Author Archives: rwhiston

Is Emery’s ‘Joe Hill’ really dead ?

A new book by Dr. Robert Emery was released in August entitled “Two Homes, One Childhood: A Parenting Plan to Last a Lifetime.” It is ironic that having spent a decade blocking whenever possible all sensible discussion about two home solutions for children after families divorce he should now be promoting it. One suspects whether he has been truly converted or is merely feigning it.

Like a good many academics who have a highly inflated sense of themselves, he is keen to make a name for himself and advance his career. The major difference with Emery is that he does so at the expense of the integrity of other equally good, or even better, academics in his field. Balance and truth are the first victims of his naked ambition.

Two Homes, One Childhood” is the sort of enticing title many worried parents would find irresistible as they battle to sort out their inner demons and conflicts over child custody. [1]

One would not imagine that Emery had long been out of step with the more ‘progressive’ minds who have studied child custody – be they academic experts or professionals. He has long argued against ‘joint physical custody’ (aka Shared Parenting) by claiming that it is too “unstable.” In part this was because (or so he claimed), the child might become ‘confused’ by the regular routine of living alternatively with one parent and then the other. However, more importantly his opposition stemmed from the fact that most of the children go back to live with their Mums (or so he claimed). If that were true one wonders how a two home solution would work even if it were devised by Emery ?

Many of us at the coal face know this to be only partly true. Yes, most children are awarded to the mother upon divorce by the courts but there is no proven reason why this should be so. In fact from what little statistical data available for England & Wales (stretching back to the 1990s), shows that fathers are more likely to look after older children than toddlers.

Many of us with hands on experience know all too well, of children wanting to stay with their father but being prevented from doing so by the mother or the courts view of what is in the ‘best interests of the child’. Even when the child is living happily with the father, mothers appear to be able to manipulate the police to return “her” child to her (even when the child tells the police that the father house is where they prefer to stay).

Flip-flop

So it is against this background that we now learn from his book that he now proposes the very plan that he has always criticised, namely in his case, to have ever-changing Parenting Plans. But while Parenting Plans are the very mainstay of the Shared Parenting concept the idea of thousands of perpetually evolving ones are not.

Emery modestly calls his new plan a proposal that will be “revolutionary”; a new “wave of the future” for custody planning. It would certainly be revolutionary for the courts – the workload they would have to face would be enormous.

Any idea of welcoming Dr Emery aboard the ‘shared parenting’ boat has to be tempered with the knowledge that he is 20 years too late and the damage he has inflicted in that time has been unforgivable – but we are nothing if not generous enough to embrace all repentant sinners – even Emery.

Emery’s idea is not, however, all that new or even novel. A quarter of a century ago (Kelly, 1994; Warshak, 1992) are on record as proposing such a concept. However, even then it was acknowledged to have certain drawbacks, most notably that parents would have to remain cooperative enough over the years to redesign the custody arrangements, agree the re-calculation of any Child Support payments structure. All that renegotiating of written plans which this would entail would probably involve yet more legal expenses leading to more legal wrangling which, in turn, could likely lead to an increase in conflict between the parents. Even if it was workable it would be restricted to the rich and the poor would once again get cut out of any benefits.

Of course, there is more than one way of avoiding such legal entanglements for parents but Emery has ignored these and blithely ploughed on. One way is to set up the initial parenting plan to specify that the child will live equal time with each parents conditional upon both parents completing an educational programme to that end.

Unworkable

In truth it is an impractical idea to have “temporary” plans that are ever-changing. Only the theoretical premise is reasonable enough, namely that Parenting Plans should be renegotiated and re-designed over time to meet the changing developmental needs of children as they age and to meet the evolving needs of other family members (Emery, 2016). The impractically is that family courts are already overburdened and creaking under the strain of ever more work being dumped on them by politicians guided and advised by so-called experts, e.g. Emery.

Justice in the family courts already falls far short of the ideal and is perfunctory at best because of the pressure of work. Do we really want this level of justice to now include a peremptorily dimension ?

Only a few years ago Emery and a cohort of hand-picked, like-minded accomplices began criticising other scholars for being biased “scholar advocates” – something that only the Emery clique was guilty of being on a continuous basis, i.e. biased and being advocates for their own dogma.  One only has to turn to recent articles on this blog for the full extent to be revealed:

 ‘What amounts to an internecine war has all but been declared by them Emery & Kline) against their fellow academics. Their latest contribution to the advancement of mankind – if that is what you can call it  – is entitled; “Bending” Evidence for a Cause:  Scholar-Advocacy Bias in Family Law.” — ‘Caught red handed‘, https://mensaid.wordpress.com/2016/04/30/22/

To suggestions of reform – such as Senator Lee’s shared parenting initiative – Emery’s riposte has always been that such studies relied on fragmentary academic research and were supported only by “small samples.” He failed to disclose that his work – and that of his cronies – were also based on few surveys and that those surveys were in fact smaller in many cases than the ones he was criticising. Emery’s position was always that even if there were benefits to be derived from joint custody, i.e. shared parenting, they were outweighed by the problems they caused.

In one of Emery’s recent papers he discusses the difference between truth in * Social Science and truth in Law and tries to identify a range of scholar-advocacy strategies that bias research evidence. The only problem with this line of attack is that he reveals his own tactics and the ammunition he has used against his opponents is that. He has perpetrated strategies and tactics where scholar-advocacy has made the headlines rather than the objective truth. These included adopting biased research evidence; creating a controversy that diminished the credibility of findings; and generally increasing confusion among the public by clever use of the media. [2]

A classic example of this were the claims made by UK advocacy group Women’s Aid in 2002, which were dismissed by a Gov’t investigation in 2002, yet were still being published and perpetrated as ‘the truth’ many years later when they were again investigated by Lord Justice Wall who found their claims had no foundation.

Fair weather friend ?

As recently as April 13th 2016 Emery’s views on joint custody were quoted (Sun Sentinel, Florida) as including:

  1. “Children’s lives in joint physical custody resemble that of “travelling salesmen,”
  2. “Children torn between two homes never seem to feel they have a home; they talk about going to “Dad’s house” or “Mom’s house.”
  3. The children often live under two sets of rules, sometimes with dire consequences.

One suspects Emery’s conversion is no ‘Saul on the Road to Damascus’ vision inspired by God. He may yet prove to be a slippery repentee and still hanker after his past ideological commitments. Is his vision-thing as radical as he maintains ? Or is he  visualising “future” custody plans as being an initial plan – and by its nature very “temporary” – changing as the child ages, which is not a far cry from where we are now and mother custody still dominates. Are we being sucked into his alleged new world order when in fact it is one and the same time the old one –  being so close to his old views as makes no difference ?

On the one hand his espousal looks like a progressive breakthrough but given his history it could still leave men trussed up with no real avenue to equality between the genders.

Emery’s argument has always been that Shared Parenting is only possible when there “is no parental conflict or abuse” and ipso facto the unspoken concomitant is that as 90% of all children of divorced parents are not living in joint physical custody then it follows that parental conflict or abuse must exist in 90% of separated households. Therefore, while Shared Parenting may be on the statute book it will be impossible to achieve.

Another of Emery’s rather disreputable quotes runs like this:

  • Expert witnesses sometimes seem willing to testify in favour of the parent paying their fee, and many women cannot afford to hire a witness to counter. This can result in “store-bought justice” that is not always in the best interest of children.

Yes, it can happen but in reality how frequently one has to ask ? There appears to be a shuttered mind-set in much of the USA and it’s not limited to court corruption and/or child care. Emery could be said to giving in to such tactics in the past.

Black lives matter

Yes, they do, and – dare one say it – father’s lives matter too. Given the recent publicity attending black men and boys who have been shot dead by the police are we to conjecture that all policemen in the US are dangerous to approach and only interested in gunning someone down ? The truth is more shaded than that.

All right thinking people accept that ‘Black lives matter’ and that we should never condemn anyone simply because they are black (blue or green). Equally, we should never condemn all fathers as incapable of child care duties but give fathers effective parenting opportunities that mothers automatically enjoy. Nor should we ever envisage fathers as the primary threat to children for the truth of the matter is that fathers are the best guarantees of a child surviving to adulthood.

Fathers, and blacks in America, have been treated by society in the same dismissive way. Theirs has been a bruising tale of setbacks along a rock strewn path. As a child it was circa October 1958 that my mother took me to listen to the great Negro singer and civil rights advocate Paul Robeson (below). [3]  He was very warmly received by what must have been a nearly all-white audience (there being only robesonnegligible immigration numbers at that time). He had just had his confiscated passport returned to him by the FBI and we were all anxious to see and hear him sing. It was viewed as shocking for local inhabitants during the 1939 -45 war that whenever American troops would parade through towns to celebtrate dates or events Negros troops would always be consigned to the tail end of the parade (Empire and Commonwealth soldeirs were never treated to this indignity).

Fathers, both black and white, have since that date been threatened with having their passports confiscated (for not paying enough Child Support) and yet no one queries the eerie echoes of 1950s McCarthyism that Robeson endured. The connection, let alone the facts, are lost on the younger generation. Only the aficionado will recognise it and grasp the resonance of the song ‘Joe Hill’ – a Number 1 hit in many countries, featured at the foot of this article.

Emery’s downfall

Many, perhaps including Emery, would love to live in a world of clear-cut boundaries and of black and white options. But life is not that simple; it is a tapestry of ever-changing variances with individualistic human beings living within a unique and infinite set of circumstances.

While we should never compare or conflate (not even for an instant) Emery with the heroic attainments of Aristotle they do share a common Achilles heel. Ancient Greece had an inherent anathema to the concept of ‘infinity’ in the mathematical sense. They feared it would undermine all they had achieved in the world and it would take the German mathematician Cantor, more than a thousand years later, to finally put this superstition to bed.

In his small way Emery is showing the same phobia based on a similar superstition. One suspects that he wants a one-size-fits-all option – a straitjacket – when all the evidence points towards individual solutions to individual child care situations. This myriad of possible choices is the dreaded ‘infinity’ of the closed mind. Maybe in his new book we will be able to see if there is a chink of light entering his cerebral regions ?

E N D

References :

Paul Robeson – b.1898 –  d. 1976.  Trade Unionist, Civil Rights Activist, Lawyer, Athelete, Singer, Actor, Patriot.

Joe Hill

Joe Hill, a well known trade union activist, was executed by firing squad on November 19th 1915. He had been arrested and framed for the alleged murder of a local grocery store owner (a former policeman) and his son.

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night
Alive as you or me
Says I, But Joe, you’re ten years dead
I never died, says he
I never died, says he

Footnotes:

[1] Robert Emery, Ph.D. is Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia.

[2] ‘Emery calls a Crisis Committee’, https://sharedparenting.wordpress.com/2016/05/03/58b/

[3]  The only known source found for his English tour is in 1958 (when I was aged 11). I suspect I must have met him twice as the first time (at the Wulfrun Civil Hall) I was so small, aged perhaps 7 or 8,  that he appeared like Roald Dahl’s Big Friendly Giant. At the end of his performance I remember him inviting anyone who wanted to meet or speak with him to come onto the stage. As we shock hands my hand was swallowed up by his, and his beaming face came down to my level. He was even taller than my mother.

Taking the Purple path

 Based on an article by Marilyn Barr, Founder / Executive Director National Center on Shaken Baby (NCSBS), based in Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada)

As if the world was not already over-stuffed with acronyms and intoxicated to the point of stupefaction with them, we now have a new one – the P.U.R.P.L.E. period.

However, this acronym might prove vital for fathers in the battle with the likes of McIntosh and Emery whose dogma is opposed to shared parenting and fatherly Purpleinvolvement in child rearing in any shape or form. Patience will reveal more as we go through the A, B, C, of it.

Left: Marilyn Barr

The acronym PURPLE is used to describe specific characteristics of an infant’s crying during an infant’s first 3 to 6 month of life. It is a condition that used to be described as “colic” which referred to a baby’s condition of being in discomfort without specifics, limited parameters or a definition.

When a baby is said to have “colic” it conveys, at first instance, the impression of an illness or a condition that is abnormal in some way. But this is no true. It is a natural ‘developmental’ stage in mammals. And while it may psychologically reassure worried parents when the doctor prescribes a ‘medicine’ it unfortunately plants the seed in their mind that this is indeed an illness, when it is not.

PurplePIC

The most important thing to remember is that it is a transient condition and it is a “period” that is soon over. It cannot be emphasised enough that the word ‘period’ is important because it tells parents (and lawyers) that it is only temporary and will come to an end.

Why this is vital to you.

For some time past the advances made in shared parenting have encountered opposition from a rearguard that want to see the doctrine of ‘maternal attachment’ theory triumph over equality and parental rights. In other words they are a throw-back to the 1950s.

Foremost in this opposition are characters like Jennifer McIntosh and Robert Emery who have formed a vociferous and pernicious coterie of desperados.

So understanding the “Period of PURPLE”, i.e. when a baby is crying, will help counter the arguments of Messer’s McIntosh and Pruett’s ideology (see their CODIT sales pitch to influence care professionals “Charting Overnight Decisions for Infants and Toddlers” re: https://mensaid.wordpress.com/2016/05/24/23/ A list of further reading around the subject and linkages between the bad guys, i.e. McIntosh, Pruett, Emery, Smyth etc., are listed at the foot of the page and can be contrasted with the good guys, e.g. Warshak, Nielsen, Lamb, Ludolph etc.

Just to clarify; McIntosh and Pruett created CODIT and have co-authored papers in the past. They want to put distance between fathers and their children. McIntosh is linked to Emery because of their two studies inc. Smyth, McIntosh, Emery, Howarth (2016). The aforesaid authors also want to put distance between fathers and their children. Samantha Tornello is linked to Emery through “Overnight Custody Arrangements, Attachment, and Adjustment among Very Young Children” (2013). Emery, McIntosh et al., 2013, 2012 (and 2011) plus Tornello et al., 2013, all share the same view-point. So although Emery and the others are not directly linked to CODIT the thrust of their writing coincide with that of McIntosh and Pruett and so by implication the other authors share the same opinions as McIntosh and Pruett . This joint enterprise in aided and abetted by close connections with the  Family Court Review,  the journal of the AFCC, and for which some act as editors or have had a beneficial capacity bestowed on them.

Someone who has probably undertaken more studies on infant crying and analysed the causes is Dr. Ronald Barr, a developmental pediatrician. It was he that came up with the phrase the Period of PURPLE Crying.

Crying is one of the ways to help a parent understand their baby’s life and needs. This is, it must be emphasised, now recognised as a normal developmental phase. That is why it is referred to as the ‘Period of PURPLE Crying’. This is not, we should hasten to add, because the baby turns purple while crying. Not a bit of it. It is that the acronym is intended to be meaningful and memorable for what parents and their babies are going through. It can reach a peak; it is unexpected; it resists soothing, etc. and so forth.

The linkage with Jennifer McIntosh and Marsha Pruett is that they argue that their CODIT checklist for overnighting that babies being “irritable” and not easily soothed especially at parental swop over times. This, they assert, is a sign of stress that should, indeed must, be considered in limiting the father’s overnighting time with babies and toddlers under 4 years of age. The effect is to negate the progress made universally to allow fathers to spend more time with their children and it attempts to revert custody decision making to the hopeless position that existed 10 years ago. This unsound message is being spread to child care professionals and court official (including judges) and whoever else will give them an audience.

Breast feeding animals

The Period of PURPLE Crying begins at about 2 weeks of age and can continue until about 3 – 4 months of age. There are other common characteristics of this phase, or period, which are described in the above graphic of PURPLE. All babies go through this period. It is during this time that some babies can cry a lot and some far less, but they all go through it.

Scientists decided to look at different animal species to see if they go through this developmental stage. So far, they have found that all breast-feeding animals tested have a similar developmental stage of increased crying in the first months of life just as human babies do.

When babies are going through this period they display a resistance to soothing. Nothing appears to help. Even though certain soothing methods may help when the baby is simply fussy or crying, however, bouts of inconsolable crying are different. Then nothing seems to soothe them.

During this phase of a baby’s life they can cry for hours and still be healthy and normal. Parents often think there must be something wrong or they would not be crying like this. However, even after a check-up from the doctor which shows the baby is healthy they still go home and cry for hours, night after night. As one dad might say:

  • “It was so discouraging, our baby giggles and seems fine during the day and almost like clockwork, he starts crying around 6 pm. He is growing and healthy, so why does he cry like this?”

Often parents say their baby looks like he or she is in pain. They think they must be, or why would they cry so much? Babies who are going through this period can act as if they are in pain even when they are not.

McIntosh and Pruett react in this uniformed way and have decided that it validates McIntosh’s study, and that of Robert Emery and that of Bruce Smyth. The only trouble is that they are all cut from the same block and all share the same ideological opinions regarding attachment theory. They observe a baby apparently in distress and conclude they need to devise a checklist to measure it hence their CODIT checklist. They then look for the cause and alight on and the nearest one to hand (and in their view the most obvious), namely the child’s very recent visit with the father and the break in maternal attachment. It all makes perfect sense to them.

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Further reading:-

  1. ‘Why infants should not have ‘overnights’ with their Dad – Exactly what is the argument in favour of this?’ https://sharedparenting.wordpress.com/2016/05/17/60/
  2. ‘Robert Emery and Marsha Kline Pruetthttps://mensaid.wordpress.com/2016/04/30/22/
  3. ‘Emery calls a Crisis Committee’ (RESEARCHERS’ ROUNDTABLE), “Bending” Evidence for a Cause: Scholar-Advocacy Bias in Family Law https://sharedparenting.wordpress.com/2016/05/03/58b/
  4. ‘Dr. Richard Warshak – overnight care; what works?https://sharedparenting.wordpress.com/2014/02/20/40/
  5. Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report’ https://sharedparenting.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/45/.
  6. ‘Shared Physical Custody: Summary of 40 Studies on Outcomes for Children’ https://sharedparenting.wordpress.com/2014/11/04/51/
  7. ‘Pamela Rudolph rejects McIntosh et al’ https://sharedparenting.wordpress.com/2016/05/06/59/

 

 

 

 

 

Oregon’s ‘homo~phobic’ custody lobby

Is Oregon is in the cusp on lurching into Homo~phobia ?

The history and importance of civil rights in the Americas appears to have gone unnoticed in Oregon. Oregon state officials are on the cusp of being seduced by a crack-pot set of notions peddled by snake oil medicine salesmen.

McIntosh and Pruett are the snake oil medicine men and their cure-all tonic, now being sold at Oregon’s family courts website, is something called CODIT. Their brand of snake oil would see a framework of fences surrounding every separated father wanting to be a part of his child’s early years.

Custody is always a hot button issue, so raising the spectre of an irrational fear of men (homo-phobia) and promoting it as a legitimate and justified fear only muddies the waters.

CODIT puts back the evolution of fathers’ rights and of (in)equality between the sexes to the 1950s and beyond. CODIT is the acronym forCharting Overnight Decisions for Infants and Toddlers” – a pseudo-science if ever there was one, and promoted by aspiring rather than experienced social scientists. Its advocates (Jennifer McIntosh & Marsha Pruett, so no surprise there), insist it is based on research, backed by evidence, and grounded in good science (yes, of course, it is). The fact that no one else (certainly no one of any of repute), is willing to join them says nothing, does it ?

The incongruity is not lost on voters. At the exact time Bernie Sanders is reminding the young electorate of their forefathers struggle for emancipation, universal health care and equality, Oregon’s state court officials are blithely bent on dragging the state, kicking and screaming if needs be, into an era where mothers will once again have the monopoly of child care.

Here we are’, says Bernie to his audience, ‘celebrating and embracing equality for same-sex couples’ – and no one flinches. But mention fathers wanting equality and the shuttered minds of old style thinking erupt onto the stage.

What are state officials supposed to do if the main recommendation and the only message they hear from McIntosh & Pruett’s presentation is to exercise “Caution” against overnighting (Item #6…” p 20). Those state officials who formed Oregon’s State Family Law Advisory Committee (SFLAC) and met on June 5th , 2015 were:

  • Paula Brownhill: William J. Howe III; Stephen Adams; Hon. David Brewer; Colleen Carter-Cox; Ryan Carty; Dr. Adam Furchner; Laurie Hart; Linda Hukari; Lauren MacNeill; Kate Cooper; Maureen McKnight; Rebecca Orf; Keith Raines; Richardson; and Robin Selig.

when separation becomes discrimination

For some reason, better known perhaps to God than the public, Messer’s McIntosh & Pruett want separated fathers to jump through hoops that they have unbiasedly (?) devised before they can share (or even think about sharing) in the raising of their own children. The focus is children aged under 3, and especially 0 – 12 months old, which Pruett, McIntosh, & Kelly see, in their joint papers of 2013 and 2014, as particularly vulnerable to every fathers’ evil machinations (see ‘Parental separation and overnight care of young children’, Part I & II, McIntosh, Pruett & Kelly, 2014). It remains unclear whether Kelly, who is named as a joint author in the Oregon presentation is even aware of her name being used in this joint enterprise since she has recently retired and her past record in such matters is at variance with the discriminatory stance adopted by McIntosh. Someone may soon have to draw her attention to this development and allow her to disavow any connection.

However, Messer’s McIntosh, Pruett, have machinations of their own. Since 2011 when they upset their own profession by their rather slapdash research, they have majored on the 0 years to 3-year-old child. Their 2014 paper echoed the same theme. However, in a version published in April 2014 issue of the Family Court Review they quietly convert the 3-year-old, i.e. 36 month, boundary, into 48 months on the pretext that this is “In line with the available research specific to separated parents and overnight care” which, of course, is an untruth.

It is untrue because there is no credible empirical data showing that overnight / sleepovers have a negative impact on 48 month old children – or 36 month old children for that matter.

fig leaves & Filthy lucre

The justification for their approach to fathers is one of pretending to safeguard children’s safety and best interests. The only problem with their new ‘systemised’ approach is that it is undecipherable to the uninitiated – which, of course, makes it a potential cash cow if the programme can be sold to enough municipalities. And indeed McIntosh is already selling it through her counselling centre’s website as one of her on-line courses.

The demonic duo frame the dilemma faced as an “either or” issue between the research backing attachment theory and that research backing shared parenting. There is no evidence in anyone else’s writings of pitting these two factors against each other and by claiming there are points where the “two strands of development are  . . .  overlapping and inextricably related” is as protective as a fig leaf. It deflects from the real issue which is, “Should infants have overnight stays with their Dad or not (since the implied assumption is that this would interfere with attachment to Mom) ?

Their plans need to face public scrutiny – and the scrutiny of their peers who need to critique this CODIT which has never been peer approved – rather than be confined to a sales pitch behind closed doors. Below is how they see their method working:-

oregon

The hoops are euphemistically termed “Gateway Factors”. Aspirant practitioners of their newly invented methods will have to pay the Cartel to be trained in how to read and implement the snake oil psycho-babble. This is vital because anywhere beyond Gateway Factor 1 and 2 and the would-be practitioner would have to know how to recognise not only whether “The child has significant developmental or medical needs” but what is defined as such by their authors.

Even were we to focus merely on Factor 1 and 2 the regime is so incestuous in its supporting evidence that one is left at a loss to explain or rationalise the “absent”, “emerging” or “present” columns (see above).

How many times have we experienced a wonderfully thought out system that work well with skilled staff and brings real benefits only for it to fall apart when rolled out and staff skill levels fall ? This is not wonderfully thought out, nor is it an enviable or reliable system. Manifestly, this will have to be operated by those in social services who are expected to be competent in medical diagnosis and psychological matters. That’s as tall order.

It self-evident that McIntosh & Pruett are instead relying on a quasi-tick box approach, with coloured coding (to help the impaired, one wonders ?). They coo:

  • The grid from the latter paper has been adapted here for easier use, and a chart has been added, to assist considerations.

A grid and a chart are not enough for this esoteric regime – one needs a heavy duty manual even for the most agile of minds to comprehend their intent.

Their prime motives are betrayed from the sub-text which makes it plain that this whole regime is designed for that 5% of parents who are violent or are irreconcilable when it asks:

The young child:

  1. A) has an established, trusting relationship (6 months +) with both parents, when resident parent is not present, child:
  2. B) seeks comfort from, and is soothed by the other parent
  3. C) finds support for play and exploration with the other parent

(The reader will have to excuse the apparent poor quality of the grammar but one can only work with what is on the printed page).

The unvarnished truth is that this is the hackneyed ploy to gum up the works used every time by alleged ‘reformers’ seeking to reform matters backwards. Their modus operandi is, let’s not think of the 95% or the 97% who are ‘good enough parents’, lets ignore that the immaculate can exist, and let’s instead drag everyone down to the lowest denominator and judge everyone on that basis.

Touch down and lock out

McIntosh & Pruett trumpet their CODIT regime as “  . .  . a simple way to consider key questions that helpfully inform decisions about overnight care for very young children (0-3 years) after parental separation.” However, this seems to infer some de-skilling and making it too simple implies untrained staff are about to be let loose.

It’s true that in the business world one always endeavours to make things, systems, and machinery “idiot-proof” but there are always plenty of candidates to thwart the sharpest and most experienced minds.

In contrast to these author-beginners – newbies – those in the commercial world have a mass of experience behind them (that’s why they’re paid the big bucks). Not only that but they stand to be sued if they get it wrong. One suspects McIntosh & Pruett cannot lay claim to 20 years of inventing and developing such “idiot-proof” machinery and have no concept of how ruinous strict liability can be.

Almost casually Pruett & McIntosh, claim that CODIT “. . . is based on a review of current developmental science” vis-a-vis a consensus about overnight decisions. The only problem is that it’s a consensus of two.  Joan Kelly who retired one year before McIntosh and Pruett created and released CODIT has written many articles on her own that would not support CODIT’s  premise or procedures. CODIT is not based on the real consensus of the Warshak paper which reflects the views of 110 world respected experts or on reviews of the research by other renown social scientists such as Michael Lamb.

The underlying criteria of the trio is pressing to achieve is a lock-out of other opinions which they excuse as “the need to achieve a coherent view.” If issues are as unresolved as they have made out elsewhere in their published work then there is no need to be a coherent view until those issues are unresolved (and having such little data doesn’t help). The one redeeming trait is that they do at least recognise that in the meantime decision made in family law carry significant and potentially enduring consequences for young children and their parents (where have they been for 30 years ?).

Elastic evidence

They would like us to believe that there is ‘controversy’ surrounding overnight stays for young children and that this in part stems from adherence to some ‘theoretical position’.  But the only ones seeking a controversy are the authors since they are finding their position difficult to sustain.

Infants prefer, the authors assert with little credible backing, proximity to one parent or the other at different ages, particularly in their first 18 months. They never mention ‘mothers’ but we all know that is what they mean. To back this up that cite only two studies and we are asked to accept this as established fact in all of the empirical studies on attachment.

Attachment theory is nothing if it is not about bonding with parents and as a result much emphasis is placed on “frequent” separations and “repeated” separations. These may appear to be one and the same but they can mean very different beasts in academia. Going to work in the morning a fathers might be said to be “frequently” separated whereas a mother or child expecting a father to return routinely but who does not, might be ‘repeatedly’ let down in separation terms. However, “frequent” and “repeated” are never defined. This goes to the heart of the debate – who is in charge of determining that one overnight stay with Dad a week is “frequent”? If the concern is the impact on the baby’s sense of security with the main care-givers due to frequent changes doesn’t this assume the baby is a conscious sentient being, capable of independent thought, which surely contradicts the attachment theory of utter dependency ?

From the attachment perspective, “frequent” separation refers to repeated absences occurring regularly, and concern focuses on the impact of frequent change on the baby’s security with main care-givers.

Return of the Red necks

Conveniently forgotten in their arrival at this rickety conclusion about sleeping over at a father’s home is the CDC data showing 99% of all child homicides in the 0 -12 month category as actually mother inflicted. Given this indisputable fact, why are mothers not forced by CODIT to face the hoops rather than fathers ?

The answer is simple; Messer’s McIntosh & Pruett are unreformed 1970 feminists. They want female privilege, not equality. They represent a faction of feminism that embraces 19th century Victorian values. They are as unreconstructed as any misogynistic redneck – the only problen with this descriptor is that they haven’t had enough experience in the field to get a literal or figurative ‘red neck’.

Immaturity wafts through their document. They want their questions to be asked and assessed for each infant-parent relationship but no one has told them yet that this is not even possible with divorces where the number of persons involved is 50% less (and often both parties agree to a separation). So what realistic hope have McIntosh & Pruett to get this project over the line ?

It is a false premise to believe that there is somehow “ . . . an implicit assumption that one parent’s gain is the other parent’s loss, and that the baby either wins or loses, as well.” Adopting attachment theory tactics will ensure one parent will always be the loser. But we should not exclusively focus on this but on the arguments made in everything one reads which are not about a simply parent’s gain or loss but about the infants’ losses/gains.

McIntosh & Pruett believe – and probably quite sincerely – that infants in the “most frequent” overnight group (one or more nights per week) were more irritable than the “less than weekly.” However, they fail to mention that those same children were no more irritable than infants from intact families – so why are the reporting their own findings in this erroneous way ?  The data did not show overnighting infants were very irritable or difficult babies. Doubtful claims are also made that:

  • “ . . .  children aged 2-3 years in the “most overnights” group (35% or more overnights between their parents), showed significantly lower persistence in play and learning than those in either of the lower contact groups, and more problematic behaviours.”

This ‘result’ was reached using a subjective “assessment” of the children’s readiness to learn language. This was another instance of the authors misleading the reader. They gave the impression that they were having “learning problems” when they were not. It was in fact a 5 item test that did not assess how easily distracted they were when playing by themselves, etc. and their scores were perfectly in the normal range. No mention is made that the frequently overnighting 3 year olds were actually better off when they were five – they had fewer behavioural problems.

Analysing their claims

Closer analysis finds them shooting themselves in the foot. Citing Tornello, Emery, Rowen, Potter, Ocker & Xu (2013), they claim data in the study analysed attachment and childhood adjustment data provided by mothers from a separated families sample of 1,023 one-year-olds and 1,547 three-year-olds who had contact with both parents. Large numbers look impressive but sadly for McIntosh & Pruett data came from only 51 mothers whose infants were “frequently” overnighting – and most of those infants were living with their father for more than half of the time.

Further analysis finds the claims by McIntosh et al (2010 & 2013) concerning a randomised general population database and Children aged 2-3 years in the “most overnights” group to be suspect. Ironically the problematic behaviours identified and referred to were only towards their mothers – and were the same behaviours reported by 50% of the 4,000 mothers in the

Their claim is therefore dangerously misleading and they failed to mention any of the far more serious limitations of this study – lack of validity for most of the measures, 60 – 90% of parents a). never-married or, b). cohabitees, and there was no clear link between overnighting on 5 of the 6 measures – only 11 infants who overnighted more than 5 nights a month etc.  There was no measurement of attachment, questionable measures of “emotional regulation” and having only 14 – 20 infants in the occasional overnights group is no where large enough to draw any worthwhile conclusions.

Depending as they did on much of the ‘Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study’ their claim that the data was representative of the population of 20 major inner US cities, is true nu once again dangerously misleading. McIntosh & Pruett concede that their sample consists of predominantly black, unmarried, low-income mothers they are not “typical.” Instead, they represent the poor, minority population in those studies – not the population of the entire city.

They also reveal that 41% of children moved to an overnight plan in the intervening year before the follow-up – this means there can be no way to reliably assess the impact of overnighting on the “unsettled behaviour.

As if looking for support, the authors claim that “some variables studied showed no group effects” but it has been pointed out by others, it is not some but ‘most’ variables studied showed no group effects. They then misuse the paper by Solomon and George (1999) claiming it is ‘consistent’ with theirs.

The instructions on how to complete the CODIT ‘profile’ (a ‘checklist’ to you and me but maybe they see themselves as FBI agents ?), is to ‘work through the 8 factors’ and for the questions in each factor assign a value. Operatives of the regime are advised to circle the answer that is currently true for this child and family, as defined as follows:

  • Present (continually present/established)
  • Emerging (sometimes present)
  • Absent (rarely or never present).

 Only in the latter stages, and as a codicil, do the authors admit their regime is nowhere near close to being a diagnostic instrument and so fallible as to be discarded when put under pressure.

  • “The CODIT is not a diagnostic instrument. The profile should not be used as the sole basis for decisions, nor override the discretion of parents who jointly elect to follow other schedules.”

Should someone be found to somehow and miraculously have all the diverse specialism this regime demands then at the finale practitioners are advised:

oregon2 They say a sucker punch is always unexpected and the one that always lays you out. In boxing, a sucker punch is one thrown outside of the formalised rules of engagement. Even though Messer Jennifer McIntosh and Marsha Pruetty work to a disgraceful agenda, they nonetheless operate within the thin framework of family courts.

Death and brain tumours can be occasioned by sucker punches, so the public in Oregon must  be alerted in no small way to the proximity of potentially malignant opponents in their community.

Make no mistake, the stakes are high. Should their regime not reach its intended goal then built into their programme of Gateway Factors and Key Factors is the backstop of as yet undefined Further Factors which can be added later.

The last word has to go to the authors who write that some children had not seen their fathers regularly in the intervening year, and for a few they had no prior contact. In other words, within the context of their originating paper,  the researchers themselves concluded that there was no significant link between overnighting per se and attachment.

 

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Robert Emery and Marsha Kline Pruett

Caught red handed

Robert Emery and Marsha Kline Pruett might as well run up the white flag now for all the good they are doing for the social sciences and children. Not content with labelling others who oppose their mono-theocratic world view as ‘scholar advocates’ (meant in a most derisory fashion), they are in fact describing themselves and their own actions over many years.

What amounts to an internecine war has all but been declared by them against their fellow academics. Their latest contribution to the advancement of mankind – if that is what you can call It  – is entitled “Researchers’ RoundTable “Bending” Evidence for a Cause:  Scholar-Advocacy Bias in Family Law.”

If anyone in the social sciences has a track record and an unimpeachable pedigree of ‘bending evidence’ then one of its possible candidates would have to be Messer’s  Emery and/or Kline Pruett. And it makes one wonder why the other 5 co-authors (Amy Holtzworth-Munroe; Janet R. Johnston; JoAnne L. Pedro-Carroll; Michael Saini; and Irwin Sandler) allowed their names to be included and how much actual contribution they made to the final product ? And before you ask yourself, yes, I have never heard of them either !

Here then is a quick résumé of them (see Appendix 1 for more detail):

  • Amy Holtzworth-Munroe is the author of numerous male batterers and violent-husband papers.
  • Janet R. Johnston appears to be engaged in alienated child and on-going post-divorce conflict etc.
  • JoAnne L. Pedro-Carroll is a clinical psychologist, a mother of 7 children, an author and advisor to various US committees.
  • Michael Saini is an Associate Professor at University of Toronto, his résumé of research interests includes: children and families involved with the courts; High conflict custody disputes; child emotional abuse and maltreatment; and supervised ‘access.’
  • Irwin Sandler is a Department of Clinical Psychology professor and for 20 years has been interested in children and families facing stressful situations. Currently he is looking into the difficulties and preventive interventions for children of divorce and bereaved children.

With no well-known authors such as Lamb, Warshak, Kelly, or Nielsen (or several others) with awesome reputations in sight, there is an unspoken question left dangling over any and all of their deliberations.

One can easily imagine that faced with declining sales and falling circulation, Emery as the social science editor for the journal “Family Court Review”, together with Pruett (as the president of Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) felt they had to devise an alternative strategy to counter the loosening of their grip on the profession.

To deal with the rising tide before them the duo, who work in close harmony with each other, are not surprisingly seeking a life raft in the form of more and better articles. However, better and more appealing article come with a cost. Are they willing to pay the price of having quality articles exhibiting views with which they fundamentally disagree – ones that do not tow their commissariat party line ? Can they, like the soviet apparatchiks before them, fight a rear-guard action and trash every new concept and original thought they come across even when change is staring them in the face.

Their present articles attract an ever decreasing number of niche readers; a decreasing number of advocates in sympathy with their editorial and those editorials themselves become more out dated with each year that passes. So what to do ?

One obvious answer is to belittle or deride ones opposition and that is now apparently what Emery and Pruet are aiming to do with this latest paper of theirs. They appear to be insinuating or smearing their opponents rather than dialoguing with them in a wholesome and rigorous manner.

Without a hint of irony, idiocy or their place in history Emery and Kline Pruett draw strength from a sayings of Thomas Huxley that:

  • “The great tragedy of Science – the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.”

It has yet to dawn on Emery and Kline Pruett that they are the very embodiment of that saying. For 30 years, or more, their ‘beautiful hypothesis’ (their wrongheaded ideas about the supposed dangers of infant overnighting and shared care) have refused to face the ugly fact that the science they propagate does not support it. Their doctrine doesn’t work and shared parenting does.

That is not just a great tragedy for science but is relegated to a mere detail in such matters where  the tragedy is of biblical proportions for millions of children who have had to suffer their interminable regime of doctrinal dogma. Academics might argue that we have no concrete evidence that their views about child custody actually hurt children – but I think we can all agree that fathers (and all honest parents) know, that after processing through the courts the child is rarely the same again.

So lacking in the milk of human kindness are they that they ascribe tragedy to only science and never quantify or mention the far greater misery they and their teaching have caused millions of families worldwide. This is the impression the subtext conveys. This misery is on the scale of a war crime – a holocaust – but what do they care for their fellow-man ?

They are detached; they are academics and scholars. They are Eichmann (“only following orders”), following only where they say their evidence takes them. In reality, they want to obliterate and “silence” others scholars who disagree with them and will not swallow their version of the world, hook line and sinker.

Passing over the heads and intellect of Messrs Emery and Kline Pruett is a truism we are all familiar with, namely that, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Messrs Emery and Kline Pruett are in that category, believing, as they do, that one day in court their religious conviction about child custody will be exonerated and that a judge will one day get it right. Sadly, the truth bears no relations to their rose-tinted views, as anyone who has been through the family court system in any country knows.

For too many years and in too many scholarly journals their ‘world view’ has been advertised, marketed, promoted, publicised, and presented as the only true and viable option. Having had the monopoly (i.e. the stranglehold) over the content of social science journals they are now being challenged as better and more accurate evidence become available and the old data is treated with less reverence.

This is a confidence sapping experience for them. They are accustomed to routinely using the pages of the AFCC and FCR to promote their own views to shame and silence others. Their overconfidence has brought them to the precipice. In attempting to silence by insulting Warshak’s paper (very unscholarly) and the 110 people who agreed with him they have taken a step too far. The fact is their two articles had that sole aim in mind. As a result they have shown themselves for what they are and are as naked as a sniper without camouflage.

Those academics who had temerity, in the view of Emery and Kline Pruett, to criticise the Emery and McIntosh’s baby studies of a few years ago, should be metaphorically subdued into submission or failing that into silence.

This is a very important point. Western values and that of science itself rest on the free exchange of ideas, the free challenging of the old conventions and the pioneering of new frontiers. Without this the West would stagnate, economies would falter and a new Dark Age comparable to all the loss of medical knowledge (accrued by the ancient Greeks and Romans) and lost to Europe in the Middle Ages. [1]

In their paper (“Researchers’ RoundTable “Bending” Evidence for a Cause: Scholar-Advocacy Bias in Family Law”), they actually state: “We argue that scholar-advocacy bias goes largely unacknowledged in family law” – when what they really mean is that their own scholar-advocacy bias and bigotry had largely been unacknowledged for years and so had previously been unchallenged. Now it is being challenged – and that makes them feel uncomfortable.

When you find yourself in a hole Common sense tells you its time to stop digging – but this worldly advise is unknown to Emery & Co. Happily for us they even define their own ‘scholar-advocacy bias’ as:

  • “. . . .the intentional or unintentional use of the language, methods, and approaches of social science research, as well as one’s status as an expert, for the purpose and/or outcome of legitimizing advocacy claims at the cost of misrepresenting research findings.”

What a confessional ! !  You couldn’t make it up ! !

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Appendix 1

NB Telling that no one can command acknowledgement of their gravitas merely by the use of their name, e.g. Warshak, Lamb or Nielsen.

Robert Emery, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology and director of the Center for Children, Families, and the Law at the University of Virginia. He has authored over 150 scientific publications and several books, including the forthcoming Two Homes, One Childhood: A Parenting Plan to Last a Lifetime (Avery, August 2016).

Amy Holtzworth-Munroe (1988 Ph.D., clinical psychology) is a professor in Indiana University’s (IU) Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. She has researched intimate partner violence (IPV) for over 30 years, including examining the social skills deficits of violent husbands and identifying subtypes of male batterers. More recently, she has conducted research on family law, including developing and testing the best methods of IPV screening in family mediation and conducting randomized controlled trials testing the effectiveness of family law interventions (e.g., different mediation approaches, online parent programs). Her research is currently conducted in the IU Law School Mediation Center, courts around Indiana, and the Washington, DC Superior Court Multi-Door Dispute Resolution Center. She is a principal investigator on a National Institute of Justice–funded research project comparing outcomes of shuttle mediation, videoconferencing mediation, and return to court (without mediation) for parties with a history of high levels of IPV.

Janet R. Johnston, Ph.D., professor emeritus in the Department of Justice Studies, San Jose State University, was formerly consulting associate professor at Stanford University and research director of the Judith Wallerstein Center for the Family in Transition, California. For three decades, she has specialized in counseling, mediation, and research with high-conflict, litigating divorcing couples and their children with special attention to domestic violence, child abduction, and alienated children.

JoAnne Pedro-Carroll is a clinical psychologist, researcher, and consultant with over 30 years of experience. She is the author of over 100 publications, including her award-winning book, Putting Children First: Proven Parenting Strategies for Helping Children Thrive Through Divorce (Avery, 2010). She serves as an international consultant on the mental health and wellness of children and families. An advisor to Sesame Street, she helped to develop materials to foster children’s resilience and understanding of divorce-related family changes. She is the founder of the Children of Divorce Intervention Program, an award-winning series of prevention programs for kindergarten through eighth-grade children in the United States and internationally. She developed and co-founded A.C.T.—For the Children (Assisting Children through Transition), a parent education program that serves as a model throughout New York state and  nationally. Her programs have earned widespread acclaim, including a Program Excellence Award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Lela Rowland Award from the National Mental Health Association, and citation as an exemplary program for children from several national and international organizations. As a senior researcher at the Children’s Institute and a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, her areas of research included the effects of marital adjustment on children and the development, implementation, and evaluation of preventive interventions for children and families experiencing stressful life transitions. She is the recipient of the American Psychological Association’s 2001 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Public Service and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts award for Outstanding Research.

Marsha Kline Pruett is the Maconda Brown O’Connor Professor at Smith College School for Social Work. She has been in practice for 20 years, specializing in couples counseling and co-parenting consultation, as well as intervention design and evaluation. She has published numerous articles, books, and curricula on topics pertaining to couple relationships before and after divorce, father involvement, young children and overnights, and child outcomes. Her books include Your Divorce Advisor: A Psychologist and Attorney Lead You Through the Legal and Emotional Landscape of Divorce (Fireside) and Partnership Parenting (Perseus). She consults nationally and internationally on various family law issues. She is currently the president-elect of AFCC.

Michael A. Saini, Ph.D., is an associate professor at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto and holds the endowed Factor-Inwentash Chair of Law and Social Work. He is the co-director of the Combined J.D. and M.S.W. program with the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto and the course director of the 40-hour Foundations to Custody Evaluations with the Continuing Education Program at the University of Toronto. For the past 15 years, he has been conducting custody evaluations and assisting children’s counsel for the Office of the Children’s Lawyer, Ministry of the Attorney General in Ontario. (Is it more than just a coincidence that Canada’s shared parenting reform legislation has been blocked for more than 10 years ?).

Irwin Sandler, Ph.D., University of Rochester, is the director of the Prevention Research Center and the Program for Prevention Research and is the principal investigator on the Family Bereavement Program. He has been conducting research on children and families in high-stress situations for over 20 years. His current interests focus on understanding the role of coping and its efficacy in promoting health adaptation to stress, the assessment of stress events and ongoing chronic difficulties, and preventive interventions for children of divorce and bereaved children. His most recent books are the Handbook of Children’s Coping (Plenum Press, co-edited with Sharlene Wolchik) and the forthcoming The Promotion of Wellness in Children and Adolescents (Sage, co-edited with Cichetti, Rappaport, and Weissberg).

Footnotes:

[1] Quick ref. http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/history/shp/middleages/medievalknowledgerev1.shtml

Prostate cancer funding – pause or paralysis ?

Prostate cancer – the widow and orphan maker

Incredible but true:-  In Britain one man an hour dies from prostate cancer

Cancer_AOne of America’s oldest and respected men’s and fathers’ rights organisation (NCFM) [1] has this week released a critique of the American government’s policy in the funding (or the lack of it) of cancers that affect men, namely, prostate cancer.

Expenditure numbers are always big in the USA so it should not surprise us that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) latest budget request is for $11.86 Billion dollars, which is an $ 87 Million dollar increase.

What was shocking – but sadly not a surprise given our identical experience in the UK – was that of the existing $13.7 Million earmarked for prostate cancer programme no increase in funds was requested by the CDC explained in the budget narrative as; “. . . . the evidence on prostate cancer screening remains unclear.”

This immediately put us in mind of our attempts in 1998 – 99 to get funding (at any level) earmarked for prostate cancer in the UK. The situation then was that while the Gov’t contributed millions of pounds every year to cancer (see first table), it was all directed towards the politically sensitive and PC topic of breast cancer. Prostate cancer never got a mention – yet it killed as many men as breast cancer killed women. The figures of the period show the discrepancy in thinking.

Cancer_CAlmost £24 million was being spent by government on female related cancers and only £2m on male specific cancers (£1m of which came from the Daily Mail). Only when the Daily Mail lost once of its best reporters to prostate cancer at a very early age did it and the public blackmail’ government to match its one million pounds research donation (in March 2000).

In Britain and Ireland there are 40,000 diagnoses of prostate cancer each year. Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) is a protein produced by both normal and cancerous prostate cells and this sis the method adopted for testing. The situation in 2015 was that there were 330,000 men diagnosed with prostate cancer (ref. ‘Prostate Cancer UK’, Oct 2015), and 10,500 were dying from it each year. One in eight men in the UK will, on average, be diagnosed with prostate cancer and for black men the likelihood is 1 in 4 (the reason for this is still not understood).

In a letter to Robert Whiston, from Baroness Hayman at the Dept. of Health, dated 29/6/1999 concerning cancer screening for men, she confirmed there were two beast screening programmes (BSP) for women, and that since 1988 (when the BSPs were introduced into the UK) the death rate for breast cancer had fallen faster than the European average.

Cancer_BHowever, she declared that after her Dept. had commissioned two reviews into prostate cancer testing, i.e. the PSA test, (from the University of Bristol and the Institute of Cancer Research and both 1997) she had been recommended that because of the high risk of false positive rates that:

  • “. . . . with the current evidence and the present technology a screening programme could not be supported and there was no case to be made for a national screening programme. . . .. There is currently no evidence to support the assertion that a screening programme for prostate cancer could save lives.”

It was later learnt that ‘guidance’ had then been issued to all Health Authorities that patients should not be offered routine prostate cancer screening – despite all existing cancer screening programmes producing at varying degrees the same ‘false positives’.

Less than two years later, in March 2000, New Labour announced the launch of a £20m pilot project, lasting 10 years, “to see if a national screening programme for women suffering from ovarian cancer should be established” – again, nothing about prostate cancer or prostate cancer funding.

  • “ . . . . The plan is for 100,000 women to be screen every year for 6 years with 50,000 undergoing a blood test and the rest an ultrasound test (at a cost of £100 per woman). The Medical Research Council will contribute £5.7m, the Dept. of Health £12m, the Cancer Research Campaign £1m and Imperial Cancer Research Fund a further £1m. Yvette Cooper, minister for public health said in welcoming that the study would provide “…. valuable new evidence of the best ways to treat and monitor the disease”.

The cost of a prostate cancer PSA test for men was £25 at the time.

Cancer_D

“Silent killer”

In as Telegraph article on Ovarian Cancer, dated March 22nd 2000, Prof. Ian Jacobs of Bartholomew’s Hospital London described Ovarian Cancer as the silent killer. Silent because its symptoms are not immediately apparent and a diagnosis is can be difficult:

  • “Because ovarian cancer involves a blood test, it is cost–effective”. However, there would be some cases where tests would show abnormalities, even though there was no cancer. The unnecessary surgery rate is thought to be between 0.1% and 0.5% of cases.

The PSA prostate cancer test also involves a blood test and would, on occasions, also show abnormalities, even though there was no cancer (ie false positives), yet prostate cancer is abandoned penniless and Ovarian has millions spent on it. But with all the funding and publicity the only ‘silent killer’ left today is prostate cancer.

Ovarian Cancer was once the 4th biggest cancer killer (just like prostate cancer) – usually in the post-menopausal 50 – 74 age group who account for 80% of all ovarian cancer cases. And among prostate cancer sufferers, probably 80% are also in the 50 – 74 age group (and in common with ovarian cancer it can also strike people in their 30s).

Is your life worth only £417 ?

Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer for men in the US. Only lung cancer kills more men than prostate cancer. [2] Prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths among white, black, Cancer_EAmerican Indian/Alaska Native, and Hispanic men; and the fourth cause of cancer deaths for Pacific Islander men. [3]

Two large Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) trials recently published conflicting results. A European trial found a clear and significant reduction in mortality, but a US trial found little benefit and even some harm. [4]

Left: Comedian Bill Bailey is fronting a new fund-raising campaign by Prostate Cancer UK in a series of adverts

The picture in Britain had not changed very much by 2013 – prostate cancer remained the most common form of the disease in men but is bottom of the league for research spending, Gov’t figures reveal. According to the Daily Mail, just £17 million was spent by government and charitable sources in 2011, which works out at £417 for each of the 40,841 men diagnosed with the disease that year.

Imagine, if a husband died aged 35 of prostate cancer, how much loss of wealth creation would  follow, lowered GDP due to 30,000 similar deaths, and how much cash money the government would have to pay out every month in benefits and allowances to a widow and her orphans and the subsidies needed for schooling and medical treatments etc.

In contrast, breast cancer still had the highest research funding of any cancer at £41.6million, with leukaemia receiving the most per patient (£3,903). Owen Sharp, chief executive of Prostate Cancer UK, said:

  • ‘Men in the UK have a problem and they don’t want to talk about it. Neither do the wives and partners who will end up supporting them, the doctors who will treat them, nor the politicians who will count on their vote. Prostate cancer is simply not on the radar. We need to follow the lead of the successful female movement against breast cancer and create a real change for men.’

The cure is simple. It is the ‘official mind’ that must change. As a “P Armstrong”, London, wrote 3 years ago:

  •  “Dr Julie Sharp of Cancer Research UK was quoted on the subject as follows: “We fund the best science we can to make the greatest impact – we don’t have quotas for specific types of cancer.” Right ! This is Cancer Research UK, which sends out letters addressed ‘To the Woman of the House‘ and bans men from participating in the ‘Race for Life’ annual run. Makes you wonder, eh ?”

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appendix 1

USA 1992 – ‘The death rate for cancer of the prostate is 24.1 per 100,000 The death rate for female cancer of the breast is 27.4 per 100,000. Cancer of the prostate killed about 32,000 men in 1992 and about 44,500 were killed by breast cancer. Breast cancer has $92 million on it by the US Gov’t. Cancer of the prostate has $14 million spent on it by Gov’t (ie 660% more funding for a 13.7% death rate difference). Projected funding in 1992 is $132m for breast cancer and $20m for prostate.’ – Cancer Facts and Figures, 1991. American Cancer Society.

appendix 2

Extracts taken from readers’ comments Daily Mail 2013-

“Kitty”, Milton Keynes, UK.  ‘Jayell – ‘doesn’t effect them personally’? I have just lost my adored husband, horribly, to PC. how much (sic) more ‘personal’ is that?’ Are you saying that your loss was greater than his ? Reminds me of the quote from Hilary Clinton who said that women are the main victims of war because they lose fathers, husbands and sons. You can always count on a woman to turn the subject back to her favourite subject – HERSELF !

References:

  1.  UK info source : http://prostatecanceruk.org/prostate-information/about-prostate-cancer
  2. For a discussion of related issues see: http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2009/03/18/the-psa-test-the-picture-becomes-slightly-clearer/
  3. http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/type/prostate-cancer/diagnosis/prostate-cancer-tests
  4. https://www.letsgetchecked.com/gb/en-gb/cancer-screening-kits/prostate-specific-antigen/Media
  5. Original version on PR Newswire, see:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-national-coalition-for-men-ncfm-calls-for-congress-to-restore-and-increase-funding-for-prostate-cancer-research-300255255.html
  6. Daily Mail 1st January 2013 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2255559/Anger-prostate-cancer-lags-research-spending-despite-common-form-disease-men.html

Footnotes:

  • [1] National Coalition For Men
  • [2] American Cancer Society
  • [3] The Center for Disease Control (CDC)
  • [4] Screening for Prostate Cancer: A Review of the ERSPC and PLCO Trials, (2009), “Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian (PLCO)” Cancer Screening Trial & “European Randomized Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer” (ERSPC) respectively. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2777060/

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Fathers & schools

Fathers & schools

Divorced and or separated fathers can sometimes feel that schools are not giving them the co-operation needed to keep track of their son’s or daughter’s progress at school.

Is this you ?

Do you feel like there is an insurmountable brick wall or a culture of indifference by the school your children attend ?  Then be assured there are legal measures already in place to help you overcome some of the problems.

The terms ‘resident’ and ‘non-resident’ parent’ are used to distinguish between parents who do and do not live with a child. Under our present court regime most fathers are the NRP (‘non-resident’ parent’) – and for this short commentary it is assumed you are a reasonable and sensible father who has not been in any sort of trouble.

You have rights

Sometimes because you are the ‘non-resident parent’ you are made to feel like an outsider with no rights whatsoever. When this occurs the school’s Principal or class teacher needs to be calmly, firmly and very politely reminded of their statutory duties under the various Education Acts and similar family law Acts.

Over many years all Governments have provided all schools and teachers with ‘guidance’ regarding fathers, i.e. ‘non-resident parent’ – but it is quite common for these obligations on schools to not be enforced (or even not known about by most teachers).

So the following is intended as a helpful guide for fathers when dealing with schools and Local Authorities but should not be treated as a complete and authoritative statement of the law.

Information Sharing

Often a source of irritation is the lack of school reports, or exam results, or notifications of events, school trips etc. happening at school and affecting your son or daughter.

Schools have an absolute obligation to keep all ‘non-resident parent’ (male or female) informed at all times about these very topics (not once every 12 months).

But this right to be kept informed hinges on you (the ‘non-resident parent’) having ‘parental responsibility’. If you do not have this then you may have to apply to the courts for it (see ‘What is Parental Responsibility ?’ below).

Both divorced parents (spouses) automatically have ‘parental responsibility’ during and after their marriage. If the parents were unmarried only the mother is automatically granted parental responsibility and the father has to apply to the courts for it or to have signed the birth certificate.

The Dept. of Education has made it plain to schools that it is important that schools balance the requests of parents with their legislative duties (i.e. to have regard for the child’s best interests). Having parental responsibility does not allow one parent to obstruct a school from carrying out their duties under legislation (but this does sometimes happen).

So, for example, a mother cannot persuade a school to withhold School Reports, or the notification of a school play. The proper procedure for schools is that they should inform the natural parent who is objecting that they cannot comply with that request.

Under The Education (Pupil Information) (England) Regulations 2005, schools are required to provide access to, or copies of a child’s educational record when requested by a parent. Therefore, if the school were to abide by the request of the objecting / obstructing natural parent the school would be in breach of their obligations under education law.

Defining ‘Who is a parent ?’

It may be useful at this stage – if you are unsure – to see which category you are in, i.e. whether you are a parent and have parental responsibility or not.

It is as important for you as it is for schools and local authorities that they are aware that parents may be recognised differently under education law than under family law.

For instance, for the purposes of education law, section 576 of the Education Act 1996 defines a ‘parent’ as:

  1. all natural (biological) parents, whether they are married or not;
  2. any person who, although not a natural parent, has parental responsibility for a child or young person (this could be a step-parent, guardian or other relative);
  3. any person who, although not a natural parent, has care of a child or young person.
  4. A person has care of a child or young person if they are the person with whom the child lives and who looks after the child, irrespective of what their relationship is with the child.

In 1/. above if you are or have been married then both are parents and both have parental responsibility. In the other instances, 2/, 3/, and 4/, a person can be a parent but not have parental responsibility.

Further clarification can be obtained at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/dealing-with-issues-relating-to-parental-responsibility

What is Parental Responsibility ?

Defining if you have it

In family law, ‘parental responsibility’ means all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority that a parent (mother and father) equally has in relation to the child. [1]

Where a child’s father and mother were married to each other at the time of the child’s birth they each have parental responsibility for the child. Where the parents are not married to each other, the child’s father can gain parental responsibility in the following ways:

  1. by registering the child’s birth jointly with the mother;
  2. by subsequently marrying the child’s mother; or
  3. through a ‘parental responsibility agreement’ between him and the child’s mother which is registered with the court; or
  4. by obtaining a court order for parental responsibility.

Additionally, a local authority can acquire parental responsibility if it is named in the care order for a child.

More than one person can hold and exercise parental responsibility for a child. The parental responsibility of one party does not stop simply because another person is also given it. So, in some cases several people may be regarded as being the ‘parent’ of a child. This might arise when a child is taken into Local Authority care because of abuse or neglect.

However, schools know that other people – other than a child’s natural parents – can acquire parental responsibility due to:

  • being granted a child arrangements order determining that the child should live with him or her, or if the court determines that a parent should only spend time with the child, the court may also decide to grant parental responsibility;
  • being appointed a guardian;
  • being named in an emergency protection order (although parental responsibility in such a case is limited to taking reasonable steps to safeguard or promote the child’s welfare);
  • adopting a child;
  • (in the case of step-parents) in agreement with the child’s mother (and other parent if that person also has parental responsibility for the child) or as the result of a court order.
  1. Civil partners have parallel (as far as possible, identical) rights to married people. The same provisions for married people apply to them in terms of acquiring (i.e. in the case of adoption, agreement with their civil partner or by an order from the court) or holding parental responsibility.

General principles for schools and local authorities

School and local authority staff must treat all parents equally, unless there is a Court order limiting an individual’s exercise of parental responsibility.

Everyone who is a parent, as defined under education laws (whether they are the resident parent or not, with or without parental responsibility – see, Defining Who is a Parent, above) has a right to participate in decisions about a child’s education and receive information about the child (even though, for day-to-day purposes, the school’s main contact is likely to be a parent with whom the child lives on school days).

Individuals who have parental responsibility for, or care of, a child have the same rights as natural parents; for example:

  1. to receive information, e.g. pupil reports;
  2. to participate in statutory activities; e.g. vote in elections for parent governors;
  3. to be asked to give consent; e.g. to the child taking part in school trips;
  4. to be informed about meetings involving the child; e.g. a governors’ meeting on the child’s exclusion.

All parents also have legal obligations; for example: to ensure that a child of compulsory school age receives a suitable full-time education. [2]

Where a parent’s action, or proposed action, conflicts with the school’s ability to act in the child’s best interests, the school is obliged by Dept of Education directives to try to resolve the problem with that parent but avoid becoming involved in the conflict itself. However, there may be occasions when a school needs to decline requests for action from one or more parents.

In cases where schools cannot resolve the conflict between separated parents, they should advise the aggrieved parent to pursue the matter through the Family Court.

What are the benefits of ‘parental responsibility’ ?

The key effects of a father acquiring parental responsibility are as follows:

  1. he becomes a ‘parent’ for the purposes of adoption legislation and can therefore withhold consent to an adoption;
  2. he can object to the child being accommodated in local authority accommodation and remove the child from local authority adoption;
  3. he will automatically be a party to care proceedings;
  4. he can appoint a guardian;
  5. he can give valid consent for his child’s medical treatment;
  6. he has a right of access to his child’s health records;
  7. he can withdraw a child from sex education and religious education classes and make representations to schools concerning the child’s education;
  8. his consent is required if the child’s mother seeks to remove the child from the jurisdiction;
  9. he can sign a child’s passport application and object to the granting of a passport;
  10. he has sufficient rights in relation to a child to invoke the international child abduction rules;
  11. he can consent to the marriage of a child aged 16 or 17.

Fathers need to know

For administration purposes, and compliance with the law, the Headteacher has to ensure that he /she:

  1. ask parents or guardians for contact details, including names and addresses, of all parents when they register a pupil;
  2. ensure that names and addresses of all parents, where known, are included in the admission register and also in pupil records and are available to the pupil’s teachers;
  3. ensure that the school has details of who to contact in the case of an accident or medical emergency;
  4. ensure that contact details, including names and addresses, of all parents are forwarded to any school to which the pupil moves;
  5. ensure that details of Court orders are noted in a pupil’s record.

Changing a Surname

This can be the trigger for much disagreement and aggravations between parents. It can occur when the mother wishes to cut all ties, make herself less traceable and start her life afresh.

A change of surname is, strictly speaking, a private law matter and should be resolved between parents. Where the parents have divorced, schools should ensure that the surname by which a child is known should not be changed without written evidence (independent of the parent seeking to make the change), that consent has been given by the ‘other parent’ (the father), or by anyone else who has parental responsibility for the child.

Regulation 5(1)(a) of the Education (Pupil Registration) Regulations 2006 requires a school to record the full name of every pupil in alphabetical order in the admissions register. This is generally interpreted to be the child’s full legal name and not any other name that the child is known by.

However, there may be circumstances where a name change has already been effected by the school and it would not be in the best interests of the child, who might be known by a new name, to refer back to a different name. Ultimately it is a matter of policy for the school to decide but the ‘best interests of the child’ must be the paramount consideration when making a decision.

Where a child is subject to a special guardianship order there are particular considerations in cases where a school receives a request to use a different surname for a pupil.

Conclusion

Schools are under a legal obligation to ensure that the welfare of the child must be their first and paramount consideration. It is sometimes all too easy for them to see a caring parents as ‘too difficult’ and a persistent parent as one who is ‘disruptive’.

If a schools feels it is unclear how it should act then the Dept. recommends that independent legal advice should be sought to ensure that a parent’s rights and responsibilities (i.e. yours), are not infringed and the actions of the school are compliant with education law.

If the situation is handled properly by you the father the above situation should not arise. It is always better to seek compromise and agreement than a clash, conflict or deadlock.

 

Postscript;

Under the principles of the Data Protection Act 1998 (the DPA 1998), children and young adults can assume control over their personal information and restrict access to it, should they be of sufficient age or maturity to exercise their will in this matter. However, this control is not extended to cover information which is held within a pupil’s educational record. Parents are entitled to request access to, or a copy of their child’s educational record, even if the child does not wish them to access it. This applies until the child reaches the age of 18. This is however, subject to information that the school could not lawfully disclose to the child him/herself under the DPA 1998 or in relation to which the child him/herself would have no right of access under that Act. [3]

References: For more detail see: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/dealing-with-issues-relating-to-parental-responsibility

Footnotes:

[1] Section 3(1) of the Children Act 1989

[2] Sect.7 of the Education Act 1996 – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-attendance

[3] Education (Pupil Information) (England) Regulations 2005 (SI 2005/1437), regulation 5(4)

Homelessness

At what cost ? Estimation of the financial costs of single homelessness in the UK

Based on a paper by Nicholas Pleace, Centre for Housing Policy, University of York, UK, July 2015

Homelessness for both single adults and families is devastating in its consequences. In fact, it is so far-reaching in its destructiveness that it is almost N Pleaseimpossible to itemise all the impact areas.

Right: Nicholas Please

It leaves people vulnerable and isolated. They have no base, no quiet time, from which to operate from or think tactically and strategically about their future. Instead some, perhaps many, turn to drugs, alcohol or even suicide as a relief to dull their pain.

The Spanish graph below shows how just one change, in 2006, to domestic violence laws can significantly affect suicide rates. In that year men could be unilaterally and without due process ousted from their homes and denied any Spanish Suicidescontact with their children. Suddenly without a permanent address, i.e. homeless, many of them lost their jobs.

Men’s Aid believes that society itself is the beneficiary when everyone deserves a place to call home and the chance to live a fulfilled and active life.

Men’s Aid helps people to re-build their lives not through housing or providing health services, education or employment services but by providing the first steps to stability so that these other goals may then become attainable.

Other reasons for homelessness have been shown over many years to be homeless Crisisredundancy and the inability to maintain payments on a mortgage or a rental property or marriage breakdown. White Horse (see below), specialises in assisting mortgage lenders restructure “at risk” mortgages and have long ago identified the 5 principle causes (see http://whms.co.uk/).

Homelessness in the UK (as measured by households deemed by statute to be homeless), was once declining but the banking crisis of 2007 reversed that trend.

homeless statutroyEven a cursory glance of the White Horse analysis shows that under-employment or shorter working hours can be twice as detrimental to the ability of the mortgagee to maintain their monthly mortgage payment compared to outright redundancy or total unemployment (see Appendix 1).

At the ‘coal face’ of actually counting the homelessness on a Sunday evening ‘Nightwatch’ (see below), found an almost unremitting upwards trend from 1988 to 2013 (source: Joseph Roundtree Foundation).

Every year we work with hundreds of people across the UK – some homeless, some left de-motivated from life’s cruel blows – and we have ambitious plans to work with many more.

homeless nightwatchWe are also determined campaigners, working to prevent people from falling foul of ‘The system’, bureaucratic bungling, and lethargy; regulations and judicial decisions. It is the dispossessed who are least able to counter these in-rushing forces which crowd around them uninvited.

And among the forgotten homeless are the homeless fathers – homeless single men already have a modicum of shelter provision and this we firmly believe should be improved and broadened– but a father with children has absolutely nowhere to go (see Appendix 2)

Men’s Aid is set to change the way society and government thinks and acts towards homeless people and homeless fathers in particular.

Historical context

For over two decades (1993) we have known about how homelessness is triggered among those in work and who have been able to afford a mortgage. ‘White Horse’ a company acting on behalf of all mortgage lenders counsels those in mortgage arrears and they have listed the main causes: [1]

  1. Unemployment and reduced income    53.23%
  2. Financial mismanagement                      15.02%
  3. Relationship/marital breakdowns         12.01%

Though there are 5 principles causes, as can be seen from the above Table over 80% are due to just three types of event. Speaking in Jan 1993, Mark Boleat, Director General of the Council of Mortgage Lenders, said:

  • “40,000 people are living in houses that would have been repossessed if action had not been taken to help them. Half of them avoided repossession as a result of the Gov’ts decision to pay Income Support direct to the mortgage lender. Fewer than 1,000 buyers in arrears agreed to become tenants under the mortgage rescue schemes launched in 1991.”

This underscores the success of intensive counselling of borrowers which played a very important role in limiting the numbers of home repossessions during that era’s recession. It also reinforces the attitude adopted by Please, and the research from North America, namely that to intervene early is cheaper (and more effective ?) than waiting to apply a remedy for a totally ruptured situation.

Interestingly, White Horse Services reported in 1993 that through counselling agreement was reached 87.25% of all cases, to pay at least the normal monthly instalments, and that “The earlier we are instructed the better the result for both lender and borrower”. [2]

White Horse Services can speak with some authority since they have counselled tens of thousands of borrowers in arrears and to them it is clear that many mortgagees are naive in rudimentary financial management and have little appreciation of mortgage delinquency implications. [3] Politically, the same 20 year span (and particularly 2005 – 2015), has been as arid for men and fathers as it has always been (see Appendix 3).

Salvation Army

The stereotypical tramp of the 1950s and 1960s would be an ex-Guards officer who could not settle back into civilian life, or who had been dealt an awful hand of cards. They would sleep rough all year moving from one town to another and occasionally be taken in by a friendly police station for a shower, a shave, de-lousing, a general wash up and be given a warm bed in a vacant police cell for one night.

Homelessness is one of those rare statuses in life or event that knows no fashion trends. It is an indictment of how we deal with this segment of our society that pictures taken of the homeless inside hostels cannot be dated. Photographs homeless sallyAnnInttaken in the 1890s and 1930s and 1950s are interchangeable – all look alike as the following array demonstrates.

The Salvation Army was born out of the Victorian slum poverty and fended off the alternative which every town then had, namely ‘the workhouse’, dreaded by many, and rightly so.

Today the Salvation Army has the same basic agenda – the alleviation of poverty and deprivation but has a more modern twist to its work. It caters for people of all ages and backgrounds and has changes the name of its hostels a few years ago to ‘Lifehouses’.[4]

Another charity dealing with homelessness is St Mungo’s. They provide a bed and support to more than 2,500 people a night who are either homeless or ‘at risk’ in some way, and their aim is to end homelessness and rebuild lives. [5] Their 2014 statistics on health reveal that:

  1. 27% of our clients report simultaneous physical and mental health problems and substance use issues
  2. 52% of our clients use alcohol and/or drugs problematically
  3. 65% of our clients report a mental health problem
  4. 70% of our clients report a physical health need

homeless soupQMany of these factors are also to be found in the blanket ‘propaganda’ data concerning domestic violence, namely much is related to: mental health problems; alcohol and/or drugs misuse; a physical health disability. For more data see Appendix 2

As a homelessness charity and housing association they have found that 73% of their clients are male and just 27% are female. Yet they have produced a large 19 page report looking into “Rebuilding Shattered Lives – Getting the right help at the right time” aimed solely at women. They argue that, “Women who are homeless sallyAnnExthomeless are among the most marginalised people in society.[6]

Left: the austere façade of many Victorian Salvation Army hostels for men

But surely it is the father of children, or a father with dependent children living with him who is most marginalised, as he is not treated as an urgent priority in local council housing needs, and no hostel can accommodate him and his children ? He has the choice homeless family Intof a hostel for single men and having his children go into care. Yet we know from the above Report that a large number of boys and girls are from the very same ‘care system’.

When Glenn Cheriton of the Canadian Equal Parenting Council interviewed the executive director of the Union Mission for Men, a homeless shelter based in Ottawa, Canada, he found double standards of treatment operated.

Their executive director said that most of the men who she saw go through the shelter were fathers. Furthermore, she said that when women have “a problem” or social problems, e.g. alcohol abuse, joblessness, mental problems, divorce, etc., etc., a whole array of government and social services of programmes are available to help them and their immediate families, i.e. dependent children. But this is absent when fathers ‘present’ with or without their children. For them there are no programmes or remedial course. Any weakness, such as divorce, alcohol abuse, mental problems, etc., is put down to ‘lacking moral fibre’ and effectively the person not being worthy of investment or of much value to society. As a result men are discarded from the official mind as if not meriting the same level of sympathetic response. Effectively this official attitude cuts fathers off from their family and family support – but it also cuts children off from their fathers.

Addendum: Enquires of many English local councils made by “UK Family Reform” reveal that under present legislation they are not obliged to provide any shelter for men aged between 18 and 35.  To quote one responding council:-

  • ” . . . . The Council carried out an Equality Impact Assessment which found that there continues to be an adverse impact on those who are not owed a housing duty under homelessness legislation and in particular are aged between 18 and 35.”

Men and fathers must be deemed a category not being owed a housing duty under homelessness legislation. In Wales it is a little different with one council reporting:

  • Until the introduction of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014, the Council was not required by statute to produce a Homeless Strategy which included a review of homelessness services since the 2002 Act. We are required to produce a Homelessness Strategy by 2018 in accordance with the 2014 Act and the process will require a review of homelessness in order to inform the strategy. We are, therefore, planning a review to take place during 2017.

To paraphrase one inner London council official:- When the original Homeless Persons Act was introduced in 1977 as a private members bill it did not include this group per se. Nor did the 1985 Act that consolidated the law on homelessness or the 1996 Act. However any young person who is vulnerable is covered by the law. To be vulnerable the ground rule used to be less able to cope than someone of a similar age. Many councils tried really hard to take young people back home unless threatened with violence etc. So councils are the first to accept that there has always been an issue around young people and Homelessness Law. The consensus is that recent case law has changed the position only a little. The Southwark judgement places a responsibility on Councils around duty of care esp. on children leaving care.

“GUIDANCE ON APPLYING FOR FUNDING TO SUPPORT A HOMELESSNESS STRATEGY ” (Feb 2005,  https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2005/02/0405286es.pdf), aimed to reduce by two-thirds (66%), the  rough sleeping levels of 1998. The estimated number of ‘rough sleepers’ on England’s streets was put at 1,850 on the night in question (excluding Wales and Scotland etc). The paper admits the policy has failed.

Very little has changed. In the same 20 years but particularly the 10 years separating Baroness Scotland, in 2005, and George Osbourne, in 2015, nothing has changed for men and fathers (see Appendix 3 and Appendix 4, ‘The bed and breakfast option‘).

Across the Western world those prepared to protect and promote men’s and fathers’ equality of rights find, when they speak with those in charge of men’s shelters, elicit similar comments. Only when politicians and funding services recognise this gender discrimination can they cajoled into providing services comparable to those provided for to women.

Price paid

Homelessness exacts a personal cost to those who endure it. In addition to the trauma and the emotional duress that can accompany the precipitating events of one’s loss of family home, self-respect. Once people become homeless they experience the indignities of destitution, cow-towing to the demands of state benefits officers, surviving at the hands of charities. Being prepared to be ‘means tested’ about one’s intimate life by total strangers is just one of the indignities expected of supplicants if they are to stand any chance of having their needs met.

Nicholas Pleace, of the Centre for Housing Policy, University of York, (“At what cost ? Estimation of the financial costs of single homelessness in the UK”, July 2015), also points to the many cases where victims of homelessness spend many hours of each day in ‘public spaces’ and where they are exposed to street sub-culture, of gangs of youths intimidating older adults, of violence, theft, physical victimisation and being tricked or set up by the same street sub-culture. It can mark the beginning of a steep downward spiral.

His report relies on the use of qualitative and service cost data drawn from recent research, in order to present estimates that provide an overview of the additional financial costs of single homelessness can cause for the public sector. However, his conclusions are sustained by empirical evidence from White Horse Services going back some twenty years (see below).

At first sight the negative social impact may be thought to be confined to a small minority and not a great burden on the taxpayer. Less obvious, however, does not mean less important and less expensive. As the downward spiral gains momentum an increasing array of official departments and government offices within the public system (the apparatus and organs of the state), find themselves sucked into to the maelstrom – invariably at great cost to the taxpayers.

It is perhaps an indictment of the lack of seriousness with which we as a country have viewed homelessness in general that even after spending significant periods of time on a range of treatment systems, many people remain homeless with further costs yet to accrue because they remain homeless and will remain so until there is an endgame of a housing plan.

This view is confirmed by the 1996 Report of the Executives of White Horse Services:

  • “The benefit to the individual family and society would be considerable, not just in emotional terms but also in reducing the millions of pounds lost each year within the housing market and the lending industry generally”.

Were it made possible to replicate such a reconciliatory regime on the same scale, but for divorce, the impact would be huge and immediate.

The 2015 report by Nicholas Pleace, “At what cost ? Estimation of the financial costs of single homelessness in the UK”, marks an attempt in the UK to begin putting some faces and costs on the problem, and in so doing draws on earlier research (2002), in New York City which tracked nearly 10,000 people who were homeless.

Average costs of services used came to $40,500 per person per year (in 2002 dollars), in this early New York City research (included time spent in hospitals, shelters and jails). [7] The nearly 10,000 homeless people had severe mental illnesses and although mental illness is not always present among the homeless population it is not uncommon and if absent initially can certainly be induced by events after a period.

However, once housed, these costs were reduced such that they effectively offset the entire costs of providing people with housing subsidies and intensive supportive services.

  • NB.  We have seen similar US studies into medical provision and costs where a small group of unfit residents not more than 200 are disproportionately absorbing scarce community health care

More than 60 studies have replicated the findings and demonstrate that in every US city where it has been examined, very high costs are associated with the most entrenched forms of homelessness. [8] Research in Canada and Australia has further confirmed that such high costs are not unique to the US. [9]   Importantly, such “cost studies” have helped to inspire additional government investment in housing solutions, even among politicians usually resistant to increased social spending on poverty, because the economic argument has proven to be persuasive. [10]

It is to be hoped that such information and evidence will inspire a deeper investigation and investment in solutions within England & Wales. Of course, all is not as simple as this argument may imply. Many people who experience long-term homelessness are not high cost service users, at least in any given year. [11] Longer term studies are needed, but in the shorter run anyway, many people in any given year who are homeless seem to fly below the radar and are caught only when they collide with authority and who then turn to charities to help them e.g. Men’s Aid.

The prospect of off-setting the housing costs of these ‘unknown’ clients seems less than achievable but once a quantity of them are identified it will create an atmosphere where the numbers flying below the radar can be more readily captured and assisted.

‘Homelessness prevention’ programmes that try to avert the onset of homelessness in the first place can be complicated to construct and, in common with an ‘all-risks’ insurance policy, often far too expensive to afford. For this reason and a variety of others broad-based prevention programs for those ‘at-risk’ might therefore need to be relatively “light touch” and low-cost to achieve cost effectiveness.

If the average US cost per case of prevention was a little over $2,200 per family, this compares well with shelter costs at a little over $3,000 per family per month (and where the average stay, of nine months, therefore costs around $27,000). [12]

There is a need for a better understanding of the costs in the UK of single homelessness and of homelessness costs incurred by a parent – male or female -with dependent children. Some data is available but it is always dangerous to place too much confidence in so small a sample.

So with that caveat here are some data, albeit anecdotal, gleaned by “Crisis” [13] concerning a young single woman; a single man in his 30s; and a man with a learning difficulty who loses his existing home but all are ‘sleeping rough.’ The financial cost scenarios envisage the price where a). homelessness is prevented or quickly resolved is compared to b). homelessness persists for 12 months.

  • In the first example (a young single woman), the cost of preventing homelessness would cost the ‘public sector’ an additional £1,558. Allowing it to persist for 12 months would cost £11,733 (all are estimates).
  • In the second example (a single man in his 30s), the figure for resolving homelessness quickly is £1,426, rising to £20,128 if homelessness persists for 12 months.
  • For the third example (man with a learning difficulty), the figures are £4,726 compared to £12,778.

The additional financial costs associated with homelessness vary from person to person and by the location, type and nature of the homelessness services support provided. These additional cost, compared to other citizens, are likely to centre around medical or psychological care (the NHS), the criminal justice system (police manpower and court costs), and social services (homeless people have the greater likelihood of more frequent and sustained contact/use of these state agencies).

It is always dangerous to extrapolate but in this situation, where there is insufficient concrete data to hand, it is perhaps justified. The additional costs of homelessness can quickly become significant. For instance in the second example (a single man in his 30s), thirty such people sleeping rough for 12 months, with an equivalent pattern of service use would cost over £600,000 a year in additional public expenditure, rising to £1.2 million if the situation persisted for two years.

Final analysis

In many ways it is almost immaterial whether we as a society can guarantee a net positive return on any investment in homelessness. What is key is that the public and the politicians come to a point where they recognise that homelessness has a hard cost and a high consequence.

‘Nominal’ values can be part of any theoretical equation to calculate the cost and consequences of homelessness but in the final analysis they are at best arbitrary since what values other than artificial notional ones could possibly be used ?

People, including the general public, NGOs, and legislators, do not appreciate that homelessness is never a ‘cost neutral’ option. It may appear that homeless people may not be using mainstream housing resources, but their lives and their use of other acute service systems have the potential to actually spiral out of control.

In addition, for people and families at risk of homelessness, averting their homelessness up-front also has the potential to forestall this inevitable decline, and the ravages it can exact on the people and the service systems to which they would otherwise descend. The findings twenty years ago of the White Horse Service organisation, cited above, underline this very point.

Instead of working harder and throwing more money at the problem that never seems to shrink we should be working “smarter.” The prevention, and ultimately, the ending of homelessness is certainly smarter and more humane than our present alternative. Its appeal is that it will year on year and in the longer run be less expensive for taxpayers and not require constant budgetary diversion on the present scale (see also Appendices 3 – 5).

As this document helps to reveal, there is a cost to doing nothing, and a cost to the holes in the safety net. Further investigation through research and further investment of resources can make a potentially life-and-pound saving difference.

Homelessness has a human cost. The unique distress of lacking a settled home can cause or intensify social isolation, create barriers to education, training and paid work and undermine mental and physical health. When single homelessness becomes prolonged, or is repeatedly experienced, there are often very marked deterioration in health and well-being impacting GPs and hospital services together with the panoply of state funded social services.

E N D

 

Appendix 1

Arrears for both mortgage payments and rental properties can lead to eviction and homelessness. The Table below (left column) shows that complete unemployment can have less of an impact on household security than if the head of household and/or their partner are faced with reduced hours of working, e.g. circa 10% versus 23%.

And in the arena of “lifestyle” and “financial mis-management”, it is the latter by a large margin that is the main culprit with “over indebtedness” accounting for only 2% or 3% (right hand column). It seem that people are cautious about becoming over committed which runs contrary to the mainstream oi f thigh on this topic.

The ‘Resolved’ and ‘Unresolved’ sub-headings refer, of course, to the arrangements being put in place to rectify the arrears via a payment plan, once the issue of employment has been resolved or payment remains ‘unresolved’ where the person is still out of work.

homeless Table

Appendix 2

St Mungo’s, in recent years, have produced these findings. Some of their results from their 2013 survey include:

  1. 73% of clients are male
  2. 27% of clients are female
  3. 64% of clients had issues with substance use (drugs and/or alcohol)
  4. 67% had a physical health condition (medical condition, vision or hearing impaired and/or required regular medication)
  5. 60% of clients had mental health issues (diagnosed, suspected, depression and/or self harming)
  6. One third of our clients don’t have the necessary literacy skills to complete a form without help
  7. 9% had been “in care”
  8. 45% of clients were ex-offenders or had been in prison

In St Mungo’s 2014 statistics* on health one f9inds the followingt:

  • 27% of our clients report simultaneous physical and mental health problems and substance use issues
  •  52% of our clients use alcohol and/or drugs problematically
  • 65% of our clients report a mental health problem
  • 70% of our clients report a physical health need

See: http://www.mungos.org/services/preventing_homelessness

ApPendix 3

In 2005 Baroness Scotland, who was in overall charge of Gov’t Refuge spending for many years and who always blocked funds for male victims, confirmed in writing that for the year 2003-2004 Refuge provision in England totalled £19 million (£10m came from the Housing Corporation and £9m from the Homelessness Directorate). Provincial local refuges that might be considered ‘out of the way’, like the Vale of Glamorgan Women’s Aid, received £226,580 in 2001.

Letter from Baroness Scotland Feb 21 2005, Reference: M1922/5, Your Reference: AJT/ST/DomViolence:

“. . .. . With regards to Mr Whiston’s comments on the provision of accommodation for male victims of domestic violence, the Government this year announced major investment in refuge provision in England. A total of £19 million capital was allocated (£10m through the Housing Corporation and £9m from the Homelessness Directorate) for 2003-2004 alone.

. . . .. Under Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996, people who are homeless or are threatened with homelessness can apply to a local housing authority for accommodation. In considering what duty, if any, is owed to the applicant, authorities have to reach decisions on whether applicants have a priority need for accommodation. Section 1890) of the 1996 Act set out the descriptions of persons who have such a need. It can be viewed at the following address; http://www.ledi station. h mso.gov. uk/acts/acts 1996/96052-ac. htm#189

The Homelessness Priority Need of Accommodation Order (England) 2002 has extended the categories of applicants in priority need for accommodation, to include vulnerable people who have ceased to occupy accommodation because of violence or threats of violence from another person which are likely to be carried out.”

Not even 1% of this national funding was directed towards male refuges. It should also be noted that the Housing Corporation was originally set up to provide money, loans and subsidies to low income families to get onto the property ladder, not for individual women or Refuges.

But the problem goes deeper. Women’s National Commission (WNC) was set up by government in 1969 to push forward policies to benefit women. There is no male counterpart. The budget of the WNC amounted to £754,000 in 2009-10. Of this, the WNC paid itself £460,000 in salaries and the board of governors were paid £112,595 (http://thewnc.org.uk/index.php?format=feed&type=rss). The WNC is “the official” yet independent, advisory body representing women and women’s organisations reporting to Government. In 2008 Harriet Harman strengthened the organisation and increased its funding by 30%. The WNC spent just £1,000 on what it termed “Equalities.” [ NB some very well-known radical feminists were WNC members – RW]

The Commission – on which the Government has now abandoned in 2010 – has faced criticism for its spending and was replaced in 2010 by the ‘Equalities’ sector of government (see http://wnc.equalities.gov.uk/). Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said the Audit Commission had also ‘lost its way’ and had become a ‘creature of the Whitehall state’ when he announced its disbandment and its replacement in 2015.

In July 2015 Chancellor George Osborne’s Summer Budget speech reiterated the same selective Whitehall blindness of not seeing men as victims when he proudly announced:

  • “We will increase funding for domestic abuse victims and women’s refuge centres.”

The Chancellor in his last budget (July) pledged even more money for Women’s Aid to fight DV and fund Refuges. He made no mention of male victims or money for them.TRabloid newspaper The Sun didn’t mention men either but simply headlined:

Therfore, in the same 20 years but particularly the 10 years separating Baroness Scotland, in 2005, and George Osbourne, in 2015, nothing has changed for men and fathers.

ApPendix 4

The bed and break fast option for the few

“At the end of December 2002, around 5,600 families with children (including households with a pregnant woman) were recorded as living in accommodation where they had to share facilities such as kitchens, bathrooms or toilets. This accommodation is provided on a “bed and breakfast” basis in premises such as hotels or hotel “annexes”. For ease of description, this kind of accommodation is referred to as “B&B accommodation” throughout this consultation paper.”

The number of homeless people housed by local authorities in Bed & Breakfast (B&B) hotels has risen from 4,630 in 1997 to 12,290 in 2001. If this trend were to continue, the number would rise to around 14,000 in 2002 and around 15,700 in 2003. As the Homelessness Act 2002 takes effect and those accepted as homeless increases, there is a danger that numbers of families placed in B&B hotels may also increase. In October 2001, the Government set up a Bed and Breakfast Unit (BBU) to focus on reducing the use of ‘non self-contained’ private B&B hotels and ‘annex’ accommodation. That is to say properties where households are placed in one or more rooms on a daily/nightly charged basis where they have to share bathing, washing, toilet or cooking facilities. Even if breakfast, laundry or cleaning facilities are provided, the existence of shared facilities is the key factor. See http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20120919132719/www.communities.gov.uk/documents/housing/pdf/137980.pdf

Tables from official studies published between  2002 – 05. Source: https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2005/02/0405286es.pdf

homeless1

homeless2

Appendix 5

Pickles abolishes house building targets

6 July 2010 | By Tom Lloyd

http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/news/development/-pickles-abolishes-house-building-targets/6510608.article

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has laid an order before Parliament to scrap house building targets with immediate effect. The move will do away with regional strategies put in place by the Labour government with the aim of seeing 3 million new homes built across England by 2020.

The Conservative-led government wants to put councils in charge of deciding how many homes are built in their area. It will introduce incentives to encourage local authorities to build, rather than using the target-driven approach favoured by Labour. Mr Pickles said:

  • ‘Regional strategies built nothing but resentment – we want to build houses. So instead we will introduce powerful new incentives for local people so they support the construction of new homes in the right places and receive direct rewards from the proceeds of growth to improve their local area.’

A Decentralisation and Localism Bill, expected in the autumn, will set out more details of the government’s plans. But ministers have said incentives will include matching the income councils receive from new homes through council tax for six years after they are built, with the reward increased to 125 per cent of council tax for affordable homes.

Government offices for regions to be scrapped

23 July 2010 | By Tom Lloyd

http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/news/development/government-offices-for-regions-to-be-scrapped/6510866.article

The nine regional government offices are to be abolished as part of plans to devolve power to local authorities.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has announced the government intends ‘in principle’ to do away with the bodies, which oversee a range of policies at regional level including housing.

The government has already said it is getting rid of one of the nine – the Government Office for London. In the coalition agreement it said it was ‘considering the case’ for the abolition of the remaining eight.

The announcement that these will cease to exist follows the unveiling of plans to scrap regional spatial strategies, which included regional house building targets, and ties in with the government’s wider policy of transferring power from central to local government.

In a statement to Parliament, Mr Pickles said the original intention of the government offices was to join up departmental teams outside London, but that this aim had ‘been lost’ and is ‘no longer necessary in an internet age’.

Mr Pickles has told councils they can ignore targets in making decisions before the legislation is formally introduced. He said:

  • “I’ve promised to use legislation to stop local communities being bossed around by unaccountable regional quangos, but I’m not going to make communities wait any longer to start making decisions for themselves.”

In 2007, the previous government announced a target of building an extra three million homes in England by 2020 to deal with the growing demand for houses http://www.lga.gov.uk/lga/core/page.do?pageId=11610230

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Footnotes:

[1] Peter Lay. Joint Chief Executor, White Horse Services. Jan 1996.

[2] Peter Lay. Joint Chief Executor, White Horse Services. Jan 1996.

[3] Peter Lay. Joint Chief Executor, White Horse Services. Jan 1993.

[4] Salvation Army rebrands its hostels as ‘lifehouses’, 05/03/2010 http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/salvation-army-rebrands-its-hostels-as-lifehouses/6508816.article

[5] See http://www.mungos.org/services/preventing_homelessness

[6] See http://rebuildingshatteredlives.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Rebuilding-Shattered-Lives-Final-Report.pdf

[7] Culhane, D. P., Metraux, S., & Hadley, T. (2002). Public service reductions associated with placement of homeless persons with severe mental illness in supportive housing. Housing Policy Debate. doi:10.1080/10511482.2002.9521437

[8] Dennis P. Culhane, Kennen S. Gross, Wayne D. Parker, Barbara Poppe, and Ezra Sykes. “Accountability, Cost-Effectiveness, and Program Performance: Progress Since 1998” National Symposium on Homelessness Research (2008).

[9] Mental Health Commission of Canada. (2014). National final report: Cross-Site At Home/ Chez Soi Project. Retrieved from www.mentalhealthcommission.ca

[10] Dennis P. Culhane. “The Cost of Homelessness: A Perspective from the United States” European Journal of Homelessness 2.1 (2008): 97-114.

[11] Stephen R. Poulin, Marcella Maguire, Stephen Metraux, and Dennis P. Culhane. “Service Use and Costs for Persons Experiencing Chronic Homelessness in Philadelphia: A Population-Based Study” Psychiatric Services 61.11 (2010): 1093-1098.

[12] Rolston, H., Geyer, J., & Locke, G. (2013). Final Report: Evaluation of the Homebase Community Prevention Program. New York City Department of Homeless Services.

[13] ‘Crisis’ is a UK charity