Protect Child Privacy in the Family Courts!

Over a year ago now I started working with NYAS on stopping the media from having greater access to the family courts, now this is not because we just want something to fight about but rather because there is a whole hot of issues the government have not properly considered including the great potential for jigsaw identification. Rather than reiterate the issues outlined in an earlier post, or what was said in the consultation again, I instead urge you to look back and give it a read.

In 2010 the Government made a commitment to explore the views of young people before implementing Part 2 of the Children Schools and Families Act 2010, now NYAS has carried out this work independently but it has not been properly discussed or considered outside of passionate professionals with an inward view of the situation. The President of the Family Court Division, Sir James Munby, has now published guidance to implement these proposals without exploring the true and damaging effects this could have on children and young people, and all to allow more transparency, and to prove to the public that they have nothing to hide.

I have voiced my concerns over the redaction of information which may be leaked by the media, to which Sir James replied that anyone breaching rules would face a charge of contempt of court [a maximum of two years imprisonment]. Now this is all well and good sanctions being in place but the power to redact this information is far beyond that of the courts; information can be on foreign servers which would require intergovernmental cooperation, it could be disseminated onto other websites, people can save and screenshot information and there is no way in which newspapers can be recalled. Look at my previous post on the power of redaction and consider WikiLeaks and alike.

Although two years imprisonment may be a deterrent information may still be wrongfully disseminated, especially with the media having proposed access to court documents, which can have a lasting and damaging repercussions on a persons future. Regardless of the law it is expensive, upsetting and timely to take a case to court for a breach of privacy, wrongful dissemination or discrimination; it is not only employment which may be affected by these potentially damaging reports but also future relationships with many people admitting to Googling potential partners and friends.

The courts excuse for this greater access is for greater transparency, and yet so far they have negated educating the general public on the information already at hand with sites such as BAILII publishing anonymised cases on a daily basis to which the public [and by proxy the media] have full unfettered access. In this way cases are still able to provide privacy without much of a threat of jigsaw identification or private matters being disseminated beyond what is necessary to provide a fair case.

If we are to give the media full unfettered access we should consider cases such as McKennitt v Ash [2008] EWCA Civ 1714 where a singers friend published discussions in a book which were thought to have been in confidence. It was held that some of the information was disseminated due to the fact that it was thought to have been in confidence and therefore there was a breach of Article 8 [right to respect for family and private life], there is no provision in this article to allow the information to be disseminated via the media, the same is true of the majority of cases which would pass through the Family Courts if the media were permitted greater access. There may be a fear of releasing information to the courts in case it is wider publicised.

In the case of breakdown of relationships there is also X v Persons Unknown [2006] EWCA Civ 2738 where an injunction was sought to stop comment being passed on the state of X’s marriage without actually knowing who would pass this comment. Now this case sought the idea of a contra mundum injunction, [a worldwide injunction,] this is something which would be impossible to enforce but there is the potential for similar injunctions to be sought before a case takes place to ensure the privacy which we currently have come to expect from court proceedings, without which, as I have just said, information may be withheld from the courts, or cases entirely, for fear of publication.

Regardless of the courts idealism it is necessary to consider the knock on effect of dissemination for those seeking judicial intervention. In the case of Re Stedman* [2009] EWHC 935 (Fam) the parents disseminated the information to the papers about a 12 and 13 year old who had a child, a DNA test was sought which revealed that the father was actually a 15 year old. This lead to the mother being shunned in the local community, the original young person finding out that they had been bringing up a child which was not his and the father wanted a relationship with the child. As you can imagine this was a difficult situation having devastating repercussions on the involved parties mental health and well being; the media made things even worse by making their private matters public.

I also have concerns over information the media may acquire outside of the courts. Now I am not going to go into the News of the World and their abuse of technology or Nick Cleggs abhorrent idealism on not prosecuting the media for breaking the law in relation to acquiring stories even with situations such as the outrage resulting from Milly Dowler’s phone being hacked as I have mentioned that in the past, but information is freely available on individuals which may be personal and intimate without them realising which will lead to identification and could be published without permission, just see the video below for a demonstration.

I have outlined some concerns above and in previous posts but now it is your turn to get involved with me and NYAS. We have set up a petition urging the government to deliver on their promises of 2010 to hold a public parliamentary debate on the proposed access of the media to the Family Courts, in total we need at least 100,000 signatures for this to be considered so please sign using the link below:

 “They are bound to be harmed by immediate publicity, both because it would undermine the family as a whole and because the playground is a cruel place where bullies feed on personal discomfort and embarrassment.”

Lord Justice Ward in ETK v News Group Newspapers Ltd [2011] EWCA Civ 439

*East Sussex County Council, Penelope Stedman, Steve Stedman, Nicola Patten, Denis Patten, News Group Newspapers Limited, Channel Four, Tyler Barker, Maisie Stedman, Chantelle Stedman, Alfie Patten (by their respective guardians)

Safeguarding, Privacy and Respect for Children and Young People (Part 5)

As you know we’ve been working on stopping the courts from granting greater access for the media to the family courts, if you are not sure what has happened so far just look back at my earlier posts.

So this time we had the opportunity to address the Association of Lawyers for Children at their Annual Conference, this is a collection of amazing minds who work to better the lives of children and young people including a cross section of judges, solicitors and barristers; and I have to say there were a number of faces I recognised from working with NYAS in the past.

We gave an over view of our findings from the consultation, ultimately What the hell were you thinking?! If you pardon the paraphrasing. I chose to describe the balance of articles 8 [right to a private and family life] and 10 [freedom of expression and information], it was such a daunting prospect to be lecturing on the law to professionals in the field although I did put in a dig about the English lacking behind on implementing the UNCRC.

Following us vocalising all of our concerns around greater access it was time for me to shine as a digital technologies consultant:

I began by highlighting the attempts various governments have taken to remove WikiLeaks and the fact that Julian Assange is still living in exile with all of his articles intact. A second website I felt it was important to discuss was that of SilkRoad [an illegal online marketplace], and that we actually only access about 10% of the internet whilst the rest is known as the dark web, now SilkRoad was removed by authorities and 2.0 emerged just weeks later highlighting that information can be transferred and re-uploaded without much hassle. The third website I discussed was that of, twenty three of their domains were seized by Microsoft [affecting 1.8 million websites and devices] for infecting visitors devices with various malware, these domains have since been returned with no real safeguards from the situation repeating itself.

With technology it is important to know where advances are being made, with DNS providers now providing switching for free it is easier to host websites. When a server is taken out the service will now switch servers so that the website is not down for a noticeable amount of time. A lot of the time when a website is taken out by an organisation they take out the DNS (Domain Name System) meaning that the server and all of its information is still accessible if another domain is pointing to it.

After discussing the technological implications of websites it is now important to look at the changes to technology regarding Google Spain v AEPD and Mario Costeja González. Since the decision Google has received 167,865 take down requests concerning 569,993 URLs, out of this only 199,263 (41.8%) of URLs were removed; out of these the UK alone has submitted 21,679 requests concerning 74,137 URLs out of which only 22,538 (37%) of URLs were removed.

Here are a few reasons people requested take downs from the UK:

A media professional requested that we remove 4 links to articles reporting on embarrassing content he posted to the Internet. We did not remove the pages from search results.

An individual asked us to remove links to articles on the internet that reference his dismissal for sexual crimes committed on the job. We did not remove the pages from search results.

A doctor requested we remove more than 50 links to newspaper articles about a botched procedure. Three pages that contained personal information about the doctor but did not mention the procedure have been removed from search results for his name. The rest of the links to reports on the incident remain in search results.

A public official asked us to remove a link to a student organization’s petition demanding his removal. We did not remove the page from search results.

We received a request from a former clergyman to remove 2 links to articles covering an investigation of sexual abuse accusations while in his professional capacity. We did not remove the pages from search results.

Some of the information which was removed, was only removed from search results on Google and is still searchable from other search engines and the websites on which they were posted; there is also nothing stopping more links from emerging at a later date, or even the contend from a removed link from being re-posted at another address.

The difference with Google’s removals is that it is links from their own services and the content is still out there and very much available through other services. Out of the above reasons you will see that one is actually for the removal to a link containing information they themselves had posted, this is information they lost control over and was not able to remove so instead they tried to request that it was less searchable.

We will be meeting with the President of the Family Court Division again in December to discuss the developments since our last meeting and where things will progress in he future. As usual keep an eye out for the next installment.

NYAS Digital Technology Consultant

Today is not one of my usual meetings or blog posts, rather it is the beginning of my career as NYAS Digital Technology Consultant [and record of the day for personal reflection] where I will be training and supporting staff alongside the Digital Ambassadors* to improve their services and promotion.

The past few months you will be aware that I have been involved in a consultation regarding greater access for media to the Family Courts, this is something I strongly oppose along with many other children and young people which is why my first real task was to research the best platform for us to host a petition calling on the President of the Family Court Division to halt any changes to access and to urge parliament to hold public consultations/ parliamentary debates taking into consideration the views of young people. [Keep an eye on this blog for a link to the petition.]

Now I have promoted one of my key interests we also had to go over what funding was available to us (this would have to cover training, publicity materials, stationary, travel, coordination, etc.) along with how best to recruit new members. The idea of the Digital Ambassadors* is for them to help maintain and update our social media [Facebook and Twitter] along with contributing to a regularly updated blog on the young persons’ section of the website.

Along with the social media aspect, we also want to develop a mobile application so children and young people can get information and in contact with NYAS services if they so wish. Again we have to decide the best way to market this with some young people, but the ground works are being set so they can get involved straight away rather than having to wait for agreements to be made with companies.

On top of this we also intend to train young people on developing videos for our [proposed] YouTube channel. Training will be provided for all aspects of the project where it is wanted which will enhance our young peoples’ CVs as we can provide them a certificate detailing what they have been involved with.

To recruit new young people we discussed a variety of ideas including weekly competitions where a subject would be set for the blog, young people could contribute for the chance to win a prize, and we would then tell them all about the project and offer further interaction. We are still in discussions with how to best get the initial message of the competition and project out there and what to offer as prizes but a lot was decided on the day.


MEGA Young People!

So today was the first meeting of the North Wales MEGA (Ministerial Expert Group on Advocacy [for young people]) where we will be discussing the various aspects of advocacy and what changes we think should be implemented. Now this is a pilot reference group for North Wales, and as such only consisted of Chris (Voices From Care), Anne (Senior Civil Servant), Mike (Chair of MEGA), a member of NYAS staff, myself and two other young people.

Essentially this group will decide the future of  Tros Gynnal, NYAS and Action for Children who are [at the time of writing] the only advocacy providers in Wales for children and young people. In South Wales a group has already been established which has discussed some of the issues coming up along with providing a role reversal for Gwenda Thomas (previous Deputy Minister for Social Services) and Jeff Cuthbert (previous Deputy Minister for Skills) to experience the world from the point of view of a young person.

When you are a young person first signing on, if you are unfortunate enough to be in that situation, it was felt that job centers should be able to advise on an advocate who will be able to in turn advise the staff on a young persons predicament (such as not having parental contact) as well as advise a young person on why they may not be eligible for certain support they may otherwise just be refused [with no explanation]. This was actually piloted within a few days at a Job Center Plus. They may also sign post to services such as Meic where short term support may be required.

The group has also undertaken a review of Meic, this has included secret shoppers who will phone/text/IM/email with an issue and see what they actually think of the responses received. This is something I have taken part in as part of the South Wales team and it did improve the service to an extent. Meic is an independent advocacy service where anyone up to the age of 25 can inquire for support or signposting to a service specific to their predicament.

One thing the North and South felt passionately was that training needs to be provided to all professionals involved in the care system or with children on advocacy and what it can actually do. Mike [and a team of experts] has worked to calculate how much LAs (Local Authorities) should be spending on advocacy, it came out at around £400,000 although research shows that around a third of LAs are spending less than half that amount and North Wales has cut it’s contract from £240,000 to £100,000 which is worrying to say the least.

Now as well as these problems children and young people are not informed of their rights until it is too late, there is a lack of knowledge for those entering, transitioning or even just involved in the care system; as a group we believe this is unacceptable and there should be more support available and reminders of rights.

When a child first enters into foster care they can feel nervous, or even not allowed to get a snack from the fridge so it is important they know their rights as well as feel comfortable and have a consistent figure they feel they can trust and turn to at any point in their time in care.

This is just a brief overview of our first meeting which was run on a ‘play it by ear’ basis, next time we are hoping for a few more people and plan to link up with the South Wales team within a few months.

Lets Kill Twitter!! Or At Least Redesign It….

Twitter has long come under fire for not protecting its users, after all it took some vile and intrusive threats to feminists such as Caroline Criado-Pere before they even considered a report button on every tweet (which is carefully hidden under the extended menu). Prior to these changes in 2013 is was quite archaic to report anything, you had to find a way to their separate report page and write to the Twitter team with a copy of the offending material and an essay on why it should be removed, although this was often ignored or at least over looked.

Now that you have some context what horrid betrayal of humanity had Caroline done? Well she organised a petition to keep Elizabeth Fry on the £5 instead of replacing her with Churchil…. Wait she wanted to protect the image of a strong female character who provided great good from being replaced with arguably one of the best prime ministers who was well known for alcoholism and violence. Am I missing something or is Twitter protecting trolls?

Prior to this (also in 2013) there was the distressing trend of #Cut4Bieber (potentially distressing link to real time Twitter search) where young girls were self-harming in a bid to guilt Justin Bieber into stopping his recreational use of marijuana. Not only did Bieber ignore these girls and Twitter allowed it to go viral world wide but it ended in the death of at least one young girl. No images or videos of these girls harming were removed, and are still available today; this has lead to the development of mental health conditions for some and attributing factors to others preexisting conditions.

Now before anyone goes on to point out the greater good that Twitter was able to provide during the Arab Spring rising, with global coverage directly from the people involved and no state censorship I think you need reminding of the connections Facebook have forged and that the state have taken measures to block such sites in places such as China and even disconnect from the internet in Egypt.

Now is is partially the anonymity of Twitter which affords activists their voices as they no longer have to fear being kidnapped or bullied after exploiting inequalities or dangers that may be around them. A quick Google search will show you that because of the identifying nature of Facebook some activists are targeted by governments such as Vietnam, Syria and Bahraini just to mention a few. This anonymity also affords for faceless hoards to come out and attack beople just as much as it does defend them.

Now Twitter is changing; with services such as WhatsApp gaining more active users it may be a sign that people want more control over those who can contact them as you have to accept a user before they can interact with you or send you spam. Just look at my Twitter feed where @Miss_Millies follows me despite me never having even visited them, tweeted them or even mentioned them in recent memory. WhatsApp also affords the fact that you are identified by a mobile number rather than some temporary email address, and unlike Facebook and Google + you can change your name and details as much as you like without having to provide proof of your identity. Now I love that you have to accept your friends in WhatsApp, rather than having to block someone on Twitter who could set up another account in seconds and be bombarding you with words or images which aren’t appropriate.

Now as we look at what is appropriate pornography is freely available on the Twitter-sphere with each day being assigned an act or body part which people will promote to the world at large. It took a mass movement before Twitter took heed and actually removed beheading videos and the accounts of ICIS which had been immediately removed and blocked by YouTube and Facebook alike where they never really resurfaced, where as Twitter had repercussions until they finally took a firm stance on their preexisting policy of no violence.

Now as Twitter slowly realizes the responsibility it has to its customers and it moves forward they have announced the ability to sign up with a phone number for app developers to incorporate a single sign in system, much like that already existing in both Facebook and Google. But the question is will this end up like their announcement at Chirp back in 2010 (Twitters official developers conference) where they said that more meta data would be available from tweets and media uploaded to their site.

Now as Twitter is evolving their executive will hopefully move away from the 4chan type reputation it is developed over the past few years and avoid repercussions such as GamerGate which I shall leave you to read about in your own time as it has gotten so convoluted and worrisome I really have not read enough to be able to comment. Before I end this post it may be worth you considering, how are accounts actually verified (the little tick) and what can be done either than to go down the routes of Google and Facebook to control those who are just there to troll?

Safeguarding, Privacy and Respect for Children and Young People (Part 4)

Finally the meeting with the President of the Family Court Division, Sir James Munby has come about and it is time to get some answers to pressing questions although I expect some answers to skirt around the question, now I am no Paxman but I think me and my three sisters in crime along with the brilliant Dr Julia Brophy got some decent answers given that we only had around an hour to get all of our questions answered.

Due to time restraints we skipped over the light hearted and polite ‘What are your views and experiences?’ kind of questions and went straight into the harder hitting why has the views of young people been ignored so far. Now in true political style he outlined how there is a difference between listening, accepting and agreeing with young people, or consumers of the judicial system which I agree; but there is also a difference between ticking boxes and acting upon the views, wishes and feelings of you consumers. The President outlined that he was keen to canvas young people more to gain their views and opinions, and that it had not been done enough in the past. I think we can all agree with him that no decision on transparency will be unanimously agreed upon, but I am not so sure about his views that half will always be upset with any decisions made.

In 2010 the government had promised a consultation with young people before moving forward with any more work on allowing the media greater access, the President explained that the legislation had been passed by a previous administration and it was his predecessor that had failed to act. The legislation had apparently not been enacted and was repealed before coming into force and that a lot of the previous work was done in private.

Now our next question may seem a rather contentious point, but we wanted to know if he had considered the consequences of media exposure for young people who have not consented and may be affected in the future. The President expressed how he had probably passed more judgements on this matter than many other judges and that decisions were always made whilst weighing up the immediate and future impact the exposure may have. The whole question came back to the fact that he felt anonymity could be achieved and that redacting too much information would just make a case insignificant ramblings (my words, not his).

Now in a tangential manner we went onto the consequences and he stated that there is no more unkind a person in the world than a bully in the playground who wants to be nasty. I think these words are something on which we can all agree, which is why more information needs to be redacted in order to illuminate the treat of jigsaw-identification and the consequences there of. With the access we have to information on one another through the internet this is easier than ever, I took the time to explain that identification can be made through meta data in images as well as their linked articles or social networking pages online, after this and some discussion on the internet as a form of media Sir James Munby proclaimed that ‘We have to try and do something about the web’ to which I giggled to myself thinking of all the recent discussion on freedom of the press and ranting’s of Jeff Jarvis (City University of New York, Professor of Journalism) on regulation of the internet.

To try and give our new friend some alternates to greater access for the media we discussed court open days and alike to which he replied that there are all sorts we could be doing and that some local judges are taking the initiative to organise court open days and such. His argument is that these are not accessible enough and that people get their information from social media and the news, to this I mused ‘Hasn’t he heard of eBooks?’ and the endless times the death of print media has been discussed over recent years, was it I or him who was missing something here? I mean there is more to be discussed later on but he’s missed our point.

Next was my turn to point out what had happened with Mirror Group and the phone hacking scandals which he must have seen coming at some point; can we actually trust the media with access to the most vulnerable people in society at probably one of their most vulnerable point in life? Apparently he believes it could be strictly controlled what the media print and that the threat of two years imprisonment for contempt of court is enough to keep the scape goat of an editor from printing anything identifiable or unethical.

I had to interject at this point and steal my colleague’s forthcoming thunder by asking if he thought these penalties were enough when they have potentially life damaging consequences. It may seem a shock but his response was blunt that they knew they could get away with hacking and this was because they were in bed with the police. Now the media have been allowed to attend family court proceedings since April 2009, this is something that the President is unaware of the MOJ (Ministry of Justice) monitoring, or the consequences there of.

Now to our knowledge no one has been harmed by these changes so far, and there are more cases reported on BAILII than ever before which is free to access globally. Now this being said he did admit that he had read about a judgement he had passed in a paper, but he had not recognised the case because it had been so mangled by the press and they had the wrong date. He claimed that it was most probably derived from the BAILII website, so doesn’t that prove our point that the media cannot be trusted?

Pointing out the gaffs of the media is easy enough, so we asked what he thought about people not knowing how to use their security settings appropriately on social media sites and the consequences there of to which we could have seen his answer coming a mile away that there is an endless struggle to ensure they [young people] are not identified and that Judges ensure that certain information is not published such as involved LA’s (Local Authorities) and particular institutions.

To this we circled back to the media breaking the rules and tried to drive home that once something is online, it’s online. If you take out a server, another can pop up within minutes. If you take out a publisher, someone abroad and outside of the jurisdiction of the UK can continue their work. He did not seem to get the fact that the web cannot be redacted and once the damage is done it can be permanent. No sanction can compensate for the loss of a job, friendships or even the cause of, or exacerbation there of mental health conditions.

Our final question, other than a quick photo op, was would he like his most intimate and vulnerable aspects of life spread across the tabloids with no control over what is printed and where. The answer is none of us would, but then he went on to defend his view on the matter of media in the family courts by stating that there are two irrevocable conflicts, the interests of the child and family and that we cannot run a private justice system where the state are taking peoples children away.

I agree with the two conflicts although is the media the right way to do this? We cannot run a system where everything is private, so we already have public access to BAILII judgements which are anonymised and we know that judges cannot really sensor the media.

Now I am proud of the final statement I left him to mill over in his mind, which is a quote from the Court of Appeal regarding media access:

They [the family] are bound to be harmed by immediate publicity, both because it would undermine the family as a whole and because the playground is a cruel place where bullies feed on personal discomfort and embarrassment.’ – LJ Ward (ETK v News Group Newspapers Ltd [2011] EWCA Civ 439)

We are due to meet again to discuss things further in December.

Safeguarding, Privacy and Respect for Children and Young People (Part 3)

As you may be aware from recent posts, his Right Honorable Judge Altman invited myself and several others from NYAS to inspect his court, this is in no way a comprehensive or official report but rather my musings on the day and my personal opinions unless otherwise stated.

So I arrived early, as I had spent the night in a hotel around the corner, awaiting the arrival of my three companions for the day and partners in mischief. I wandered the foyer aimlessly for over half hour and was not approached once, except for when a security guard went for some fresh air and asked if I was okay in passing; now it may have been because I was smartly dressed and had a suitcase and bag that they thought (rightly may I add) that I was there in some sort of official capacity, if however I had been a young person this would be unacceptable. After a while our escort for the day cottoned on to who I was and we waited for the others.

When everyone arrived we had a brief hello before walking outside and pretending we were normal people there for a proceeding, due to my milling about I knew where the court allocations where but there was no clear indication and only a small A4 sized piece of paper indicating to have your ‘Court Case number ready”. There was no real indication as to where you should go or what you should do at this point.

We proceeded to the security check point where we walked back and forth, as security watched, looking as lost as a sheep in the mince sauce isle at the supermarket. After a while I ensured everyone was aware of what to do with their mobiles, and that they had done so before proceeding to put our things through the x-ray machine and walk through the metal detector without prompts. The member f security sat at the machine (playing on their phone) was telling us what items had to be checked although you could not hear them properly and the guard at the check in desk had to shout over several times to double check.

Once that kerfuffle was done with we were finally faced with some blunt instructions in black and white on a pin board, and another board with cases next to it which we stared at blankly painfully waiting for somebody to ask if we needed help. Eventually we walked over to the reception desk where the receptionist very helpfully looked up our case number and told us exactly how to get to our designated court room, as well as where the amenities were (although this could have been because they were on the way through).

When we arrived on our floor there was no one to greet us, instead you were greeted by lawyers having to take meetings in the corridors because there were no consultation rooms available, children sitting on the floor and a rather uninviting office for the PSU (Personal Support Unit). As you turned you were faced with a daunting door for the CAB (Citizens Advice Bauru) before finding the corridor to an unmanned usher’s desk, and to that how is a child or young person supposed to know what an usher is or what they do?

As we stood in front of the desk the usher arrived, not in robes or a suit but rather casual attire with no indication as to their role. This man may well have been someone off the street who wanted to play for the day for all we knew, at least in a criminal court you could think ‘Oh look there’s another person dressed as Batman ready to help!’ Trust me I have seen lawyers amusing themselves with that one. Anyway the usher told us that our court had been reallocated to court 1 on the ground floor, but not where on the ground floor or that we had to sign in with the usher down there. When we finally got to the ushers desk we had to be explained the attendance sheet, as a lay young person you would just be completely perplexed by the legalese.

Finally we got escorted into the court where the allusive Right Honourable Judge was sitting and awaiting to explain what we were there to do, and more to the point what they intended to do with both our qualitative and quantitative data. All of the courts had nice natural lighting or were in large rooms with the best artificial lighting that could be fitted allowing for a more open and less oppressive vibe to the building.

Now I have heard of cases before from kind judges who allow young people into their courts similar to the one he allayed, whereby a young person was in the middle of a case deciding where the young person should live. The judge actually instructed for a chair to be set beside his so that the young person had direct input and was able to hear the case. Although an unusual one I think that acts like these leave the young person feeling empowered and listened to as they sit above the court. Now in cases of giving evidence video linking is available, even from other courts which would mean that a young person would not necessarily have to face those involved and could be made more comfortable than having to appear in the court itself.

At this point I pretty much gave up on taking notes on the paper we was provided and resorted to my trusty NYAS notepad. We were taken outside of the courts to view the new proposed entrance for young people around the corner so they did not have to face anyone involved in their case who they did not want to or who may be intimidating, which I think we can all agree is the best for all involved. Now as of yet there is no clear signage, bags will have to be intrusively searched (unless an x-ray is installed as well as a new metal detector), the young person will have to ring a buzzer and speak on an intercom waiting for security to arrive and there are no toilets which may be the only thing on their mind after a long journey.

As we entered the proposed rout there was a plush red carpet, well lit corridor and all the back entrance to each of the ground floor courts. Unfortunately as we turned the corner this beautiful façade was killed by a dark and oppressive stairwell, with a cramped and dull lift leading to the fourth floor where they were most likely to be going.

Now we had already been to this floor to try and find our first allocated court (21), but we had not seen the consultation rooms which all read ‘ENGAGED’ even though most were left derelict, and I use this word purposely as they have pale walls and dull uniform furniture and each looked as if it had been evacuated in a hurry.

We left this section to then see the proposed contact centre with the working title ‘Building Blocks’ which sounds more like a barrier than NYAS own ‘Butterfly Room’. I do invite you to get in contact with a new suggestion for a name until early November 2014. These rooms were not yet made to measure but we had a sense for the plans, being the only rooms with any colour and (although needing more comfortable and modern) laid back seating. Whilst in these rooms we discussed that there would need to be age appropriate amenities, a kitchenette had already been discussed but we though age appropriate toys and media would be necessary as well as access to the internet and perhaps some sensory toys for the less able bodied and babies.

Just before we retired to the Judges dining room where we were waited on hand and foot by the judiciary we got to meet with Anne Dillon, a barrister and member of the trustee board of contact centres. She asked for our feedback and we told her what I have already said as well as suggestions for televisions, computers, consoles and other modern conveniences many of us have come to take for granted.

Now in the dining room we were met by a few district and circuit judges, some of whom took an instant liking to us and were keen to get our insight and tell us about what they do and wanted out of our unique visit. It quickly turned from several convocations into a round table discussion where we gave a quick summary off what we had observed and the potential problems, one circuit judge even asked me to provide a template idea for them of what I thought should be in an introductory letter such as where best to get a drink or food before going into the court as they do not have any real amenities other than water fountains which I had not spotted and any signage for seemed completely absent.

The final part of this saga was when one of the Judges who had just presided over a case involving a young person who was receiving services from NYAS took us to his chambers before we tried to track down the young person to get their perception of the court and what they had just been through (with their permission of course). Unfortunately this young person had already left and so it was our turn to retrieve our belongings from security and meet with Dr Julia Brophy before our meeting with Sir James Munby which shall be discussed in my next post.

A Relationship Never Dies a Natural Death

They are murdered by ego, attitude and ignorance. Now, you may see this as some poetic sentence I have plucked from the stratosphere but if you think about it doesn’t it hold some truth? Over the years in various roles I have met thousands of people, and yes I have lost touch with a large number just due to time and not being able to get to know them better; this is not a tabloid story of my life so if that is what you are looking for then you may as well turn around and go from once you came, rather I just want you to think about things a little more.

In a previous life as an NUS activist I came across many who labeled themselves a feminist, and although some are great people, others were a little more misguided. A few months ago there was a group of young women taking photographs of themselves holding pieces of paper declaring why they do not need feminism, they felt equal to those around them and had no real issues with society and yet some felt the need to attack these women declaring that their views were misguided and they did not know what they were talking about. I have to ask though, why is someone if they feel equal to those around them wrong for denouncing a cause in which they do not believe? To follow on from this why do some deny that there is a sect of feminazis, a sect of which are more misandry than egalitarian? There is far more than one type of feminist and not all like that particular label with egalitarians, equal opportunists, freedom fighters and other banners fighting the same fight from a slightly different view point. It is the ignorance of what one another are and the effects that they have which often stop them from standing arm in arm.

I am assuming you have been a student at some point in your life, and if you haven’t well done for educating yourself, and with that you see the immaturity of some relationships particularly in younger people. You see many people are unaware of what love actually is, this is not helped by its subjective nature and the sheer differences in cultures and experiences, this leads to people only wanting to be with others who boost their ego in one way or another. In schools it seems to be the norm that if someone is uncool or unpopular then you should not be seen with them, in younger schools a relationship can be ended due to the other person wearing the wrong type of clothing or being a little different; it can even be that someone is a little more popular that day so one of them in the relationship will want an ego boost, as we look at older students its that someone may be more sexually appeasing or desired so the association derived from a relationship will help one gain popularity, and if they are less appeasing then it can end a relationship.

Now these have been but brief musings but I am hoping that by now you are starting to see my point and that of this quote. People are too quick to form their own views and opinions of others without thinking or reaching out to understand things from a different point of view to their own, but things are changing and people are learning, not a hundred years ago it was thought immoral and illegal to be homosexual and now they are on almost equal footing to heterosexuals (and yes there is still a hell  of a way to go before we can even contemplate a utopia in the way of equality for all). I have friends and family I have seen torn apart by their partners breaking up, or down due to the most seemingly trivial matters, but it may mean the world to them and that is something I accept even though sometimes I feel like slapping them with a wet fish and telling them to wake up.

I can not cover every prejudice in the world, and the ones I have chosen are merely a coincidence and in no way based on a single person. But before you open your mouth to hinder someone or deny them their point of view try taking a leaf out of Tim Minchin’s book ‘I am a tiny, insignificant, ignorant lump of carbon. I have one life, and it is short, and unimportant….‘ Although it is debatable our place in the greater ecosystem, it is true that we may have little impact within our lives and that we are all just passing through; we make of life what we can and it is up to us to try and make it greater and longer for others. So why am I highlighting these trivialities? Because I want people to wake up and realize that they are just that; a persons colour and heritage does not define them as they are right now, we make our own choices andd wwe can stand up to the social norm and when people end things due to stupidity, ignorance and ego it can destroy the other persons dreams and  hurt their feelings immensely. Don’t murder another relationship, think first.

Young and Vulnerable in Wales in Danger

Keith Towler (Childrens Commissioner for Wales) has long been thought of as the childrens’ champion in Wales from his work on the UNCRC (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child) and introduction of the Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011 to the work he has encouraged with the Flying Start programme; this leaves the question in my mind of why the proposed cuts to funding of services for vulnerable children and young people is even being discussed?

Now the work of the commissioner is not exactly well known, recently I took part in a consultation on what children and young people knew of his work, and although they knew of him, they had no idea what he actually did except going around and meeting young people. It seems at the moment that his position is all about taking the credit where the Welsh Government (WG) are succeeding and to point the finger where they are struggling.

Catriona Williams, chief executive of Children in Wales, has already voiced the urges to keep an eye on the spending on vulnerable children in Wales in order to match supply and demand LAC (looked after children), the disabled and abused are most vulnerable and critically in need of a variety of services. In Wales there are over five thousand looked after children in comparison to just three thousand a few years ago. It begs the question what resources have been allocated to their lives and what quality of life are they actually getting for that.

A few posts ago I voiced a few of the opinions which had come out of a consultation regarding LAC in mental health facilities, i reality this new sway of cuts is going to mean that provisions they need will just fall by the wayside and things will inevitably worsen. If there is no, or reduced support for foster placements, which are already lacking, this means that there will be even less provisions and housing for children and young people who no longer live with family. In articles I have read they have concentrated on the more every day occurrences we may see such as a lack of accessibility whilst barely mentioning the greater impact these cuts will actually have.

Now the BBC have actually mentioned the Commissioners Annual Report (2014) which has suggestions of the greater issues, but it doesn’t actually go into detail for perhaps some ethical reasons. A cut to our already struggling mental health services means that more children and young people will have to move out of area in order to receive some basic care provisions, potentially removing them from their family home. Children living in poverty or with disabilities will further be negated from the opportunities of more able bodied individuals, and with the highest rates of poverty in the United Kingdom is this even acceptable.

Now under Article 12 of the UNCRC children and young people have the right to an opinion and for it to be listened to and taken seriously in matters affecting them, and as the WG has to give due regard to the UNCRC in all aspects of decision making under the aforementioned measure why hasn’t Keith Towler and his team been fighting for more children and young people to be involved in budgetary matters? It may be boring, but the more mature and involved are more than willing to protect the best interests of their peers and understand the need for other services.

If cuts go ahead what is to happen to children and young people who have no choice but to remain in houses with domestic violence, because although skirted around in every article the reality is that if you manage to take them out of that situation you still have nowhere to put them and no support network with a reduction in funding. It has already been statistically proven that those in care, who are moved place to place, from school to school do not have much of a chance. Now that is statistics and I can tell you now you would be shocked if you knew what some of these individuals go on to achieve in their lives, and the change they affect for others in similar situations.

I can not really comment on immigration or asylum as I have not gone through it, and to my knowledge I do not know anyone who has. Unlike a certain news paper I do not feel I should comment on what doesn’t affect me or I have no knowledge of, but I will say that these services too will be affected in a devastating manner. Also what happened to that money from the sale of the Royal Mail, where’s Wales cut gone and where will the sale of Euro Star go? There are pockets of money all about the place which if reallocated properly would stop us having to make these cuts. Whilst we’re making cuts lets make them to MP/AM expenses and pay, although the former are much worse these used to be positions of working men with a good altruistic ethic. Also lets make cuts to the CEO’s/Presidents/VP’s or what ever they want to call themselves (money grabbing idiots) of publicly owned, or part owned organisations.

Should the most vulnerable really pay for those well off and in power to continue their oppression? Maybe we should take up the view of socialists and try to eliminate the gap between the bourgeois and the proletariat in order to exhume some kind of equality. To hell with all the current state of misogyny and misandry, rich and poor. That is what got us in this mess in the first place.

Digital Insanity

So I saw this video on another site and thought I would give my my thoughts.



Too long are we distracted by bleeps and bloops, the ignorance of “wait a minute I just have to take this” as we send a message to a face we forget and it’s only as we get older we actually realize all we’ve missed and regret.

I am as guilty as anyone else as I keep hold of my phone and ensure I am connected, but every time we ignore one another or look to our phones it’s each other we have disrespected, and it isn’t helping that in recent years we have to get on line to contact those we have elected.

The blue glow distracts our thoughts at night, as to actually live a life with interactivity we have to put up a fight, all of this technology may eventually lead to our plight as we rely on it all to give us our foresight.

In life now there just seems to be this pageantry of vanity which just leads to dismay and complete insanity as people fight for likes +1’s and general inhumanity, what happened to the days where feeble rantings were just known as the sermons of Christianity.

There was a time when everyone knew who lived on their street and progress was made by people literally voting with their feet, but now these days you struggle to get people of their seat as communities fall and it’s only online where we can start fighting for political defeat.

The only children I see alone are those far too young, all the teens and adolescents now turn to the internet or bedroom for fun, I mean what on earth can we do to empower a change to come and for young people again to go explore and build dens in the sun?

I just want the interaction back we had at one time, and I understand how much easier it can be online as it keeps track of where I am supposed to be and at what time but even as the shy quiet guy I want a social ladder to clime and not for technology to absorb people in their prime.

So close this website and forget the booze because it’s only when we’ve disconnected will we stop and no longer be bemused because if we carry on the way we are we are humanity is destined to lose as we miss out on the things we’ve been too busy to notice or choose.