to say. Marketing campaigns have convinced at least some parents that playing with food  is fun. Some retailers in the UK sell McDonald’s Play sets for 3 year olds and above. These 3 year olds can play with plastic nuggets, hamburger ingredients, cookies, fries and ketchup.
 
One mother’s online review of the McDonald’s Play set said: “i bought this for my son’s birthday because he loves McDonald alot. When he opened it, I can see his eyes lighting up. He was so happy and play with them everyday!” (sic) 

 

Video games are another way to target children. In the popular Sims game, where players control virtual communities, players are  rewarded for running a virtual McDonalds Kiosk. In this virtual world characters eat food and earn credits for “hunger” and “fun”. Associating fast food with fun and play is one way to create long-term relationships with unhealthy food.

15% of American children are overweight according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Comparatively in the Scottish Health Survey 2008, a third of children (33.6%) were out with the healthy weight range, an increase from 29.8% a decade before.

The Scottish Government has established a National Indicator to reduce the increase of children out with a healthy range by 2018.

Midlothian council appeal for families during National Adoption Week

By Karen Rafferty

Sandra Bullock has done it. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman did it. Katherine Heigl has done it, and now Midlothian Council has launched an appeal for it. What is it? Adoption. Midlothian Council have release an appeal in the hope finding new families for children in the local area.

At present there are 90 children living in foster care in Midlothian, however homes are specifically needed for siblings or for children over the age of 5. The council aim to assist those who wish to apply to adopt by offering support at every stage of the adoption process.

Councillor Jackie Aitchison said: “Adoption can be rewarding and challenging and we are committed to provide help, guidance and support at each step of the way. We will often pay an adoption allowance to assist in providing an adoptive home for a child, if additional support is required”.

They are welcoming applications from single people and couples from a variety of backgrounds, and offer to provide support and guidance to prospective families. They believe that although there is no such thing as the perfect family for adoption, the main concern is that the needs of the children can be accommodated. According to their website they “require adopters from various backgrounds and with different life experiences who can provide a family for life for children who are unable to live within their birth families.”

This appeal comes as part of a national campaign to highlight the plights of children without families. National adoption week is running until 7 November 2010, and has been backed by national charity BAAF (British Adoption and Fostering). This week, BAAF released the results of research into the many misconceptions regarding adoption. Chief executive, David Holmes said: “It is very worrying how many myths have come to dominate in adoption. It concerns us that people may disqualify themselves needlessly, which could mean a child misses out on a family … every case is treated individually.” [Read more…]

Child belonging to….?

National Adoption Week, 1st - 7th November 2010

 By Anne Mackie

It’s National Adoption Week.  A campaign that aims to raise awareness of adoption, spreading the word that every child deserves a loving family life.

The campaign is supporting information evenings at daily drop in centres throughout the week for potential families looking to adopt.  

Organiser David Holmes opposed these claims, highlighting the campaign as “a fantastic way of giving security to children that have had a very difficult start in life. These meetings provide a common lead to find loving permanent families”.

In Edinburgh, children need the same support and love of a family. The Midlothian Council has advised people to put their names forward to adopt local children who need a permanent home with a loving, new family.

New statistics allege approximately 4,000 children need adopting every year. Habitually they are victims of neglect or abuse, removed from their biological parents for safety sake.

In the Edinburgh area, there are 90 children living in foster care. Almost 20% of these children are in need of adoptive care.

The council has put out a plea specifically seeking potential families for children in sibling groups or those over the age of 5.

Social work Cabinet Member, Jackie Aitchison said:

“Midlothian Council is committed to increasing the numbers of children who can be placed for adoption by providing support to adoptive families to help them take on the care of children. Adoption can be rewarding and challenging and we are committed to provide help, guidance and support at each step of the way. We will often pay an adoption allowance to assist in providing an adoptive home for a child, if additional support is required.”

Aitchison urged the people of Edinburgh to: “Think about whether you can offer a permanent secure home to a Midlothian child and pick up that phone now!”

Both single parents and partnerships are urged to apply. The only requirement is that you can support and offer a child a stable and loving family life.

Scottish youngsters are the most active in the UK

Children walking to school

 

Scottish seven-year-olds are more active and less likely to be considered obese than other children in the UK of the same age.

 Researchers at London University’s Institute of Education tracked the development of 15,000 youngsters born in the UK between 2000 and 2002 found that Scottish children were the most likely to take part in physical activities.

 More than half of Scottish children walk to school every day compared with only one in four Northern Irish children of the same age and nearly half of the Scottish children surveyed were involved in after-school or weekend activities at least twice a week.

 Only 27% took part in sport less than once a week or never, however the figure was lower than in the other countries of the UK.

Researchers also discovered there were fewer overweight and obese children in Scotland and England than in Northern Ireland and Wales.

Just 5% of Scottish seven-year-olds and 6% of English youngsters were said to be obese, compared with 7.5% of Welsh children and 8% of Northern Irish children.

Experts said the results did not necessarily mean that children in Northern Ireland and Wales were heavier simply because they were less active than Scots.

 

Safety fears could force Edinburgh nursery to move

By Kati Rawlins

An Edinburgh nursery housed on the top floor of a seven-storey block faces being moved as councillors debate safety concerns over its fire evacuation routes.

Westfield Court Nursery, in the west end of Edinburgh, has already been scrutinised by Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service, along with health and safety staff. City councillors will decide on Tuesday whether to transfer its 25 pupils to two alternative nurseries by next month. If councillors agree to the move, officers will prepare a report on options for the nursery’s longer term future.

City education leader Councillor Marilyne MacLaren said: “Because of its situation, Westfield Court Nursery has been subject to special health and safety reviews for some time now.  After each review we make adaptations and improvements to the building and to its safety procedures.”

Concerns remain even after modifications to the building and the nursery’s evacuation procedures.

MacLaren added: “There is nothing more we can do at this stage to address the fire risk associated with getting a large number of small children down seven flights of stairs from the top floor of the block. The only option open to our health and safety officers has been to recommend a decant to other nursery facilities.”

Places are available at Tynecastle and Calderglen nurseries for the pupils of Westfield Court Nursery, whose carers would move with them.

Cllr MacLaren  described Tynecastle and Calderglen nurseries as “of the highest quality – children can expect a warm welcome and an excellent early years education”.

Light Drinkers During Pregnancy “Not at Risk”

by Katy Docherty

Two units or more can harm the baby

Women who enjoy a weekly glass of wine during pregnancy are not putting their child at risk according to the findings of a new study led by University College London. One glass of wine can be equal to 2 units.

This new research conflicts with the Government’s advice that women should avoid alcohol altogether whilst pregnant. This was decided in 2007 after research found that 1 in 10 women were exceeding the recommended limit. The government line will not be changed in light of this study.

Dr. Yvonne Kelly, a lead author of the study, says, “There’s now a growing body of robust evidence that there is no increase in developmental difficulties associated with light drinking during pregnancy”.

A Department of Health spokesperson says, “as a precautionary measure, our advice to pregnant women and women trying to conceive is to avoid alcohol.”

Around 11,500 5 year olds were involved in the study published by The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health which says that children of mothers who drink up to 2 units of alcohol a week during pregnancy are “not at increased risk” of emotional problems or learning difficulties.

The National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) published guidance in 2008 admitting that although there is uncertainty over light drinking in pregnancy but that it is safe to drink after the first three months of pregnancy.

Parents Drinking Causes Harmful Consequences on Scotland’s Children

By Jennifer Flett

ChildLine issued a new worrying report this week stating that in the last year 230 children in Scotland have called the charity help line about their parents’ drinking, with 87% claiming physical abuse as a consequence.

These figures demonstrate a different aspect of Scotland’s ongoing problems with alcohol, as they establish calls are disproportionately twice as high as anywhere else in Britain.

Spokesperson Alison Wales for ChildLine said of the new report;

“What we know about already is that kids continue to call about it and since a study in 2005 issued by Edinburgh University, where alcohol was found to be the biggest concern for children, the situation has not got better.

“Since the report, we now know that there are hidden children who are not likely to have talked about problems because of how chronic the situation is for them and it’s the crucial aim of ChildLine to voice their concerns to get the message out there.”

Government agency Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) worked in conjunction with ChildLine to complete this full in-depth report.

 Dr Evelyn Gillian, director of SHAAP and co-author of the study highlighted the consequences on children in this situation in saying,

“The degree of emotional stress experienced by children is taking away from their childhoods especially in cases where they are having to take on more responsibilities within the family.”

 In addition to Dr Gillian’s comment, Alison Wales spokesperson from ChildLine underlined a prevalent issue concerning attitudes to drinking;

 “ There is a lot seen in the media about young people drinking, a lot of negative press. In reality children and young people phoning in about parents drinking habits is heard much more consistently.

“Alcohol has been marginalized in terms of young people and binge drinking, especially in Scotland and our relationship with SHAAP is important in allowing society to look at the broader issues at hand.”

This September the Scottish Government unveiled new licensing laws in supermarkets, pubs and clubs, targeting the price of alcohol in hope of minimizing excessive alcohol consumption. 

The report recommends that to accompany new laws better education is needed in schools to teach the social aspects of alcohol abuse within a family, including family break-ups, bereavement and job loss and not just health effects.

Along with education another important factor in addressing the issue is to create more services for children and young people to turn to which are age appropriate and able to cater for the “hidden” children who may be at substantial risk because of limited options.

 Tam Baillie, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, emphasized;

“The Government has to take the appropriate steps in tackling alcohol misuse as a matter of urgency because this impacts children more than drug misuse does in Scotland.”

Children of Alcoholics

By Alice Croal

Childhood, for many of us at least is a time we look back upon fondly. We reminisce about the time when we did not have a care in the world, however for some children in Britain, childhood is a time of fear and isolation.
These children are referred to as COAs (Children Of Alcoholics). Britain has always had a difficult relationship with alcohol and we are constantly reminded of the dangers of binge drinking and its effects to ourselves, what we are less aware of is the effect excessive use of alcohol by a parent has on children.
Alcoholics Anonymous is set up to help support and care for people with an alcohol dependency, but this does not help children who must tackle living with their parents alcohol dependency with little to no support, often experiencing psychological damage along the way.
A recent report from the Priory brought to light the shocking statistics of the effect alcoholic parents have on their children. In the case of child abuse 90% of cases involved at least one parent with an alcohol addiction and that 70% of COAs go on to later develop one or a variety of addictions such as alcohol, gambling, drugs, sex or food. It is not only young children that are effected, around 80% of all teenage suicides come from alcoholic homes and that if a child is raised with an alcoholic parent they are four times more likely to become an alcoholic in later life. This stems from that fact many scientists believe there is a hereditary predisposition to alcoholism. COAs often feel different from other children, and therefore unable to talk about it to anyone, many simply withdraw into themselves to help hide their parents problems from public scrutiny. It is ridiculous that a child should have to protect a parent.
In a report by Martina Tomori about the personality traits and characteristics of children with alcoholic parents the main uniting factor amongst COAs is the feeling of isolation they experience from other children at school. COAs often exhibit behavioral problems, preferring to keep themselves to themselves. The most common effects of living with an alcohol dependent parent are; low self-esteem, loneliness, guilty, helplessness, fear of abandonment and chronic depression. These personality traits can lead to problem with making relationships with others, the Priory report also states that a child from an alcoholic background is 50% more likely to get married to or live with an alcoholic in adulthood. Various non-profit organisations come to the consensus that children can end up blaming themselves, believing it is their fault for a parents behavior.

Isolation (courtesy of MNTC)

So the real question is, what are we doing to help these children? COAs are not few and bar between, in America alone 15% of all children are living with an alcoholic parent and it is estimated that in an average size classroom 6 children will have one parent with an alcohol addiction.
There are a variety of different non-profit organisations that specialize in helping COAs, such as Childline and NACoA (National Association for Children of Alcoholics) and the lesser known Alateen. A press release by Alateen states that they help children by giving them ‘an understanding of the illness and feel the benefits of realising they are not alone. They learn that they did not cause this problem and that they are not responsible for their relative’s or friend’s drinking or behaviour’.
Alateen is a branch of the Al-Anon group set up by Lois Wilson, wife of Bill Wilson, founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. Al-Anon is a world wide organization which focuses on supporting family members of an alcoholic, already making clear that the actions of alcoholics do not just effect them but all those around them with the tagline ‘Someone else’s drinking can affect your life’. Alateen was set up by a teenager in California who had a father in the AA and a mother in Al-Anon. The organisation offers support for children between the ages of 12-17 on how to cope with having an alcohol dependent parent. Support groups are set up and there are 800 groups across the UK and Ireland today. Alateen offers literature such as the book Hope for Today designed for the children of alcoholics which offers ‘daily thoughts and meditations based on the sharings of Al-Anon members with the family disease of alcoholism’. A member of this group, who wishes to remain anonymous commented that it’s ‘good to talk with others in the same age group. Some feel they can’t discuss any issues bothering them with the rest of their family’.
The truth is that there is no easy answer for alcoholics and COAs. We can however hope that with a raised awareness of the dangers of abuse and psychological problems, children in Britain can hope that for the future they will not have to feel alone in carrying the burden of living with an alcoholic parent.

Giving Voice to Children with the Swine Bug

By Caroline Fraser

As parents, carers and teachers fret about what effects the dreaded swine flu bug will bring next, the young victims speak of their illness.

With at least 12 schools closing their doors across Scotland headteachers are worried about their pupils’ education.  In addition, parents across the nation are terrified they too will succumb to the virus.  However, are  the young people who are missing out on vital education voicing an opinion or have they simply become another statistic?

This is apparently the case.  Simply type ‘swine flu’ into any search engine and within seconds, your eyes will be blinded with facts and figures and ‘concerned’ headteachers around the country.  But, where is the 15- year- old school pupil and sufferer’s comment: nowhere to be seen.

5th year pupil Laura Fraser at Culloden Academy, Inverness, told Edinburgh Napier News, ‘The school handled my swine flu very well.  The staff were very understanding and sympathetic and wanted me to be fully recovered before I returned.  In this case, I think the school made the right decision not to close as there were only a few cases of swine flu among us pupils.’

Fraser continues, ‘I think that too many schools are closing across Scotland.  I think schools should only close if it is absolutely necessary as closing the entire school means the majority of pupils are missing out on learning.’

Sneeze_FullWith the victims of swine flu falling into the teenage and young professional age bracket, it seems that children are missing out on the most important parts of their learning.  With Higher exams and prelims in the foreseeable future, Fraser added, ‘I was very worried I was going to fall behind with my work and would miss out on revision time.  I know of other people who live elsewhere in Scotland and their school has been closed and they don’t even have swine flu.  They missed out on work for no reason.’

The viewpoint of the school child is one that is worried about school studies and this is to be echoed throughout pupils all over Scotland.  However, luckily for Fraser, Culloden Academy sent her work home to help her stay involved with what her fellow classmates were being taught as not to fall too far behind.

With outbreaks of swine flu across Scotland set to rise before they fall and with news that during the past week  13,800 people are reported to be ill due to swine flu, it is only a matter of time before we hear of more and more schools closing their doors on those who have the virus and unfortunately to those who do not.  However, if schools do indeed close completely, those lucky pupils who are fighting fit, will have to put up with learning from home.

Are dolls influencing children?

Do toys sexulise young children? Jenna Raffaelli investigates.

Radio clip:bratz

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