Adoptions on the increase in Stoke-on-Trent

Some good news from Stoke-on-Trent City Council during National Adoption Week.

Stoke-on-Trent city council are celebrating bucking the national trend on adoptions of children in their care by actually increasing the number of adoptions year on year.

In 2010-11 there were 35 children adopted compared to 30 the year before and another 14 have been adopted since April 2011. There are also 20 children currently living with their new families awaiting their final adoption hearing.

This is great news for the city but we also recognise there are still children needing loving families.

During National Adoption week 31 Oct – 4 Nov the city council will being doing everything it can to raise awareness on adoption. I would encourage anyone who is interested in adoption but never got in touch with us to do so now. Don’t wait there are children who urgently need new loving families.

The city council has another 40 children with a plan for adoption, including groups of brothers and sisters and children aged between 4 and 7 years old these are the ones most likely to have to wait the longest time.

Some people sometimes worry about making the first contact but the adoption team here at the city council are ready and waiting and will be very welcoming. There are regular information meetings during which we can answer any questions people may have.

This good new from Stoke-on-Trent comes on the back of Tim Loughton, Parliamentry Under Secretary of State for Children and Families recent announcement about looked after children’s statistics

Today’s statistics are a timely reminder that we must redouble our efforts to do better for children in care. It’s worrying that the number of adoptions has continued to decline, and it’s simply not good enough for vulnerable children to be waiting well over two years to be adopted.

Kids from Council estates at most risk from traffic accidents

It must have been around 1985 that Cllr Norman Rides from Norton caused outrage at a City Council Highways meeting by saying that middle class motorists driving through the City were causing death and injury to working class kids in the City. There were groans and comments that it was typical of Norman. However Norman may not have been too far off. I have just seen a report of Road Safety Analysis that looks at the accident data involving children. The worst authority out of 480 local councils in Britain is Preston where 1 child in 206 is a road casualty. Other northern towns such as Liverpool are high in the list. Stoke on Trent comes in at 32 in the list with1 in 310 children. The authority that has the best record is Kensington and Chelsea with a rate of 1 in 1,158.

In other words a child in Stoke on Trent is between 3 or 4 times more likely to be injured than a child in the West London borough.

Cuts announced by the coalition government to the Road Safety budget ““ amounting to £38 billion ““ will only worsen the situation and increase the danger on roads and highways in Britain’s poorest neighbourhoods. Added to this, the government has also ceased central funding for speed cameras, with the result that councils up and down the country are being forced to massively scale back or even scrap their speed enforcement measures.

I have always championed the cause of safer routes around schools and the use of calming measures around schools. When I was a County Councillor in Leek I supported the cause of a series of measures that the County Council at the time put into place.

I always felt that speed cameras were an integral part of the strategy and I can recall the marked downward trend on accident rates along the A53 in Endon following the introduction of cameras in the 1990s.

There are 6,000 speed cameras in the UK. The financial sustainability of the system is under threat. The road safety budget of 2010/1 is being cut by a 40 per cent. This is made up of a 27 per cent cut to the revenue grant (with £20.6m being taken off a promised £76.7 million) the capital grant is to be decimated loosing 100% £17.2m of its funding. Both grants fund the maintenance and improvement of the speed camera’s network.

Other findings from the from the report show that:

ï‚· The national average is for one child (aged 0-15 years) in every 427 to be injured in a road traffic crash each year.

ï‚· The children most at risk are those from “families on lower incomes who often live in large council estates where there is little owner-occupation” and are found in most regions in the UK, with the exception of the South East and London. Experian’s Mosaic analysis suggests that they are not inner-city communities, but are more commonly found in the outer suburbs of large provincial cities as some of the most deprived communities in United Kingdom and represent 6.52 per cent of the total population

ï‚· Road safety risk is at its highest on a Friday, the next highest day is Saturday. Sunday is the day that the fewest number of casualties are recorded

ï‚· May is when the highest number of recorded child casualties are reported while the winter months show child casualties decreasing by approximately 25 per cent. Child pedestrian casualties are actually at their lowest in August, potentially due to there being fewer children in the country

ï‚· Overall, children are less likely to be injured on the roads than adults

Dan Campsall, the director of Road Safety Analysis concluded, “The results of this study show a worrying discrepancy between different parts of the country. Children in some areas experience considerably higher risk from road traffic crashes than others who might be living just over the border. There is still further study to be undertaken and we are keen to make sure all of the data and analysis techniques that underpin this study can be accessed by local authorities to allow them to investigate how they might ensure the safety of children from their communities.”

Stoke-on-Trent Children’s Services Praised By OFSTED

Government inspectors have praised the work of staff involved in safeguarding children in Stoke-on-Trent.

A team from Ofsted made an unannounced two day visit recently to look at the work of the contact, referral and assessment services for children in need and young people who may be in need of protection.

A letter to the director of children’s services, Dr Sharon Menghini, singled out four areas of strength in the service, including front line services, the out-of-hours service and children’s disabilities team.

The letter also identifies a number of areas which the inspectors considered satisfactory, including child protection enquiries and the local Safeguarding Children Board, which, it says, ‘provides effective support, training and coordination of safeguarding arrangements across the partnership’.

Commenting on the inspection, cabinet member for children and young people’s services, Councillor Debra Gratton, said, ‘This area of our work can be particularly challenging and the report’s findings are a tribute to the dedication of the staff. The safeguarding of our young people is paramount to the services we provide and to be credited in this way is encouraging for everyone working in children’s services. I would like to thank the all the staff for their continued hard work and dedication in helping to make our children safe and secure in all aspects of their lives.’

Dr Menghini added, ‘This inspection demonstrates we have a solid and stable foundation in this area of our work. The inspectors were very positive and constructive in their findings and we will be working on the particular areas they identified for development.’

The inspection will contribute to the annual review of the council’s children’s services, which will be rated overall later this year.

Seven New Play Areas To Be Opened In Stoke-on-Trent

Stoke-on-Trent City Council are opening seven new play areas across the city over the next ten days. The play areas are designed for children aged 8 to 13 years old and have been built after parents, children and members of the local community were involved in helping to design the new areas.

The first to be officially opened will be the Etruria Play Area, Dundee Road, Etruria, on Saturday May 29th where local children will be cutting the ribbon to officially open the play area.

The schemes have been funded through the Playbuilder programme, with around £48,000 being spent on each site, during the two year programme, a total of £1,132,000 will be spent across the city on the community play areas.

Head of youth services, Pat Shelley, said, ‘This is the first batch of our new and revitalised play areas to be opened giving families new facilities to discover and enjoy. Eventually, we’ll have 22 new or upgraded play areas in the city. These sites are an excellent investment for the future which will benefit the communities for many years.’

Stoke-on-Trent Museums Keep The Children Entertained

Stoke-on-Trent Museums have children’s activities for your family to enjoy this half-term.

At Gladstone Pottery Museum visitors can find out about Edwardian Toys and Games such as books of optical illusions and dolls and make a paper toy to take home. The drop-in activity takes place on Tuesday 1 June ,11am – 4pm and costs just 50p plus admission.

At Ford Green Hall kids can put together a mask of Henry the Eighth or one of his six wives in Masks and Monarchs. It takes place between Bank Holiday Monday 31 May and Thursday 3 June, 1 – 4pm and costs 50p plus admission.

At The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery there’s What a Whopper! , a magnetic fishing game to make and take home.. This drop-in activity takes place Tuesday 1 June – Thursday 3 June, 10.30am -12.30pm and 1.15 – 4pm costing £1, admission to the museum is free.

The Etruria Industrial Museum is holding a Barging In craft session to make and decorate card canal boats. It takes place on Wednesday 2 June, 12 – 3pm, costing 50p plus admission.

Children must be accompanied by an adult at these activities and groups of ten or more are welcome but please book in advance.

Fore more information or a free What’s On guide please call Etruria Industrial Museum on 01782 233144, Ford Green Hall on 01782 233195, Gladstone Pottery Museum on 01782 237777 or The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery on 01782 232323

Police & Fire Services Issue Winter Safety Warnings

Staffordshire Police and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service have issued safety warnings to remind people of the dangers of playing on frozen ponds & canals.

On Tuesday Police were called to Holden Lake, at Holden Bridge, opposite the Horn and Trumpet after a concerned member of the public had called after spotting four children playing on the small lake.

A spokesman for Staffordshire Police said ‘We are urging parents to keep a close eye on their children as the cold snap continues to take hold. Make sure you know where your children are. What can appear as harmless fun could lead to something very serious if ice breaks.’

Staffordshire Fire & Rescue spokesman said, ‘Unfortunately we have also seen an increase in incidents on frozen lakes and pools, particularly on days when schools have been closed. Frozen lakes and pools are not playgrounds and we’d urge parents to explain this to their children. At the moment the water in lakes and ponds is of a dangerously low temperature and if people fall through the ice they will quickly get into difficulty because the cold water is a real shock to the system.’

And continued, ‘Newcastle and Tamworth stations both have water rescue units, which include inflatable walkways for use on ice, however this shouldn’t detract from the point that people shouldn’t risk their lives by playing on the ice.’

They went on to give this advice, ‘If you see someone, or a pet, fall through the ice and get into difficulty never try and rescue them yourself instead ring 999 and ask for the Fire Service immediately.’

Staffordshire Police also asked for common sense when coming across children or youths throwing snow balls. ‘Is it really a matter for the police?

BUT don’t confuse damage to property/personal injury with winter fun. Throwing snow balls at passing vehicles or windows is dangerous and could lead to prosecution.’

To Grit Or Not To Grit

How appropriate that just as we have the first cold snap of the winter period the City Council proposes to slash the number of roads that are gritted by nearly half, to save £100,000 per year. At a meeting on Wednesday, finance officers responded to councillors concerns with the well rehearsed line, “We are going to have to make some tough choices this year!”.

We. WE!

To City Council officers these are just costings; lines on a budget sheet. Councillors have to make the tough decisions on the budget ““ we will be the ones held to account by the public while they carry on sitting in their cosy offices picking up their fat pay cheques.

Meanwhile, the biggest losers will be the public, footing the bill.

Ross Irving, said:

“Protect public services from the need to cut the budget due to the recession.”

Well what are the consequences of cutting the gritting budget in half ““ reducing the coverage of roads from 46% down to 25%?

In pure logistical terms the cut will mean all bus routes off the main roads will not be treated, according to a senior officer with responsibility for responsive highways maintenance. It will also mean some main road in Stoke-on-Trent (A and B roads) will also not be gritted. Not side streets but the main arteries of the City.

For Stoke-on-Trent as a whole it will mean no buses on estates, stranding workers, school children and pensioners in their own homes. If we have a prolonged cold snap this could be very serious particularly for pensioners.

It will mean in severe weather, gridlock like we have never seen it before, untreated main roads, increased likelihood of accidents with potential fatal results.

What cost then to the City to save £100,000 per year. Wages lost to low paid staff unable to get into work. Business lost through lack of customers and missed deliveries. These are just some results and I am sure there are many, many more.

A simple, innocent looking single line in a budget cutting report. A torrent of negative consequences.

Just one more reason why every single proposed cut needs to be put under the spotlight and thoroughly scrutinised ““ not just given a tick with the stroke of a pen and a pat on the back.

Stoke-on-Trent Roads The Safest In England

By Mike Rawlins

According to figures just released by the Government, the roads in Stoke-on-Trent are the safest in England showing a 72% reduction for fatalities or serious injuries in 2008 compared to the average number recorded between 1994 & 1998.

In 2008 30 people were seriously injured and 5 were killed on roads in the city less than half of the corresponding figure for 2007 which was 82 in total. The government figures also show that 2008 had the lowest recorded levels of casualties in Stoke-on-Trent since records began. Between 1994 and 1998 the average number of people killed or seriously injured on the city’s roads was 126.

All categories of road injuries have shown a decrease or have stayed at the same level. There has been a sharp decrease in the numbers of children killed or seriously injured which has fallen from 21 in 2007 to only 4 in 2008. The numbers of pedestrians killed or seriously injured has also dropped from 39 in 2007 to 14 last year. Similarly those slightly injured in traffic collisions have fallen from 1,082 in 2007 to 912 during 2008.

The numbers of cyclists killed or seriously injured has remained at the same low level despite a 16% increase in cycle use over the same period. Motorcycle casualties have also fallen from 19 in 2007 to 8 in 2008.

Councillor Terry Follows, cabinet member for community safety, cohesion and communication said: “This excellent news shows that our ongoing road safety strategies are working well and that the public are responding to the need to be careful while travelling around Stoke-on-Trent. We are working closely with our partners including Staffordshire Police and the Staffordshire Safer Roads Partnership to reduce dangerous driving and encourage behavioural change. Our work focuses around the well-established principles of education, engineering and enforcement. We are delivering a balanced package of improvements across these areas, and the casualty figures show that our strategy is working. However, whilst these results are encouraging we still recognise that even one death is tragic for all those concerned. We must therefore keep up the good work and ensure that the numbers don’t creep back up again in the future.”

Primary Schools – Double Standards on Timekeeping

A letter published on the Sentinel website, struck a cord with me, as I am sure it will with many parents.

Primary school teachers I think regularly have double standards on time keeping for children.
If you are late dropping your child off at school or late in picking them up, even by a couple of minutes, you are often made to feel as though you are a bad parent BUT when the shoe is on the other foot & children are not allowed into school on time or released on time or even allowed into the cloakroom when the weather is awful, that is fine & no explanation is ever offered.

As a parent I was often kept waiting for my eldest child to be released from school whilst waiting outside when the rain was lashing down, wind blowing a gale or snow storms occurring, was any thought given to parents & younger siblings? Answer – NO!!

So when I read this letter
I thought this was a good topic of debate to see if this practice is widespread.

I am sure there are many schools that do/would help if asked & be only too happy to do so but whichever this school refers to (& I do not know which it is), surely a little help would not be beyond you? You are supposed to be caring professionals who have chosen to work with children (not something I would choose to do) & helping a mother who is working & has a genuine reason for her child not being picked up at 3pm everyday a little help is all that is required.

If this parent was one, who just could not be bothered to arrive on time, perhaps because they are too intent on watching the last few minutes of a daytime TV programme & think, ‘oh they’ll be fine if I arrive 10 minutes late’, then I would have every sympathy with the school & think that involving an outside organisation was valid.

Teachers, come on have a little thought on occasion for parents, stood outside waiting in the cold & rain, whilst you are dry & warm & have a little compassion for those parents that need it.

This mother is a parent you should be supporting & helping not worrying her & threatening her with outside agencies.

One last statement before I hand over to you for your thoughts & comments.
J Bloor – What a wonderful caring person you sound, I wish there were many more people like you around, you should be applauded.