Tag Archives: Children

Irish abortion vote: ‘propagandistic’ use of children with Down’s syndrome condemned

A doctor, author and father of a son with Down’s syndrome has hit out at Ireland’s anti-abortion lobby for using children with the condition during campaigning for Friday’s referendum.

With only days left before the Irish electorate votes on whether to introduce limited abortion into the state’s hospitals, Dr Chris Kaposy has condemned the “propagandistic use” of children like his son by anti-abortion campaigners.

Kaposy – a bioethicist who has written a book around the ethics of prenatal testing “from a pro-choice, disability-positive perspective” – has accused the opponents of Irish abortion reform of dragging “a vulnerable group into a contentious political debate”.

On Friday, Irish voters will decide whether to repeal the 8th amendment to the country’s constitution, which gives equal right to life to both the foetus and mother from the moment of conception.

The electorate will also be asked, if the 8th is abolished, to enable the Irish parliament to draw up legislation that would legalise abortion in hospitals for pregnancies up to 12 weeks.

Anti-abortion campaigners have claimed in poster ads that repealing the 8th amendment would lead to widespread aborting of foetuses diagnosed with Down’s syndrome.

They have used pictures of children with Down’s syndrome on billboards with the message: “In Britain, 90% of babies with Down’s syndrome are aborted.”

Kaposy’s criticisms echo those of the Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar, who has described the use of images of children with Down’s syndrome in the referendum campaign as wrong.

Referring to his nine-year-old son, Aaron, Kaposy said: “As the father of a child with Down’s syndrome, I am opposed to the propagandistic use of people like my son in attempts to limit reproductive rights, as has happened in the Irish debate, as well as in the legislative actions taken in various American states to outlaw the abortion of foetuses with Down’s syndrome.”

Quick guide

The Irish abortion referendum

The Irish abortion referendum

Ireland is to vote on abortion law reform next month. In a referendum on 25 May, voters will decide if they want to repeal an article in the republic’s constitution known as the eighth amendment. 

The amendment, or article 40.3.3 of the constitution, gives unborn foetuses and pregnant mothers an equal right to life – in effect a ban on abortion. Currently, terminations are allowed only when the life of the mother is at risk, with a penalty of up to 14 years in prison for breaking the law. 

The government in Dublin has promised to introduce legislation allowing for abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy if the vote goes in favour of repeal.

Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/X03756

Irish anti-abortion campaign groups have claimed that a Down’s syndrome diagnosis could be used to access a termination under liberalised abortion laws. Kaposy, however, said the proposed reforms would not allow a Down’s syndrome diagnosis to be a reason for an abortion.

“It is difficult to predict,” he said. “In one study from the US, the [average] gestational age at abortion [in cases of Down’s syndrome] was 13 weeks, though there is a trend toward earlier abortion with improved screening tests. Further, Down’s syndrome is not a condition that typically threatens the life of the pregnant woman, nor does it cause serious health risks in pregnancy, not is it a condition that is typically fatal in utero or soon after birth.”

Kaposy, who lectures in bioethics at Memorial University in Canada, said he believed more children with Down’s syndrome should be brought into families like his own.

“People with Down’s syndrome tend to lead flourishing lives. Their families typically thrive. Perhaps more parents would choose children with this condition if they knew these facts. Prospective parents should be empowered to make choices in favour of parenting children with disabilities like Down’s syndrome, rather than being prohibited from choosing against disabilities.”

‘Children were dying of hunger’: the doctor fighting for Ecuador’s poor – podcast

Dr Erika Arteaga-Cruz left her work in an Ecuadorean hospital to become a health activist, trying to get medication and treatment to the country’s indigenous communities. ‘We took a huge range of medicines, but what they really needed was food.’ Arteaga-Cruz talks to Lucy Lamble about her work improving the living standards of the most vulnerable people in society.

A few more Oxbridge places for disadvantaged children is just tinkering | Frances Ryan

A thinktank’s suggestion for how to get more students from disadvantaged backgrounds into Oxford and Cambridge – open a new generation of colleges – is the sort of solution that unwittingly tells you much about the problem.

Inequality in Britain’s education system is so entrenched that, according to the Higher Education Policy Institute, the best way for elite institutions to include disadvantaged young people is not to change but to create separate buildings.

It’s little wonder that steps to redress the balance for marginalised pupils are less than useful. We’ve long been told that working-class, disabled and ethnic minority students can excel if they put in enough effort. The fetishisation of grammar schools – just given £50m-worth of new life by the government – is testament to that. Critics of more redistributive measures have long pointed to “minority success stories” to try to prove their point, as if with enough grit, talent and determination, no child need let poverty, race, or disability hold them back.

This individualism has always been simplistic, ignoring the multiple structural barriers that affect all our life chances, but in today’s climate, it looks outright delusional. Take what’s happening to disabled pupils. Cuts to education are happening across the board, but are deepening for children with special educational needs. According to the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, there is a £400m gap between what councils in England say they need for this kind of educational provision and what the government is providing. More than 4,000 children with special needs don’t even have a school place (up from 776 in 2010), dumped at home without a right to education.

Even if they are in school, it’s unlikely they’ll be getting the support they need. For example, figures obtained by the National Deaf Children’s Society through freedom of information requests this week reveal that over one-third of councils in England are planning to cut support for deaf children this year. That’s around £4m in itself. The charity says that support for deaf children in schools is now reaching “breaking point” – since 2014, one in 10 specialist teachers for the deaf has been cut, with test results promptly getting worse.

Back in the 1990s, I started secondary school barely a year after Labour gained power. Like most state mainstream schools then, mine was largely inaccessible for pupils like me who used a wheelchair. My class ended up being taught out of only three rooms for the entirety of year 7 while a lift was being installed, with more renovations coming over the years. By the time I was in sixth form, I could get to most parts of the school like anyone else – something often taken for granted but vital for not only a child’s learning, but social development. I dread to think what would have happened with today’s funding cuts.

Disabled students are already at an academic disadvantage. In the first study of its kind in the UK, recent research from the University of Warwick and the London School of Economics found that disabled children are more likely to enter secondary education with lower educational attainment than non-disabled pupils, and are less likely to achieve good grades at GCSE. But as worrying, the minority who do manage to get qualifications are still let down: more than a quarter of disabled young people do achieve five or more A*-C grades, but they are less likely to stay on to take A-levels, and less likely to go on to university, than young people without disabilities.

And this isn’t just about funding. Social factors including low expectations of people with disabilities, and experiences of bullying, were found by the researchers to be key barriers. Prejudice isn’t confined to disability, of course. Last year, the Oxford college St Hilda’s was set to introduce a “class liberation officer” because of abuse towards working-class students, the sort of toxic environment that damages learning and tells a certain group “this is not for you”. Beyond Oxbridge, research from the National Union of Students last month found that low-income students were routinely experiencing harassment or discrimination because of their class, as well as paying a “poverty premium”, often shelling out higher costs than their wealthier peers.

None of this is simple to solve, nor does the problem come down to one or even a handful of factors. Similarly, no matter what the headlines suggest, getting more disadvantaged pupils into Oxbridge is not the holy grail of equality. From early years education all the way to university, a variety of large-scale social and economic measures are needed – as well as smaller practical ones – to begin giving disadvantaged young people a fair shot across the board.

There are many existing schemes that do great work in helping BAME or low-income pupils with A-levels or the university application process. Last year, I was a volunteer mentor to a first-year student at IntoUniversity – a programme created in response to the high university drop-out rate of low-income students; I also took part in one of their careers workshops designed to give primary-school pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds inspiration for what they could grow up to be. But any social intervention must come along with cold hard cash from the state, whether it’s for keeping children’s centres open, reinstating teaching assistants to classrooms, or lowering tuition fees for young people daunted by debt.

Tinkering with Oxbridge admissions may make a good story, but let’s be under no illusion. Be it removing a teacher for a deaf child or the longstanding prejudice towards non-white, non-wealthy students, the assault on disadvantaged children is built into the fabric of this country – and is only getting worse. The very children who most need a leg-up are actually being knocked from all sides.

Frances Ryan writes the Guardian’s Hardworking Britain series

Some children reach brink of suicide before getting help with mental health, charity warns

Britain is confronting a mental health crisis because resources for children are so stretched that some only receive help if they seriously self-harm or attempt suicide, Barnardo’s has warned.

Javed Khan, chief executive of Britain’s largest children’s charity, said that young people’s mental health had never been worse in the organisation’s 152-year history. Radical action was needed, he said, because funding cuts had forced charities to abandon vital services.

“It’s never been as bad, and in another five years’ time it’s going to be even more complex,” Khan told the Observer. “This mental health crisis is getting more severe and more difficult by the day. The numbers keep going up. Educational psychologists are pulling their hair out – they haven’t got the resources. They can’t respond as fast as they need to.

“We are going to regret this period if this goes on for too long. We are going to rue the day when we took our eye off the ball.”

Neera Sharma, assistant director of policy at Barnardo’s, said that in some parts of the country the pressure on resources was so severe that only the most extreme cases received help. “The threshold is suicidal in some cases; the child would have had to have attempted suicide or committed serious self-harm to get a response,” Sharma said.

Speaking before Barnardo’s annual lecture this Wednesday, where representatives of Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, will be among the audience, Khan urged the government to adopt a dramatic new approach.

The lack of resources has forced the charity to walk away from 1,033 contracts during the past year because the money available to local authorities meant it could not offer a sufficient service, Khan said. “They are tightening their belt to a point they cannot tighten it any more. They are asking for more to be delivered for far less resources than ever before, and there is a tipping point where you just can’t deliver a safe, high-quality service,” said Khan, who is also a member of the advisory board for the children’s commissioner for England.

One way the government could save money would be to scrap the traditional tendering process in favour of a more collaborative approach between the state and charities: “I don’t think the tendering model is sustainable – there aren’t enough resources in the system,” said Khan.

The latest on the UK’s mental health problem emerged on Thursday when statistics showed that almost one in five children could be at risk of having mental health issues later in life, according to the study of more than 850,000 seven-to-14-year-olds.

Figures from NHS trusts in England in November revealed that 60% of children and young people referred for specialist care by their GP were not receiving treatment. In December the government published a green paper on mental health problems but Khan said that the plans lacked ambition, falling significantly short of what he felt was required.

“If you analyse it, then three-quarters of children are going to get no support,” he said. “The response is insufficient, it’s not broad enough, there is limited financial detail. It talks about rolling out a number of initiatives in a number of areas but funding is only secured to these areas until 2023. The prime minister has talked about this issue as a burning injustice but we don’t think the action is matching the rhetoric.”

Last month Hunt intervened in the debate to condemn social media companies for “turning a blind eye” to mental health damage suffered by children who have uncontrolled access to their online platform.

Khan said social media was an issue – comparing new technology to “allowing a film crew into the bedroom” – and that they were also liaising directly with companies such as Google and Facebook to limit potential harm to young people.

In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org

Children denied help with mental health unless they attempt suicide

Britain is confronting a mental health crisis because resources for children are so stretched that some only receive help if they seriously self-harm or attempt suicide, Barnardo’s has warned.

Javed Khan, chief executive of Britain’s largest children’s charity, said that young people’s mental health had never been worse in the organisation’s 152-year history. Radical action was needed, he said, because funding cuts had forced charities to abandon vital services.

“It’s never been as bad, and in another five years’ time it’s going to be even more complex,” Khan told the Observer. “This mental health crisis is getting more severe and more difficult by the day. The numbers keep going up. Educational psychologists are pulling their hair out – they haven’t got the resources. They can’t respond as fast as they need to.

“We are going to regret this period if this goes on for too long. We are going to rue the day when we took our eye off the ball.”

Neera Sharma, assistant director of policy at Barnardo’s, said that in some parts of the country the pressure on resources was so severe that only the most extreme cases received help. “The threshold is suicidal in some cases; the child would have had to have attempted suicide or committed serious self-harm to get a response,” Sharma said.

Speaking before Barnardo’s annual lecture this Wednesday, where representatives of Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, will be among the audience, Khan urged the government to adopt a dramatic new approach.

The lack of resources has forced the charity to walk away from 1,033 contracts during the past year because the money available to local authorities meant it could not offer a sufficient service, Khan said. “They are tightening their belt to a point they cannot tighten it any more. They are asking for more to be delivered for far less resources than ever before, and there is a tipping point where you just can’t deliver a safe, high-quality service,” said Khan, who is also a member of the advisory board for the children’s commissioner for England.

One way the government could save money would be to scrap the traditional tendering process in favour of a more collaborative approach between the state and charities: “I don’t think the tendering model is sustainable – there aren’t enough resources in the system,” said Khan.

The latest on the UK’s mental health problem emerged on Thursday when statistics showed that almost one in five children could be at risk of having mental health issues later in life, according to the study of more than 850,000 seven-to-14-year-olds.

Figures from NHS trusts in England in November revealed that 60% of children and young people referred for specialist care by their GP were not receiving treatment. In December the government published a green paper on mental health problems but Khan said that the plans lacked ambition, falling significantly short of what he felt was required.

“If you analyse it, then three-quarters of children are going to get no support,” he said. “The response is insufficient, it’s not broad enough, there is limited financial detail. It talks about rolling out a number of initiatives in a number of areas but funding is only secured to these areas until 2023. The prime minister has talked about this issue as a burning injustice but we don’t think the action is matching the rhetoric.”

Last month Hunt intervened in the debate to condemn social media companies for “turning a blind eye” to mental health damage suffered by children who have uncontrolled access to their online platform.

Khan said social media was an issue – comparing new technology to “allowing a film crew into the bedroom” – and that they were also liaising directly with companies such as Google and Facebook to limit potential harm to young people.

In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org

Children of alcoholic parents to get help in £6m scheme

Children whose parents are alcoholic will be offered help under plans announced by the government.

The £6m package of measures is designed to help the estimated 200,000 children in England living with alcohol-dependent parents, offering rapid access to support and advice.

Announcing the measures on Monday, the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said the consequences of alcohol abuse were “devastating for those in the grip of an addiction, but for too long the children of alcoholic parents have been the silent victims. This is not right, nor fair.

“These measures will ensure thousands of children affected by their parent’s alcohol dependency have access to the support they need and deserve.”

Hunt paid tribute to Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, who had previously spoken of an upbringing in which his father would fall over drunk at the school gates. In an interview with the Guardian in 2016, Ashworth also described how he would return home to a fridge stacked with cheap alcohol and no food.

“Some things matter much more than politics, and I have been moved by my Labour counterpart Jon Ashworth’s bravery in speaking out so honestly about life as the child of an alcoholic,” Hunt said.

The programme will include rapid access to mental health services and support for children and their families where there is a dependent drinker; funding to identify and support at-risk children more quickly and early intervention programmes to reduce the numbers of children needing to go into care.

The government has also appointed Steve Brine as a dedicated minister for children with alcohol-dependent parents.

Of the 200,000 children in England living with alcoholic parents, the NSPCC has reported a 16% rise in calls involving alcohol or drug abuse in recent years. The charity receives one call every hour related to drug or alcohol abuse.

Research shows that children of alcoholics are twice as likely to have problems at school, three times as likely to consider suicide and five times more likely to develop an eating disorder. More than a third of all serious case reviews for children involve a history of parental alcohol abuse.

The Labour MP Liam Byrne, the founder and chair of the cross-party group in parliament for children of alcoholics, welcomed the measures.

‘We know as children of alcoholics that we can’t change things for parents, but we can change things for our country’s kids,” he said. “This is a huge step forward for Britain’s innocent victims of booze, the kids of parents who drink too much and end up scarred for life.”

Children of alcoholic parents to get help in £6m scheme

Children whose parents are alcoholic will be offered help under plans announced by the government.

The £6m package of measures is designed to help the estimated 200,000 children in England living with alcohol-dependent parents, offering rapid access to support and advice.

Announcing the measures on Monday, the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said the consequences of alcohol abuse were “devastating for those in the grip of an addiction, but for too long the children of alcoholic parents have been the silent victims. This is not right, nor fair.

“These measures will ensure thousands of children affected by their parent’s alcohol dependency have access to the support they need and deserve.”

Hunt paid tribute to Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, who had previously spoken of an upbringing in which his father would fall over drunk at the school gates. In an interview with the Guardian in 2016, Ashworth also described how he would return home to a fridge stacked with cheap alcohol and no food.

“Some things matter much more than politics, and I have been moved by my Labour counterpart Jon Ashworth’s bravery in speaking out so honestly about life as the child of an alcoholic,” Hunt said.

The programme will include rapid access to mental health services and support for children and their families where there is a dependent drinker; funding to identify and support at-risk children more quickly and early intervention programmes to reduce the numbers of children needing to go into care.

The government has also appointed Steve Brine as a dedicated minister for children with alcohol-dependent parents.

Of the 200,000 children in England living with alcoholic parents, the NSPCC has reported a 16% rise in calls involving alcohol or drug abuse in recent years. The charity receives one call every hour related to drug or alcohol abuse.

Research shows that children of alcoholics are twice as likely to have problems at school, three times as likely to consider suicide and five times more likely to develop an eating disorder. More than a third of all serious case reviews for children involve a history of parental alcohol abuse.

The Labour MP Liam Byrne, the founder and chair of the cross-party group in parliament for children of alcoholics, welcomed the measures.

‘We know as children of alcoholics that we can’t change things for parents, but we can change things for our country’s kids,” he said. “This is a huge step forward for Britain’s innocent victims of booze, the kids of parents who drink too much and end up scarred for life.”

Children of alcoholic parents to get help in £6m scheme

Children whose parents are alcoholic will be offered help under plans announced by the government.

The £6m package of measures is designed to help the estimated 200,000 children in England living with alcohol-dependent parents, offering rapid access to support and advice.

Announcing the measures on Monday, the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said the consequences of alcohol abuse were “devastating for those in the grip of an addiction, but for too long the children of alcoholic parents have been the silent victims. This is not right, nor fair.

“These measures will ensure thousands of children affected by their parent’s alcohol dependency have access to the support they need and deserve.”

Hunt paid tribute to Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, who had previously spoken of an upbringing in which his father would fall over drunk at the school gates. In an interview with the Guardian in 2016, Ashworth also described how he would return home to a fridge stacked with cheap alcohol and no food.

“Some things matter much more than politics, and I have been moved by my Labour counterpart Jon Ashworth’s bravery in speaking out so honestly about life as the child of an alcoholic,” Hunt said.

The programme will include rapid access to mental health services and support for children and their families where there is a dependent drinker; funding to identify and support at-risk children more quickly and early intervention programmes to reduce the numbers of children needing to go into care.

The government has also appointed Steve Brine as a dedicated minister for children with alcohol-dependent parents.

Of the 200,000 children in England living with alcoholic parents, the NSPCC has reported a 16% rise in calls involving alcohol or drug abuse in recent years. The charity receives one call every hour related to drug or alcohol abuse.

Research shows that children of alcoholics are twice as likely to have problems at school, three times as likely to consider suicide and five times more likely to develop an eating disorder. More than a third of all serious case reviews for children involve a history of parental alcohol abuse.

The Labour MP Liam Byrne, the founder and chair of the cross-party group in parliament for children of alcoholics, welcomed the measures.

‘We know as children of alcoholics that we can’t change things for parents, but we can change things for our country’s kids,” he said. “This is a huge step forward for Britain’s innocent victims of booze, the kids of parents who drink too much and end up scarred for life.”

Children of alcoholic parents to get help in £6m scheme

Children whose parents are alcoholic will be offered help under plans announced by the government.

The £6m package of measures is designed to help the estimated 200,000 children in England living with alcohol-dependent parents, offering rapid access to support and advice.

Announcing the measures on Monday, the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said the consequences of alcohol abuse were “devastating for those in the grip of an addiction, but for too long the children of alcoholic parents have been the silent victims. This is not right, nor fair.

“These measures will ensure thousands of children affected by their parent’s alcohol dependency have access to the support they need and deserve.”

Hunt paid tribute to Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, who had previously spoken of an upbringing in which his father would fall over drunk at the school gates. In an interview with the Guardian in 2016, Ashworth also described how he would return home to a fridge stacked with cheap alcohol and no food.

“Some things matter much more than politics, and I have been moved by my Labour counterpart Jon Ashworth’s bravery in speaking out so honestly about life as the child of an alcoholic,” Hunt said.

The programme will include rapid access to mental health services and support for children and their families where there is a dependent drinker; funding to identify and support at-risk children more quickly and early intervention programmes to reduce the numbers of children needing to go into care.

The government has also appointed Steve Brine as a dedicated minister for children with alcohol-dependent parents.

Of the 200,000 children in England living with alcoholic parents, the NSPCC has reported a 16% rise in calls involving alcohol or drug abuse in recent years. The charity receives one call every hour related to drug or alcohol abuse.

Research shows that children of alcoholics are twice as likely to have problems at school, three times as likely to consider suicide and five times more likely to develop an eating disorder. More than a third of all serious case reviews for children involve a history of parental alcohol abuse.

The Labour MP Liam Byrne, the founder and chair of the cross-party group in parliament for children of alcoholics, welcomed the measures.

‘We know as children of alcoholics that we can’t change things for parents, but we can change things for our country’s kids,” he said. “This is a huge step forward for Britain’s innocent victims of booze, the kids of parents who drink too much and end up scarred for life.”

Children of alcoholic parents to get help in £6m scheme

Children whose parents are alcoholic will be offered help under plans announced by the government.

The £6m package of measures is designed to help the estimated 200,000 children in England living with alcohol-dependent parents, offering rapid access to support and advice.

Announcing the measures on Monday, the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said the consequences of alcohol abuse were “devastating for those in the grip of an addiction, but for too long the children of alcoholic parents have been the silent victims. This is not right, nor fair.

“These measures will ensure thousands of children affected by their parent’s alcohol dependency have access to the support they need and deserve.”

Hunt paid tribute to Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, who had previously spoken of an upbringing in which his father would fall over drunk at the school gates. In an interview with the Guardian in 2016, Ashworth also described how he would return home to a fridge stacked with cheap alcohol and no food.

“Some things matter much more than politics, and I have been moved by my Labour counterpart Jon Ashworth’s bravery in speaking out so honestly about life as the child of an alcoholic,” Hunt said.

The programme will include rapid access to mental health services and support for children and their families where there is a dependent drinker; funding to identify and support at-risk children more quickly and early intervention programmes to reduce the numbers of children needing to go into care.

The government has also appointed Steve Brine as a dedicated minister for children with alcohol-dependent parents.

Of the 200,000 children in England living with alcoholic parents, the NSPCC has reported a 16% rise in calls involving alcohol or drug abuse in recent years. The charity receives one call every hour related to drug or alcohol abuse.

Research shows that children of alcoholics are twice as likely to have problems at school, three times as likely to consider suicide and five times more likely to develop an eating disorder. More than a third of all serious case reviews for children involve a history of parental alcohol abuse.

The Labour MP Liam Byrne, the founder and chair of the cross-party group in parliament for children of alcoholics, welcomed the measures.

‘We know as children of alcoholics that we can’t change things for parents, but we can change things for our country’s kids,” he said. “This is a huge step forward for Britain’s innocent victims of booze, the kids of parents who drink too much and end up scarred for life.”