I am only 23, but I stand with the Windrush generation because I know what it’s like to suddenly feel unwelcome and unwanted in the country where you’ve lived most of your life, and which you thought was your home.
I was born in Jamaica but arrived in the UK aged eight to join my mum. I loved school, and in my final year was made head girl at Clapton Girls’ academy. I was so excited when I won a place at LSE to study law in 2013.
It was only then that I realised that my immigration status meant I would not be able to take up my place. I contacted the charity Just for Kids Law with a few questions about the Ucas process, but it became clear that my situation was far more complicated than I first imagined.
I spent the next few weeks in complete shock. I discovered that, rather than having “unsettled” status in the country I call my home, I had no “lawful” status at all. I made numerous phone calls to the Home Office, and was initially told that my family had a valid application and that our documents would be with us in a few weeks.
But this didn’t turn out to be the case. I was in the Just for Kids Law offices, desperate to take up my place at university, when I made the final call. I remember listening to the woman on the other end of the phone tell me that, despite what I had previously been informed, I had no status nor an active application at all. I went numb.
When is a dress just a dress? Remember those photos of the little cocktail number that looked blue with black lace to some and white with gold lace to others when they were in fact the same frock? American teenager Keziah Daum now possesses a prom dress with similar magical properties, and it’s landed her in hot water with culture pedants.
The attraction of the qipao (“cheongsam” in Cantonese) is obvious: a sexy, figure-hugging sheath of silk with a high mandarin collar balancing a va-va-voom flash of leg via a thigh-high slash. Its beauty, however, turned into a curse when photos posted on social media of her wearing her beloved vintage find made her a target for tens of thousand of tweets accusing her of cultural appropriation. That’s one heck of a fashion crime.
The phenomenon where one parent poisons their child against the other is known as parental alienation, the ultimate aim of which is to persuade the child to permanently exclude that parent from their life.
Cafcass said it had recently realised parental alienation occured in significant numbers of the 125,000 cases it dealt with each year.
Sarah Parsons, the assistant director of Cafcass, said: “We are increasingly recognising that parental alienation is a feature in many of our cases and have realised that it’s absolutely vital that we take the initiative. Our new approach is groundbreaking.”
The new approach will initially give parents the chance to change their behaviour with the help of intense therapy. Alienating parents who do not respond will not be allowed to have their children live with them.
In addition, contact between the parent and child could be restricted or refused for a number of months. In the most extreme cases, the alienating parent will be permanently banned from any contact with their child.
UK judges are increasingly recognising the phenomenon. One wrote about a case where she was forced to transfer residence to re-establish a relationship between a child and an alienated parent. “I regard parental manipulation of children, of which I distressingly see an enormous amount, as exceptionally harmful,” she said in her summary.
Parental alienation occurs on a spectrum from mild to extreme, all of which can be extremely damaging to the children involved. Experts admit they are only now beginning to understand the range of ways it manifests itself.
Parsons said: “We have reached a much clearer position on parental alienation recently, which we want to send a very clear, strong message about.
“The current, popular view of parental alienation is highly polarised and doesn’t recognise this spectrum. We want to reclaim the centre ground and develop a more nuanced, sophisticated understanding of what’s going on.”
Parental alienation occurs almost exclusively when parents are separating or divorcing, particularly when legal action is involved. It is, however, different to the common acrimony between divorcing parents and is internationally recognised as a distinctive form of parental psychological abuse and family violence, undermining core principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN convention on the rights of the child.
In the US and Canada, “parenting coordinators” are ordered and supervised by courts to help restore relationships between parents and children identified as alienated. In Mexico and Brazil, alienating a child from a parent is a criminal act.
Until now, cases of parental alienation in the UK have relied on Cafcass caseworkers recognising incidents on a case-by-case basis. Many parents, however, say their experiences of alienation have been missed or compounded by the social work and family court system, often leading to permanent estrangement from their child.
From spring 2018, all frontline Cafcass caseworkers will be given a new set of guidelines called the high conflict pathway, which will itemise the steps social workers must take when dealing with cases of suspected alienation. The pathway will spell out exactly when children should be removed from the alienating parent and placed with the “target parent”.
The guidelines, which will also affect how cases are dealt with in family courts, were sent out at the beginning of this month to judges, lobby groups including Families Need Fathers, experts, doctors and lawyers for a three-month consultation.
Alongside the guidelines, Cafcass has developed a 12-week intense programme called positive parenting, designed to help the abusive parent put themselves in their child’s position, and give them skills to break their patterns of behaviour.
A trial of it will start shortly, with 50 high-conflict families being sought across the country. After an evaluation in spring, the programme will be rolled out nationwide.
If it does not work, psychiatrists, psychologists and mental health experts will be brought in. If the alienating parent continues to perpetuate the abuse, however, contact with their child will be limited to supervised visits.
In extreme cases, care proceedings will be initiated and the parent will lose contact with their child. “Our priority, however, is to preserve the relationship with both parents,” Parsons said.
Jerry Karlin, the chair and managing trustee of Families Need Fathers, said Cafcass’s new approach was “very welcome news”.
“The demonising of a parent has long been recognised as damaging the child not only at the time of separation, but reaching into his or her adult life,” he said. “Parental alienation is identified as the single biggest issue among those who come to FNF seeking help.”
Case study – Robert (not his real name)
“I’ve lived through and witnessed the inexorable alienation of my older daughter over the past five years, which has culminated in complete loss of contact. I will not have seen or heard from her for three years this coming January. We had a fantastic, loving relationship for the first 12 years of her life.
“I know from what my younger daughter has told me that in numerous insidious and not so insidious ways, my ex-wife put an intolerable amount of stress on my eldest daughter. It eventually became too emotionally traumatic for her to see me. She eventually sent me a short email, saying she wanted to break off all contact with me. I’ve not heard from her since.
“The pain of being subject to parental alienation as a target parent is a truly soul-destroying thing to live through. In my darkest days, I can remember being out driving at night and thinking that maybe I just wouldn’t turn the wheel when I came to the bend with the high stone wall. This is a horrible form of child abuse that is struggling to get out from under the rock of prejudice and ignorance.”
Today’s demo started rather hurriedly and to be honest I didn’t know if I was coming or going. This feeling was amplified because it was cold, rainy and my daughter was a bit fed up. understandable of course. But she soon settled down into our usual routine and all was well.
We are seeing a lot of new faces due to Stalybridge Jobcentre shutting. They don’t know us and what we are doing, and we don’t know them or their situations either. So we have to start from scratch, which at times isn’t easy. But it’s a whole lot harder for them.
I started a conversation with a man who had been previously attending Stalybridge Jobcentre for his appointments. The first thing that he said to me was that he couldn’t believe how rude the front desk staff are at Ashton Jobcentre, and how rude some of the advisors are also…
Ellie was just 18 years old when she set up CP Teens as a way of reaching out to other young people who feel a bit lost and isolated. The response was fantastic and CP Teens has grown into a vibrant online community. Now, at 21, Ellie continues to pretty much single-handedly run this amazing organisation.
As part of 30 Under 30, she talks about why she set CP Teens up, their progress so far and how the 2012 Paralympics inspired her to make sport accessible to more disabled people.
When I was younger, people at school all wanted to be my friend because I’m a little bit different and children quite like that. But as I got older, by 14 or 15 they didn’t want to be with me anymore. At the time I didn’t really realise I’d become socially isolated because…
As a domestic violence worker, many of the young women I work with have no idea they are experiencing abuse
As an independent domestic violence worker, I have trained doctors and nurses in A&E departments across Greater Manchester in how to spot the signs of domestic violence, and worked one-to-one with patients in hospital with visible injuries. I am a trained to facilitate the freedom programme, a 12-week awareness-raising course on domestic violence. I deliver this programme to women of all ages who have experienced abuse. I also go to schools to teach girls about healthy and unhealthy relationship.
A typical day
I make a rough plan for my day, but know from experience that I cannot anticipate the issues that may come up. Last time I was in a school, I received a disclosure about child sexual exploitation. A young girl told me she was being labelled as “the biggest charge sheet going”. I had no idea what this meant so I asked her. “You know,” she said, “it’s the sheet the guy gets off the police when you’re underage.”
When I trained doctors and nurses in hospitals, each session was sidetracked with someone telling me about their own experience of domestic violence. One nurse told me she had been thrown down the stairs. Another was being threatened by her ex-partner each time she went to work. A session I delivered in a children’s centre was diverted by a 19-year-old girl telling me the level of domestic violence she had suffered was so high that the police had built a panic room in her house to protect her and her children from her ex-partner when he was released from prison. She said she still didn’t feel safe, so we spent the session going through safety planning techniques.
The issues affecting my work at the moment.
There isn’t enough awareness about the different types of domestic abuse and the various tactics perpetrators use. With some professionals I have come into contact with there is a fear of the phrase domestic violence, and a misunderstanding about what it is.
Many young people I work with have no idea that they are experiencing domestic violence, and so many young girls tell me the same kinds of stories again and again. If more education about domestic abuse was given in schools, then young girls wouldn’t be under such pressure, and they would not have to go through these debilitating anxieties about relationships by themselves.
The moment I’ll always remember
The time I was called to A&E to work with a woman who had been beaten so badly by her ex-partner and his friend that I could not make out her face. The first thing she said to me was “It’s my fault”. I spent the first part of our meeting convincing her that it was not in any way her fault.
What I love about what I do
I love teaching young people. It is satisfying to know that I am arming them with information about domestic abuse at a young age. It’s rewarding to see their confidence increase as they realise they can do what they want, when they want, that it’s not their fault if their partner calls them a “slag” or a “whore” and that they’re not fat, no matter what their partner says. Most importantly, it is satisfying to teach them that it’s okay to say “no” to their partners, and to anything, whenever they want.
One thing I wish I’d known when I started out
I wish I’d known that completing my freedom programme training would change my whole outlook on life. I see things differently now. I’m aware of every tactic – emotional abuse, physical abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse – and because of this I see it everywhere.
If there was an extra hour in the day …
I would call into more schools, and explain to headteachers what a difference it would make to girls’ lives if they put just a couple of hours a week aside to teach teenage girls about domestic abuse and the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy relationship. It would be so great to arm all girls with the knowledge that could protect them from abuse, rather than dealing with the aftermath.
Kelly Mattison is an independent domestic violence worker. You can follow her on Twitter @kellymattison7
Hundreds of thousands of young people are being encouraged into low-skill, low-pay, on-the-job training schemes to meet ministers’ “mad” target of creating three million apprenticeships by 2020, new figures reveal.
The research shows that 60 per cent of all new apprentices are now studying for qualifications worth no more than five GCSE passes. In contrast, less than 3 per cent of new apprenticeships were at the higher level – equivalent to a foundation degree.
So far this year, there have been only 220 new science and maths apprenticeships created at any level, while engineering and manufacturing apprenticeships make up fewer than one in five of the new jobs.
Many of the roles being offered on the Government’s website appear to be little more than traditional school-leaver jobs in clerical, catering and retail work “rebranded” as apprenticeships. There are now apprenticeships in street cleaning, warehouse labouring and shop work.
This allows employers to pay a new 18-year-old worker just £2.73 an hour compared with the national minimum wage for that age range of £5.13. While employers are obliged to pay those staff for the one day a week they spend in academic training, this is more than made up for by the government grants available for taking on apprentices.
Business groups and academic experts warned that ministers risked “devaluing” the apprenticeship brand in their efforts to hit an artificial political target.
They pointed out that there were only two million 16- to 18-year-olds in the country, many of whom were still at school – making it hard to achieve the Government’s aim even if it were desirable to do so.
“It is a mad and artificial political target which risks undermining the reputation of apprenticeships,” said Professor Alison Wolf, who chaired a Government review into vocational education in 2011.
“What the Government should be doing is concentrating on those high-value apprenticeships which teach vocational skills in manufacturing and engineering which historically Britain has been bad at fostering. The danger is that money and resources is put into hitting a meaningless numerical target.”
The latest government figures analysed by the Campaign for Science and Engineering found that between August 2014 and January this year only 7,500 degree-level apprenticeships were started. There were 92,700 “advanced” apprenticeships started – equivalent to two A-level passes – while the majority, 148,300, were at a so-called “intermediate” level which is the equivalent of five GCSE passes.
“The political narrative and the reality of what is happening in apprenticeships are quite far apart from one another,” said Naomi Weir, the group’s acting director.
“The political narrative is about high-level, technical, graduate-equivalent apprenticeships whereas the reality is that there are only a few thousand of across the whole apprenticeship system.
“That is not a viable alternative to university. It could be but there needs to be a lot of effort to get us into a position of having a high-level technical system that we need to run alongside higher education.”
The Government recently announced it was consulting on a new employers’ levy to help pay for apprenticeships as well as setting up new “Trailblazer” schemes where employers work to set their own standards.
There are now over 140 of these groups in specific industries involving more than 1,200 employers with 187 standards published of which 57 are Higher and Degree Apprenticeships.
But Neil Carberry, director of employment and skills at the Confederation of British Industry, warned that much more needed to be done.
“It is progress on quality that is required as well as progress on quantity,” he said.
“We don’t want the Government to fall into the classic trap of confusing qualifications with competencies in the workplace that employers need and value. We want lots and lots of apprenticeships but it will be a self-defeating programme if they are not rooted in great careers.”
Labour’s shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna said it was “scandalous” that out of more than 250,000 apprenticeships in 2013-14, just 140 were in science and maths.
“Britain has a dire shortage of STEM [science, technology, engineering and maths] skills, and this demonstrates that ministers are not addressing this problem,” he said.
Graham Stuart, a Conservative MP and former chairman of the Education Select Committee who examined the apprenticeship programme last year, added that while it was acceptable for apprentices to be paid less in the short term the Government must ensure that in the long term those who took part in the schemes earned more.
“I don’t have a problem with young people earning less while they are doing an apprenticeship because the quid pro quo is that they will earn more when they have completed it.
“It is deferred gratification for solid returns thereafter. But we need to be monitoring that carefully and if some schemes are not achieving that – then we need to remove them from the programme.”
But a spokesman for the Department for Business defended the Government’s target. “Our employer-led reforms will continue to make sure apprenticeships provide the skills needed to grow our economy, whether in science, business or engineering.
“Engineering and manufacturing is the third-most popular subject for an apprenticeship, and the Trailblazer programme gives young people the chance to ply their trade in sectors as diverse as fashion, banking, law and nuclear fusion.”
Apprentices in the UK
Apprentice Shop Assistant
Weekly wage: £109.20 (40 hours per week)
Role includes: Greeting customers who enter the shop, stocking shelves with merchandise, keeping the store tidy and clean.
Duration: 12 months
Apprentice Administration Assistant
Weekly wage: £101.01 (37 hours per week)
Role includes: Answering the telephone, filing, photocopying, processing post.
Duration: 12 months
Apprentice Telesales Executive
Weekly wage: £118.13 (33 hours per week)
Role involves: uploading leads, learning sales techniques, learning how to build good customer rapport
Apprenticeship duration: 12 months
Apprentice Warehouse Assistant
Weekly wage: £150.00 (40 hours a week)
Role involves: Picking and packing orders, helping to replenish shelves for packing, helping with ‘Goods in’.