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The following items are from Children & Parliament, summer and winter 1998. Children & Parliament is an abstracting service based onHansard and produced by the National Children’s Bureau. It covers all parliamentary business affecting children and is available on subscription via the internet (http://candp.ncb.org.uk). The Children & Parliament web site provides direct links to full textHansard, government department sites, the sites of the Office for National Statistics, Ofsted, and other relevant organisations. For further details contact Lisa Payne, Editor,Children & Parliament, National Children’s Bureau, 8 Wakley Street, London EC1V 7QE, UK (tel: +44 (0) 171 843 6000; fax: +44 (0) 278 9512). (The Hansardreference is given in parentheses.)
• Projects in Russia, Guyana, and Zimbabwe were given by the Secretary of State for International Development as examples of the Department’s support for education on human rights. The Department also supports education in international humanitarian law.
(1 Jun 98, Col 37.)
• Scandinavian research has suggested a population prevalence for Asperger syndrome of 36 per 10 000. The National Autistic Society’s estimate for the UK is 47 400 children with Asperger syndrome.
(1 Jun 98, Col 142.)
• Suicide is the second most frequent cause of death in men aged 16 to 25. The government aims to cut suicides by 17% by the year 2010. Strategies include restricting pack sizes for paracetamol and aspirin, support for projects such as the “Manchester campaign against living miserably” which aim to improve communication with at risk groups, and general practitioner education.
(2 Jun 98, Col 156–57.)
• The government is providing support for the first wave of Health Action Zones to the tune of £5.3 million in 1998–99 and £30 million from 1999–2000.
(2 Jun 98, Col 170.)
• The government is not planning to introduce a Children’s Rights Commissioner but will keep an eye on progress in other countries where such an office has been established.
(2 Jun 98, Col 175.)
• In answering a question about sudden unexpected death in epilepsy the Under Secretary of State for Health pointed out that the organisation Epilepsy Bereaved? has been given a £45 000 grant and invited to submit a bid for a national audit of epilepsy services.
(5 Jun 98, Col 407–8.)
• A guide to good practice in foster care and a training pack for foster carers who are relatives or family friends of the children being cared for should both be available by the Spring of 1999. The former is being prepared by the UK Joint Working Party on Foster Care and the latter by the National Foster Care Association.
(5 Jun 98, Col 409–10.)
• The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 1980 was reviewed in 1997 and the government has since promoted international judicial and administrative contacts to improve the operation of the Convention.
(11 Jun 98, Col 656.)
• Guidance to be issued by the Department for Education and Employment in late 1998 will emphasise the importance of primary school education in developing skills necessary to resist being drawn into experimenting with drugs.
(11 Jun 98, Col 693.)
• The Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme is to be reviewed along with other disability benefits. The government’s intention is to increase the payment from £30,000 to £40,000 as soon as parliamentary approval can be obtained.
(15 Jun 1998, Col 116.)
• A Childcare Unit has been established in the Department for Education and Employment. The minister responsible for national childcare strategy in England is the Under Secretary of State for Education and Employment, Welfare to Work. Ministers in the Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Ireland Offices deal with childcare issues in those parts of the UK.
(15 Jun 98, Col 80; 19 Jun 98, Col 346–7.)
• In March 1997 there were 14 600 children on child protection registers in England, 8200 thought to be at risk of physical injury alone, 5600 at risk of sexual abuse alone, and 800 at risk of both.
(16 Jun 98, Col 162–3.)
• In 1996–97 more than half of draft statements of special educational need took longer than the statutory 18 weeks before they were served on parents. The Department for Education and Employment has asked local authorities with poor records in this respect for their plans for improvement.
(22 Jun 98, Col 410–11.)
• In 1990 there were 5897 cases of tuberculosis in the UK. In 1993 the figure was 6564 and the provisional figure for 1997 is 6430. The number of known cases of drug resistant tuberculosis was 43 in 1994, 49 in 1995, and 60 in 1996.
(23 Jun 98, Col 116–17.)
• The draft order to increase vaccine damage payments from £30 000 to £40 000 was agreed.
(29 Jun 98, Col 122, 508–16.)
• A European Community directive bans all tobacco advertising aimed at young people. Plans to implement the Directive in the UK will be set out in a White Paper.
(30 Jun 98, Col 171.)
• About 250 million children throughout the world have to work, most of them without pay. This includes beggars, child prostitutes, and bonded workers who are, in effect, slaves. International plans are being made to stop the abuse.
(1 Jul 98, Col 205.)
• Although the government is relaxing curriculum requirements for several subjects, swimming instruction for primary school pupils remains essential as a matter of safety.
(2 Jul 98, Col 264.)
• An amendment to a new Bill will ensure that children with a statement of special educational needs will be educated in mainstream schools whenever it is compatible with the child’s educational needs and the parents agree.
(2 Jul 98, Col 939–45.)
• Research at the University of Essex has shown that in the year after family break up the average income of mothers (excluding maintenance payments) falls by about 15%, while that of fathers increases by the same amount.
(3 Jul 98, Col 312.)
• Consumption of “alcopops” fell between 1996–97 and 1997–98 by about 30%.
(6 Jul 98, Col 340–1.)
• The government is assessing the use of electronic tagging of 10–15 year olds. So far 10 orders have been issued for children in this age group.
(13 Jul 98, Col 12.)
• The government’s estimate is that some 4–6% of children have asthma severe enough to need medical supervision and about 21% of children have had a diagnosis of asthma at some time in their lives.
(14 Jul 98, Col 157.)
• The government is concerned about low rates of breast feeding, especially among low income families and is funding research into determining factors.
(14 Jul 98, Col 16–17.)
• Government health expenditure will be increased by £21 billion for the next three years and education expenditure by £19 billion. These are the main outcomes of the government spending review announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
(14 Jul 98, Col 187–211, 129–51.)
• The British government is considering helping the Brazilian police with a witness protection scheme to shelter people who provide information about the murderers of street children in Brazil.
(14 Jul 98, Col 175.)
• Corporal punishment in children’s homes, foster care, and registered care homes is illegal but private foster carers are not prevented by law from using it. The Department of Health is looking into safeguards for children in private foster care.
(16 Jul 98, Col 50–1.)
• An extra £3 billion is to be allocated to social services over the next three years. According to the Secretary of State for Health major aims are “breaking down the Berlin wall between the NHS and social services” and “to improve the quality of care received by children living away from home”.
(16 Jul 98, Col 406–19, 571–85.)
• A system of licensing of medicines for children has been introduced in the USA. New European guidelines came into operation in September 1997. The pharmaceutical industry is encouraged to develop medicines for children and, for products which are likely to be beneficial for children, clinical trial evidence on children should be submitted to the regulatory authorities as soon as possible. Further powers may be sought within the European Union if companies fail to respond to the guidelines.
(20 Jul 98, Col 407–8.)
• In a debate about left-handedness in children the school standards minister said that, “teachers should bear in mind the fact that left-handedness is an important facet of some children and must be taken into account when planning lessons”.
(22 Jul 98, Col 1085–93.)
• There are 64 mother and baby places distributed between four UK prisons. In July 1998 51 places were occupied.
(3 Sep 98, Col 8.)
• The School Standards and Framework Act 1998 imposes a duty on head teachers to determine measures to prevent bullying among pupils.
(6 Oct 98, Col 322–36.)
• Each year about 43 000 children under 16 run away from home but there are only three refuges for them. The government is looking at refuge provision as part of its response to the Utting report.
(21 Oct 98, Col 1436–8.)
• The Navy has become the last of the three services to decide not to employ personnel below the age of 17 in operational service. Recruitment and training at 16 will continue.
(22 Oct 98, Col 1161, 83.)
• A small-scale research project commissioned by the Department for Education and Employment will look into the costs, benefits, and practicalities of educating children with moderate learning difficulties in mainstream schools. The government holds that there are strong educational, moral, and social reasons for educating children with special educational needs with their peers.
(29 Oct 98, Col 233–4.)
• The Department for International Development is funding research and education in an attempt to end the practice of female genital mutilation in developing countries.
(2 Nov 98, Col 299–300.)
• The government’s action programme for children with special educational needs (SEN) published in November, is five pronged; more support for parents and carers, better framework for SEN provision, more SEN children in mainstream schools, more staff training and education, and partnership for SEN, local, regional, and national.
(3 Nov 98, Col 531; 4 Nov 98, 591–2.)
• The Utting report’s main recommendations, as summarised by the Secretary of State for Health, include: £375 million over the next three years as funding; a criminal records agency to improve police checks on applicants for posts with children; councils’ responsibilities to extend up to age 18 and beyond; targets for better school attendance and performance for children in care; fewer and more suitable placements; more and better trained foster parents; better regulation for children’s homes, residential schools, and independent foster agencies; a new national group for those currently or previously in care; easier “whistleblowing”; and increased protection for children who are witnesses in court.
(5 Nov 98, Col 1011–23, 375–86.)
• In a House of Lords debate a British Medical Association estimate was quoted to the effect that over 3000 young girls in Britain each year undergo female genital mutilation (female circumcision). The leading campaign organisation, FORWARD, claims that up to 15 000 girls are at risk.
(10 Nov 98, Col 730–50.)
• It is estimated that by 2002 some 66% of 3 year olds will be taking part in pre-school education.
(11 Nov 98, Col 236.)
• The action programme for special educational needs will receive £60 million of government money in 1999–2000. All local education authorities will be expected to develop parent partnership schemes and the government will introduce legislation if necessary.
(16 Nov 98, Col 411–12, 542; 17 Nov 98, 1091–3; 19 Nov 98, 757.)
• According to the Office of National Statistics publication, Sudden infant deaths 1993–1997, the SIDS’ rate in England and Wales was 0.65 per 1000 live births in 1996 and 0.61 in 1997.
(17 Nov 98, Col 546.)
• The official requirements for the care of mothers and babies in prisons will be updated and amplified during 1999.
(18 Nov 98, Col 163.)
• Unless they are given an absolute discharge or a custodial sentence young people appearing before a youth court for the first time and pleading guilty will automatically be referred to a youth offender panel. A contract will be drawn up which will include reparation to the victim or to the community and measures aimed at drug or alcohol abuse, poor parenting, or other relevant issues.
(18 Nov 98, Col 609–10; 19 Nov 98, 204–5.)
• The Medicines Control Agency is considering reports of suspected adverse reactions to measles–mumps–rubella vaccine and has commissioned a study into MMR vaccine and autism.
(7 Dec 98, Col 66–7.)
• Tobacco advertising on billboards and in the printed media will be ended during this parliamentary session. There is to be a renewed antismoking campaign, further action to prevent sales to children, a new criminal offence of repeated sales to children, a proof of age card, and new restrictions on cigarette vending machines.
(10 Dec 98, Col 479–89, 1051–66.)
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