2020 Round Up with Jim and Ayyab Cockburn

2020 Round Up with Jim and Ayyab Cockburn

If you think back to January 2020 would you have predicted that we would be on lockdown for most of the year? No, neither did we!

This year has thrown curveballs but thanks to all of our amazing colleagues who adapted, listened and helped us to navigate through this time, we have been able to continue growing and innovating. We have drawn so much inspiration from them all, as well as the communities we have served and the partners we have worked with. It has been one of the toughest years ever, but also one which taught us so much about the power of the human spirit to endure and to overcome.

We very quickly adapted to new ways of working, finding creative ways to get our services and products to our communities digitally. We innovated – reflect for a second on Antser’s ground-breaking VR solution, bringing children back into the classroom virtually. Another example is our vision for a ‘TalkOut’ platform providing access to engagement, mental health and VR services from one portal, one which we have already started to realise.  These are just two of the many new models we are pioneering and building on.

We reprioritised and refocused, for instance diverting Martin James Foundation resources to more front-line projects; helping vulnerable families in Madagascar, supporting care-leavers in Birmingham with grants and resources, also renewing our partnership with Food-cycle to deliver food to families in greatest need locally. Let us not forget the amazing Epic Youth Project, which we are proud to say has reached over 120 young people, 15 of whom we are working with more intensively to realise their business goals. There has never been a more important time to give young people hope and opportunity, which we are just so pleased to be contributing to.

We also used the time to reflect on who we are as a collective network and what we want to continue doing and investing in. We have captured this very simply in our new strapline “Fearless Futures”. In these few words we are clear about our ongoing commitment to strengthening families and communities through ‘humanising’ social care, health and education structures, practice, and technologies. Everyone deserves the opportunity to live a fearless future and we exist to disrupt existing patterns of inequity and promote better social and health outcomes – it’s as simple as that!

Fearless Futures also applies internally and as part of this we have continued to develop our culture of ongoing learning and enterprise, most notably through our CoLab initiative. Many staff and Epic Youth members have participated in workshops ranging from photography to poetry and Mindfulness. Through such initiatives we are growing ever more comfortable about challenging ourselves and others on a daily basis to open up our minds, get curious and not be afraid to push ourselves.

In 2020 we also saw new businesses join the Network. UK Fire Training, a very valuable addition to our ‘fearless health’ portfolio, will be launching new training products in 2021, utilising the very best technologies.  Our ambition to do more to support causes close to our heart also led to us welcoming AboutFace – providers of anti-racism training into the Network. Events this year have clearly shown us that writing diversity charters and attending standard training are not enough, we need to get disruptive – something Cliff is on a mission to do!  Our new partnership with ‘Roots to Life’ Saturday School, due to be launched in January, also signifies our commitment to promoting inclusion and strengthening community – watch this space for more on this. We are also incredibly excited about the launch of CaseFlowHR solution in January 2021 – watch out Spreadsheet Britain, Greg and Jill are coming for you!

We must also recognise the areas that have grown from strength to strength, continuing to deliver the highest quality of service, despite the increase levels of demand; Key Assets Europe, Antser Assessment services and Intellect to name but a few.

Whilst we have achieved a lot it has not been an easy time for many people across the group, and we have both also certainly felt the pressure at times. Holy Moly has had to remain shut for a large part of the year which has had a significant impact on staff morale. The good news is we remain fully committed to re-opening when circumstances allow us to in 2021. We have also had to make tough business decisions around other areas of the network to ensure the realisation of future goals and priorities. Saying goodbye to people is never easy but we congratulate Agility and Tribera, two very successful businesses that are now forging their own way in the world.

There is so much to be proud of this year, the perseverance, the creativity, the collaboration, the learning, the resilience and the impact achieved. We really could go on. Empowering ‘Fearless Futures’ doesn’t mean that we haven’t felt the fear, this year has been full of it. But time and time again, we have demonstrated that we will never let fear own us, or hold us back. We truly appreciate all the hard work and support every single person has contributed to the Network over the last 12 months, and we look forward to building on our successes into 2021.

– Jim Cockburn and Ayyab Cockburn

 

Our National Curriculum is a safeguarding issue – Cliff Faulder

Our National Curriculum is a safeguarding issue – Cliff Faulder

The Guardian Newspaper published an article last week, asking if the National Curriculum ‘systematically omits’ black British history.

When I think of history I am often tempted to think of it in much the same ways as Chuck D.

In the 90’s the legendary frontman for Hip-Hop socially conscious mega group Public Enemy was the first person I ever heard break down the syllables of the word “History” so that it now said “His-Story”.

The impact of just that one phrase resonated deeply. It’s simple significance ricocheted around my cranium with a resounding truth that was surely “louder than a bomb”.

His Story… His Story.

You see I, as a young black boy entering adulthood, had been exposed to His-Story.

That His-Story had been presented to me by my teachers at primary school. The education delivered at primary school was developed and expanded upon by my teachers at secondary school. And outside of formal education the media supported this version of His-Story though programmes such as ‘Roots’ every Sunday night.  

So what would this version of His-Story have me believe?

Well… Black slaves were brought from Africa to work for the all-powerful and all-conquering white man. Although none too pleased about their plight, save for the odd slave with a strange and rebellious character, Black slaves offered little resistance and simply capitulated and expected their fate.

So this was the warped origins of the Black man, woman and child we were offered. We were led to believe that at some point some generous and enlightened white abolitionists realised that having slaves was wrong and therefore along with honest “Abe” Abraham Lincoln decreed all men have been created equal and set the slaves free.

So young Cliff, as you can see, things worked out well in the end.

Right?

Well the National Curriculum would certainly seem to favour this version of historical events regardless of how one-sided it may prove to be under closer scrutiny. In my opinion, this edited version of history seeks to arrive at an acceptable outcome without encouraging students to think about the details. It’s a bit like solving a math puzzle but not showing your working out.

Maybe elsewhere in the National Curriculum the experiences for a young black child could offer something of an enriching nature?

Ok so putting His-Story to one side for a moment, let’s delve into English literature.

Let’s consider the book that many educators the length and breadth of the country used to torture young black children with, week-in week-out, under the guise of it being a literary classic!

I am of course referring to the book “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck.

This book details the story of two white ranch hands, who dream of a better life and their struggles to gain a foothold in life due to lack of money and social standing.

The fact that even though the main characters lives were somewhat fraught with pain struggle and strife they still had enough privilege to refer repeatedly to one of the books black characters as “that Nig*er Curly”.

This said everything that a pre-pubescent child such as I needed to know about his place in society. This not only informed my beliefs about how I saw myself but also how I thought others in my adolescent world saw me. I felt worthless.

I am still forced to cringe at the thought of Mr Oakley stood at the front of his classroom, book in hand reading the each race hate filled page.

I am still forced to cringe at the thought of Mr Oakley stood at the front of his class room, book in hand reading with conviction tinged with anticipation of the race hate filled expletive.

Each time the word Nig*er came up he’d pause. Maybe out of embarrassment maybe for effect. But then he would deliver it. That cruel humiliating word. That shameful word continued to rape my soul and I wished I could have torn the pages out of the copy I held in my hand and at least used them to dry my tears before they rolled down my cheeks.

Mr Oakley looked at the only black child in the 1800 capacity school and delivered the word Nig*er again. I became aware that it was not only his 1000 yard stare that hurt me on those days but also the eyes of every child in the class room.

Some children speculated that my temper would eventually snap. Others seemed to take great pride in witnessing my helplessness.

The teachings of previous teachers of how we as black people came to be here, flooded back with fresh impetus. The visual context of programmes such as ‘Roots’ saw sickening memories of men and women chained and whipped. I felt like a slave.

His-story!

So I survived the racial abuse. I used it as another reason to grow. And grow I did.

I worked at emancipating myself from mental slavery and sought to fill my mind with real knowledge. I decided to go back!

Well how far you going back? Way back. And it goes a little something like this… (excuse me, I was really into Hip-Hop).

I focused on the things that highlighted what the Black man, woman and child was doing before His-story taught us that Slaves were taken from Africa.

The first thing I found out was there were no Slaves in Africa when the British, American, Dutch and Portuguese invaded. When they arrived they found nothing  but kings and queens, proud and sophisticated with fully functioning communities bound together by a spiritual appreciation of the earth and the spiritual realms.

You want an example?

Take Mansa Musa described as the wealthiest man of the middle ages.

I looked up China’s history and found: https://www.trinicenter.com/FirstChinese.htm

I also looked at the slave rebellions led by Nat Turner:

https://www.biography.com/activist/nat-turner and great Jamaican rebellion in 1831

https://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2020/05/28/jamaican-uprising-samuel-sharpe-rebellion-christmas-uprising-great-jamaican-slave-revolt/ideas/essay/

What I found was that Black people’s history is everyone’s history. Rich and monumental it is quite literally the oldest history that the planet we call home has to offer in terms of human’s existence.

To my dismay, although I had taken time to rebuild my self-esteem and discover other literature that both nurtured and edified my soul such as John Barnes’ auto biography “out of his skin” or books about Malcom X, Elijah Mohammed or the wonderful “if they come in the morning” by Angela Davis I could not save my own children from going through the same racial abuse I had suffered.

In 2016 and 2018, both my sons went onto report the same humiliation in their Birmingham based schools. Same book, same racism, same hurt, same trauma.

Again I was faced with the painful truth. The type of painful truth that strikes at a parents’ core and renders a man such as myself riddled with guilt and yet more shame.

I had not done enough to protect my children from racism. I had failed to safeguard them from the National Curriculum. I had allowed them to experience something that emotionally scarred me. 

I simply thought that between 1989 and 2016 someone would have taken that book out of the curriculum.

Foolish me, foolish gullible me.

You can not expect the architects of your enslavement to be the masterminds of your salvation.

Do better Cliff. Your children deserve better. Hell everybody’s child deserves better!

My boys had the advantage of having parents that could help them process what had happened to them in that classroom.  The fact that we both have experience in aiding children’s recovery from childhood trauma, and we have both survived this abuse ourselves will have in some way helped them survive too.

The real problem is that it should not take skilled trauma informed professionals to help Black children survive the National Curriculum.

The National Curriculum is a safeguarding issue that Parliament should not be ignoring.

So I when asked the question of “does the National Curriculum systematically omit Black British or black history in general”?

I’d say historically ….yes!

But in recent His-story the effects are even deeper than that.

Supporting Foster Carers in times of Covid-19

Supporting Foster Carers in times of Covid-19

FosterTalk was established in 2004 to give foster parents access to a greater degree of independent support. 

The foster care journey is challenging and unique for every child, young person and carer. FosterTalk supports families on this journey with services that are welcoming, trusted, reliable, knowledgeable and innovative.

2020 has been especially difficult for foster families. Due to the restrictions placed upon them, foster carers have expressed concerns about what support is still available to them, what their legal rights are, how to keep themselves and the children safe, and much more. 

But throughout lockdown, FosterTalk has been there to support its members in a variety of ways. We hear from three foster families that have benefited from our expertise this year:

We listened to our carers’ health and financial worries

One particular foster carer contacted FosterTalk as they had concerns regarding their health and financial circumstances. They also had worries around whether foster carers were defined as ‘key workers’, and if birth family contact for children was permitted. 

The foster carer felt there wasn’t much clarity from their fostering service regarding contact arrangements. Our FosterTalk advisor researched this with the foster carer over the phone. They found that there was a policy on the fostering service website, stating that carers must promote safe birth family contact through virtual means only. The foster carer was able to share this clear guidance to the young person in their care, easing their confusion and worry. 

In regards to whether foster carers were defined as ‘key workers’, our advisor referred the carer to the guidance published on the FosterTalk website, which clearly states that foster carers are not defined as key workers. Using the FosterTalk website, the foster carer was also signposted to finance and medical helplines for advice on their respective circumstances. 

At the start of the conversation, the carer was understandably confused and anxious about covid-19 and how it would affect their fostering responsibilities. They were ‘really worried about what’s going on’ but the call appeared to help the carer express their concerns. Before the end of the call, the carer was also signposted to the 24/7 counselling helpline for all members. With assurances, clarity on key issues, and relevant signposting from FosterTalk, the carer was supported as best as possible and fully utilised their membership benefits. 

 We encouraged open and honest discussions around difficult situations

A foster carer recently contacted FosterTalk to discuss their concerns regarding a funeral that a young person in foster care had been invited to. This was an extended family member of the young person, though still of great significance to them and they understandably wanted to attend the funeral. The carer wanted to honour the young person’s wishes, but was concerned around the rules of self-isolating and staying safe in the current climate. 

FosterTalk referred the carer to the guidelines on funeral arrangements via the Age UK website, which provide clarity on what steps the young person would need to take if they were to attend the funeral. Furthermore, FosterTalk informed the carer that it may be best practice for a risk assessment to be completed by the local authority social worker, in conjunction with the fostering service and the young person. 

Promoting an open and honest discussion with the young person was FosterTalk’s message, and this appeared to help the foster carer feel more at ease. They expressed to the carer that FosterTalk could not provide a ‘yes or no’ to whether a young person in foster care could attend a funeral, as this lies with the person with parental responsibility. 

However, by providing clear guidance on funeral arrangements, reiterating the importance of a risk assessment, along with referring the carer to the medical helpline, the carer received clarity on a complex matter and their mind was put at ease.

 

 

We clarified complex protocol, finding solutions using technology

Another complex matter for foster carers during the pandemic has been the protocol around statutory visits from children’s social workers, and visits from supervising social workers. 

FosterTalk have spoken to a number of foster carers regarding this matter and have advised them to clarify the policy of their fostering services and local authorities. They have also suggested that foster carers could work with professionals to ensure visits are completed through alternative video means. 

FosterTalk reiterated to the carers that it is more important than ever that all professionals supporting children in care work in partnership to ensure visits are completed, but not at the detriment of the children’s or foster carers’ health. This support and guidance appears to have been received positively by our members.

FosterTalk have, and will, continue to provide consistent advice to all foster carers who need us over the coming months. For more information on FosterTalk please visit their website: https://www.fostertalk.org/