SKIP: A Holistic Approach to Promoting Education for Disadvantaged Children

Supporting Kids in Peru (SKIP) is a UK, US, and Peruvian NGO charity, working with impoverished families in El Porvenir and Alto Trujillo, in Peru. The primary aim is to enable children to utilise their right to an education, however by taking a holistic approach, SKIP works with the entire familial unit to do this. This means focusing on key aspects such as education, economic stability, emotional well-being, and healthy and safe living environments. SKIP promotes empowerment and believes that by working in partnership within communities, people can be empowered to make change.

SKIP is comprised of volunteers from these communities as well as volunteers from overseas. When SKIP formed in 2003, local professionals were motivated by the need for education support and joined in on the mission. Many children had never studied and were too old to attend primary school, however, with the help of volunteers 85 children who had been selected were able to commence school after passing placement exams.

The need for a holistic approach soon followed and as the project grew training was provided to parents so that they could create their own businesses and obtain an income to prevent their children from having to work. It wasn’t until 2012 that SKIP gained registration as an international NGO which meant that volunteering visas could be granted to long term volunteers the following year.

SKIP has a variety of programmes available for the communities they serve. The primary education system in Peru is disadvantaged and involves little emphasis on understanding, analytical skills, or problem solving. When SKIP first tested the student’s academic performance, most of the students were performing years below their grade level.

Therefore, SKIP aims to fully finance education, and support the development of emotional intelligence alongside therapeutic treatment for children by using individual therapy or group sessions.  In 2014, SKIP was able to improve Math scores by 29% with reading comprehension scores improving by nearly 50% showing the determination and motivation of the staff.

Additionally, SKIP also trains and supports parents and carers so that they are more aware of their child’s educational needs which maximises parental involvement and allow parents to acquire behaviour management techniques that will impact the family dynamics. Feedback found that the parents or carers felt valued and empowered with a commitment to continuous learning.

Also, SKIP promotes daily access to a library so that children can get help with their homework. This also encourages children to source information for themselves using the reading materials available. SKIP values the importance of this because some parents may not be literate, and so help may not be readily available at home. The library also provides a safe place where children can be intellectually challenged. Once homework is completed, there are educational games available for children to explore other interests.

Children are unlikely to have similar reading materials at home due to poverty and disadvantage which means they are not able to practice reading and so cannot develop skills. SKIP also offers a library that has at least two volunteer tutors to attend each three hour library session so that support can be offered.

There are also family support programmes available which include a dental campaign that not only checks children’s teeth and provides fillings when necessary. There is also preventative care and children are taught to properly brush their teeth. There are also sight tests in which glasses are provided to children if they are required.

The social work team focuses on empowering parents to expand their skills and abilities and can access advice daily with home visits being carried out twice a year at a minimum. By doing this, 14% of the people who were living in poverty in 2010, by 2014 had crossed the poverty line.

SKIP also have an economic development programme that stresses the importance of saving. There are also business workshops aimed at those who may want to develop a business, attendance in these workshops was over 85% with 36 women participating showing the emphasis on promoting equality.

Liz Wilson, the director of SKIP believes that by using a holistic and evidence-based approach, families are empowered and work can be done to help stabilise the entire unit. By working with families and witnessing their commitment and aspiring nature, it is hard to not find it motivating and inspiring. SKIP promote the availability of the services, but Liz Wilson believes it is the families that put the hard work into these interventions.

Whilst volunteering is extremely rewarding, it is not without its challenges. Liz Wilson stresses the importance of stepping back from fulfilling the volunteers’ own needs and looking at those of the project and how some tasks may be necessary and beneficial overall. Individually, we cannot change the world, but there is enormous value in shared contribution.

The Irish Association of Social Workers: Tackling the Declining Numbers of Social Workers

Donal OMalley

Social work is a very challenging profession, but one that is highly rewarding. However, recently there are number of social workers in the profession are declining. With vacancies unable to be filled, vulnerable children are therefore left at risk. Negative media attention and’social work bashing’ by politicians could be a reason for this.

The Irish Association of Social Workers (IASW) is a voluntary professional body which aims to improve social work practice standards, enhances the perception of social work and uses expertise to influence the development of policy, both locally and globally.

Dónal O’Malley is a Chairperson of the Board of Directors for the IASW. Recently, Mr O’Malley  called on a minimum 30% increase in the number of social workers to help protect children in Ireland. This not only applies to Ireland, but can be applied globally!

Mr O’Malley kindly agreed to Q&A to explain what can be done about the need for more social workers and why it is so important for service users.

SWH: What is the current situation in Ireland with Social Workers?iasw

DO’M: There are just over 3,900 registered social workers in the Republic of Ireland. Although social work has been self regulating for a couple of decades its only recently become regulated by the State since May 2013 under the Health and Social Care Professionals Act.

There are about 1,600 (or 1,400 WTE) social workers working for Tusla, the Child & Family agency in statutory child protection and about 1,900 (or 1,600 WTE) working for the HSE in other areas such as medical social work, mental health, disabilities and Primary Care.  Our website and the Tusla website  will give you a lot of detail about Social Work in Ireland and more specifically about social work in the area of Child Protection.   The information that we put out to members during the recent General Election (#GE16) points to many of the issues that are important to social workers currently.

Why do you feel there is a need for more social workers?

DO’M: Specifically in the area of Child Protection, Tusla, the national agency with responsibility for child protection and welfare, is struggling to met its statutory responsibilities. The reports on the Tusla website (mainly “Measuring the Pressure”) will show how the Agency is falling short of its own targets (such as ensuring that every CIC (child-in-care) has an allocated social worker). More social workers are needed just to cope with the current crisis and more still to ensure that children and their families are afforded a comprehensive service.

In other areas of health and social care, there is a shortage of social workers. In Primary Care for example, there are only 80 nationally, for a population of 4.6m!

Do you think the Government is taking the right measures to deal with this and what resources would be needed for this? 

DO’M: No!

I don’t believe child protection services are a priority and certainly social work services in other areas are even less so.

We need substantially more social workers in Tusla, but also more administrative staff, more social care workers, more access workers, more psychologists, etc if we are to be able to offer vulnerable children the right protections and a comprehensive assessment, treatment and support service for the 6,500 children who are in the care of the State.

There are many other areas that require reform also, such as the Family Courts and the recommendations of Carol Coulter’s final report of The Child Care Law Reporting Project are equally important in reforming a system and ensuring that services are more responsive to the needs of children. Again, press releases on the IASW website will outline the concerns we have in this area and what we believe needs to change.

What measures are the Irish Association of Social Workers taking to entice people to consider social work as a profession?

DO’M: We try to promote a greater understanding of the role of social workers to the general public through such initiatives as the National Social Work Awards and also through our participation at career fairs, giving secondary school students information on the profession.

Would UK fast-track schemes like Frontline, work in Ireland?

DO’M: Their are 9 courses that are currently recognized by CORU (the registration body for social work in Ireland). Some of these courses are 2 year post graduate courses, not unlike Frontline, with an emphasis on developing practical skills but we believe that social workers should have a good knowledge of sociology and social policy as well. We would like to see an expansion of the number of places available on these courses as a means of increasing the number of social work graduates.

Do you feel Ireland is losing its social work students to the UK?

DO’M: A few years ago, I would have said unequivocally, “yes”, however in the last couple of years the employment situation has changed in Ireland and there are far more opportunities here now. People will still travel to expand their horizons and get the experience of working in other jurisdictions but I think that new graduates have more choices now than the did just a few short years ago, albeit at a significantly reduced salary scale compared to their colleagues.

What measures do you think can be taken to tackle this shortage? 

DO’M: Increased funding for agencies to allow them to employ more social workers.

More places on social work training courses.

More support staff so social workers can focus on the core aspects of their job and more efficiently use their time.

What impact does this have on children?

DO’M: I believe that children are being short changed because of the lack of social workers. They don’t get to build the rapport with the person who is charged with assessing their needs and implementing a safeguarding plan. We know from talking to advocacy groups for children in care that one of the most important things that children want is for their social worker to “really know” them.  Also, I know many social workers who work in the child protection services who feel that they could and should do more for the children that they work with if only they had the time and the additional resources.

I think the outcomes for the 6,500 children would be significantly improved if the system was more responsive to their needs. Also, for the children (and their families) who are awaiting a service, it is a sad indictment that their situation often has to become quite dire before they get the help that they need.

The Sixth Annual Social Good Summit Will Inspire World Action

SGS

Since 2010, the Social Good Summit has grown substantially aided by the increasing popularity of social media and technology. Mashable in partnership with the United Nations General Assembly decided to bring people together global leaders to discuss how to utilize technology to eradicate poverty. People over the globe are becoming empowered to share their voices in an effort to be heard, and the Social Good Summit has committed to listening to those diverse voices.

The Social Good Summit is a two day conference discussing the impact of technology and media on current social good initiatives. Starting today on September 27th, days after the United Nations ratification of its Global Goals, the goals aim to eradicate poverty, inequality, increase access to education and protect the environment.

It is hoped that these goals will create sustained growth of the bottom 40% of the population to empower and promote their general welfare. These goals will guide policy and funding, and the purpose of the Social Good Summit is discuss the coordination of these goals globally. With now over 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10 and 24, it is clear why the UN has a youth focus to work towards the eradication of poverty by 2030.

The venue for this year’s Social Good Summit is 92nd Street Y which is a world class cultural and community centre that encourages people to connect through culture, the arts, entertainment and conversation. This year’s speakers include Kathy Calvin and Pete Cashmore, the CEO’s of the United Nations Foundation and Mashable respectively, as well as Sienna Miller, Charlize Theron and Savannah Guthrie. Using the hashtag #2030Now, social media and live streaming will definitely allow everyone to get involved!

In 2014, over 170 countries were connected through video and social media, with 65 countries and counting for 2015 it is thought this year could be even bigger. Jamaica, Turkmenistan and Guatemala have signed up and for the first time ever will be involved in the Social Good Summit. Global meet-ups will play a huge part in the Social Good Summit and allow people around the globe to take part and discuss how communities are using the digital tools to build a brighter future.

Also in 2014, #2030 trended at number one globally, breaking down any language barriers between the 45 different languages involved! The Social Good Summit is surrounded by a week of related events which provide encouragement to take action and identify innovations that can create the world we want. Two days of jam-packed sessions, including ‘The Tipping Point for Human Rights’, ‘Sustainable Cities’ and regular global meet-up check-ins, to keep everyone involved.

The voices of global citizens will be a necessary force for change, and the Social Good Summit has taken on the role of helping to facilitate conversations with UN officials, pop culture icons, activists and entrepreneurs around the world who want to create this change. Be a part of the Social Good Summit in helping to create the kind of world we all want to make a reality. Watch the summit via live stream at https://livestream.com/Mashable.

Family and Maternity Leave Around the World: How Does the USA Measure Up?

Maternity-leave-chart-final

In the last few decades, women have been dominating the workforce because having a single income family is no longer enough to maintain a middle class living. More importantly, women enjoy and want to have careers and be contributors in the workforce. However, women have increasingly faced challenges in balancing work with parenthood especially with the lack of paid maternity leave.

This imbalance has created a need for substantial policy in areas such as child care assistance, reproductive rights, and family medical leave. Women who become pregnant have to take time off work for recovery time, doctor visits, and to allow appropriate time for mother and child to bond. Due to the high expense of daycare,  many women cannot afford to work full-time and being to cover day care expenses.

Often daycare expenses cost higher than what the average working mother will earn in a 40 hour work week. This cost analysis and barrier prevents many families from rising above the poverty level. In addition,  many women, married and unmarried, often have the burden of the “ unpaid second shift” which is taking on many of the domestic duties at home as well.

Some of the policy changes around the world came as a result of needed parental leave and a preschool provisions for children until the age of six. Germany and France were two of the first countries to get maternity leave. Currently, 128 countries provide paid and job protected child-birth leave. The primary factor which determines the way a country or state gives this benefit varies from place to place. However, it is important to note that some places provide longer leave times than others. For example, the United States has largely decided to make the majority of maternity leave in this country unpaid.

Eighty eight countries provide allowances for families, to help with raising them, and the United States is the only country which provides no such family allowances. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United States is the single least generous country in relation to its treatment of families.

It is disconcerting that the US and Australia are the only two countries that offer no federally mandated paid maternity leave. This is a huge barrier for families and single parents raising children. Notably, France is one of the countries that has provided the most benefits for women on maternity leave such as increased leave when having more children. For example, the child rearing benefit is more if they have more than two children.

The way the a state or country attacks these problems tells provides great insight into how they value maternity leave and child rearing. Out of all the countries studied, the United States lagged behind all others in the support and balance they give to families.  Daycare was another benefited proved by many as a public services in countries like Germany. While many of the OECD countries provide this daycare regardless of income, the US only provides assistance for the abused and low-income.

The policies of Sweden and France are able to help provide women the ability to balance family and work. Whereas in the US, there are a large number of children at the poverty level due to policy decisions that do not support women and children post birth. Because of the lack of assistance in the United States, many women in single and working class families cannot afford to have day care, unless there is some subsidized program they can participate in.

Many women are forced to limit the time they work until their children begin school age. Public awareness on this issue needs to be increase in order to promote more advocacy and policy changes in these areas. Write your representatives on this matter, go in groups to speak to legislators, and set up community awareness events in your community.

I think the United States could learn from many of the policies and practices of countries like Sweden and France. This would give us the same opportunity to work full-time and pursue the American Dream. I think these countries as well as the other countries in the OECD have done a far better job to address the gender differences of women and men. As far as the United States, I feel that our policy makers have let us down. It’s unfortunate that many policy makers do not realize that addressing these issues affecting women would be the best policies to uplifting everyone.

Conway, M. (2004). Women and Public Policy: A Revolution in Progress (3rd ed., pp. 175-189). N.p.: CQ Press

Henderson, S., & Jeydel, A. (2009). Women in Politics in a Global World (2nd ed., pp. 144-169). N.p.: Oxford University Press’ Higher.

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