The report into the abuse and sexual exploitation of children and young people in Rotherham[i] whilst shocking, is not a surprise. The report comes in a long line of reports, inquiries, research, and reviews which are consistent in their findings. That victims have been ignored or not believed; that busy professionals have been unable (for a variety of reasons) to respond appropriately; that officials have not adequately prioritised the work of those on the front line; and that existing legislation is not being used even in cases where it could be, to tackle the sexual exploitation of children and young people.
As British actor Samantha Morton made clear in her recent interview, every incident of child sexual abuse is a life sentence for that individual, their families, and those around them.
Dr Pauline Heslop, Reader in Intellectual Disabilities Research, Norah Fry Research Centre
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recently been consulting on the scope of proposed guidelines on multimorbidity. Multimorbidity is, in summary, the co-occurrence of two or more chronic medical conditions in one person. Yet the proposed scope of the guidelines will not, in their current form, offer guidance on multimorbidity in people with learning disabilities. So is this a problem that needs attention? Yes.
The recent Confidential Inquiry into premature deaths of people with learning disabilities (CIPOLD) and other national and international studies suggest that people with learning disabilities have a greater number of health problems than others, and a greater variety of healthcare concerns than those of the same age and gender in the general population. This would suggest that particular attention must be paid to this population in any NICE Guidelines. Indeed, recommendation 3 of the CIPOLD report was that NICE Guidelines should take into account multimorbidity in relation to people with learning disabilities.
Dr Esther Dermott, Reader in Sociology, School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
In popular and political discourse it is parents who must take responsibility for children’s social, emotional and educational success or failure; as the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg phrased it in 2010, “Parents hold the fortunes of the children they bring into this world in their hands”. Following on from this dominant view, it is perhaps unsurprising that it is poor parents who have come in for most criticism, with the suggestion that their children’s relative lack of qualifications and difficulty in obtaining employment that avoids a reliance on benefits, is their fault.
The Field Report which was commissioned by the government in 2010 to develop a strategy to address child poverty explicitly refers to the role of ‘good parenting’ and notes at the outset that “We imperil the country’s future if we forget that it is the aspirations and actions of parents which are critical to how well their children prosper” (p11). Getting poor parents to be better at parenting has therefore become a central plank in the Coalition government’s attempt to improve children’s future wellbeing.
Food, Activity and Bodies (FAB) Kids is a school outreach project based on the importance of healthy lifestyles. It’s a free, fun and educational workshop aimed at encouraging children to think critically about their lifestyle choices (with regards to nutrition and physical activity in particular).
The project, led by Dr Mark Edwards, is being delivered by research staff in the University of Bristol’s Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences (ENHS). We do a lot of research into physical activity and nutrition, and much of this research is conducted in primary schools in Bristol and the surrounding counties. FAB Kids is our way of thanking the schools and children who take part in our research.
Russ Jago from the Centre for Exercise, Nutrition & Health Sciences discusses a recent paper in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity on parent and child screen-viewing and its implications.
A body of evidence has shown that screen-viewing (watching TV, using the internet, playing games consoles) is associated with adverse health effects such as increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity among adults. Recent research has also shown that screen-viewing is associated with adverse health effects among children and adolescents such as increased risk of obesity, higher cholesterol levels and poorer mental well-being. Collectively these findings indicate that there is a need to understand children and adolescent’s levels and patterns of screen-viewing among children and adolescents and identify ways in which the screen-viewing levels of children can be reduced. To date the bulk of this work has focussed on older-aged primary school aged children and adolescents with a lack of information about the screen-viewing patterns of younger children. This gap is important because previous work has shown that screen-viewing patterns are established in early life and then track through childhood into adulthood. Thus, there is a need to examine levels of screen-viewing among children at the start of primary school and the key factors that are associated with these patterns.
Anna Marriott, Research Fellow, Norah Fry Research Centre, School for Policy Studies
Howard Gardner, a psychology professor at Harvard University, claims that stories are the most powerful weapon in a leader’s arsenal. He argues that social scientists have finally caught up with political, religious and military leaders and now realise the power of narratives.
In March 2013 the Confidential Inquiry into premature deaths of people with learning disabilities (CIPOLD) reported its findings to the Department of Health. These were launched at a national conference and since then we have disseminated the findings in a wide variety of ways. It has become evident to me that all the audiences to whom I have spoken respond better to the stories I tell, as opposed to the facts and figures I present.
We learn through stories, they help us to understand issues and they make events and lessons memorable. They have power as they print a picture on peoples’ minds. If you want someone to learn and hopefully to change their behaviour, tell a story that will strike a chord. Stories stay with you because they involve people and how they deal with real life problems and situations.
On September 26th I posted a blog here and said I would report back after taking part in an after-show discussion of Bluebeard, currently being performed by Gallivant at the Soho Theatre, London.
Dr Emma Williamson, Senior Research Fellow, School for Policy Studies
Watching Bluebeard again reinforced the powerful performance and engaging writing of the Gallivant team. Both Dr Hilary Abrahams and I were pleased that we had prior warning and had seen the play in Bristol. The question and answer session was interested in engaging the audience in a discussion of the key themes of the play: sexual desire, sexual violence, gender and complicity. From our perspective as gender violence researchers the issues of power and control running throughout the performance were stark. Part of the power of the play comes both from the accurate portrayal of a perpetrator and the complicity of the audience in hearing his story. The perpetrator, who tells us about his violence and crimes against women, also describes in chilling detail how easy it is to begin relationships with these women. Engineering meetings, feigning love, and manipulating from the start, the perpetrator uses normal everyday aspects of the heterosexual love story to ensnare his victims. When they are, as he continually tells the audience, feeling unworthy and useless, their victimhood becomes his excuse for sexual domination and violence.
Alongside regular media enquiries, my colleagues from the Centre for Gender and Violence Research and I are regularly contacted by artists, writers, and directors asking for guidance on how to appropriately and sensitively represent issues of violence against women. Recent examples include the play Our Glass House by the Common Wealth Theatre Company which dealt with the issue of domestic violence and was set in a real house, on a real street, here in Bristol. This was an innovative play. Through our discussions the production team were put in contact with local service providers and service users to ensure that the play recognised the potential impact on the audience and reflected both the damaging impacts of abuse as well as how victims can, with support, move on to survive and thrive.